Today’s episode is the long-awaited Ask Me Anything episode. Virtually all of the submitted questions were for my husband. Perhaps this should not be surprising. I am pretty much an open book on the podcast and am very open with my emotions. Dads can very much be a mystery when it comes to grief. They tend to hold their thoughts and feelings much closer to the chest than moms do. This point was on full display throughout the episode.

Tomorrow is Andy’s 19th birthday. It should be the first birthday being away from home. He should be starting to stress out a little about his upcoming college finals. I should be telling him to let the family drive out to pick him up from his dorm for a couple of hours to take him to a birthday dinner. I should be bringing Lemon Bundt Cake for him to eat with all of his friends.

Instead, this is the 5th birthday that we have had to celebrate without him and it is not getting easier. In fact, I would argue that this is the hardest one yet. Five years. Five years is a milestone. If you work at a job, we often celebrate after every five years. Wedding anniversaries. Class reunions. They are all celebrated in 5-year increments. This isn’t something I want to celebrate. Over the next few months, we will hit the fifth Mother’s Day, the fifth Father’s Day, the fifth 4th of July, and finally, on August 15th, the 5-year anniversary of his death.

I have been overwhelmed with emotions all week. Yesterday, I even had to take 45 minutes from work and leave. This brings us back to the differences between us as Eric answered questions that listeners posed. I talked about my emotionality this week and Eric admitted that he really isn’t feeling that bothered by the upcoming birthday. Now, he may have trouble on Friday, but he doesn’t feel anything close to what I have been experiencing. While I am a blubbering mess, he seems totally normal.

The craziest part is that when he admitted that he wasn’t upset and showed no emotion while we were recording, I actually found myself getting a little mad. I just wanted someone to experience this pain with me, and it seemed like it should be Eric. Yesterday, when I was falling apart and had to leave work, he is not one that I texted to give me support. I texted other bereaved moms and called a friend, but I did not reach out to Eric.

A few hours later, I got a text from Eric out of the blue that said, ‘Virtual hug.’ I assumed that one of my friends that sent him a message that I was having a hard day and had called, but it turns out no one had. I told him about my horrible morning and asked how he knew that I needed that ‘hug’ if nobody had told him. He answered, “I do listen, you know.”

I guess that’s the lesson that I needed to learn. Dads may not feel the pain in the same way that Moms do, but it does not mean that they don’t care or that they aren’t listening. Eric heard my pain and even though he didn’t show it on the outside, he cared about how I was feeling. I need to remember that we don’t need to feel things in the same way. In fact, our grief journeys can’t be the same. We just still need to quietly support each other, even if it is with a simple virtual hug.