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Out of the Abyss

As told to C.B. Gavant

I could not mourn. If I mourned, it would mean that he was gone. Childcare, office work, household chores … I did everything on automatic pilot. Somewhere deep inside, my psyche refused to let go of our marriage, our home, our hopes and dreams and future. Instead, I worked to stay the course.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

abyssI moved back to my hometown to be close to my family, and I had to adjust to a new home, job, and reality all at once. Unpacking, organizing, errands, and disrupted routines consumed my days, all my emotions were channeled toward my newly orphaned children. They needed me. I had to be their father and mother, now.

One Friday afternoon, the kids headed out to play at a neighbor, and I sank down into a chair and wept as if my life had come to an end. I couldn’t even articulate why I was crying. The minute they returned home, though, I clamped down again. No more coming undone. I was the mommy, and I had to be in control.

Of course, I had mourned during shivah. I had talked about Nosson endlessly, reliving his medical history: the breathlessness, the swollen legs, the diagnosis of heart disease — he’d been born with a weak heart, and over the last four years, his condition had grown progressively worse. But even then, I refused to acknowledge the emotions raging inside me because they were just too enormous to put into words. How do you mourn when you’re still in a state of shock? I’d spent years reassuring myself that Nosson would be fine, that diet and exercise and all those colored pills were all he needed. We’d battled this demon together for years.

As I drove carpool and pulled items off of grocery shelves, thoughts unbidden would crowd into my head. I can’t manage without you, I’d think over and over, as if I were talking to him, as if he were still there. And the thoughts — those emotions that had no outlet — began pulling me under.

But I was coping. I was fine. My mother said so, and my sisters. My neighbors thought I was superwoman. (“You’re soooo strong.”) If it took me hours to fall asleep each night, if I collapsed from exhaustion every evening after putting the kids to bed, lying comatose on the couch for an hour or more before mustering the energy to put my house back in order, so what? That’s what happens when you’re a 27-year-old widow with three kids. That’s how you deal.


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