Monday, 28 April 2014

It's not all tears

Two and a half years ago I never would've imagined that we would be visiting the cemetery, but I also wouldn't have imagined that the boys would be having fun at the cemetery.  There are times when we visit the cemetery that I actually laugh.  Last week was one of them. 

While we were decorating Aaron and Noah's graves for Easter, the boys got distracted.  While I was taking photos of Noah's tree I couldn't stop laughing when I saw what was going on in the background. 

We were lucky that Spiderman was at the cemetery.
Because there were a couple of baddies there that day. 
It was pretty tense for a while.
Spiderman always wins.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Lest We Forget

Because my Pop fought and was injured in World War II, Anzac Day means so much to us, as we know how much he had to sacrifice to go to war.  We used to love hearing his stories about the war, but we never really realised what he had to go through and how much it affected him, until later in his life.  I remember as a child thinking how exciting it was that my Pop fought and was shot in a war.  He used to show us the wound in his stomach, and we loved to feel the hole.   

Now I realise that war isn't something to be excited about, and I still can't imagine what it would've been like, but since starting my new job teaching English to children who are refugees, I appreciate even more those who fight for the rights, safety and freedom of others.

Last night my friend Alison messaged me, asking if I wanted to go to the dawn service this morning. I have never been to one and had always thought it would be nice to go, so I agreed to get up early so we could go together.  I asked the boys if they wanted to come and Harri said 'as if!!' when he realised that he would have to get up at 5.30am.  I reminded him what the soldiers did for us, but he still couldn't be persuaded that it was worth getting up early for.  It was nice to go to the dawn service (even without the boys) and I was surprised how many people were there. 

After my Pop passed away in 2010, we decided to we wanted to stay in Launceston to watch the Anzac March, instead of going out to Deloraine like we normally would.   Anzac Day 2010 was our last one together as a family, and the following year I decided that I would rather be with my family at Deloraine again, even though Pop is no longer there to march.  It was nice to go out there again today. 

My Pop always looked so proud but also sad when he marched.  I miss him and Nan all the time, but never more than on Anzac Day.   Thanks Jay for photoshopping these photos together for me today.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Easter Holidays

  I usually dread holidays as the days are so long on our own, but we are all really glad to start our Easter and school holidays today.  It's been a good first term of school, but we are all really tired and looking forward to two weeks of sleep ins, not having to make school lunches, catching up with family and friends and having some fun together.  The best thing is that I can enjoy holidays, as I know that I have a contract to teach again next term. 

I have absolutely loved my job teaching English as an Additional Language this past term, and am so excited that I get to continue on with the same kids next term.  I can't wait for the day when I'm no longer a temporary teacher, and don't have to worry about whether or not I have work.   

I thought teaching children with special needs was what I loved the most, but I have never had a job that is so challenging, heart breaking and rewarding at the same time.   The kids are understanding more and more, and are able to speak in English so much more.  They are very quiet in their classrooms, but when they are with me they are very chatty, cheeky and lots of fun.   I love seeing them come out of themselves, and sometimes I even have to tell them to stop talking and listen, which they think is funny.   They love it when I say 'zip it!' and they pretend they are zipping their lips together.   Sometimes they will look at me with a grin and say 'me not zipping!'.  I then tell them they should say 'I'm not zipping' and they will say it the right way and laugh again.  

Now that they can speak in English a lot more, they are telling me more about their life before they came to Australia.  It's heart breaking to hear their stories about what school was like where they came from.  They have told me with tears in their eyes about the things they have been through, and I told them how I'm sad because they are sad, but how happy I am that they are now in Australia and how much we love having them at our school. 

They are Muslim so they obviously don't celebrate Easter, but their parents said it is okay for them to participate in Easter activities at school and to have Easter eggs as long as they are halal.  A few weeks ago I asked them if they knew was Easter was.  One of the boys was so excited and yelled 'chocolate eggs!'.  I laughed and said that we do have chocolate eggs at Easter.  The other kids then said 'and chocolate rabbits'.  I asked them if they would like a chocolate egg at  Easter and they were very excited, so I gave them each a calendar and they marked on it the day they would get the egg (the last day of the term).  

Every day they would then tell me how many more days it was until they got their 'chocolate egg'.  I kept reminding them they had to work hard to get an egg and they would just smile, because I think they knew they would get one anyway :) 

When I first started teaching them I made up a book about myself to read with them.  In the book I wrote 'I like chocolate'.  They had no idea what chocolate was when I first started with them, so it's funny to see how they have gone from not knowing what chocolate is, to hanging out to have some.

