Day 1: Just… Survive
I can’t sleep through the night. It’s impossible. I wake up every few hours gasping. I reach over and feel my daughter’s arm in the bed next to me. Instantly grief washes over me and I reach up to feel his wedding ring at the base of my throat. Sorrow grips my throat and I suppress the urge to vomit.
It’s real. Daddy really died.
We have a “code” now. The word is: flashback. Whenever my daughter or I see Daddy dying suddenly and we shake with fear we grab each other’s hand and simply say, “flashback”. Then, the other person will squeeze our hand to remind us that we are present… grounded… not alone… and that Daddy is at peace now in heaven.
We are both going to need counseling once we move and get settled.
I feel like there are a zillion decisions to be made and my parents, while well meaning, also want me to be “independent”. I get it. I was a homeschooling mom and now I am a single parent who needs to return to the work force to care for my daughter. I will. I promise I will. I told them as much. I also told them that I just need time to be in their home and shatter. I need to cry, scream, weep, shake with utter sorrow. I hope they understand that this isn’t a quick process.
We built a life together. A beautiful life. A life that is now in boxes and bags. A life that is being disassembled and given away for free by the curb.
I am overwhelmed and touched by how many of Daddy’s co-workers reached out to cry, be there, and share stories about fond memories they have of him. I love hearing the stories. It also hurts too. I guess that’s a part of the grieving process.
This morning at 4 am I woke up after only a few hours of sleep and was having another flashback of seeing his final moments alive in my arms in the bathroom. I was shaking all over. My daughter was asleep so I didn’t want to wake her by squeezing her hand. I tried to do deep breathing but I could barely catch my breath. “God, help me” I teared up, whispering to the ceiling, “Bae, help me!”. Suddenly I felt the space over my heart become instantly warmer. It felt like a warm hand was over my heart. His hand. Daddy’s hand. My breathing began to slow and stabilize. “God, why did you have to go?” I wept, “I don’t understand!”. I’m just thankful that Daddy is still with me and our daughter watching over us.
All of yesterday evening my daughter and I sat uploading video clips and tons of photos of Daddy into my personal laptop from his cell phone. He often took small clips of things while at the grocery store: “My love, which item do you want? This one or this one?”. The videos were small, but now he is immortalized and I can see him alive, talking, moving, and hear his precious voice. We found the video clip of him singing to our daughter “Happy Birthday” and we both wept as we saved it into the laptop. “I want to play this every year, okay Mama?” she said. “Of course” I replied. Of course. We found another clip where he had given me a cupcake on my birthday complete with a number 5 candle (since I’m 5 years old, of course!) and he sang, “Happy Birthday to my Kitten….”. I will cherish and play that clip every year too.
We also filled a tub full of love notes. Oh, how he and I loved to write love notes to each other. We always swapped cards or wrote letters on holidays and our anniversary. But, we also loved to write “hidden love notes” on post-it’s. He wrote me nearly 100 before his passing. So, I bought a peg board yesterday and thumb tacks. When I move and get settled I will hang up every single one. I want to bask in his endless love. That’s what our marriage is, endless love.
Everyone keeps asking me the same question: how are you holding up? This is what I know so far:
- Emotions are like the waves of the ocean. I have wept, felt numb to my core, laughed, smiled, felt empty and depressed, and grew angry all in the span of the past 48 hours since his passing. The emotions keep coming and all I can do it to take things hour by hour and move through them as they hit me again and again….
- We always would write, “here’s to this year and to the next 70, 80, and forever” on the love notes we wrote. I may be labeled a “widow” now, but I will forever be a wife. I still feel married, and want to be married to him forever. My vows to him still stand so long as I draw breath.
- I feel grateful. Daddy died at 38 years old. Yes, his life was cut so, so short. But, I also got to experience 10 incredible years with him. 10 amazing years in which we built a life, family, and I experienced true, unconditional love from and with him. I choose to turn towards gratitude so that I don’t become jaded and angry at his passing.
- This isn’t goodbye, it’s “I’ll see you again”. That is my new mantra to keep myself sane when everything feels too much. “We aren’t saying goodbye to Daddy” I tell myself and our daughter, “we will be reunited in heaven again one day”. We weren’t the most religious people, but I have to believe that there is a heaven where Daddy is resting peacefully. I also have to believe that when God calls me home, and my life is over, that I will get to run into his arms and hug him again. I will be able to see him, kiss him, and we will be reunited for all time.
- Spirits and a person’s soul is real. My dad said on the phone to me the other day: “when a person passes, it is said that the veil between this world and the next is very thin. This is why people often feel their loved ones so clearly when they pass on”. I have no doubt that this is true. Since his passing my daughter and I have felt Daddy speaking to us, apologizing and explaining that he didn’t want to go and leave us, trying to passionately to cheer us up, and wanting us to be happy no matter what we do. He urged me to play one of our favorite Filipino songs “Kailan” by: MYMP, which I did, and I wept while slow dancing with my eyes closed. My daughter said she could see Daddy dancing with me in her mind’s eye.
- Most of the time I just feel…. hollow. I shiver a lot despite the temperature being 77 degrees inside. My nerves are just shot, I know. I feel so empty without him. The thought of feeling true joy and happiness is like a pipe dream right now. I push myself to be strong and grounded for our daughter. She needs me, and I will be there. We’re just both so…. broken. I know she is yearning for normalcy and is looking forward to moving from here because now our home reminds her of the place where Daddy died. I feel both shattered and relieved about moving. It will be a permanent reminder that the life we built, shared, created, and loved…. is gone.
That’s a word I use a lot lately. Gone. So much is just…. gone.
Thank you for reading.