Thursday, March 03, 2011

guilt

As the three year anniversary of Jeff's death begins to weigh heavily upon my shoulders, I have been feeling down. All the "small" issues in my life (cracked windshield, accessible childcare, household maintenance, etc.) have become like slivers in my socks. It is impossible to move without their omnipresent reminders and the need to deal with them. At times, I feel as if I could be buried by a thousand little things.
But when I trip, I have you, my community, that reaches back to me and offers to cushion my fall. It feels so very wonderful to know that you are there. Thinking of us. Offering to help.
But it also makes me worry and feel extreme guilt for my pathetic and sad thoughts. It makes me wonder if I am just a sissy. It makes me think, "Come on, Jackie. Pull up your socks! It can't be that bad and, really, you have it better than many others out there in your shoes. Yes, you are having trouble affording the deductible to replace your windshield - but you HAVE a car!"
It's times like these that I am humbled by my life. Humbled by the kindness of stranger/friends. And I am torn. Do I accept help? Or do I take my own advice and "pull up my socks"?
All I know is that I am tired. I am sick of worrying. I am overwhelmed by always feeling overwhelmed. And now, I want to know, is it just me? Or is it an overwhelming situation? Am I not alone in feeling distraught, lonely and exhausted? Is the appropriate reaction to soldier on with my eyes to the ground? Or is it okay to hold my head up and cry out?....Even three years after being widowed?....and is it normal to feel guilt for the thought of considering to accept help?

20 comments:

Janine (txmomx6) said...

At three years out I still have no idea what's "normal" or what isn't. I think I used to know, but no longer. I love you, Jackie and I say ..... hold your head up very, very high and accept any and all help that you can get.
Of course, I may be a bit biased, but I don't see anything wrong with it at all. And believe it or not, I just sat down from standing next to my dishwasher, with my head on the countertop, lamenting the fact that my not-even-two-year-old appliance isn't doing its job .... cleaning dishes. And I don't know why, or who to call or how much I'm going to have to pay to find out.
Damn.
It's always something, isn't it? And yes, things could be worse. So very much worse. But that doesn't mean that sometimes these "annoyances" don't suck.
xoxoxo
:)

Pete, Alison and Charlie said...

Jackie, you write so beautifully. No, you are not a 'sissy' for feeling like you're drowning sometimes in a sea of 'stuff' - and pulling up your socks when they are full of slivers is never a good idea - either physically or metaphorically! Let people help - many times you are helping them by letting them help you. Allow yourself to be carried by people who care about you on the days when it all feels too much - it makes those days when you get through your 'to-do list' all by yourself even more special.
Thinking of you so much as Jeff's anniversary approaches. x

Jill Schacter said...

Jackie,

Three years isn't a very long time after the loss of one's partner. It took me about three and half years to really GET than my husband was gone and that my old life was over. And I found that asking for help was one of the most challenging parts of being left on my own. For what it's worth, I don't find your thoughts unusual at all, and I also believe that people really do like helping each other. I agree with the previous commenter, that you help others when you let them help you. In general, I've kind of rolled over on the whole "I've got to do it myself" thing. It's great when you can be independent, but interdependence is a nice part of being human. Nothing great happens without some connection.

Debbie G. said...

I could so relate to this post and it definitely brought me back to my time as a single parent of younger children. I became a single parent (the first time) through divorce when my kids were 3 and 5. My divorce decree stated no custody/restraining order so we never saw or heard from their dad again. I was a single parent for 12 years before I married my 2nd husband and love of my life. We were married for 3 years before he passed away - a little over 2 years ago now. All that background was just to let you know I survived raising my kids alone for 12 of those years. I felt the same way you described many, many times as a single parent (even without the additional grief component). I agree with all the previous commenters - asking for and then accepting help is really a win-win situation. I am really not good at asking for help either, but I had to learn how to do it - both for my sanity and for my kids sake. For me, the guilt thing was related to my pride and perfectionist tendencies. Over those 12 years I would keep thinking - "I should be further along than this, I should be able to do all this myself by now" But the reality is that I was trying to do a job designed for 2 people, and there just wasn't enough of me to go around. So I had to learn how to "outsource" some of those tasks. Frequently, I would tell myself I was helping others by letting them put their faith in practice by being of service to me and my kids. :-)

This is a long comment, but I really just wanted to give you some hope and encouragement. It is not just you. It IS an overwhelming situation, but you can get through it, especially if you let some other folks help with the load. Thanks so much for sharing your journey.

Victoria said...

If someone offers to help you Jackie and it's help you need, I say you work on saying yes with a smile and accepting it. I don't have a situation like yours to compare it to, but I remember havint to learn to be helped when I had PND with my second child. My nature is to manage, to get on with it, but occasions arise for all of us where that is just not possible. It was a hard lesson for me to learn to say "yes, I would like your help", because it seems so simple - but it is tied up with so many other things. I did eventually realise that people really don't offer help, unless they really do want to.

XX

Little Acorn Learning said...

All I can say is that you are one of my heros. And I think you are amazing. xoxo

Anonymous said...

Its not just you. It is an overwhelming situation. Not just the being widowed, but also being the only parent with no other parent to help provide child care or financial assistance. You're not weak or a sissy. Anyone would be feeling the same way in your situation. So don't beat yourself up, okay?

Joan said...

What if the situation is reframed: if these horrible circumstances were what Liv was facing in her adult life, wouldn't you want people to wrap her in love and support to give her hope and help?

