Monday, October 19, 2015

The kids

One of the first things people ask you is, "How are the kids doing?" The truth is they are doing pretty good. Today broke my heart a little. As I was getting Wyatt ready for church he kept asking if his friends were going to be at church. He then asked if his daddy would be there. I reminded him that Daddy was in heaven with Jesus. Then, he told me that he wanted to go up there with Jesus. And then he said, "I want my daddy back." I just hugged him and said, "Me too." I finished getting him ready and I told him he looked handsome and he said, "Like Daddy!" Yep! I wasn't surprised that it took about six weeks for Wyatt to realize that Isaac was gone and not coming back. Children process things very differently. It will be interesting to see how the children grieve as they grow in understanding. When Isaac first passed away, Wyatt asked a few times about Isaac. But after telling him a few times that Isaac was up in heaven with Jesus, he stopped asking. Rosie would say "daddy" when she saw his picture or his truck. Rosie hasn't demonstrated understanding beyond that.

Right after Isaac died, I was mostly sad for my kids. Maybe that's just typical mom behavior, worry more about the kids than yourself. It breaks my heart that their dad won't be there for so many moments of their lives. It breaks my heart because Isaac wanted to be there and we'd talk about the things we could do with the kids when they were older. I sometimes can't get over the fact that Rosie barely knew him. He had such a special love for her. You could just see it in his eyes. And I know that maybe someday they'll have a stepdad who will love them. And I know that they have grandpas and uncles who love them. But it is just painful to think that they won't be able to see or feel that love from their father the way I could when he was here. Luckily, we have lots of pictures and videos. I hope that those help the kids to feel close to him. Wyatt and I often look at videos and pictures together. I feel like it is a positive way for him to connect with his dad. When we went to the pumpkin patch Wyatt made sure that we got a daddy Isaac pumpkin, and a mama pumpkin, and two baby pumpkins. I also caught him the other day playing with his spidermen. He has a small one and a bigger one. He told me the big one was "daddy Isaac spiderman." And the small one was Wyatt spiderman. It's kind of funny how he says "daddy Isaac" a lot. But he also calls me "gegecca" a lot now too! I guess that's what happens when you have a lot of company!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The day Isaac died

It was a Wednesday. We had been home about a week since our family vacation to Utah and Idaho. The night before we had homemade pizza and Isaac played with the kids while I cleaned up. I was really tired and had wanted to go to bed early but Isaac really wanted to watch this movie on TV so I stayed up to watch the movie. And for those of you who know Isaac, yes he did fall asleep! Haha. The next morning I remember waking up and Isaac would usually cuddle or hold me in bed for a while before we actually got up. So he had started to do that when we heard Wyatt wake up. I was potty training Wyatt so I jumped out of the bed and rushed to get him on the toilet before he wet his diaper. Don't worry, I was too late. So since I was up, I decided to make Isaac some breakfast burritos. He was still chillin' in bed, so I asked him if he wanted to have breakfast in bed. So Isaac ate breakfast, Wyatt drank his milk, and I sat next to them in the bed, and we watched Fox News (not my choice! Ha!) Then Isaac needed to get ready for work so he showered and Wyatt decided he wanted to shower too. My morning got busy as I had to get Wyatt ready after the shower. Isaac told me that he thought he would take the day off after he checked in with work because the other employee was off that day and they had something that they needed to work on together. I remember that as he was leaving Wyatt started shouting, "Park! Park!" Isaac told him we'd go to the park. I double checked because I had already planned to go to the park in the morning. Isaac said to take the kids anyway and that we'd go again if he got the day off. Isaac said he would call pretty soon to let me know if he was coming home.

