Fighting For My Family

Fighting For My Family

One of the biggest impacts of Phil’s death was on the tight knit family we once shared. Our five children came home often and brought friends with them. My family liked spending time together. After three and a half years, I am awakening to realize that those days are over in large part because of the fog of pain I was in. It isn’t easy to repair the ties when my children are flung in every corner of the world with the military. I feel like an afterthought because even the simple things like Mother’s Day or Christmas are forgotten. It isn’t like I need a gift—nor do I want one really—but to know that I am remembered with a phone call or a card would mean all to me.

If I had a do-over, I would hope for the strength to see beyond my own pain and to reach through the miles to keep my family intact. I would fight with every breath to be the soft place my children fell into. In my brokenness, I got it wrong and I am afraid that the damage is permanent.  I do not blame them, but rather myself.  I was the mom and I was the one who kissed the boo boos better, but this boo boo was not fixable for any of us.

I am not sure how I would have reached my children because we all grieved differently. I was focused on my own pain and I withdrew which created rifts that were not there. I just didn’t want to hurt my children more with my pain. That emotional severance led to anger in one, withdrawal in others, and a lackadaisical uninvolvement in others.   This is not slap on them, but rather on my own abilities to be the mom I should have been and the mom I want to be now when they all live so far away and the time has lapsed.

If my children were younger, it would be easier because we would still have shared experiences both good and bad. I would have put the whole family in therapy in the immediate aftermath of Phil’s death. I would have fought to stay fully present versus being mired in the darkness of all that would never be. I would have dealt with the anger and the withdrawal in them because they did and do matter more than anything to this girl.

Time has lapsed and the scary thing is wondering if this is all there is. As I awaken and realize that I do not want to be alone on every holiday, I am fighting for the family I had and wanted. As I spent Christmas alone and as the phone stayed largely quiet, I realized that unless I put the work into it, I am going to lose my family. I have to take charge. I started with telling each and every one of my children that I wanted Christmas together next year. It will be the first time in years that all of my children should be stateside and not deployed. I sent gifts and I am not asking for anything except for togetherness next year. I want that. I need that. I am not sure if it is possible at this point due to the time that has lapsed and the miles between us, but I am willing to put the work and effort into making it happen.

Often people get so mired in their own pain, they do not see the blows to those that stand next to them or to those on the same journey. I was one of those ignorant people. I just assumed my relationships with people would stay the same. Grief is not a solitary pursuit and the scars that are etched on all of us bear testimony to the trauma suffered. Sadly, I inflicted some of that trauma on my children, but today I am looking at the girl in the mirror and I am vowing to do what I can so that I can say, “We are family, indeed we are.”

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