Moving Forward As a Family

Karen Zickes is a longtime contributor to Toledo Area Parent and our expert restaurant reviewer in her monthly column, Food Fight. She is the mother of three beautiful children and one of the strongest women we know. After losing her husband to cancer several months ago, she continues to amaze us with her courage and passion to move forward with her family. This is the LAST of her series of articles about life after loss, allowing readers to hear her story.

“The only thing constant in life is change.”—Francois La Rochefoucauld. CHANGE. When a loved one dies you experience change on a level you never knew existed. I traveled a most unex- pected journey with my three beautiful children and loving husband Jim who fought a courageous battle against stage 4 pancreatic cancer. When he lost his val- iant fight 10 and a half months later, our three children and I embarked upon a new journey on earth; as Jim began his to eternal life. 

No matter how well you prepare, you are never ready. There is no finish line on this journey because it’s not a race. I have found to
rush too fast in any direction is probably not wise or productive. Embrace the journey without expectations; for it will unfold as it is meant to for each unique individual.

Change is inevitable

There is no right or wrong way to travel your journey of healing. This
is unchartered territory and you may even surprise yourself with the things you do, say, or think along the way. That doesn’t make them wrong. No one can ever predict how they will respond to anything until they are immersed in the situation; no matter what it is they are facing. And no phase or stage lasts forever.

You will feel like you are on a roller coaster. Some days you shoot to the top of the first hill like a champ and remain there all day. Other days you slowly creep to the top maybe reaching it by nightfall. And sometimes you will cruise over that first hill so fast you never knew what hit you. Let it wash over you. Accept it for what it is on that given day and cut yourself some slack. Like the coaster without brakes, there is no stopping change. Allow yourself the time it takes to find your “new normal.”

“The future
you see is the
future you get.”

– Robert Allen

One hour at a time

Everyone has heard the mantra “one day at a time.” However, it is so true to not only take one day at a time, but sometimes even to take one hour at a time. Whether you are feeling overwhelmed with new responsibilities, having a difficult day of grieving, or feeling pulled in a hundred different directions; one hour at a time may be the best you can do.

A friend once told me “sometimes it’s OK to be a ‘good enough’ mom.” On particularly challenging days, I always remember that. You are only one person, though you feel the world taking residence upon your shoulders. Be open with your children and admit when you are having a rough day. It also allows them to know it’s OK when they are experiencing a difficult time.

Positivity out = positivity in

I disagree that ‘time heals all wounds.’ On the contrary, sometimes pain grows stronger as time goes on and probably never completely heals. I think, rather, that wounds simply develop thicker bandages with time; making them less visible.
Grieving doesn’t mean you can’t be positive. And if you are positive, it doesn’t mean you aren’t grieving. The two can coexist. It has been my experience that when you put yourself out there in a positive way, and approach things in a positive manner; positivity comes back to you. It is imperative to believe something better awaits you. Sometimes it truly can be the worst situations you fight through that eventually bring about some of the best things you will experience in life. You never know when that will be, but you need to remain open to all things around you.Zickes_2

Follow your children’s lead

Family dynamics are unique to every family unit. Be open with your children about what they want for those special occasions and holidays; especially all the “firsts” in that first year after the loved one’s death. How will you remember the loved one on holidays? Do they want to break tradition and make new ones? Is routine what they need more than anything after their life has been turned upside down? Always remember they are individuals, and how they handle loss will be unique from one another.
Allow yourself time to grieve; even if it is ‘grieving on the go’ when you only have time to briefly cry and embrace the pain before needing to move on to the next obligation. Continue to ask for help when needed. And when you take time for yourself, understand it is necessary rather than selfish. Remember to keep an open mind and heart to always rec- ognize the blessings around you. You are still here. How you choose to live your remaining days is up to you.

Karen Zickes is a mom to three active children and a freelance writer who resides in Holland, OH. She can be reached in
To see parts one, two and three of Karen’s series of articles about moving forward after losing her husband to cancer,