What happens when you have little children, a spouse and responsibilities, and the heaviness of real life comes in? What happens when you are grieving the loss of a family member or loved one and still need to be mom, wife and friend?
It’s a strange life phase to be in.
Last year I lost one of my most favorite people in the world — my older sibling — who I can only tell you was a wonderful, kind, gentle and perfect person. When I think of my childhood, that loving person is in almost every single memory.
It’s easy to raise your children and try to emulate the wonderful memories you have growing up, hoping they have the same happiness and joy you had when you were their age. However, it’s also a constant reminder of that loss.
Not only that, grief is so fluid and tricky. My children are little and I want them to remember mom as present and constant. But through grief, present and constant are not always possible. It can rip you away from any moment, even when you felt normal.
During the first few weeks of grief, I hid. I had to hide from my children. I had some made-up rule that they could not see their mother as a pile of sadness and smeared mascara. I barely left my bedroom; I barely saw my children.
My husband did it all. He was a constant pillar in my crumbling world. I never knew I had to rely on him on such a cellular level. He took care of me, brought me food I wouldn’t touch and placed me in bed every night. He was gentle and patient. He was both mom and dad to our children, and maintained as much normal in our home as he possible could — all while grieving himself.
My family and friendships were my pulse. They spoiled my children, brought them gifts and stocked my fridge full of delicious homemade dinners. They were gentle and patient. I’m so lucky for what I have. To think, only a few short years ago these people — my husband and friends — were just celebrating the newness of everything. There were no children, but there were plenty of bottomless mimosas at brunch.
Now we’re in our new life phase together.
A good friend of mine, gentle and patient, suggested further help. She knew the most important role in my life was being a mother, not discovering how little I can eat and how much wine I can consume. I started talking to a professional. Soon I started getting up in the morning; I attempted to see the light.
I’m writing this because it’s hard to be all of our roles when we don’t feel like ourselves when we're in the thick of the ick. When in tears and misery, our children still need us to be there. Instead of hiding from my children, I let them know why mommy is sad. I realized I needed to respect them enough to let them in on what happens in the world around them, especially when it comes to their family and their loved ones.
Grief and emotion are not to be ashamed of, and the best lesson I can give to myself and my children, is to express what needs to be expressed.
Kristine Rohwer is a marketing professional who resides in Omaha, Nebraska with her husband and three children. Founder of Elkhorn Family, you can follow her page on Facebook.