On the last day of school the kids saw me with a big bag and were so excited and said 'Miss King, what's in bag!?' (I go by Mrs King usually, but they often call me 'Miss'). I told them it was a surprise and they had to work hard before I would show them, and they were so excited and said 'chocolate eggs!'.  They couldn't wait to try them and when I asked them if they liked them they said 'yummy!!'. 
Yesterday we went up to the cemetery to decorate Aaron and Noah's graves for Easter.  Kobe said 'we did this last year, we will do this every year won't we Mum?' as he put eggs on Noah's trees. 
My friend Simone had bought some cute little bunnies and put at their graves earlier in the day. 
Even two and a half years later, it still doesn't seem real.  I don't know if it ever will.

Friday, 11 April 2014

The Man of the House

Jalen has really struggled a lot since Aaron passed away.  Starting high school is tough at any time, but especially three weeks after your Dad passed away.   He has struggled with his physical and mental health a lot over the last couple of years. 

At the time I didn't really blog about it because I wanted him to have as much privacy as he could.  I love having a blog because it's such a great way to keep a record of our family, but I am also very aware that many people read it, and there's good and not so good that comes with that. 

During the middle of last year, I couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel and either could Jay.  It was hard to imagine that he was ever going to feel better physically and emotionally.  You could tell when he was having a particularly hard day, because he also didn't look physically well. 

I was worried that starting another school year would be hard on him, but have been happily surprised that he is enjoying school again.  He looks forward to going to school every day, and is even enjoying the work.  He comes home from school really chatty every night and wants to tell me all the things that he got up to at school, and has a great group of friends. 

He still has days when he is really sad, but those days don't overwhelm him like they used to.  He came home with his school photo a couple of weeks ago, and I  love it so much as you can see the change in him.  It's so nice to have the happy and healthy Jay back. 
When Aaron passed away Jay was still really a boy, but he's grown into such a young man since then.   It's funny when someone hasn't seen him for a while, as they comment about his deep voice and how much taller he is.  I don't think it'll be long and he will be taller than me, and he loves rubbing it in. 

I joke with him all the time about being an awful teenager, but I'm actually very lucky as he really is a great kid.  It was so nice this week to go to parent/teacher interviews and to hear how lovely he also is at school and to hear that he's got a great sense of humour and is always willing to help out. 

He's also such a great help around the house and never complains when I ask him to do things.  He talks my ears off, and half the time I have no idea what he's even talking about (it's usually to do with a video game or something he saw on YouTube:) but I love that he loves to hang out and talk with me still. 

He always tells me that if I ever get remarried he really would turn into a horrible teenager, as he couldn't handle me being with anyone other than his Dad.  I reassured him he has nothing to worry about as I'm not wanting to ever get remarried but love joking with him about it, because he makes me laugh when he tells me how terrible it would be. 

Last week Jay told me that he could deal with most things after Aaron passed away, but the thing that he hates the most is that they can't watch superhero movies together anymore.  I laughed, but he told me he was serious as that was one thing that they had together, that was just between the two of them.  Harri and Aaron were close because they love sports, and Jay and Aaron were close because they loved superhero movies.  As Jay was only twelve when Aaron passed away, he was only just getting into them, and Aaron had promised to take him to see the Avengers.  He was so upset that he couldn't go with him, and even though I took him it just wasn't the same. 

Last week Jay was really keen to go and see Captain America 2, and kept talking about how he wished Aaron was here so they could go together.  I told Jay that going to the movie with him would be a win/win situation for both of us, as he would get to see the movie and I would get to eat popcorn while watching hot guys, so we went to see it together.  We had a great night and even though I really didn't know what was going on in the movie, it was actually pretty good. 
He reminds me so much of Aaron in many different ways.  He has the same sense of humour that Aaron had, and often he will do or say something that reminds me so much of Aaron.  I often say 'are you right Aaron!?' to him as I could swear that what he just said could've come out of Aaron's mouth, but he loves that he is so much like his Dad.  I remind him that it's not always a good thing to be like his Dad as some things drove me crazy  :)  

I wish the real man of the house was still here, but I'm proud of my new man of the house.  It's so nice to see a genuine smile back on his face. 

Monday, 7 April 2014

When Someone Becomes a Widow

Thank you for the lovely feedback on my last post, about how to help someone if their child has died.  This week I have been talking to my widow friends about how to best help someone who has recently become a widow (or widower).  All the things they mentioned I totally agreed with, and they reminded me of things that special friends have done, that have really helped me over the past two years.

