When Life Breaks Your Heart but you Find the Strength to Keep Going
By Bre Tuttle from thecomplexmom.com
I found myself lying on the floor, staring up at the ceiling wondering how the hell this had become my life. I thought about how much easier it would be if I could sink into the carpet and disappear. I had inspirational quotes taped to all of my mirrors. Quotes such as “You were given this life because you are strong enough to live it.” I had hoped they would lift me up, empower me, but to be honest most days they felt like total bullshit. I sure as hell didn’t feel strong.
You see my adult life has been a series of one awful thing followed by another. Don’t get me wrong, there were a few really amazing moments along the way, but it sure seemed like a whole lot of awful for one person to bear. I often wondered what I had done in a past life to deserve this amount of bad karma.
I was nineteen when I found myself pregnant by a guy I really didn’t want to spend my life with, but I wasn’t smart enough to leave him. I married him thinking it was the right thing to do. Two years later I found myself pregnant again. He was becoming increasingly verbally abusive. One stressed out moment early in the pregnancy I cried in the laundry room hunched over in cramps promising myself if I lost that baby I would leave him.
The world has a funny way of hearing your requests. Well, I shouldn’t say funny. It was anything but funny. One hellish Halloween night, with my drunk husband, passed out next to me, my water broke. I was just seventeen weeks pregnant. I fought for her with all of my might, but four weeks later, she was born silently into the world and I felt my heart break into a million pieces.
I fell into a deep depression and he turned even heavier to the bottle. We were both a mess. I would have given anything to save her. But in hindsight, she saved my life. His abuse escalated until one day he aimed it towards our two-year-old. I grabbed that baby, walked out the door and never looked back. I knew if I had the strength to survive losing her, I had the strength to give my son and I a better life. And it was.
I got restraining orders, divorced him, finished my degree and got a job. We thrived. For once I was finally in control over my own life.
Things were going well. It was at this point I met the man I will love for the rest of my life. He was everything a woman could want in a man. Smart, strong, gentle, and loved my son as his own. I was truly the luckiest girl in the world. We bought a house, he bought a ring, and we committed to spending forever together, till death do us part.
He legally adopted my son and then it didn’t take long to decide to expand our family. It was very bittersweet. I was terrified of losing another child but excited to bring even more love into our home. I should have known we were way too happy.
Just into the second trimester, I started having very similar complications as my last pregnancy. My amazing doctor gave his all, and I spent 3 months in bed, trying to give him a chance. We made it to 30 weeks before my water broke this time and our youngest son was born into the world kicking and screaming. It was the most beautiful sound I had ever heard.
Our child would survive at just 3 pounds, but his fight was just beginning. 6 weeks in the NICU learning to eat and breath. We finally brought him home blissfully unaware of the roller coaster we were boarding. A couple of surgeries, a feeding tube, therapies, delays, and specialists consumed our lives as we both grasped at straws trying to hold on to our full-time jobs and keep our sanity.
I knew I was drowning and reached out to my doctor for help. A daily pill would do what it could to help keep the anxiety and depression at bay, but I had to find time to take care of myself. When I would reach the end of my rope he would do what he could to ground me. A big hug and a reassuring “we’ll get through this” would give me the strength I needed to keep going.
Before I knew it I was making plans for his first birthday. He had finally learned how to crawl, was eating by mouth, and the therapy and specialist appointments were starting to slow down. I was finally starting to feel like I could keep my head above water. I just had to keep treading and he would be right, we would get through this.
When the phone rang that night I thought it was a joke. I kept asking our friend, “your joking right? This isn’t funny stop messing with me! Are you serious? You have to be joking!”
He wasn’t joking. My husband had gone for a motorcycle ride with two of our friends and never made it back. He and the guy he was riding with hit a tree and died on impact. It was his very first time on a motorcycle and had decided to go on a whim. I will spend the rest of my life wishing I would have talked him out of it.
It’s been a year and a half since that awful night. There have many days I wish I would have died instead. I will forever credit my children, both living and not, for giving me the strength to keep going.
For a while, I just lived moment to moment doing whatever felt right at the time to survive. But this wasn’t always what was best. I drank too much, made impulsive decisions, and struggled with what to do next. Thankfully I had the kids to ground me. I knew they needed me to get out of bed each morning as much as I didn’t want to. I often wonder if I would have been strong enough to force myself up if it wasn’t for them. They pushed me to get out of the house, to keep in touch with friends and family, and to generally continue living.
At first, it was just survival mode, but over time a sense of self-care has developed. I realized I needed to do more than just care for the kids. Just because the dreams we had for our family had died with him, didn’t mean I couldn’t create new ones. I knew he would want me to create new ones. He was so full of life, and I could keep his memory alive by continuing to live mine.
First thing first, I needed to care for myself. To be the mom these kids deserved I had to pull myself up off of that carpet and get my shit together.
I talked to my doctor and increased my daily pill because it was what was right for me, and I have no shame in that. I bought a gym membership and forced myself to use it. I scheduled monthly massage appointments. I had left my job when he died and stayed home with the kids full time but being a completely single mom meant no time alone ever and I realized I desperately needed that. I decided to put our youngest in daycare two days a week so I could have me time. It’s been great for both of us.
I then took some time to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I had always loved writing and new it was something I wanted to get back to, so here I am. I started my blog and started working on the book I had always dreamed of writing. For the first time in years, I wake up in the morning excited to get to work. It’s a feeling I didn’t think I would experience again.
I also strengthened my relationships. People really are the most important thing, and without the love and support of my friends and family, I don’t think I could have survived all of this. The friends that will drop everything to help me through my breakdowns, or the family members that show up at my door in the middle of the night because one of us is sick and I need help. They are my lifeline.
Things aren’t perfect. I still miss my husband greatly and still occasionally find myself yelling at him, mad for dying on me or crying on the bathroom floor because I just miss him so damn much. But the fact that I continue to get out of bed each morning, snuggle those boys, and then put myself out into the world again is a success in my book.
I know the world probably isn’t done breaking my heart, but I know if I didn’t have anyone I was afraid to lose, I wouldn’t truly be living.
Bre is a stay-at-home mom to two rambunctious little boys. She utilizes her business degree by running and writing for The Complex Mom. She takes her experiences from being a preemie mom and a widow and shares them in hopes of helping other moms trying to survive the unpredictable journey of motherhood.