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Last night Kaleb and I were looking at some old pictures of Molly, when she was just a puppy. That led to him asking to look at pictures when he was a baby. I pulled up three different albums from my Facebook and we started scrolling.

These albums were of course full of baby Kaleb and guess who else? Daddy. I couldn’t help but tense up a little when we came to the ones of us in the hospital during and after Kaleb’s birth. Charles was in almost all of these because, duh, that’s what you do, take lots of pictures of mom and dad with their new baby. My cringing wasn’t because I didn’t want to see them, but because I was afraid of Kaleb’s reaction.

I guess it’s been a while since I’ve updated on our progress and whathaveyou, regarding losing Charles. As we were sitting there last night, I realized (again), it’s not about moving on or ‘getting over it’, it’s about stages.

There was a time that looking at a photo of Charles was harder on Kaleb than it was good for him. It upset him; there he was in the picture, why wasn’t he back at home with us? Why wouldn’t Jesus let him come back to us? That stage sucked ass. I personally, was at a stage where I wanted to talk about Charles, I wanted Kaleb to know how much he favors his dad and I wanted to show him pictures so neither of us would forget, but that wasn’t a stage that Kaleb was ready for. He didn’t understand and therefore he didn’t know how to cope. In the end, his reaction was just a nightmare for both of us so I became quiet, trying to avoid the topic of ‘daddy’, making sure to let nothing slip.

A while back, something happened/was said (about daddy) to Kaleb that was upsetting to him. I wasn’t there but was later told that Kaleb didn’t handle it well. Given what was said though, I don’t really blame him, but that’s not the point. I realized then that maybe we were “hiding” daddy a little too much because when I asked Kaleb about the incident, he replied with, “we don’t talk about that.”

Talk about daggers. All the daggers to the heart.

After a minor breakdown on my end and the whole, “I completely suck at this parent thing and I totally screwed up my kid and we will for sure be in therapy the rest of our life and what I thought was best turns out to be shit and I just wanna sit in my closet and cry for a year” stage, I started very slowly, integrating Charles into our conversations again.

For instance, we were at the frozen yogurt place, the kind where you load your own toppings and then pay all the monies depending on the weight…(Charles hated these places, FYI) This was Kaleb’s first time there and he was in awe of all the possible toppings. I told him he could pick whatever he wanted, the sky was his limit. He chose gummy bears and M&M’s. Typical Kid? Maybe. His father’s son? Absolutely! I distinctly remember Charles putting gummy bears in all his soft serve, anywhere and everywhere it was offered. I remember this so well because I always made fun of it. “Why would you want to eat frozen gummy bears?! They will hurt your teeth!!” “I like gummy bears…and I like ice cream” he would say. When Kaleb loaded up his frozen yogurt with gummy bears, I couldn’t help but smile and think it was surly a sign to start mentioning daddy again.

We sat down and started eating. I watched him eat those damn bears with pure joy. After a few bites I told him, “you know who else liked to put gummy bears in ice cream? Daddy!” Kaleb’s reaction was just as I hoped it would be, light-hearted; he kinda just smiled and then said, “really! That’s so silly!.”

Ever since then, I’ve been dropping one-liners his way when I see similarities like the way their hands and fingers are identical and the fact that Kaleb washes his hands all the time, just like Charles. These things seem to sit well with Kaleb. As long as I don’t push it or drag out a long conversation, he seems to be okay.

We are both in ‘stages’ of this process. They seem to never match up but I guess that’s a given, taking into account our different rolls. Without a doubt, I know he understands when someone dies; what it means to be gone forever. When someone goes to live with Jesus, they will never physically live here again, he gets it. I can tell you the day he understood this, I can tell you the night it hit him…I knew the minute he entered into a new stage. We had finished our prayers, I told him that I loved him and then rolled over, saying goodnight. Seconds later, I felt the complete weight of his body come barreling down on me, “Mommy, please don’t die. Please stay here with me forever. Please don’t go live with Jesus. I’m scared I will lose where you go.”

Given these words were surrounded by tears from my dude, it defiantly hit hard. My immediate reaction was of course to tell him I’m not going anywhere; that I’ll never leave him. It was hard times, y’all. I get tears in my eyes just thinking about it. This lasted for a week or two, off and on. He wanted to talk about it often and wanted reassurance. The thing about it is, I actually worry about this myself. I mean, I know the odds of a child losing both parents at a young age are slim but when you’ve been through things, when you’ve seen your life change in a matter of seconds, these are things you worry about. I do my best with it though. I pray that this is a promise I won’t have to break to my kid….and I pray that this stage will pass, just like the others.

All of this considered, I honestly didn’t know how last night would go over. Seeing multiple pictures of Charles, over and over again, realizing he was there at one point but isn’t here now.

To my surprise, he handled things very, very well. He made comments like, “oh so, daddy was there when I was a baby? Oh look at daddy; he was throwing me up in the air, that looks fun!” I could tell he didn’t ponder on it long, and if you know Kaleb well, you know that he ponders on shit for days and days. He’s a thinker and a worrier. He doesn’t stop worrying about one thing until you give him a new thing to worry about. I was proud of him and also thankful we may have entered a new stage.

I know there are so many more stages to come, for both of us. The older he gets, the more he will understand. One day we will have to have the mental illness discussion and what it actually means to commit suicide. Those will be hard stages and hard conversations. Those are stages that scare me. A lot. I know those are the stages that will bring me back to, “I just fucked this up” but I also know those are the stages that God will be there the most for. I know He’s here now, pushing me along and I have faith that he’ll be there then.

If I ever get the chance to speak or talk to someone who has lost a spouse, the first word I’ll say is, ‘stages’. You don’t ever really get over it, you certainly never forget, you just reach different stages. No one can tell you what order they’ll come, no one can tell you how long they’ll last and no one can tell you the correct way to handle them. The only thing you can count on is that they won’t be forever. There will always be a new stage, right around the corner.

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