With tears in my eyes, I hung up the phone after a conversation with my daughter the other day. I said an audible prayer in thanksgiving for who and what she is.
My children have been my rock during my grieving process and that has made me appreciate their mother, Jean, all the more. They are adults now and my daughter, Tracy, is a great wife and mother, but she and her two brothers have always been my “kids” and it is difficult to treat them as anything but.
Yet, my entire picture of my children has changed since Jean’s death. Both Tracy and her brother Jeff have been two of my best friends for the last four-plus months. My son Jeff and I began simultaneous crying and laughing the day after Jean died and we have continued. That laughter-infused grief has been our special bond and has eased the grief just enough so it hasn’t been debilitating. Tracy has been the strong, supportive, concerned caretaker she has always been.
When Jean was alive I did not need my kids to be my confidants, now I do. That dynamic has been transformed. Now mutual trust and shared experience drives my relationship with both Tracy and Jeff. All three of us have marveled at how many emotions and experiences of grief we share despite our very different relationships with Jean.
With help, I am now starting to move to a stage where I celebrate Jean and our life together. I sob less and I am starting to find joy in thinking about tomorrow. Nonetheless, the stars of our accomplishments are our children. Every time I have a magical, almost mystical moment with either Tracy or Jeff I focus on the strength of their mother and the tremendous guidance she gave them and the values she instilled in them. Our partnership produced these outstanding kids and that makes me love my life with Jean all the more. For me, celebration of her life and our life is the most powerful way to move past grief into a sad memory of great times.
My Down syndrome son, Jason, has been a crucial part of that recovery too. I spent time with Jason several days ago and it was obvious his mother made him a resilient, loving guy who misses his mother deeply but intuitively knows we were all better for having her in our life.
Jean is gone and we all wish she wasn’t, but we also know that the strength we have to move forward comes largely from her role in our lives.