The morning got hectic and I thought it was strange that Isaac hadn't called yet. I was trying to gather up the children so we could get to the park and I would just call Isaac while I was on my way to the park. After I had gotten the kids in their car seats, I ran to grab the trash and noticed two cops walking up to me. They asked for me by name. Oh guys, I thought I was being served! I was like, "Oh no! I'm being sued!" I'm a marriage and family therapist so I always worry that a lawsuit could be possible if someone commits suicide or something goes wrong. But then they told me Isaac had been in an accident and asked if they could come in and talk to me. I was like, "Yeah, of course." Then my mind started trying to figure out what I should do with the kids when all of a sudden I thought to ask, "Is he alive?" They said no. Then I just remember weeping, "No!" And then I straightened right up and would alternate between sobs and getting my kids situated so that I could talk to the cops. It is such a strange experience to receive this kind of news. They talk to you like you are going to respond to what they are saying but the truth is that a million things flash before you. One of my first thoughts was, "Oh no, it's here." Isaac had always thought he would die early. Not this early, but earlier than typical. The cops kept asking me about who they could call or if someone could come over. I kept thinking, "Why would I have you call my people? Why do I need someone here? I'm going to be so busy calling everyone." Well, about three phone calls in I understood why I needed someone there. Listening to the sobs on the other end of the line was the worst kind of torture I've ever experienced. I just couldn't keep calling. As much as I wanted to be the one to notify family and friends, at some point I was just done.

Slowly, people started pouring into my house. I was so grateful for the support. The kids were probably wondering what was happening. The next couple days were such a whirlwind. I felt like I was going to throw up and I had a really bad headache. I stopped wearing any make up for a few weeks. No point, I'd just cry it off anyway. I was so grateful to have so much support but each time a new person came to express condolences it would just hit me like a wall. Those first days were some of the worst. I'd have dreams where Isaac was just doing normal every day life stuff. When I would wake up my brain would tell me, "No, he's dead."But following those first days, I began to move away from the shock and devastation. I started to see the support I had and the generosity of others blessing my life. I became overwhelmed with gratitude as miracle after miracle came into my life. I no longer get upset by my dreams and feel pretty okay when I wake up. A lot of people have been concerned about if I am sleeping but I actually haven't had any problems with that yet, thank goodness!

We still don't know a lot about the car accident as it is still under investigation. Isaac was killed on impact. And that brings me comfort to know that he either didn't suffer or didn't suffer for very long. It's still so strange that he is gone. It was really hard to believe that he died until I saw his body. It was so strange to touch his cold skin. Isaac was always so warm. I was the cold one. It brought some closure when I saw his body but it was also sad. When you see the body, you realize that the body is nothing without the spirit. So it was him, but it wasn't him. I think I kind of expected him to look like he was sleeping but he didn't even look like that. I never realized till that moment how much of a person is their spirit. In our society, we judge so much based on the body but the spirit is really the larger portion of who we are. So realizing that helped me to let go of his body. But I think that is also the hard part. As I move forward I am sure there will be times that I will feel his spirit near. But there is something so special and irreplaceable about being with someone while his spirit is still in his body. And that's what I miss and will miss.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

What I'm learning

I don't know how much I will share on my blog but a blog seems like a more appropriate place to share the complexity of emotions that follow the death of a loved one. I have seen several clients who are dealing with grief. Often, they come in quite depressed. I assumed that I would experience something quite similar. I empathized with their struggles and agreed that the people that act like death is no big deal are out of their minds. But here I am today and I feel good. Great, now I'm that annoying person who is still happy even though my world should be falling apart!

Shortly after Isaac's death, my friend sent me a christian song where the lyrics read, "your world's not falling apart, it's falling into place." Say what?! It seemed so horrific to say that Isaac's death would lead to my world falling into place. But as time goes on, I do realize that my life goes forward and there are many important things for me to do. It's not that I don't have sorrow. The truth is that I have hope. Hope that our God is really as merciful as I've been taught. Hope that Isaac's death was not in vain. Hope that I can find meaning and love in a life following Isaac's death. And I think that hope makes all the difference.

