Our Story Begins:
When New Tears Reveal Old Pain
I have gone nearly two full years without hearing them . . . not once. Not even in passing.
Then, this week, they came rushing at me like a helpless girl tied to the railroad tracks by Snidely Whiplash. Two phrases:
“It’s my fault she died!”
“Mom would know what to do!”
When you think about it, I have been pretty lucky. I know a myriad of people are out there who suffer these words (and their lesser known and oft underrated cousins “he died” and “Dad would know what to do”) nearly daily. I don’t pretend to be an expert at parenting or household management. I half expected the phrase to be an hourly utterance amongst my children in the wake of losing their mother.
Some context: On March 26th, 2011, on the morning of my 18th wedding anniversary, my wife passed away. It was unexpected, scary, and overall just horrible. I have two children who believed – rightly – that their mother hung the moon. Up until this week, we’d managed. I have one child in therapy for his anger issues and the fact he’s not come, completely, to terms with losing his mother. As a therapeutic exercise he draws what’s bothering him. I won’t chronicle his personal journey except one picture, where he drew what was making him sad and angry. Understand, in the last two weeks we’ve also lost my grandmother and Andrea’s father . . . the kids’ grandfather. It’s been a rough 2013.
In the last week one drawing stopped me dead. It was a little picture of himself and in a thought bubble it said “It’s my fault Mom died.” Followed by “Grandpa too.”
I know why he feels this way. He used to throw tantrums, scream, even say horrible things until she would give in to his whims. I see what’s happening . . . he’s dealing with the fact he acted this way and she’s gone. I pulled him aside and told him, in no uncertain terms, that he had nothing to do with either loss. They just passed. Bad things happened, and they do, but that has nothing to do with his actions. I told him no matter what happens, I love him. Always.
Then came my oldest who is facing the mean words and actions of high school girls. She is dealing with my grandma, whom she adored, her grandpa, whom she loved. The Monday after the funeral she had a psychology class that delved into grief. Then came an incident that saw her feeling very alone among her peers. I came home to see her fall in my arms and start to cry.
I sat on the floor with my oldest daughter who uttered “I wish Mom was here. She’d know what to do.” I looked at my daughter and informed her that I knew I wasn’t equipped to handle everything a girl needs. I also knew that guys deal with these conflicts by simply hitting each other and then tossing the football around.
“…But your Mom wouldn’t have made it better,” was my statement. I wasn’t sure if it was the time to say it, but it’s true nonetheless. “Your Mom didn’t handle these situations well. She’d open her mouth, or overreact or . . . be mean to you and me. Not to the people who angered her. She’d blow up and make things worse.” My daughter simply cuddled me closer. “But you’ll have to keep moving forward.”
“I just needed someone to talk to. I felt so alone.”
I shared with her that we are never alone.
“I’m not your Mom, or a teenager, but I’ll always be there,” were my words. “You’re never truly alone.”
But I understand. Why do I write? Because I don’t have that peer. I don’t have a wife, partner or girlfriend. That went away, abruptly, nearly two years ago.
But truth, I believe, is truth. If you’re confident in yourself and believe in those who love you, you’re never truly alone.
And two days later, she’s her old smiling self.
What about you? Do you have the courage to listen to your kids, or do you think you have to fix everything?
Dave Manoucheri is a writer and journalist based in Sacramento, California. A father of four, two daughters and twin sons, his blog, Our Story Begins, is a chronicle of their daily life after the loss of his wife Andrea, in March of 2011. Follow him on Twitter @InvProducerMan.