Everyone is going through something, and most of the time it goes much deeper than what you see on the surface. Much deeper than what is posted on Facebook and other social media.
It’s no secret that I became a widow at the age of 32. Patrick’s transplant and all the complications were posted all over Facebook. Family and friends were kept updated. His story drew the attention of strangers. Others in the transplant community. Those in the Congenital Heart Defect community, both the adult CHDers and parents of CHDers.
There was so much hope when he got his new heart. So many people cheering him on. So many people hoping he’d be able to do things with his kids. He brought hope to those parents of CHD babies. He brought hope to those that were waiting for their transplant. There was the excitement of those that had already been through the transplant and couldn’t wait for the day Patrick could walk out of the hospital.
Patrick’s death was felt by 1000s. So many people grieved with our family. Friends and family. People he grew up with. People in our community. Everyone that had been following his story.
But his death was so much more. So much deeper than a post on Facebook letting everyone know he had died. Nothing on Facebook and nothing in the news articles told the whole story.
I made a decision to stop all life saving efforts and remove him from life support.
I lived with the guilt from that one decision for many years. Even today, 5 years later, I still struggle with it. When I walked into the hospital that morning he was alive. When I left he was gone because of that one decision. I know it was the right decision and I would do it all again, but it doesn’t make me feel less guilty.
Ever try to get your head and your heart to agree on something? It’s not always easy to do.
After he died I struggled. I struggled with depression. I never hid that I was depressed. Grief and depression go hand in hand, so there was no use in trying to pretend I wasn’t depressed. I learned that when people asked how I was doing, they really didn’t want an answer. They just felt they needed to say something.
I struggled with the guilt. This was something I kept to myself. Those that knew I took Patrick off life support kept telling me I had no reason to feel guilty. This wasn’t helpful and only made it worse. I didn’t need to be told not to feel guilty. I needed to know feeling guilty was ok.
I struggle with learning to be a single parent. The only parent. Patrick died and I was being judged for how I parented my kids. I was a horrible parent because I let my kids stay home from school. I was a horrible parent because I let my kids openly talk about their dad. I was a horrible parent because I told my kids it was ok to not be strong. My parenting was put under a microscope and every flaw was magnified by 1000. I struggled with ignoring the comments. I struggled with not questioning myself.
I struggled with people thinking they knew how I should feel. How I should deal with things. Everyone became a pro at grieving. Everyone believed the book on grief they read was the bible and should be followed to the letter. I couldn’t grieve in piece without someone telling me I was doing it wrong.
I struggled financially. Really struggled. There were months I couldn’t pay my power bill and my water bill in the same month. We struggled before Patrick died, but there was help available. Once he died, that help wasn’t available any more. Before he died no one asked me how much I was spending on my medicines. No one cared. No one asked about car payments, or insurance. After he died, everyone wanted to know how much all my bills were. Yet no one wanted to actually pay them.
I struggled with the future. Everyone wanted to know why my future plans were. How are you going to live without him? What are you going to do now? How are you going to take care of your kids? I can barely focus on what’s going on today, how was I supposed to think about tomorrow or the next day? I had to focused on one day at a time instead of overwhelming myself with the future. I focused on my kids. What they needed. What they were going through. Doing things with them. Making memories with them. My kids are what got me through it.
I struggled with friends. You really do find out who your real friends are when something like this happens. I had amazing support from people on Facebook. People I had never met face to face. But I learned I didn’t have as many friends as I thought I did. Patrick’s friends all disappeared. They were his friends, so they had no reason to stick around and care about his family. Friends were to weirded out by the thought that Patrick was 36, and I was 32. If it happened to us, it could happen to them. By disappearing from my life, they could go back to believing they would be old when they died. Then there were the ones that were afraid I was going to steal their husbands or boyfriends. They never thought twice about me being around them before Patrick died, but now that my husband was gone, I apparently turned into a whore.
And then there was the Sam’s broken look. I HATE that look. You know, the one where the tilt their head, take a breath, and ask how you’re doing. I got that look in the hospital, at the funeral, and then from a few friends every time I seen them. I know its their way of caring, but treating me like I’m broken made me feel broken when I was trying to put myself back together.
It took a while but I started to float to the surface. It wasn’t noticeable at first. I still felt like I was drowning, but small things were changing in the right direction.
People would ask what I was doing because my kids were amazing little people, even after everything. My answer was, I knew how to help them. I had been there. I was 14 when my dad died, just a year older than my son was. I knew what to do when it came to them. Helping myself was a lot harder. But I realized that by helping them I was helping myself.
I found a job that I could do around my time, around my grief. This helped me in so many ways. I was able to help my family, but I could still have my time when I needed it.
I met knew people, and before I knew it, I was thinking about the future. I don’t think I can pinpoint when it happened, but I found myself swimming and headed towards land.
Then I met Billy and my new future fell into place.
Everyone is going through something. Everyone has a bigger picture than what you see. I only let people see a small part of my grief, of my struggles. Sometimes I gave a bigger view, sometimes much less.
My point is, instead of judging based on what you see on social media, be kind and remember that there is a much bigger picture.