Guest blogger Jessica Katz: At the beginning of the month, my dad was in a car accident with my brother and sister. He spent a week in a coma and eventually died when I made the decision to take him off life support. I am the oldest and have always had the responsibility of handling things. I am what you would call the glue of my family. Besides, my sister and brother were in the hospital, too, and my sister was in very critical condition.
I am a wife and the mom of an infant daughter. After the accident occurred, I spent my days running to the hospital and keeping vigil at my
father's and sister's bedsides. I left my daughter with my mother-in-law and husband. I would leave early in the morning before my daughter woke up and come home
after she was fast asleep. She learned to say "Dada" and crawl that week -- and I wasn't there to see it.
I faced an enormous dilemma. During every other family
tragedy, I'd only had the
"daughter" role. I was supportive, collected and strong. I also had my parents
to help me, and I was able to go home and curl up in a ball and fall apart in
private. But during this incident, I had a husband and a baby to take care
of, too. I was no longer just a member of a family
unit that consisted of my mom, dad, sister
and brother. I had my own family
, and when I came home, I couldn't curl up in a
ball. I had to take care of them.
My time away was affecting my husband and my daughter. I wanted to be at my
father's side, but I knew my daughter needed me as well. I wanted her to feel
secure and safe. I knew she would pick up on all of the stress and sadness, because babies are sponges and they sense everything. So I wanted very much to
be there. But my first family
needed me to be a strong daughter and sister.
I would talk to my daughter and explain how sad I was, how very sick her
grandpa was and, eventually, how her grandpa had died and how sad that made her
But she wasn't used to being away from me that much, and she was showing signs of
distress. I felt pulled in a hundred directions, like I couldn't be everything to
everybody, and everyone was being let down.
I consulted my daughter's pediatrician and her child-development specialist, who explained how important it was for me to
spend time with my daughter, to show her my emotions so she knows that it's OK to
be sad and to help get her life back to normal. How was that possible when
my life was turned upside down?
When I got back to California
after the funeral, I was plagued by anxiety and
depression. I felt like someone had sucked the joy
and happiness out of me in slow motion. Every task felt impossible, and I was
exhausted. My mom was home dealing with the aftermath, and I felt terrible that I
wasn't there to help. But I had my own family
to take care of; I had to get my life back on track. I felt devastated about my father and disconnected from my daughter. And I was terrified that this was affecting her in all sorts of negative
I know that I am a daughter and
a mother. I am not just part of a family
, I have my own family
. I have to put my family
take care of them. They need me, and I need them. I did the best I could in a
terrible situation. And as much as I wish I could be the baby and my daughter
could be the mommy for a few weeks, that just isn't how life works. I also
know that I am sad and that is OK.
You can do it all, just not always at the same time.