Daddy Tax

Today would’ve been our 10th anniversary. Instead, all that I have left are memories of our time together and our daughter to raise on my own.

Grief hit me like a wave this morning. I can’t remember the last time I really cried without attempting to pull myself together, but this morning in the darkness with no one in the room to attempt to be strong for, I let it out.

That’s the thing about grief, you hit a certain point where people think you should be over it. So you cry in private. You suppress. You don’t show any emotion other than happy because you want people to think you’re strong. Maybe you have a child or children to be strong for, so you do everything in your power not to let them see you fall apart. Maybe you have moved on to a new relationship and you’re scared that if you show too much emotion or too much grief, that person will think you can’t move on and leave. You don’t want your family to worry so you pick a place on the wall and stare at it until the urge to fall apart passes. That’s real grief, always fighting a mental battle with yourself to be ok in a world where nothing feels ok anymore. Always trying to keep your head above water in an ocean of grief that’s trying to pull you under.

There will always be a “before you” and an “after you”. The you before the loss is dead, and you spend years desperately trying to breathe life back into that person, but you can’t. You are forever changed at the core of your being. I wish people really understood how hard it is to suffer a tremendous loss and get up every day and go to work, raise a child, have friends, a relationship, and live some semblance of a normal life. It requires an exhausting amount of mental, physical, and emotional strength that leaves you exhausted in all ways at the end of every single day with no relief other than sleep just to wake up and do it all again the next day. It truly is just surviving at times.

Grief requires compartmentalization, especially as a widow. Through working all of this out in my own head and with my therapist over the last few years, I have realized that it’s ok for me to hold the memories close to my heart of the time I had with my husband. Loving him then can’t stop me from loving someone else now, because the two have nothing to do with one another. I felt the heavy weight of guilt for a long time for moving on, but I remind myself that this is what he wanted for us. There will always be a strong love and bond I have with Matt. Nothing can stop that or take away what we had, not even death. I have learned to let the before be the before, and the after be the after.

I miss him every day. I think about what could’ve been and where we would be if cancer hadn’t destroyed us. I wonder what our daughter would be like if she hadn’t lost her dad, because it changed her completely just like it did me. I worry about raising her without her dad and what implications that will have on her life in the future. I think about all the things he’s missed and all the things we’ve had to do alone with a big Matt-sized hole missing from our lives. The loss is felt daily, in big ways and in small. His love and dedication to us was unwavering and he was involved in every aspect of our daughter’s life. Now, it’s just me. I know it crushes her when she sees her friends with their dads. I just do the best I can to be both most days.

Loving a person who is grieving is complicated. It means understanding that, just because they are sad because of what they lost then, it doesn’t mean they don’t love you and what they have now. For that, I am very lucky. I have had someone in our lives for over a year that is patient, kind, loving, and supportive. I can’t describe what it feels like to hear someone say “Hey, I’ve got you” or “I’m not going anywhere”and know they really mean it. Those words breathe life into my bruised and broken heart.

Tonight I will take our daughter to the Halloween festivities he so loved. We will go see our friends and continue our Halloween tradition of just being together and laughing and having fun. It was our favorite holiday and the perfect anniversary day for us to celebrate together year after year. The kids will dump all of their Halloween candy out in the floor and make trades and tonight when our daughter falls asleep I’ll rummage through her candy to take my “mommy tax” of peanut butter cups. And in his honor, because he can’t now but always did, I’ll grab the “daddy tax”, too.

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