To single parents who have lost their spouse,
Grief is a process, but I want you to know that you have all you need to get through it. When I lost my husband, Adam, it was a complete shock.
Our paths first crossed when I was 16. Adam was vacationing in the Catskills, close to where I lived. My father owned an ice cream parlor. One day, I served him a banana split sundae and our paths crossed – just two strangers, no words. Twenty years later, my twin sister met his sister at a nail salon in New City, New York. She set us up on a blind date. He was the smartest and funniest man I had ever met and we became more than just a couple. As Adam, a former Princeton football player, would say, we became a TEAM.
Together, we faced some tough opponents. Our son, Jack, was born with a rare condition called familial dysautonomia. He can’t control his autonomic system. That means his body can’t regulate his breathing, heart rate, temperature, or the tear production of his eyes. He can’t feel pain and he can’t swallow, requiring him to eat from a feeding tube. At birth, his life expectancy was five years old.
After Jack, we had twins, Charlotte and Hunter, who were born ten weeks early. With one baby weighing under two lbs and the other at three lbs, there wasn’t a lot of hope. Doctors didn’t know if they’d survive.
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Each time we faced a challenge, Adam and I would grab ourselves by our shoestrings, hold hands and tell each other, “We are going to get through this.”
And we did!
Jack is now 15 and our twins are 12. All three are thriving.
As a team, we jumped over what others might have seen as insurmountable obstacles.
Our resilience together only made July 29, 2014, more shocking.
At 47, Adam died unexpectedly from a heart attack. He passed away in a split second.
I kept thinking to myself, “This can’t be happening.”
My oldest son, Cody, who is from a previous marriage, was 14. Jack was eight and my twins were six.
The way I see it is I believe G-d came down and said, “I need to take someone from your family.”
The obvious one to take is the one who’s sick. But I feel like my husband, as the captain of our team, stood up to G-d and said, “Take me and let him live.”
Adam did not die in vain. He died so his son could live.
And that’s precisely what he would want us all to do – he would want us all to live.
After Adam passed, I could still hear him say to me, “Don’t you fall down. You’re better than that. You are not going to cry in the corner and say, ‘woe is me’ and feel bad for yourself.”
I didn’t fold. My whole family went to grief counseling and we started to move forward, but Adam remained with us.
Adam worked on wall street. He left early in the morning and came home late, which meant he didn’t see the kids a lot during the week. However, on the weekends, he would watch and talk football with Jack, my son with special needs. He introduced Jack to fantasy football. My daughter remembers playing Tic Tac Toe with her father.
He told her, “You can tie in Tic Tac Toe, but you can never lose.”
Regardless of their memories, I make sure they all know that their father believed in being a part of a team. And he was “all in” when it came to our team or rather, our family. I taught my children that we need to keep our team strong by each doing our part.
My son Jack eats every three hours through a feeding tube. At ten years old, my daughter, Charlotte, learned how to feed him and help him with his eyedrops.
Jack’s lungs and kidneys are compromised and he has nerve damage in the back of his eyes. So, he can’t walk very far and tires easily.
As a family, we bought Jack a golf cart, which he can drive independently. Jack takes his friends, nurses and siblings on rides in our backyard, as it gives him a sense of normalcy.
My kids are all very mature and have stepped up to help their brother and assist me.
I recognize that now I am the leader of this team and my kids are watching my example. Time management is essential. In addition to caring for my kids, I own a computer software training company. I do all my food shopping online and delegate to people, such as my twin sister and friends that are willing to help. Also, whatever problem I am facing, I learned not to get upset or angry. Instead, I always remain calm and remind myself that we can’t go backward. We can only move forward.
It’s been six years since Adam passed away and I am so proud to say my children are doing well, discovering their interests and excelling at them.
My daughter took the lesson that Adam taught her during Tic Tac Toe and interpreted it to mean that you don’t have to be the best every time, but whatever you do, do it well. So, she danced and won many accolades and awards. My son Hunter is very smart and loves basketball. Jack still loves football, as it’s a way to stay connected to his father. He created a Fantasy Football League, called the Jack Attack Fantasy Football League. Also, he made a website called LTPF, which stands for Level the Playing Field. It aims to make people who are bullied or discriminated against because of a disability feel normal and welcomed. My son Cody has a firm grasp of many important life principles, including hard work and commitment.
What I want you to know, as another parent who lost their spouse, is that even though it feels like your significant other is gone, he/she does and will remain in your family’s hearts.
My children don’t feel sorry for themselves. Instead, they have found lessons in an incredibly difficult loss. They are all happy and loved, which makes me fulfilled.
You will have days that are long and that are hard. Grief takes time and I am not sure if it ever fully ends. But in the most challenging moments, look at your children and know all you need to get through is the support of each other.
Even though Adam may no longer be playing this game of life with us, our strategy hasn’t changed. We have continued to live our lives with strength and love, which is why our team is one that still wins.
If my family can do it, so can yours.
You are going to get through this,