A lot of it is the same as when a friend's child dies, so please read my last post if you are wanting to know what to do, but these things are specific to when someone becomes a widow or widower.

In the Early Days
When Aaron passed away it was a huge shock.  We were on a family holiday, and the next day we drove back home and it was so nice to pull up and see one of my best friends waiting for me.  I didn't want to see a lot of people, but I did want to see a few close friends and I was glad that she was there waiting.  She didn't just sit around wanting to talk, but got busy around the house.  She asked me what she could do and I knew I needed her to me sort out Aaron's life insurance.  I was so glad that I could give her that necessary but stressful job. 
Share Memories
We all agreed that we love it when people mention our husbands.  We love hearing stories and memories about them.  We love it when you bring them up in casual conversation.  We love hearing things like 'imagine what Aaron would think about that!'.  Hearing that other people miss them too, helps us to know that they're not forgotten, and that we aren't the only ones hurting. 

It's The Little Things
You can't bring their husband back, but you can let them know they aren't alone.   I have a beautiful cousin and special friend who don't live close by, but every few months they both let me know they are thinking of me, by just sending a card or something little in the mail.  It means so much to me to know they haven't forgotten how hard it is every day. 

Another great friend just makes sure she always checks up on me to see how I'm doing.  She doesn't assume that because I seem okay, that I am okay, even years later,   I know that she genuinely wants to know, and I feel like I can be honest with her about how I'm feeling and she isn't going to feel uncomfortable with what I say.  She knows she can't fix it for me, but just listens and that means more than anything.

She also leaves little things on my car or at my front door on special days like my first day at a new job, a week that may be extra hard because of a certain date,  cards at the cemetery and cards in the mailbox, just to let me know she's thinking of me.  

Don't Forget The Kids
It can be hard for adults to know what to say, but it can also be hard for kids to know what to say to their friends, whose Dad has just passed away.  Talk to your kids about what has happened, and remind them about what their friends may be going through.  Let them know that they will need extra special friends right now, and that they will be sad, but will also want to still have fun.  Get them to invite the kids around for a special play, just to have a distraction for a little while.  If they don't feel like coming, remind your children not to feel offended, but to keep checking to see if they would like to do something special together. 

When Aaron passed away Jalen got a lovely letter from someone his age who did an after school activity with him.  He didn't know her that well, but just getting a lovely letter saying 'I'm sorry your Dad died' touched him a lot.    

The kids now don't have a Dad on earth, and it's something they never, ever get over.   My boys are still grieving so much for their Dad and miss the things he used to do with them.   Every Friday night Harri still gets upset because his Dad isn't here to watch Friday night footy with him.  Jalen misses going to watch superhero movies with his Dad.  Kobe misses having Aaron to kick the footy with.  Even though I try to do all the things that Aaron used to do with them, they miss doing the 'boy things' with their Dad. 
Ask and Ask Again
Don't say 'let me know if I can do anything,' but ask if you can do something in particular. Ask and ask again.  At first we may say we are okay, but there is a huge gap your husband passes away - in so many ways.  There were so many things that Aaron used to do, that I found so hard at first, and have since had to learn to do.  

If you are good at setting up electrical equipment, check to see if they need any help.  If you are good with computers, ask if they need any advice or help with their computer.  If you are a good gardener, ask if they need any help with their garden.   If you are handy,  do they need anything fixed around the house?

Some things that have helped me so much since Aaron passed away was some of Aaron's family who surprised me, by organising that our backyard at our new house get finished by having a beautiful makeover by some professional landscapers.  So many family and friends turned up on the day to help out, and it literally changed our lives. 

Since moving to our new home I've had some lovely friends just tell me they were coming to help me set up my veggie garden.  It was something I had thought about doing for a long time, but wasn't sure how I was going to do it on my own.
I'm grateful for friends who helped me during the process of selling and buying a house - something that was very scary as I did it on my own.  

Having friends offer to pick up and drop off Jalen for different activities at church has been such a great help, as it gives me a break from all the other things that I now have to do on my own.  

Special Gifts
I mentioned in my last post about how lovely it is to get cards and special gifts from people when your child passes away, and it was the same when Aaron passed away.  One thing which has meant the most to me is a beautiful quilt which my cousin Toni made for me, out of Aaron's favourite t-shirts.  If you have the talent to do something so special for a friend, I know it would mean so much to them. I love lying under my quilt every night. 

