You hear it all the time. There is no love like a mother’s love. There is no stronger bond than that between a mother and her child. Is this why when a child dies the first question asked is usually “how is the mother doing?” One of the first questions Todd is asked by people is “how is Shelly holding up?” It makes my heart ache for him. He is 100% feeling just as horrible as I am, maybe worse. Todd feels like it’s his job to protect his family. He not only lost his son but also feels he failed to protect him. Now he sees what’s left of his family falling apart and he can’t fix it. I have moments of absolute anxiety and depression. Todd has to watch this, unable to do much. Although I know he feels the exact same way I do, his first instinct is to comfort me. One day, weeks after Nash died, my heart was skipping beats and I was having chest pain. Todd took me to the hospital where doctors confirmed that I had an irregular heartbeat caused by stress. My hair had also been falling out. I was a mess to say the least. Doctors asked me if I was under more stress than normal. I told them about Nash and they looked at me, stood with their backs to Todd, and said.” I’m so sorry for YOUR loss.” Todd was sitting off in the corner without even a look in his direction. So here I am in a hospital bed, getting poked and prodded by doctors. I’m staring at the floor crying, and looking defeated I’m sure. I was trying to hold it together. I remember looking up at Todd, who had been ignored up to this point, with questioning eyes. Like, how did this happen? How am I going to go on? Then I just cried uncontrollably. He immediately got up and came to my side. Hugging me and trying to give me his best smile. How hard this must be for him. To see me so upset. To want to fix things and he can’t and on top of it all he is grieving himself.
Todd has only broken down like this in front of me twice and I could barely take it. It was so hard to see him that way and it made me feel horrible that I was relieved he didn’t do it often. I don’t think I could do this if he was like that all the time. How unfair is that…he does it for me. I think the mistake I make and other people make as well, is thinking that because we don’t see him breakdown that he is okay. I assure you that he is not! This was his first child, his only son. He was told all the time what a great dad he was going to be. He felt Nash kick when I was pregnant. He was there for the ultrasounds, for his birth. He rocked him to sleep many nights, fed him his bottles, changed his diaper. He has kissed his little face a billion times, given him his baths, sang to him. He was told endlessly how much Nash looked like him, except for the fact that he was pale like me. Todd called him his fair skinned fella. All of these things he has done are no different than what I have done. So how does he get forgotten in all of this? My favorite memories of Nash are the times I remember Todd holding him and looking at him with so much love in his eyes. I loved hearing Todd talk to him. He would talk to him about hunting at the cabin and how crazy mommy was. One day I caught them watching figure skating on TV and Todd looked at me and said, “He digs the chicks like I do.”
They had their own special relationship. He was the one who picked Nash up from the babysitter. I noticed he had started picking him up earlier than normal and I had asked him why. He said, “I rush through work. I can’t wait to go pick him up. ” Todd would strap him in the car seat and call me on his way home. He would say, “Shelly he is doing the coolest thing. I look at him in the back seat and he will stretch his head up towards me to look up at me from his car seat.” He loved that. Nash also had a toy that hung from his car seat. When he was a couple of months old, he could barely reach it. Then he could and finally he could pull it down easily and it would make a funny noise. I knew when all of this happened because Todd would call me all giddy to inform me of the new things he was doing. Then they would have about two hours at the house before I got home. Their father son time. I would walk in and Todd would have him in his lap. It was the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen. I remember when Todd and I went back to work after Nash died. I would call family to be here when he got home. I was scared for him to be alone for those couple of hours that he used to be so excited for. The first time he came home without him to an empty house, I could see the pain in his eyes when I got home. He has never once complained to me about people not acknowledging his pain. I don’t know if he even notices. I think he is truly happy that people are helping me and trying to make me feel better.
Todd has three male cousins on his dad’s side of the family. These four were inseparable growing up. They have a relationship that most would be envious of. They are more like brothers. Some have moved out of state and he doesn’t see them as much as he would like. All three boys are expecting a baby this year, and all three are expecting boys. It breaks our hearts to know that there is a boy missing from this group. Yes, we could have another boy, or we could have a girl that’s like one of the boys…but Nash will always be the older cousin missing from this group. I’m sure that’s hard for Todd…it’s hard for me. These are things I know he must think about but keeps inside. Every once in a while though, Todd will give me some small insight into how he is feeling. When he says something, I have learned to listen and not feel the need to answer or add something. I just let him get it out. We were at our cabin last week, and Todd said, “We never brought Nash here, that kills me.” He said nothing else, just got out of the truck and went inside. I have those family stickers on my back window. I know it’s corny but I like them. We have Todd and I, our two dogs, and our cat. Todd saw it one day and said, “We never got one for Nash. We didn’t include him.” Another night, he was holding the bear with Nash’s ashes in it. He looked at it and said, “This is all that’s left of my boy.” He then rolled over snuggled up to it and went to sleep. It’s strange to me that people say I have so much strength. The truth is I don’t. I break down often. I can’t hold it together. I get upset with people. I get upset with myself. Whatever strength I have I draw from him. Not because he is doing okay but because he puts himself second to make sure that I am. Remember this when you see parents that have lost a child. Don’t just hug the mother, dads are hurting too.