A few days ago, while driving my daughter, Ellie, to my aunt’s house, I had a conversation with her that deeply affected me. The discussion started over a birthmark on Ellie’s finger, which I told her is the exact birthmark my late-husband and her daddy, Andrew, had on his finger, and then somehow the dialogue morphed into Ellie telling me:
“Mommy, one day when you meet a husband who has daughters (in the past Ellie has expressed she hopes I will meet a man with daughters who have lost their mommy like she lost her daddy) then I will have sisters and you will have more help.”
I couldn’t believe what she just said. In a state of shock, I asked, “Ellie, do you think Mommy needs more help?” She shyly looked up at me with her big brown eyes and nodded her head, yes. My heart felt like someone dropped a ton of bricks on it. I wanted to cry as I processed what she just told me.
I started to think to myself, How many times have I said throughout the day, ‘I’m just so stressed, I’m tired, I need more help, Ellie, I need you to help me more with Keller (our dog)’? I realized a lot of our conversation around help revolved around her involvement, or lack thereof, with the dog my parents surprised us with last year.
A few months ago, I expressed the dog was too much for me to handle and my parents agreed to take the dog as long as Ellie was on board with the new arrangement. Many attempts had been made to get Ellie to agree to the new plan, but to no avail. Then one day, my dad told Ellie, “Ellie, I think Keller should come stay with us because we can take better care of her then you and your mommy.”
For whatever reason, it clicked inside Ellie and she agreed. It made me sad she understood my parents could take better care of the dog at this point in our lives than we could. I wondered if Ellie’s current assessment that I needed more help was because of all the frustrated comments I had made about Keller when Keller was chewing up Ellie’s toys, running away, going to the bathroom in the house, or when I told Ellie I needed her to help me more with her dog.
I think what bothered me the most about Ellie thinking I needed more help wasn’t the fact she saw I was struggling, but the fact she might feel responsible for me and my happiness. I never want Ellie to feel like my happiness is her burden to carry. In that moment, I vowed to be more conscious about the words I use around my daughter so she in no way feels like I am her responsibility, but instead learns it’s okay to ask for help when we need it.
On Monday, I had the opportunity to speak to some fabulous moms at Mom’s Inc. – FBC Lewisville and the lesson I resolved to teach Ellie about asking for help presented itself again. After I spoke, I actually got to go into a small group to talk to a handful of the women who, like me, were young moms and had been through some serious challenges in their lives. One of the common threads in all of our stories was wanting to be strong for our families, however sometimes by appearing strong, we ended up giving off the impression we didn’t need help. The kicker was we desperately did need help, but were afraid to ask for it.
I felt so connected when the women shared this feeling of overwhelm, because I could relate. I also saw this conversation as an opportunity to talk about the power of taking care of ourselves and for releasing any guilt we might have about needing help or feeling bad about getting help. One of the best things I’ve done for myself and for my family after Andrew passed away was to find help, which did not always come easy for me. I did this through therapy, coaching, exercise, asking my family for help with Ellie, and in so many others ways. Being able to take care of my needs allowed me to better take care of my daughters needs. I would not be where I am today without the help of so many people supporting our family in so many different ways.
I want to leave you today with this truth: It’s not selfish to get the help you need through your grieving process. Don’t waste another ounce of guilt on needing help, and instead use your energy to reach out to those who can help you process and work through your grief or help you in any way you know you could use an extra hand. I’ve found in doing this for myself I can handle the day-to-day from a better mental, physical, and emotional place. Thank you for spending time with me today. Sending you lots of love and encouragement. Blessings.
PS – I’ve been traveling the country, sharing my family’s inspirational story about hope, faith, and love in the middle of life’s biggest challenges. If you would like me to come speak to your group, please reach out via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PPS – Looking to share the gift of learning the ABCs, as well as build lifetime character lessons with a special child in your life? To get your copy of The Ellie Project or The Ellie Project Stationery Set, click here!