Practical Help
A day or two after Aaron passed away I heard about a fundraiser that was happening for us.  I knew of Naomi from Seven Cherubs, but had never met her in person.  I was so touched that a stranger would want to help us, but at the time I remember saying 'it doesn't matter if they raise $2000 or $2,000,0000 - it's not going to bring Aaron back.  But then the next day I realised how much that money was going to help us.  At the time I wasn't working, Aaron's income stopped and his life insurance wasn't going to come through for a few months. 

I am forever grateful to Naomi and the hundreds of people, including many, many strangers who donated money to help us.  The amount she raised was incredible and without that money there is no way we could've paid our mortgage and bills, or have afforded to get Aaron and Noah's headstones at their graves.  Having the fundraising money didn't bring Aaron back, but it did let us know that so many people loved and cared for us and took so much pressure off.  Thank you Naomi for not asking, but just jumping in to do something so practical to help us.  I still have some of the fundraising money and it has helped me a lot over the past two years when we have had to do things such as put in a heater in our new home, or have to pay a large bill such as insurance.    Wjthout it things would be so much harder right now. 

In the last two years I have heard a lot from others about how they grieved when they went through a divorce.  I understand that you do grieve when go through a separation or divorce, but all grief is different.  I know people are just trying to relate to what we are going through, but grief shouldn't be and can't be compared  Even the grief that my widow friends are going through is different to my own.   I've also heard things like 'at least you know that you will be with him again'.  I know it, but it still hurts every single day. 
It Gets Harder
They say time heals, but I've found that you adapt, but it gets harder as time goes on.  Reality sinks in and the loneliness overwhelms you.  As one of my widow friends said  "the emails die down and the frequent "checking in" visits have became less. Life goes on and yet we feel like we haven't moved".   We are 'single' but still feel like we are a couple.  It's hard not to feel like a third wheel around other couples and families. 

The days are long, and the nights are even longer.  Weekends are extremely hard and long and there are many hours to fill in.  School holidays which we used to look forward to, we now dread.  It's so hard to see other families doing things together.  It's hard seeing Dads at the park doing things with their kids.  Being a single parent is exhausting, but being a single parent to children that are grieving while grieving yourself is overwhelming. 
The hardest thing are the little things that you miss so much - like knowing you can come home to talk to them about your day.  There are so many things I just want to talk to Aaron about.   As much as I love my three boys, it's hard to just have them to talk to at night after work. 
I'm grateful for text messages from friends asking how my week is going, and for them letting me know they're thinking of me.   I'm grateful for friends who ask and keep asking even when I say that I don't feel like doing something.   I'm grateful for girls night out, where I have some adult company and can just laugh and talk without having to deal with my boy's grief or having to break up fights.   I'm grateful for friends who invite us to do things with them, to help fill in the days.

I'm Married
Aaron was the love of my life and is my eternal companion.  We were together through the hardest times, but were best friends.  Life was far from perfect and we had our ups and downs, but life was good.  It hurts when others talk to us about getting remarried.  We are grieving for our husbands and getting remarried is the last thing I am thinking about.

Although I am happy for anyone who gets remarried, it's not something that I can imagine or want to do.  It hurts when people talk about it, like we have just broken up. It hurts when people tell you that 'it's time to move on'.  It hurts because people obviously have no understanding of the enormity of grief, and how that's all that you can focus on.  You can't ever imagine loving anyone else like you loved them.  
Don't Expect Too Much
I know that as time has gone on that it seems like things are a lot easier.  At times it is easier, but then you feel like you overwhelmed by the grief again, and again.  It's hard to not feel like your old self, and you wonder if and when you ever will.   It's hard to not be able to do the things you used to without much thought.  It's hard when you have to force yourself to do things that used to bring you so much joy.  

My mind is often a fog as it's overwhelmed with grief, dealing with my boys who are grieving, working, and just keeping things going at home as best I can.  Sometimes just being asked to do something that seems very little, is the thing that can tip you over the edge.  

I hate saying no to people, but have had to learn to look after myself more over the past two and a half years, because I now know that taking on too much and dealing with grief at the same time can tip you over the edge, and it can be hard to then get back up again.  

I hope that some of my ramblings may help someone who may have a friend or family member going through something similar to us.  I have found that talking to my friends who are widows has been such a great support, as it makes me realise I'm not alone, and I know that what I'm feeling is all normal for what we are going through. 

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