The first few months of navigating life as a widowed parent are extremely difficult. Every moment of those days is permanently imbedded in my mind. If this resonates with you, know that you are not alone.
6:30 AM – My alarm goes off, not that I need it. I have been up for hours. I find myself awake most mornings by 4:00 AM with my heart racing from anxiety. Drag myself down the stairs and make a cup of coffee (thank God for my Keurig.)
6:45 AM – Wake my two daughters, ages 10 and 12, for school. Neither one wants to get out of bed. I walk back downstairs to make their school lunches and breakfast, frozen Eggo waffles for the 10 year-old, a bowl of cereal for the 12 year-old.
7:00 AM – Walk back upstairs and tell them both that they need to get out of bed. My 10 year-old gets up. I help her pick her clothes out and brush her hair.
7:15 AM – One more try with the 12 year-old. She finally gets up and begins to get ready for school. They meet me downstairs. 10 year-old eats her waffles; 12 year-old says she is not hungry.
7:30 AM – 10 year-old can’t find her shoes. I run up and down the steps looking for them while they both scream that they are going to be late. I lose it a little and scream back at them.
7:35 AM – Shoes found (in her closet the whole time). The 12 year-old’s carpool is in the driveway. I rush her out the door, trying to ignore the sad face I see creeping in. I then rush into my car with my 10 year-old to drive her carpool and then wait in the impossibly long car line to get to the front door of the elementary school. I stare at the clock fearing I might be late for the part-time job I have teaching preschool. I need to be there by 8:45 AM.
8:00 AM – Run into my house and jump in the shower. As I get out of the shower, I hear my phone ringing and see the number of my very sweet friend who calls every morning to make sure I am ok. I answer, assure her that I am fine (am I?) and get off the phone.
8:50 AM – Rush into my car and drive the seven minutes to the synagogue preschool where I work. I am officially five minutes late but I run to my classroom hoping no one will notice.
9:00 AM – The students arrive and my workday begins. I am happy to have the distraction.
9:45 AM – My phone rings in my pocket. Teachers are not supposed to have our phones on us but I do anyway. I know the calls are coming. This one is the first call of the day from my 12 year-old’s guidance counselor. She is in his office and is sad. She wants to come home. He and I decide that it is too early and he convinces her to go back to class at least until lunch and then we can revisit going home.
10:00 AM – I go back to my classroom and tell the two teachers I work with what is going on. I can see in their eyes how sorry they feel for me.
12:30 PM – My school day ends and I made it through the rest of the morning without incident.
12:45 PM – I run to the grocery store. As I walk down the aisles, I realize I have not eaten today. I buy things to make myself a sandwich when I get home. I know I am losing a ton of weight and need to try to eat.
12:50 PM – As I go down the snack aisle, I see the pretzels my husband loved. I bite my lip to keep myself from crying in the store.
1:10 PM – My phone rings as I am in the frozen food section. The guidance counselor again. He feels that she has had enough for the day and I should pick her up. He informs me that she came back to him right before lunch but he again convinced her to stay for a while without calling me. I am grateful to him.
1:11 PM – Should I leave my cart full of food and run to get her or should I wait in the line and pay first? I choose to pay but am panicking about her the whole time I check out.
1:25 PM – Pull up to the middle school and don’t bother to park in the lot. I leave my car by the front door and run into the main office. The ladies working there know me by now and know why I’m there. They greet me as cheerfully as they can but I see the sadness in their eyes. They send me to the guidance office.
1:26 PM – Walk into the guidance office and see my 12 year-old looking as sad as can be. My heart breaks a little more. The guidance counselor tells her that he is happy she stayed as long as she did and hopefully will stay longer tomorrow.
1:30 PM – We get into the car and she says “sorry mommy” with tears in her eyes. I want to crawl into a hole. Why did this happen to us? I tell her it’s ok and that it will take time. I drive home.
