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Rosemary McCracken

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If there’s anything worse than losing your life partner of 17 years, it’s seeing the big gap they left in their children’s life when they are not there for them day in day out and you can’t make sense of the unfairness. My boys were 6 and 8 when their dad died after a 18 month battle with a rare sino nasal cancer. Damien was 23 and I was 18 when we met, we married shortly after and in the years following created our little family. The sadness I mostly feel is the loss for the boys. They had a wonderful, involved, happy spirited father who had so much love for them. I feel inept and worry every single day for them that this loss will scar them. I know some scars make for resilience and growth, but they are just babies. They didn’t need to have such a hard life curveball so young. I know we aren’t alone. There are many other young families dealing with the loss of a parent. Hearing their stories and seeing their cries for help on facebook, I can relate. The struggle is sometimes too overwhelming. Grief pops up when you least expect it and I’ve learnt you have to sit with it, process it however you can cause otherwise it festers. There are times for a brave face and there are times for stop the clock, I’m just gonna sit here and feel sorry for myself and my children because this is absolute bullshit. There is trauma in memories around the battle of fighting cancer and all the hospital treatments and ups and downs of test results and then the passing. The passing was a trauma in itself. I filed a complaint with the Health Care Complaints Commission and about 9 months after his death I sat in a board room with the hospital executives and doctors and told my story. I received an apology and an acknowledgement that they failed Damien on the day of his death. He suffered. Something forever etched in my memory. I fully support Euthenasia, no one should suffer with their end of life care. I recently had to put our family dog down and as sad as it was, I knew it was the most humane thing to do for an already dying and suffering soul. Quick, painless and with loved ones there by their side. My youngest boy expresses his grief freely. Many nights, crying saying he misses his dad and he clings onto all of his dad’s things like his childhood teddy and his silver chain and sunglasses to name a few. He likes listening to his dad’s favourite music and talks about his memories of fishing and four wheel driving together. My eldest doesn’t talk alot about his dad but when he does I feel the emptiness and it stops me in my tracks, I listen and I tell him I miss him too. I know he thinks of him more than he let’s on. He is a spitting image of his dad and that makes me so happy to have a piece of Damien still here in the world, in his sons face and smile. Parenting while grieving was and is difficult. The physical effects of grief meant that I became depressed and my brain was absolute mush. I was exhausted and struggled to get motivated. It was just one day at a time. And sometimes it still is and it’s now 2 years on. I do counselling but have to take breaks from that and let life just be sometimes. I feel very lost at times and am so hard on myself for not being enough. I sometimes don’t have the energy for disciplining the boys or showing them enough attention and don’t get me started on bedtimes. We are survivors of loss. A loss that can never be replaced. My boys and their significant reliance on me has been a blessing as I have had to keep going. I have to keep showing them life is still good. Most of all I love when people talk about Damien or allow me to talk about him. That is all I need when it comes to support. Many people have let me know they miss him too and that in a weird way is a comfort to me. I think because it acknowledges and shows respect for him and I know that his memory lives on. And it should live on and on and on. He was 39. He made an impact with his existence on earth. He was fun loving and in this stressful world we all need more Damiens. He made people laugh, even if at his expense. He handled his illness with grace. It amazes me when I think just how he kept that smile on his face. The only time he really wept was when he said his job was not done as a father. He did not want to leave the boys, that broke his heart and a big heart it was. He also was sad when he saw a young boy waiting to have radiation in the hospital, he had compassion for he knew that his endurance was running low and could only imagine what it must be like for a child to be undergoing treatment after treatment and never wanting his own boys to have to go through such sickness. I doubt constantly that I am doing enough for Damien to be proud of me. I talk to him in my thoughts. When I really allow myself to go there I can go very deep into feeling the loss and want one more conversation, one more laugh, one more look at his smile and for him to hold my hand and tell me I’m doing a good job. He always knew how to see the brighter side of life. And that is his legacy, to keep smiling, keep cracking jokes and as he said ‘it is what it is,’ so acceptance is what it comes down. Accepting we cannot change some things, we can hold pain but we can also hold and welcome love at the same time. Otherwise we miss what is in front of us and I have 2 amazing individual little human beings with so much life ahead of them and I want them to shine and discover who they are and what wonderful things they can do here in this bizarre thing called life. Mummy and daddy love you, we created you with our love and our love still bonds us all x

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