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Please be aware that this blog will not be a happy one. I am writing it on what is likely to be one of the most challenging days I have ever faced.

As I type, we are flying across Canada – unexpectedly and heartbrokenly. I am not yet ready to come to terms with the reason we have stopped our lives – nor to look into the deep pit of sadness that I am wishing would lay dormant in my heart.

We have become a statistic- one of those families who gets the ‘dreaded call in the middle of the night.’ We have lost Dean’s dad – our adored Grandpa – to a sudden heart attack.  I am not yet ready to drop down into that pit and feel all of the emotions that are brewing there. It is too raw, and too surreal.

I don’t know what to expect when the plane lands and Dean greets me and the kids. I have no idea what it must have felt like him to arrive home yesterday to a world without his dad. I can’t even begin to imagine how lost his mom must be. And for my own sake, and that of our kids, I can only touch on those thoughts for very short periods of time. If I stay too long, I wonder if my heart might shatter. I want to ‘fix it all’…. and I can’t.

On my end, I’ve had 24 hours between bringing Dean to the airport and this flight taking off with me, Ethan and Audra on board. I’ve found myself bouncing between moments of intense sadness, disbelief, concern for Dean, his mom, his brother and Baba – and uncertainty over how this is going to play out with our family, and especially with our kids.

The reality is that I love Ethan and Audra with a ferocity that sometimes takes my breath away. Like all parents, I want to shield them from all of life’s pain, hurt and disappointment. I want to ease their confusion and grief. But I can’t – and that is so, so hard to accept.

It is in moments like these that I most feel like a she-bear: I fiercely desire – with a deep, primal drive -to protect them at all cost. I wish I could simply growl away or fight off the threats to their wellbeing. But I can’t. The threat this time isn’t a tangible one.

I can’t stop the waves of emotions that have already been unleashed. I don’t know how to prepare them for what is yet to come in the hours, days, weeks and months. I am in completely uncharted waters here.

And yet, that fierce love I have for my kids burns so brightly that it hurts.

I wonder if the hardest part about all of this is the sense of helplessness. I can’t change what has happened. I can’t bring Grandpa back. I can’t speed along the grieving process. I can’t take it away, and I can’t kiss this boo-boo better.

Time. That’s all I’ve got. And love. I will love them through this. I will love Dean through this.  I will love myself through this. I will cushion the blows, dry the tears and listen patiently as they rage through their emotions. I will mother them through it the best I can. In a way, it almost feels like a battle to be fought – and I am preparing myself to hit the ground running – with formidable strength, courage and compassion.

I am already so incredibly proud of them for how they are handling themselves. They have been insightful, honest and wise. They have been sweet, funny and sad. They have been distracted and present, helpful and challenging.

I know that there is no way to prepare for moments in life like these. So I am left to trusting the process, leaning on my own friends and resources, saying ‘yes’ more often than ‘no’ to any requests the kids have of me, and donning my job as a role model as best as possible. This may be one of the hardest times to do so.

And what do I wish to role model for them? Being real, but brave.  Finding appropriate and respectful ways to express emotions. Being thoughtful and kind while still taking care of myself and my needs (after all, I am no good to anyone if I crumble in the process).To be authentic enough to cry and ask for help – while also being a strong shoulder for others to cry on.

I am so incredibly grateful for our long-standing decision to let ourselves be real with our kids, to not shield them from the facts of life – like death and sadness – and for having taught them that they can and will feel every emotion under the sun. And that that’s okay.

And I am so grateful for all of the discussions we have had about life and death, spirituality, and the value of all of life’s experiences.  (Trust me, we are not valuing this experience right now – but one day in the distant future we may be able to look back and learn from it somehow). I am so grateful for the foundation they already have from being surrounded by love – and that they know love to be the most powerful force in the universe. I can only trust that this foundation will help to see all of us through this.

Yes, I love our children fiercely. And while it pains me deeply to see and anticipate moments of great sadness from them – I know that they, too, are strong and courageous, confident in themselves and their ability to face life head on.

Even in the hard times.

Especially in the hard times.

We love you, Grandpa!