I miss the feeling of moving around life’s obstacles as a team of three, as opposed to a team of two; fortunately, I am gradually learning to rely on myself for mental and emotional stability more and more. Natasha and I were good at supporting and pushing each other to revel in the joy of being human. But these days, it is easy to find myself stumbling around and tripping over anxiety, self-doubt and darkness. Without Natasha, I find myself desperately trying to find some light, confidence and peace.
Food has definitely been a source of comfort as I continue to wade through my grief. In fact, it actually feels as though grief has enhanced my taste buds since I have never before enjoyed food the way I do now. Sinking my teeth into a super-sour green apple, or a super-hot cup of chai has never been more enjoyable. Recently, I made falafels for the first time and felt as though I was tasting cumin, garlic and chickpeas for the first time. Cookbooks and cooking shows have been a huge help because I am not only eating healthier, but there is also the happiness that comes from achieving goals in my wellness plan—however, no amount of chopping, marinating and grilling can ever replace my wife. My wellness plan can only help me process my grief, not erase it, which means I will probably always carry this longing.
Natasha and I loved going to festivals and amusement parks, but I no longer enjoy them since I became a widowed parent. Now, they are the biggest reminder that Natasha is gone and that two parent families just don’t get it. Anisha and I stand in line for a ride and we are slowly moving closer and closer to it being our turn. Unfortunately, we have been waiting so long that I start to think, shit, is she gonna have to go pee soon, or start getting hungry again! Hopefully we get on this ride soon! Then, I realize, there are only four people ahead of us now, we will get on next. And then comes the reminder from society, how dare you forget that she is gone! Suddenly, two other parents and four other children jump in front of us to join their families and we get pushed back! Two parent families have the luxury of separating their families for food and bathroom breaks, and then rejoining each other when their turn is next for a ride. Foolishly, I have tried to explain to such parents that there is just two of us, my wife died, so it’s not really fair for us to keep getting pushed back. They just look at me like I am the crazy one in the amusement park and everyone else is smiling and having fun, why not me?! Obviously, if Natasha were still here, we could do the same, one parent in line and the other one getting food or going pee. Imagine if someday festivals and amusement parks have special wristbands for widowed parents; “Widowed Parent—No Budging?” Over time, this type of grief related stress has become manageable because, in the future, I just need to bring another adult with us as a remedy, unlike my other widow related ailments.
Perhaps my hardest widowed parenting challenge is how to help my daughter make sense of our skin colour. Especially, since I am really, really hoping that her generation will not have to worry about it at all—hopefully for them skin colour issues will merely be stories that parents, grandparents and history books tell. This is one of the biggest reasons I miss Natasha and my mother-in-law as well. It would be wonderful for Anisha to have her mother and grandmother to discuss their life experiences as women of colour. Also, my wife and I could strategize about how to raise a confident brown woman, and most importantly, how to protect her from the negative societal messages about her brown skin. Natasha and I both grew up being embarrassed about ‘not being Canadian enough.’ As a result, growing up as brown kids instilled an inferiority complex in both of us. I wish Natasha were here so we could discuss how to explain ethnicity, national identity and the immigrant experience to our daughter. She is literally a mix of Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, and most of all, Canadian; so, how do I socialize her? The bottom line is that I don’t trust most people’s opinions because I always start asking myself, “how valid is this person’s perspective? Does s/he really understand what skin colour means during childhood?” It was just so much easier when Natasha was around to respond to the typical identity questions, “Were are you from? Where you born here?” and my wife’s least favourite, “What are you?” These questions have become easier for me with age, but now I just need to figure out, on my own, how to teach Anisha to walk with confidence regardless of what questions come her way.