Bearing the Responsibility

Author: Rachael Hill

Fall has always been my favorite season.  The leaves change beautiful colors, there is a pumpkin spice scent everywhere I go, and the cooler air brings out my beloved jeans and hoodies.  It is a time of new beginnings as school starts again, football season comes and goes, and then it is the beginning of hockey season for my boys.  I find it to be a busy, but beautiful and exciting time of year.  However, as fall makes its appearance, it is also a reminder that winter is on its way and here in Minnesota, the approach of winter requires quite a bit of preparation.  It is often in these times of having to get the house ready for the upcoming season that I am reminded of not only what I have lost in the death of my husband, but also the sting what grief’s path has put on me. 

Rachel and her boys

Jeff and I were 19 year-old kids when we got married, so we essentially built our adult lives together from the ground up.  We were both enlisted airmen without much of anything when we started, so together we built a home, a lifestyle, and created a family.  We shared everything.  Nothing was solely mine or solely his.  It was ours…until the day he died.

Jeff and I had an unspoken rule - I took care of the inside of the house while he took care of the outside. I managed the money while he managed the “toys”.  I cooked the meals while he ate the leftovers.  This understanding worked well for us, but then all of a sudden he was no longer there to help me anymore. In an instant, everything suddenly became mine…including all of the responsibility that went with it, and I quickly began to feel the weight of all the responsibilities resting entirely on my shoulders.

Responsibility can be an overwhelming thing, especially when you feel like it is all on you.  As a single parent, I have to make all of the decisions for my children’s welfare.  I have to manage the household and all that goes with it.  I have to take care of the vehicles and all of the required maintenance.  In addition to these, I also feel that it is often my responsibility to keep my husband’s memory alive.  It is my responsibility to help my boys know their dad.  They don’t have a lot of memories of him since they were so young when he died, so it is up to me to make sure his memory lives on and they know how lucky they were to have such an amazing man as their father.  That in itself is a beautiful, yet extremely difficult task, and one that I desperately don’t want to fail at.

There are days when the responsibility is overwhelming, and more than anything I wish I could have my partner back.  I wish he could be here to help with the physical responsibilities of caring for everything, but even more than that, I wish I could have him here to just ‘have my back’ and assure me that I am making the right decisions.  Jeff was always so good at giving me confidence, and he always believed in me, especially when I was struggling to believe in myself.  He supported me and I knew that no matter what happened, together we would make it work.  Now, I am on my own, and sometimes that is an extremely hard reality to accept.  There are times when it is hard to have confidence in what I am doing and I worry that I am making the wrong decisions.  The pressure I put on myself to “do it right” can get heavy and it can definitely be difficult burden to bear.

However, as time goes on I have realized that I don’t always have the answers, and more importantly, it’s ok not to have all the answers.  I have made mistakes and will continue to make more.  I’m not perfect, and I can’t expect myself to be either.  Grief is hard.  Every aspect of grief is hard.  I think about Jeff every day and my heart still hurts because he is no longer here, but through his death and ultimately my grief, I have also found a renewed self-confidence.  I have learned that I can’t second-guess myself.  I have to make a decision and stick with it, but most of all I have to trust it.  I have found that trusting myself often helps ease that burden of responsibility.  Not completely, but at least some.  I don’t have to like that this responsibility now falls on me and again, there will always be those times when it feels extra heavy, but as long as my boys are happy and thriving, I can have confidence that I am doing an ok job for ultimately, their happiness is truly what matters most.