Don’t Tell Me "I don’t know how you do it."

Two months ago my husband died. It was earth shattering. We had just celebrated our 20th anniversary this summer. We were preparing for a new stage in life with all four of our kids headed off to school for the first time. From Freshman in High School to two in middle school and now our baby in Kindergarten, this was going to be a cool new world.
Except it’s not.
On September 3rd, my Kraig suffered a massive heart attack. We now know he had been having smaller ones for days. Multiple doctors missed it. There was no chance to say goodbye. One minute he was suffering from what we thought was back pain and the next I was having to take a deep breath and tell my children Daddy went to heaven.
I am a strong woman. I say that without conceit or vanity. It is something God has built into who I am. It’s one of the things that attracted my husband to me. Some of it is my nature and some of it is lessons in faith God has been teaching me throughout my life. Some of it is supernatural support from a God who knows my pain and promises to equip me for the road ahead. One truth I know: God is faithful.
October 2013, The Kids & Me
Now my days are filled with caring for confused and wounded kids. I’m trying to figure out a new normal in our lives where once there were two actively involved parents and now there is just me. Each day I’m encouraging the kids and myself to ride the roller coaster of grief as it comes. If they feel sad, that’s OK. Feel it but don’t stay there. Life doesn’t stop. If you feel happy, that’s OK too. Daddy loved to laugh and would want us to laugh again.
I just finished one of the hardest weeks of doing this by myself. There were teacher meetings and parenting challenges that made me mad at Kraig for leaving me here to handle it all alone. There were concerts at school and trick or treating obligations. There was a sick child and craft fair I had to sell my handmade wares at. And there was a mother-daughter event to take my daughter to even though I would have rather stayed hidden. But she needed this.
As the week got harder and harder I began to feel so sad, so overwhelmed, so exhausted. This morning, someone uttered those words that many have said over the past weeks: “I don’t know how you do it.”
Let me tell you I hate those words. I realize they are meant as a pat on the back that I’m doing something amazing. They have been uttered by many people. There are two reasons I hate them.
First, what else am I going to do? I have four little hearts to shepherd through the greatest tragedy of their lives. I have mouths to feed and baths to arrange and schools to communicate with. I do not have the luxury of curling up in a self-pitying ball and stopping my life. I wouldn’t if I could. My children need to see that life goes on and it’s going to be OK someday. They need to see from me that God is here in the daily struggles to breathe and eat and laugh and cry without their daddy.
The second reason I hate that sentence is that there is hidden inside it the implication that I shouldn’t be doing this well. Hearing that sentence makes me doubt myself. If I loved him more, should I be finding it harder to function? If I was sadder, less functional, would that show I was grieving better? Am I somehow too strong? Should I be falling apart more?
I sat here today struggling with exactly those thoughts and realizing for the first time since Kraig died that I was feeling depressed. Up until now I could confidently say I was not depressed. I’m sad, I’m lonely, I’m lost sometimes, but depression was not on the list. Until I realized this sentence was making me question myself, making me feel like I’m doing this wrong.
So here’s my request from strong women everywhere going through amazing amounts of trial—stop telling us you just don’t know how we do it. I do it because life must go on. I do it to honor a husband who told many people that he had faith in his wife to carry on living if something ever happened to him.  I do it because my kids need me and that right there will get any good mother going when life knocks her down. I do it because I trust in a sovereign God who gives me strength each day.
When I need help, I ask for it. When I need to collapse, I have friends waiting with comfy couches and open arms. But as I’m teaching my kids, I do not stay there. Life doesn’t work like that. So please, don’t tell me you don’t know how I do it. You may not like my answer.

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