1:40 PM – We get into the house and she goes upstairs to her bedroom and closes the door. I unload the groceries and put them away as I call my mother to tell her we are ok before she calls me in a panic of worry, which she does almost every day (but are we?)
2:00 PM – Try to make heads or tails out of the bills. My husband was the one who paid them and I am learning that he did not do it well. Along with the sadness there is sometimes anger and frustration. I finally eat while I work on this.
2:45 PM – 10 year-old’s carpool drops her off. She grabs a bag of chips, opens her books and does her homework. She is very focused, but I worry that she is burying her feelings. My girls are opposites – her sister cannot control her feelings and she doesn’t seem to let them out.
3:30 PM – I get back into car to drive 10 year-old’s dance carpool. There are six girls which means I only drive once every six weeks, which is good, but on my week the carpool takes 30 minutes each way, which is not so good.
3:45 PM – Six chatty 10 year-olds in the car. I wish I had earplugs.
4:00 PM – I drop the girls at dance and run home to check on my older one. She is still staring at the computer screen. I tell her that she needs to do her homework and then she starts to cry. Her dad was the one who always helped her. I offer my help but she declines (not that I understand this math that they have anyway.) After twenty minutes of crying she says that she will work on it. I honestly don’t care if it is done well as long as she makes an effort. I am beginning to learn what is important and it is not always grades.
4:50 PM – I pick up the dance carpool. The girls are more hyper than on the drive there. The noise makes me want to scream. My patience is very thin these days but I keep it together and feel a sense of accomplishment when I drop them all off. I know I am done for six weeks.
5:30 PM – Home once again and I need to make dinner. I made a promise to myself that I would make the girls and me dinner just like I did before their Dad died, and not become the single mom who throws frozen pizza at them every night (but once in a while is ok :).)
6:30 PM – We eat dinner. I made chicken parmesan and pasta for myself and my 12-year old. My younger one is extremely picky so she just has the pasta with melted butter. I notice that all three of us don’t eat much. We all just push the food around on our plates.
6:50 PM – The girls watch TV while I clean up. I take a peek at them and feel the tears coming. This is the time of day that their dad would be coming home and they were still young enough to get excited when he walked through the door. There is no excitement now, only quiet. I hide in the corner and compose myself.
7:30 PM – We look at puppy pictures. I told them we can get a dog, hoping it will bring some life into our house. Either this is a great idea or a horrible one. Time will tell. I finally see happy faces as we try to decide on a puppy.
8:00 PM – The three of us climb into my bed. We watch TV together every night now. None of us want to be alone.
8:30 PM – I fall asleep while watching. One of them nudges me to wake up and watch with them. I try my hardest to stay awake but I can’t help my eyes from closing every once in a while.
10:00 PM – I walk each of my girls to their rooms and kiss them goodnight.
10:01 PM – I get into bed. As tired as I was an hour before, now I can’t sleep. I turn on Nick at Nite and absentmindedly watch Friends.
11:00 PM – My 10 year-old walks into my room because she can’t sleep. She gets in my bed and is asleep in five minutes. I continue to stare at the TV. I think I fall asleep at some point.
4:00 AM – Awake with anxiety. Try to go back to sleep for two hours until my alarm goes off once again.
This was 7 ½ years ago. We have come a long way since then and all three of us are doing very well. I will always remember the feel of those days. I always wonder how we made it through, and I will always be grateful and proud that we did.
Stacy was a stay-at-home mom/part-time preschool teacher whose life was turned upside down in 2011 when her husband passed away suddenly of a heart attack. She is raising her two fabulous daughters, now ages 18 and 20, who are turning into wonderful young women. In 2016, she started a blog about her experience as a young widow, The Widow Wears Pink. This led her to write for other publications including Huffington Post, Today.com, Scary Mommy, Grown & Flown, Kveller, Modern Loss, Thought Catalog, and many more. In 2018 she started Living the Second Act with fellow writer Mimi Golub. Today, Stacy and her daughters are happily living their “new normal” while always keeping her husband’s spirit alive.