Building for a life I don’t have

Sometimes I think I’m not doing grief right.

I feel like someone might think, “Grief? Why are you talking about grief? It’s been more than a year. Move on.” Or somebody else might think, “Your husband died. How are you able to function?”

I work very hard every day to be happy. I work at it. I choose it.

I work very hard to give Ellie as much joy as possible and as much connection to her Daddy as possible.

This farm helps.

Matt and I love this farm. Moving here transformed us in a wonderful way. It is incredibly special, and we had a vision for what this farm would be. I told Matt once shortly after we moved here (long before he was diagnosed), “I wouldn’t want to do this on my own.” Well, I’m doing it on my own. I’m working hard to make our vision come true.

So I go ahead and build a garage. The garage that we talked about and planned for and started saving for together. I’m proud that I did this on my own and that our plans for the garage have turned out so well.

But it also hurts.

Matt always wanted to park his car in a garage, and he never got to do that. I built a big two car garage, even though we only have one car. I built a big mudroom with open storage, so that he doesn’t have to open a closet to hang up his coat. The mudroom will have hooks for lots of kids to hang up backpacks and coats. Kids that we don’t get to have. It has a section for Baxter’s leashes and towels, which he doesn’t get to use. My Dad should have been our general contractor, but he doesn’t get to build anymore.

The losses pile up.

I keep busy. I feel most myself when I’m doing things. I also fear that if I stop, I’ll start thinking too much.

So I build a treehouse playground for our girl. I can’t give her her Daddy, but I can give her a fun playground. A place where we find joy.

Grief doesn’t come with rules. I can’t let go of Matt, my Dad, Baxter. I feel them here with me, supporting me through the garage and watching Ellie in her treehouse. I talk to them and keep them part of our life and the farm. I also can’t be crushed by this, not caring for our house, our farm, our girl.

I’m sad. I’m happy. I’m on my own. I’m not alone.

Matt and I had a vision for this farm. I want to make that vision come true for us both. I want it for myself, but I also want it for him. I am committed to him. He doesn’t get to do this. I can do it for both of us.

10 thoughts on “Building for a life I don’t have

  1. Julia, take your time in grief. Don’t let anyone rush you through it. Take time for those tears and heartbreak (heart ache), take time for your Elly, and take time to remember, which I see you’re doing. And time time to make new memories with Elly. And you’re doing that too.

    I don’t know your grief, only the ones I’ve experienced of friends and family. I say don’t rush, but take time to process it all.

  2. I am struck by your choice of words in saying that you work very hard to be happy each day. Perhaps that is one of the changes that grief brings – happiness takes more work, more conscious choice. But the more you work at it, the more practiced at achieving it you’ll become.
    I agree with all the comments here that you can’t rush grief, and that however you experience it is right for you. The relationship you had with Matt is so personal, so unique, that no one else could possibly define how you should continue it after his death.
    Between Matt, your dad, Baxter and dealing with the pandemic, there have been a lot of losses. It’s lucky you have a beautiful little girl to counterbalance some of that! She’ll grow up feeling the depth of her parents’ love between each other and for her, with your wonderful farm as the living setting that embodies it.

  3. I really can’t say anything better than what everyone else has said. But I do admire how strong you are. I can’t imagine all of the loss that you have been through lately. I am guessing it’s one of those things where you didn’t realize how strong you are until you had to be.

    Continued prayers for you and Ellie.

    • Thank you, Sarah. I feel like we can do a lot when we have to. I have been grateful to discover my strength. One of the grief counsellors I worked with hated that “strong” label. Her argument was that it traps people into feeling like they have to be strong, and that’s an unrealistic expectation for life or for grief. So while I appreciate my strength, I am also conscious to give myself grace and seek help or breaks at times.

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