My stake president (my church leader) who happens to be a therapist, explained to me that grief is not depression. I think I expected to be depressed. But grief isn't depression. It can trigger depression but it is not the same. I've experienced a myriad of emotions ranging from loneliness to excitement. The truth is, at some point, maybe before I came to earth and certainly while on earth, I committed to putting both feet in the water. Sometimes that means that the water goes above my head. But I never wanted to sit back and just watch.

A couple years ago I met an inspiring woman. She was so kind and cheerful. The more that I got to know her the more shocked I became as I learned that she had lost a son (at the same age Isaac died), had some health issues, and had an extended family experiencing lots of difficulties. I noticed that there was a depth to her, that she knew something I didn't. And after I thought that, I immediately thought, "Don't think that! Now you'll lose a child." I never thought it would be Isaac. I realize that I'm strange in that way, that I would look at others and envy their grief. But I am learning so much. So much about myself and so much about God. So much about the goodness of the people around me. The world only got brighter when Isaac left. I feel like I've learned more about Isaac as well. It's almost as though I can even see Isaac more clearly, who he was as a man. And although he is gone, his love still carries me.

I want to share a few things I've learned and I'm sure the list will continue to grow.

Things I've learned about God:

  • God blesses us with many small miracles and those can be just as miraculous as the big miracles
  • God will help you remember scriptures that will bring peace and understanding to your soul
  • God's plan is bigger and better than your plan
  • God loves me. If God was gracious enough to bless me with Isaac, then it would only make sense that all of God's following actions would bless me
  • God is guiding me and has been preparing me for a long time
Things I've learned about me:
  • the emotional work that I have done is now blessing me
  • my relationship with God is what gives me strength
  • I'm stronger because I have let others help and support me
Things I've learned from Isaac:
  • how to relax
  • people matter (and apparently horses do too)
  • compassion, generosity, and acceptance 
  • simple things are what make us happy
  • what it means to cleave to your spouse
  • how to put family first
  • The Office really can make a bad day better
  • beef really should always be what's for dinner
Things I've learned from marriage:
  • marriage is compromise, like all the time
  • love is a verb
  • love is a choice
  • trust is something that grows over time
  • it's fun living with your best friend
  • life is best shared
  • sometimes we take each other for granted
  • most of the time your spouse is doing his/her very best
  • it's not fair to expect your spouse to meet all your needs
  • listen, listen, listen
  • examine the opportunity cost of your actions. You might be doing the least important things for your spouse.
  • time is all you really have
Things I've learned about death:
  • death feels very strange, like someone vanished
  • death is part of life and it isn't all bad
  • death creates new opportunities and relationships
You know, Isaac and I weren't a perfect fit. In fact, about a week before he died, we met a man on the plane and he asked how we got together because we had told him that I was a therapist and Isaac was a cowboy. To be honest, I was like, "For real, how do we work?" But I think that is the amazing thing about our relationship. We are so different. I once heard someone say marriage is 60% compromise. Well, our marriage was like 80% compromise. But as hard as it was to figure out what we would do when we wanted different things, we were able to do it because we chose to make it work. Sometimes I think that is what will make it hard about Isaac's death. He changed my life in a lot of ways and he changed me. Sometimes I felt bad that I wasn't a cowgirl because I knew Isaac had to give up a lot of the things that he wanted. But as different as we were, neither of us could have ever said, "you'd be better off with someone more like you." The first thought I ever had about Isaac was that he was so interesting to me. His was such a random combination of talents and personality traits. I couldn't help but be drawn to him. He really was a good guy. And I can't be mad that he is gone because I just feel so lucky that I had him at all. And even though he is gone, I still have so much more than I had before I married him. I have two beautiful sweet children. They really are the best. And I have the best in-laws you could ever imagine. It's so strange to feel blessed at a time of such great loss but I truly believe that God has filled my heart and that the prayers of so many really do lift me up. And now I need to go throw away all the kleenex I just used, so I'm gonna go do that.