The cell phone rang as I sat at my desk at work. Though it was my husband’s number, I found a stranger on the other end. My husband had been in an accident. It was bad. I heard my voice ask quickly… “My baby” – referencing my 10 month old I knew was in the car with him. My baby was fine, but my husband… By the time they both reached their hospitals, my husband coded and passed. I had the unenviable job of calling my 7 year old from class and telling him his father wouldn’t be coming home. And suddenly, I was a single parent of 2 young children.
I faced a lot of decisions in the days that followed. We lived in a house 8 hours away from our nearest relatives, in a marginal neighborhood. We had bills, lots of them. I worked a job with irregular hours. I went on autopilot. In the face of sudden loss, the decisions I was facing were almost insurmountable. So I followed my instincts. For my family, this meant abandoning our life in Texas and moving home, letting the house go back to the bank, and starting over. It meant donating my husband’s professional library to the school where he taught and the college where we were closely aligned, to honor his legacy of teaching. It meant giving close friends at work personal items to remember us by. It meant giving away or throwing away a lot of excess stuff, a cleansing process of sorts. It meant getting my kids and me back on a regular schedule as quickly as I could manage, to better manage our anxiety from all the changes. It included adapting certain family traditions to reflect our new reality, while letting others go altogether.
During the months that followed, I supported my anxiety driven 7 year old by allowing him to sleep with me, but only on the weekends, so he still learned to manage anxiety independently on school nights. I left a new job that took me away from home a lot to take another lesser paying job that allowed me to be home when my son got home from school, due to his fears when he didn’t know where I was. And probably most significantly, I sought out adult support of friends and family as soon as I realized my need for communication outside that of my young children and my elderly parents. The adaptation process after the death of my husband took AT LEAST 2 years, with SIGNIFICANT support from my family and friends.
Most of this happened by instinct. It can be easy to second guess yourself when faced with the incomprehensible. But I learned that instinct is solid. It can be trusted. No two people have the same set of circumstances, and facing similar circumstances, another person might have made different choices. AND THAT IS OK! Those instincts say a lot about what you need RIGHT NOW, and you can trust them.
If you find yourself struggling, I encourage you to call the bereavement department at Midland, to speak with a counselor or explore one of our groups. Midland offers a variety of groups to meet the varying needs of those in our services, including those of families with children. You may find, by attending , that you are not alone in your experiences, and maybe you’ll find the encouragement to follow your instincts into a healing future.