“I’d give anything to be making dinner reservations right now. That was something Joe and I did often. With family, friends, or just the two of us, we loved to go out to dinner. Some nights it was nachos and Bud Lights. On others, it was fried calamari and a glass of Chianti when he was feeling fancy. We laughed, ate too much, and talked about everything, and nothing at all. Now, instead of making reservations for three, I’m sitting here with my glass, ok bottle, of Chianti, grieving for three.
As a wife, you enter marriage with a promise of forever, till death do you part. Holding your person’s emotions, feelings, and needs, just as important as your own. Often, we even put their needs above ours. You laugh when they laugh, hurt when they hurt. Even on the days they’ve made you crazy and the nights you can’t stand to look at them, you fall asleep hoping that person is happy. Society tells you about the good times, the simple times, the blowout fights, the petty arguments that marriage or relationships can bring. Your vows commit you to better or worse, but what no one tells you about or prepares you for is when the actual worst happens: losing your spouse. Waking up one morning and learning your young, healthy, husband is dead. Where’s the ‘What to expect when your person dies book?’ I must have missed this part of our pre-cana class.
One thing I’ve learned, among many others, is the whole putting your husband’s feelings and needs before your own thing doesn’t change after their death. I grieve for Joe just as much as I grieve about him. Some days, it’s all consuming. When Vienna crawled for the first time. When she said, ‘Da-da.’ When she does something silly, I don’t know where to look when I shout, ‘Did you just see that?!’ I like to think, in his own way, he’s here and he sees it all (and we know he’s pumped she said Dad first), but it’s nowhere close to what it’s supposed to be, how he is supposed to be. He isn’t holding her, snuggling her, hearing her laugh. For births, weddings, birthdays, the new season of Cobra Kai… he’s not here, he can’t experience it. I realized I am constantly grieving for him, for his losses, for the moments, the feelings, the experiences he won’t have here. I’m grieving for me and for him.
And then, there’s V.
We know the saying, ‘and baby makes three,’ and I’m here to tell you that’s true for grief, too. As a mother, the moment you hold your baby for the first time, they nestle comfortably onto your chest and forever into your heart. Their hearts become an extension of yours and when theirs breaks, yours breaks twice as hard. Vienna doesn’t know heartbreak or emotional pain, but one day, despite all my mama efforts, she will. And so as I grieve for myself and then for Joe, and then I grieve for my daughter.
This grief has been slower to rear its ugly head. Perhaps that’s because Vienna is blissfully unaware of her loss, of our loss as a family. But more and more lately, my grief for her creeps up, slowly, at times unexpectedly, and then it hits and it swallows me whole. We sit on the floor and sing songs and she won’t ever hear him sing off key and mess up the words. She won’t mimic his crazy noises, hear his laugh, or know his whispered ‘I love you,’ as she drifts off to sleep. They won’t have a secret handshake or play in the yard. They won’t team up on me to get their way. She’ll know every detail I can share with her, his pictures, his writing in cards. She’ll know how much he loves her, but in the end, the reality is it’s nowhere close to the same, what it should be.
I’ve realized lately, a lot of my anger of this grief stems from what she will miss out on. And she’s not missing out in the later years of her life or even the second half in her life. I am angry because she will not have had her dad for her entire life. Not a smell, a song, a movie to remind her of him. Not a single memory. One could make the argument that perhaps her losing her father so young could lend itself to her grieving process (this has been said), and to that I say, only time will tell.
It goes without saying, but I’ll say it just in case… grieving for three is heavy, exhausting, and at times, crippling. Most nights, I have no energy to go out to dinner and I know that’s ok. And, in an effort to offer the slightest bit of positivity here, I will say, despite this overwhelming grief, I haven’t seemed to have lost my appetite for nachos or my unquenchable thirst for red wine.”
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