One thing I have learned past year and half is that people love the image of grieving widower. The sad single dad raising children on his own looks great on a movie screen, but reality is a lot different. I recently started reading “Motherless Daughters” by Hope Edelman. In the chapter “Daddy’s Little Girl”, Edelman describes her anger toward her grief paralyzed father who created an atmosphere where she had to hide her own grief to protect him. She states that her father made her pack her mother’s belongings even though she was only 15. She was not allowed to talk about her mother, because her father could not handle it. Of course, the unresolved grief followed her into adulthood and affected her future relationships. Later in the book she states that her father never dated and kept the house the same until he died.
Molly’s death hit me like a Mack Truck, I was paralyzed but had to support two little girls. Molly did a good job convincing the girls that she would survive cancer, partially because she herself believed she would. Even at her deathbed the girls thought a new medicine would bring her back, this of course did not happen and she died. The girls were devastated.
I never hid my grief from the children, because I wanted them to be comfortable to express theirs. At the beginning they had three fears, will we keep our house? will I die next? Will they get a step mom? We were going to keep our house, I wasn’t planning to die, and a new marriage was the last thing on my mind. So we began this new chapter in our lives. My parents moved in and together with the help from the community we started raising the girls.
I was amazed by how my mood and state of mind affected the girls. If I was in a good mood, everyone was in the good mood. If I was sad, so were they. This put me in a tough position, as I didn’t want to be artificially happy just to keep everyone happy. It was a hit and miss but managed to create a healthy atmosphere where we were not jumping around in joy or hiding in our rooms crying.
To say I received my share of well intention unsolicited advice would be the understatement of the century. After Molly died, it was open season. I listened mostly politely but did what I felt was right. The fact is that right after Molly was diagnosed, I started getting ready. I read multiple books and talked to many widow and widowers who were raising children. I met with a psychiatrist regularly and took one on one trips with the girls to strengthen our bonds. I didn’t need advice, what I needed was somebody who would just listen.
As months passed, I found that if I talked about Molly it made people uncomfortable. They didn’t know what to say and got very awkward. But when I started to mention that I’m in a new relationship suddenly everything changed. The image of grieving widower had been ruined for them. I’m dating, it must be that I have forgotten about Molly. Not true. A year ago, I went to Boston for a quick vacation with the girls and our guide was my coworker. Apparently my older daughter liked our guide so much that she decided to play cupid and invite her to California. To quote Madison, “You know how I said you could never date, you can date Jennifer if you want to”. Madison’s charm worked, and we have been dating since. A real life Sleepless in Seattle for those of you who want the movie image.
I have been going to the Lung Cancer Gala ever since Molly was diagnosed. I often met widows and widowers who were in new relationships but out of fear of being criticized they did not bring their new partners with them. Of course, me being me, I brought Jennifer. To my surprise, we were overwhelmed by the positive feedback from everyone. My favorite comment was, “How can you not love her, she looks like a Disney Princess”.
We are living but not forgetting.