Are you ready for a morbid post?
Lately--more than usual--I've been a little obsessed with my kids potentially dying.
I know that no parent is immune from this fear. We are all worried about it on a daily basis, if not minute-by-minute. (Or is that just me?)
However, my fear has run into an obsession of sorts. One that keeps me up at night, or comes as thoughts to me at random moments through the day. Such as, "This might be the last time I comb my daughter's hair...." Or, "You're going to regret losing your temper when he dies."
The Mormon in me is confused: is this anxiety, or is it the Spirit warning me to be prepared?
Admittedly, my fear has been fed because there has been a lot of death in both of my parents' lives. My dad lost a 9 year old brother, and my mom lost two young-adult brothers and two young nieces, one who was 6 years old and one who was 16. My family tends to think about more morbid things as a result... As in, I have a plan in place for if Brad suddenly passes away.
It also doesn't help that I've recently discovered a few blogs and Instagram accounts of mothers who have lost little children. They are so devastating to read, but I can't seem to stop. Remarkably, these mothers have incredible strength, perspective, and hope alongside their deep grief. And that's what scares me, as I know I am no where near strong enough.
One morning after sobbing over another story, I went on a walk. I had to think about this. In the advice of one of my fiends who has suffered with anxiety, I had to "go there." I had to imagine what would happen if one of my children were to die: What emotions would I go through? How would I grieve? How would I get my family to more forward? How would our faith guide our recovery?
I faced that on top of my debilitating sorrow, I would have two main emotions: regret and anger. Regret that I didn't do more with my children, love them more, hug them tighter, spend more quality time with them, and take more pictures. Regret that I lost my temper, ignored them, or punished them more harshly than they deserved. And anger--anger at God that my child would be taken from me, anger at others for having perfect lives, and anger at myself for being a less-than-perfect mother.
Obviously, I'm not proud of these two potential reactions.
So, on this walk I also thought a lot about what I can do now to prepare for if this were to happen. What can I work on now so that if this terrible tragedy were to happen, I would allow myself to grieve--yes--but not turn into a bitter, angry woman full of regret.
Here's some of my resolutions:
1) Improve my faith. I chose to stick with it, after all, I really need to work on my beliefs--that this life on earth is not the end-all, be-all; that there is more to all of this; that I will see my loved ones again; that God is aware of us intimately and would guide me through the darkest of days. That leads me to...
2) Improve my relationship with my Heavenly Parents. I have struggled with this, admittedly, for many many years. Mainly because it has felt like a one-sided relationship as I trudged through eating disorders, depressions, anxieties, many many unanswered prayers about my questions, etc. I have learned the past year that many who struggle with similar issues also face difficulty feeling spiritually close to God. Despite that, I want to open my heart again. While I have always, always consistently prayed and studied my scriptures, for some time my heart hasn't believed I'll actually receive an answer, acknowledgment, or guidance. I want to do those same practices, but with more hope in my heart.
3) Value my time better with my children. That means not being annoyed when they want to read a book when I'm in the middle of something. That means looking at them in the eye when they are talking. That means laughing when they do something naughty but totally age-appropriate, instead of becoming exasperated. That means counting to ten more often than responding rashly in anger. Ultimately, it means valuing their learning and our quality time as a family above my to-do list.
4) Own my love of being a mother. I do love being a mom--I do. But I get really easily wrapped up in the stress of it. Stress tends to be my most prevalent emotion; not just logistical stress--as being a stay-at-home mom is a very physical job--but emotional stress, too. I want to really have a more prevailing feeling in my heart throughout my busy days, that I am so grateful that this is what I get to do, and a love of my "job." I believe this is something I can cultivate, and I know from experience it starts by being aware of my thoughts. And I guess, I just want to be a lot sillier with my kids.
My final thought was for my husband and I to continue in doing our best to make our marriage strong and resilient.
I know this way of facing demons might make people queasy, but it actually helped me a lot. I was able to come home from my walk with more hope and more empowerment in my heart. And I'm not obsessing near as much, thankfully!
Do you have any thoughts or suggestions on how you have dealt with similar anxieties?