Saturday, February 28, 2009

Josie's Rainbow

I admit that this isn't how I thought it would be. I had imagined trying to be strong for children crying for their mother. I imagined grief that would be debilitating for the whole family. But the reality is that they almost never cry for Shin, we are moving quite normally and I feel almost guilty that we are not struggling more.

When I posted after the first week that the kids were doing well, I really suspected that they were just protected by the initial wave of support form everyone and that things would get harder as we get back to a more normal routine. But now we have been in a routine for a few weeks and i feel more confident that the kids have accepted their loss and confident that things will be ok. I've thought a lot about what made the difference and a think there are several things that have been key. 1) We had our time to prepare, 2) the year-long period of deteriorating prognosis makes are current situation feel quite stable, 3) my mother being here to be a maternal figure for the kids, and 4) the fact that over the past year I had already taken over the daily routine with the kids.

I took a class on organizational behavior in grad school. One of the lessons they taught was about reward and incentive strategies. The evidence is that most companies get this all wrong. Most companies give one bonus at the end of the year and is only generally tied to performance. The better strategy is to take the year end bonus and to break it up and give it more often throughout the year and tie it to specific achievements. Personal satisfaction will be much higher and there will be much stronger incentive to meet performance objectives. On the other hand, bad news is best given all at once. Don't try to break the bad news gradually, bit by bit. Do it all and get it over with.

This framework helps clarify for me part of what I'm feeling. The past year has been the case where little by little we kept getting worse news. There were periods when we were quite hopeful but then hopes were dashed. And all along we knew what the end result would most likely be. Having time to prepare was helpful, but after a year of being on thin ice I think the family feels more steady now. One of the hard parts of cancer is that the steady worsening of news is exactly what my grad course said was the worst way to have to digest bad news. Things feel relatively calm now.

My mother, Carol, was working as a nurse in the US, but retired towards the end of the year to move out her semi-permanently in order to support the kids and me. Toby and Josie have always been very close to her. I think it is a tough transition for my mother, as she doesn't get to be the grandmother who can spoil the kids now. She has to play the role of the disciplinarian parent. She also leaves all her friends behind in the US. But from the kids perspective I think it makes all the difference. Especially for Josie. At night when the kids wake up, Toby always climbs into bed with me. Josie always goes to her nana. One of my mothers friends emailed me and asked why I don't talk more about the role she must had in helping Shin. It so happens that the week I have written most about (Shin's last week) was the week that Carol was on a previously scheduled trip with friends to Egypt. We didn't really think Shin would deteriorate so quickly at the end and I had also told my mother that when I would really need her was after Shin passed away. So I think it was important that she had her time with friends on a great trip even though she had strong misgivings about be away at that time.

I was looking at photos on the computer yesterday. Josie asked to see a picutre of her and Shin. I was able to find one of Shin and Toby first. Josie excitedly call for Toby to come over and look at the picture of Mommy and Toby. Then I found some of Shin with Josie. I have bitter sweet mixed feelings when I see photos of Shin. Toby saw the photos and smiled and said my mommy and gave me a hug. Josie's reaction was pure joy and excitement.

Josie's came up with the idea of making neclases with a photo of Shin. We talked about which photos we would use. Josie said she would use the one with Shin's hands over her heart. I said I would use the one where she is smiling and cuddling Josie. It was a good crafts idea and Josie was proud she came up with it herself.

Josie was over one her best friends' house. They were have a small cake to celebrate Josie's birthday the previous week. Josie said her mother wasn't at her party, "she died too late". Her friends mother said yes, but she is always with you also. They looked outside a little bit later and Josie was really excited to see a beautiful rainbow.

Toby is very clingy with me when he can be, but he is also happy at school and asks to go play at friends houses.

I think they are doing great and I'm increasingly confident that they are going to be just fine.



Margaret said...

Wow, you are all amazing. This brings a big smile to my face. I miss you!

Anonymous said...

Hi Tony,
Thinking of you all, pleased you are keeping up the blog and that you sound so positive, pleased also that Toby and Josie are doing well.
Love Mary Ann (Kaite's sister and Tiramsoup chef)

JIEMY said...

i'm very admire u...
u r so strong & brave...
+oil ^.^