10/15/2013 03:25 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Parenting After Widowhood: Learning, Growing, Living With Intention

I awake every morning to a new me. And I'm not afraid of it, but I'm new.

My brain is new. My heart is new. The trauma that has occurred in my life and body has created a new person, a new version. A person whom I love, but I don't quite understand yet. While I'm out there figuring out who I am and what I want, God has brought so many people into my life to walk beside me. People who want nothing in return.

People who have stretched me beyond the limits I had unknowingly set for myself.

People who have dealt with my weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

People who have not ignored me, my needs and my grief because it was easier for them.

People who have been patient with me. Patient. With so many different aspects of this new person I am becoming.

People who loved me no matter what.

And I am eternally grateful for all of them. I know that God gave me each one of those people to help me handle all of the ups and downs, because they haven't abandoned me when it got hard. Hard being the understatement of the century.

The time period they stayed in my life or the frequency that I have talked to them, has not been the important part. The important part was did I take the time to look beyond myself and my own wants to see what God wanted me to learn from them? Or perhaps what they needed to learn from me?

This realization led me to understanding who God gave me to help me through all of the ups and downs. My children. For a long time, I have felt that God gave me my children to help me become a better person, a more forgiving person, a less self-seeking person, a more loving person, a more understanding person. All of these characteristics have been growing in me since June 30, 2005, when my daughter entered the world. You suddenly realize that as much as you knew you would love your child, the reality of having that child is in actuality more than you ever could have imagined.

And when you love someone that much and with that much intentionality, you are willing to work on all the parts of you that they need you to. Not the parts that you really want to work on, but parts that your children need you to.

Being a mother is no easy task. It challenges you. Motherhood can bring you down to your knees and take you outside of yourself, your comfort zone, more times than you have ever had to in your life. As you are broken down though, you never stop fighting. Never, because you realize that if you are not fighting for them when they are so young, who is? Enter May 13, 2009, the day my heart simply expanded to realms which I didn't even know possible.

My son was a whole different depth into parenting, because I had to take what I had learned with one and somehow divide it among two children. As hard as those early days may have been, each night when I tucked them into bed, I could breathe a sigh that with God's grace and support we were going to be just fine.

Enter the day that the three of our lives were changed forever, November 22, 2011. Unlike the two previous dates of birth, light and new life, this date was heavy, dark and brought death. On this day, the husband, father, friend and son that we all loved so deeply passed away. And similar to the other dates where I had no idea how much my heart could love, my heart had no idea just how much it could hurt and be consumed by pain. How everything that birthing my two children had taught me and changed in me could be wiped away by this day. Could be. If I let it. But I refuse to let it. So I have fought. I have been dragged down, nearly knocked out, retreated to the corner of the ring, but I have stood back up to fight.

I want to be the mother that my children deserve. They will see me hurting. We will hurt together at times. I have to be intentional in my parenting. Intentional in my desire to help them become people of integrity and good character. I will still fight to be a better person, a more forgiving person, a less self-seeking person, a more loving person, a more understanding person, despite times unfair trials and twists. My children deserve nothing less than the best of what I have to offer them. However, we are all human and have moments or even days that will not be the best representation of ourselves. We will have downs among the marvelous ups of motherhood. That is when we have to pick ourselves back up and get back in the ring of parenting. These moments cause me to marvel at the grace of God, his ability to help us through these times in our lives and his ability to place the right people in our lives at the right time.

In a discussion with my dad, he said that tragedy has a way of bringing things to the forefront a lot quicker than if our lives just unfolded the way we were expecting. Sometimes we get to ignore them, put them on the back burner, be self-absorbed with our careers, our success, our individual goals. We fail to realize that while all of those things are important, as time goes on, our self-focus means we are missing out on monumental moments of our life and the lives of those around us. Crisis brings about change within a person. Generally positive change when a person deals with their pain and loss. I am learning that you have to try to look back at the trauma not as a crisis, but as a valuable, life-changing, learning and growth experience. I have had to learn some lessons because of the loss in my life. Many have been painful. All have been valuable. My hope is that through my experiences, I can share these life changing lessons.