They say a picture is worth a thousand words. For me, a picture evokes a thousand emotions. Especially pictures from right after Mark died. This was one of the first pictures I took after he died. Prior, I was a picture taking fool. But in my zombie-like fog, taking pictures, or capturing any memories during the worst time of my life just seemed ludicrous. But on this day, pictures were necessary. It was the day my daughter turned 8. Just 8 days after her dad died. Our first “milestone” without daddy. I look at this picture and all I can think is ‘these are three broken kids who have just lost their dad.’ Who knows what they were actually thinking. It was still a pretty confusing time for all of us. But this picture seems to somehow bring back every feeling I had during that time. The fear, confusion, anxiety… it comes rushing back and this picture is difficult to look at. And THAT makes me sad too. She had already had her birthday party (thank goodness) but we had planned to go to a waterpark with my whole family (booked months prior) over her birthday weekend to celebrate. This was one week after Mark died. I did not want to go. We left it up to the kids… yep, we’re going.
Without a doubt, it was the worst weekend ever. I still wasn’t sleeping, I was in a serious fog, and everywhere I looked I saw kids with their dads and I couldn’t take it. Taking 3 little ones to a water park without Mark’s eyes to help was overwhelming and just simply made me sad. So then there is this picture:
I don’t know who took it, but I can remember this moment. I was holding in tears. I was not a mom happy to be celebrating her daughter turning 8… EIGHT! Such a big deal, but I couldn’t even feel a tiny bit of joy. I was still completely broken into tiny little pieces of pain. And so when it came time for her 9th birthday, I told her whatever you want… you deserve to have an amazing birthday. She wondered why. She had a great time at the waterpark and would love to go back (that is never going to happen). Kids’ grief is so much different than adults’. She was able to separate in that moment to enjoy her birthday apart from just having lost her dad. For me it was all consuming for the first few months. Looking back it’s pretty vague, and people will tell me things that happened that I truly do not recall. I understand why people say not to make any important decisions or changes right away because you really are not of sound mind.
I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at pictures from that time and feel joy. All I see is sadness and our first family memories without Mark. I still have moments of thinking ‘is this really my life?’ Yep, it is. And more and more I’m learning to embrace it.