I know what you’re thinking: the grief of Terry’s birthday has pushed her over the edge, but hear me out.
In my previous life, when asked what superpower I would want my answer was always the ability to read minds. Terry used to joke that if I could turn adopting cats from whatever country I was living in or visiting into a superpower I would. He was right, as always. Upon the advice of a friend, I looked into Second Firsts, a book written by a woman who lost her husband to cancer at the age of 35 and then went through hell to build a life full of second firsts for herself and her children. I liked the theme of the book very much and often reflect upon its message that I have the power to build a new life for myself that can include happiness. I watched an interview by the author, Christina Rasmussen, in which she refers to grief being a superpower. I think at the time I was having a bad day and straight up laughed at the woman. Grief, as a superpower? Yeah, right! But today I had a eureka! moment and I used my new superpower for the first time. Let me explain:
During a one-to-one mentoring session with one of my Year 8 (7th Grade) students today she burst into tears and told me that she couldn’t focus in her lessons since her granddad passed away recently. She loved him so much and missed him. Occasionally teachers would make comments about families, or something would remind her of him and she would burst into tears in lessons. She was too embarrassed to ask the teacher to leave and so often she would just sit in class crying. Her mom and her grandmother cry all the time and she doesn’t feel like she can tell them about her sadness, because they have their own sadness to deal with and none of her friends could possibly understand. I know exactly how she feels – and that is my superpower. In my previous life, I would have thought that her story was really sad, told her I was sorry about her grandfather and then sent her on her way thinking oh, she’ll get over it, she’s only 12.
When she told me about her grief I told her about mine. I told her about how occasionally students say things that make me sad and I need to step out into the hallway to have a quick cry, but I always come back in and that there was nothing wrong with needing time to cry before I can get back to being a good teacher. I told her that being sad didn’t stop me from being a good teacher, just like it didn’t stop her from being a brilliant student, but that it made it more difficult at times. I told her that sometimes I, too, didn’t want to burden my friends and family with my sad thoughts so that I saw a counsellor and that it was ok to do so. It would also be ok if I chose to talk to my friends and family instead of seeing a counsellor. I asked if she would be interested in talking to the school counsellor and she said yes, so I mad a referral. I told her that I kept a picture of my gorgeous husband on my desk and I showed it to her – the first time I have ever shown him to any of my students. She says that she has a framed photo of her grandfather next to her bed. I asked her if she thought her parents could make a copy to keep in her school planner if she wanted to carry him with her at school, and she said that she would ask them tonight. I told her that she would probably be sad for awhile, just like I would, but that I hoped in time we would both begin smiling more. I pulled out a box of tissues for us both, as we were both crying while we talked about our loss.
Here’s what I didn’t tell her: I didn’t tell her that it would all be ok, because I have no way of knowing if that is true. I didn’t tell her that she would get over it, because i don’t think that one ever does. I think that she will always miss her grandfather just like I will always miss my husband. I didn’t tell her that she shouldn’t be sad, because I think that her sadness is a measure of the love she had for her grandfather, and that is a beautiful thing. I didn’t tell her that she had to talk to me, but I did tell her that if she ever wanted to she could.
In the five months since I lost my husband it has required superhuman strength on some days to just get out of bed in the morning, but I do it. It is superhuman that my body continued to function after my heart and soul had been viciously ripped out of my chest. That life kept moving once Terry died was horrifying for me to watch, but I watched it until I was ready to begin to think about re-entering it. And throughout all of this my grief has developed into a somewhat superhuman power and today is the first day that I have been able to find a use for this new, unwanted change in myself.
Very few good things have happened since Terry died, but until the job of Catwoman opens up, this new superpower of mine will just have to do.