Working Moms: Series on Grief
Yesterday, I talked about my experience with the Denial and Anger stages of grief. The next step is Bargaining.
When I watched Mike in the trauma unit of the Florida Hospital, I begged God to save him. I promised I would be a better mom to my kids, and a better fiancée to Mike. Mike wanted to get married, but I kept postponing it because of his drinking. If I supported him more, or was a better cook and housekeeper, would that help Mike get better? The monitors beeped and the machines kept him alive… but I never received a response.
I know now that the thoughts weren’t rational… but I was willing to try anything. There had to be something I could offer that would make all of it go away. Why wasn’t anyone listening?
When the bargaining didn’t work, I fell into a deep depression. I felt completely worthless. Why weren’t the kids and I enough to make him stop drinking? If he hadn’t kept drinking, he wouldn’t have started having blackouts again, and he wouldn’t have fallen. If I was prettier, or smarter, or more patient… he would have been happier, and wouldn’t have needed to drink.
I was petrified. How was I going to go on without him? He listened to the kind of music the kids loved (and I hated)… he watched sports and TV shows with the kids. We played Dominoes. We were a team… you can’t have a team with just one person.
Getting out of bed in the morning took every ounce of energy I had. Making it through the day was excruciating… but I didn’t have a choice. I still had to work to support my children. I had to wake up every day, take care of the children, and go to work and smile all day. Then I had to figure out which days I could make the hour drive to Orlando to visit Mike. I also had to figure out how to fly his brother down from Indiana. My daughter’s school let her do her work from home so she could help with the littler ones. I was pulled in so many directions.
The more I tried to do, the more I felt like a failure. I hadn’t just failed Mike, I’d failed everyone.
We’d made the difficult decision to remove life support, and after a day and a half, I drove home from the hospital to spend time with my children. I got all the way back to my town when Mike’s brother called to tell me he’d died. I was driving down the road away from my brother’s house when I got the call. Somehow, I had to figure out how to turn the car around to get back to my brother’s. I needed desperately to be out of the car. However, at that moment in time, I seriously couldn’t figure out how to turn the car around. Somehow I managed to complete the turn (I hope his neighbors didn’t see me turn around in their yard)… and made it back to my brother’s.
I had to start the entire grief process over again. All of the hope that I’d had for a miracle was gone. I was lost.
It took a long time, but I was finally able to come to terms with the fact that Mike was gone. Going through the process made me realize just how differently everyone grieves. I couldn’t sleep in the bed laying the normal way. For weeks, I had to lie sideways on the bed. Football was out of the question. Mike was a HUGE Chicago Bears fan, and even though I’ve loved the Bears since I was eight… I couldn’t bear to have football on the TV. I couldn’t watch any of the shows he loved to watch. It was too painful.
Unfortunately, the things that caused me the most pain, were the most comforting to my children. My middle son NEEDED to watch football to feel close to him. My oldest daughter wanted to watch his favorite shows. It was such a hard time for them. I didn’t know how to help them because of my own pain.
Eventually, we all made it through, and I accepted the fact that he was gone and we had to keep living. We had to adjust to a whole new life without him.
From time to time I still wonder what I could have done differently. If I hadn’t been so busy with work and the kids, could I have seen the signs of his drinking sooner? If I had been a better person, could I have motivated him enough to quit drinking? If I’d prayed more, or gone to church more… would he have lived?
Could I have been a better daughter or sister so that my family would have been there more? Was I that bad of a person?
I ended up meeting a really great man, and am now married to him. I feel guilty that I moved on. The grief process isn’t a simple set of steps that you move through at a certain pace, or in a certain order. Six years later, I still have times when I’m proceeding through them.
Come back tomorrow to learn what NOT to say to a grieving person.