Also, true to cliches, you give people a chance to "pay forward" help given to them in their pasts. And years from now you will hear about someone you can do the same for. Believe me when I say it feels really good to be part of this exchange - it reminds me of what I have been through and came out the other side as a survivor.

So, you see this is all about me and not you!!!! :)

indybarb said...

Jackie, many of us struggle every day, and we have tons of worry and too many chores too, and we are exhausted and overwhelmed, but some of us just want to help you in some way because it just makes us feel better knowing that we have somehow helped relieve the stress of a fellow human being and stranger/friend......so, let us help you if we can, okay? : )

The Jagow Family said...

I'm a true believer in "paying it forward" and I love doing it. Admitting and willing to accept help is hard for anyone....but if it will help you even a little, then it is worth everything to you and to the person(s) giving to you. If / when you are willing to accept help, please know that even though we don't know each other, nor can I imagine the pain you are in, I want to help. It may not be much, but I hope it will help some.

Take care!!

Anonymous said...

I also hate asking for help, I think its a common occurrence for us ladies, but, as I've been told, its important to remember that people want to help so let them do it and try not feel guilty (which I know is tough). We want to help!!

- Molly in Minneapolis

indybarb said...

IF ANYONE WANTS TO HELP JACKIE here is the information that I am reposting from Joan:

For anyone interested, the way to send money to Jackie through secure paypal is to go to www.paypal.com, click on "send money" and fill out the info requested. Jackie's email address for paypal is
motheringnature@hotmail.com.

If we all pull together and send Jackie a little, she will at least be able to get her windshield fixed so she will have one less thing to worry about : )

Thanks everyone, stranger/friend,

Barb C

Jill said...

Jackie - it is ok for you to hold up your head and cry out. THAT is exactly what you should know is the right thing to do. You have a community willing to support you, and it is appropriate to accept that. It is also unfortunately normal to feel guilty for that, but I hope you can accept support and help and keep that guilt to a minimum.

Jen said...

It was easy to accept help in the first days and weeks after my husband died. Now, almost 3 years out, it's much harder. It feels like if I can't do it myself now, I never will... but as other commenters have said, we're trying to do the job of two people. Accepting help, even asking for it, allows others to show their love and support for you, and teaches your kids that strong, capable people help each other.

Boo said...

I hate hate hate asking for or accepting help. I guess because it highlights the fact that he's never coming back and that I can't do all this stuff on my own ... which makes me feel as though I'm failing.

But when I step back and look at us all, you know what? I think we are doing amazingly well considering what we are going through. Just to get up every day and function - it's miraculous that we can x

Annie said...

We all need support in various ways and to varying degrees. I don't think you're any different. I think you should allow yourself to ask for help, without shame or guilt and allow your loved ones to give it to you! That said, the guilt is normal, I'm sure, so feel that too but don't let it get in the way the support you need and the people who want to provide it!

xx

Anonymous said...

Hi Jackie :-)

Accept the help! People wouldn't offer if they really didn't mean it and want to help. It's ok...it's not a weakness on your part to accept help. If it helps you, then think about "paying" it forward at some other point in your life...doesn't matter how...you'll see the opportunity when it comes. It's another circle of life...good actions....good people... and so on and on and on. Learned that in a philosophy class long ago and till this day it has stuck with me.

XO,
Kathryn in Berlin

Anonymous said...

Just to let you know... I have all my family members still alive, own my house and vehicle and still feel very overwhelmed and deeply lonely and question my pitifullness regularly.

Constance said...

Jackie, reading your blog gives me so much insight into what my own mother may have gone through as a widow with young children. I have to thank you for giving me that. As an adult I am so grateful for all the people that probably helped her when she asked or when she didn't. I'm sure your own children will one day read your blog and be grateful as well.
xx

Cathy said...

I was at 1 year and a bit, it was Christmas time - I was really starting to feel both strong and weaker at the same time. ANOTHER CHRISTMAS? how could that be. I thought my sweet husband would be back already. My magical thinking wouldn't let up. So I decided to run away to wonderful friends and my old stomping grounds for Christmas. Open arms, no guilt Laughing when I wanted, crying when I wanted and LOTS of kids and childcare to help me get us through the season. Because, UM Christmas is 2 weeks away from routine not just a dinner (by the way...)
So I went over to my sister's house (she is a meanie) to give her son a Christmas gift and say hello and goodbye before leaving - She started in on me about how I was abandoning our terminally ill mom for christmas and she started to compare me to a girl she knew who had it WAY worse than me. THIS woman was a single mom and had a BRAIN TUMOR and this woman NEVER complained.
"you think you have it bad...?" she asked me. I thought WTF? I wasn't even complaining.
So this taught me one thing, grieving takes time. Not matter what your situation is, surround yourself with quality people.
Instrumentally, the loss of support taking care of the house, kids and the income is hard to over come. The lonely feelings and sadness especially when it is a complete shock, like we both had. Post traumatic stress reaction is not easy to get through.
You are not whining, I don't care if you have these thoughts at 10 years out. They are yours.
How are you supposed to pull up your socks when there are thorns in them?
I'm at 3 years and a few months. this is hard. it will always be hard. I think writing about it (as you do so eloquently) is good for you.
Asking for help: sadly - we have to ask for help now as it isn't pushed onto us anymore. People helped us early on because they love us, but also because they wanted to feel better. They all feel better now, that doesn't mean that needing help should have an expiry date and that you don't need it.
Please list all the things you DO do. You are doing it.
with love and encouragement - Cathy-Calgary