Why I Hide Her

Written by Erin Santos, Isabella’s Mommy & President of The Isabella Santos Foundation

Day 3 Why SeriesWhy I hide her…

I’m proud to say I’m Isabella’s Mommy. I love meeting people who know about the Foundation or have heard of her without having to launch into the full story. We have accomplished so much over the last couple of years and I should be shouting it from the rooftops. But sometimes I don’t…

How many kids do you have? This is my least favorite question in the world. Imagine having to assess each person that asks you this to determine if you should be honest or lie. Is this just casual small talk or are they really trying to get to know me? If I lie and then they find out, that is even a more awkward situation. If I tell them the truth then I instantly get the pity look. (I dread this look.) Even those times when I lie because we are having basic chit chat, I usually end up going back later in the conversation and saying, “Actually, I had a daughter who died too but I didn’t want to bring that up but now I feel like crap about not bringing it up.” Insert even bigger pity look. And I also look like an idiot.

Nights on the town with girls are always the worst times to have her with me. The night is usually prefaced by the friendly suggestion of not telling strangers who ask what I do, what I really do. I’m asked to elaborate more on the technology consulting I do on the side or maybe just say I’m a blogger. I get it now because in the early days, I would mention that I work for the Foundation and sure enough someone would pull up a stool and talk to me all night about their Father who is currently being treated for prostate cancer. I get the look of, “I told you so” from my friends and sure enough I’m stuck in a conversation all night with a stranger about PET scans and blood work and side effects from chemo. This usually doesn’t make for the best of nights for any of us.

I also never know what kind of emotional state I’m in. The minute I mention Isabella, the follow up question is, “Oh my gosh… how did she die?” Which then leads me down a story that I really don’t want to tell while I’m checking out at Harris Teeter. I find myself answering, “She died from cancer. But it’s okay, we started a cancer foundation in her name and we raise a lot of money for research.” Did I just say, “IT’S OKAY”? Why do I do that? It’s not okay but I can’t stop my mouth from saying it each and every time. Listen lady, can I just pay for my milk?

My favorite ones are when Sophia brings her out of the box and unloads on an unsuspecting stranger who is serving us at a restaurant. All this lady wants to know is what we want to drink and Sophia kicks it off with, “My sister died”. Shoot. Me. Now. We usually have to follow up with that look that says, ignore her – she’s crazy… and I’ll have a tall glass of wine.

As much as I know that it’s okay to hide her, I feel bad every time I do it. Some days I want to not have her shadow behind me. I just want to be a normal person that doesn’t have this huge secret tragedy. Her story changes people’s perspective of me and makes me feel like I can’t be the witty, sailor mouthed, and unprofessional person that I really am. Instead, I have to be Isabella’s Mommy… and that can be a hard torch to carry.



Post 6

Why I Stopped

Written by Erin Santos, Isabella’s Mommy & President of The Isabella Santos Foundation
Day 2 QuoteDay 2…Why I stopped
When we finally placed her ashes up at Calvary, I found myself there every Wednesday. I would drop off Sophia and take 30 minutes to sit out there with her. The visit was filled with mostly crying and lots of anger. It became something that I scheduled things around because I wasn’t used to being away from her for these long periods of time. I still needed to be with her.

As time passed and the weather changed, I found myself missing a Wednesday or two. Guilt would plague me all day until I would find myself pulling up to her spot, even if it was inconvenient, because nothing in my life should have been more important than her. I became a cemetery grounds keeper as I took it upon myself to keep everyone’s site around her on the up and up. Watering flowers, adjusting sentimental pieces that had fallen in the rain and even chatting briefly to the people that surrounded her. I remember thinking how sad it was that I never saw anyone visiting them at the cemetery. All these people out here and I was the only caretaker. Here I was, a 35-year-old cemetery grounds keeper. Felt like an odd way to deal with a death.

Time began to pass and the summer came. I was no longer dropping Sophia at Calvary so I let myself take a break from her. I would stop out occasionally but when I did, the visit turned into something else. My visits became more about self-reflection, guilt, anger and resentment. I was no longer enjoying the visits. I would sit with my back to her and I would rest my head back on her nameplate. My mind would spin of all the things I had done since I last visited her that she would not be proud of.
Why do I live my life this way? I’m a better person than this. Do I drink too much? Am I giving enough attention to Grant and Sophia? Am I good friend? Should I be calling my Mom more?

My regular visits didn’t hold these questions when I was there with her because I was there so often. Not much had happened since I was there last so it wasn’t about catching her up with my life. It was just about being together again.
But time between visits brought up a range of emotions for me.
When you have a belief that when people die they are still, in a way, around you – for some it can be comforting. But for me, it was scaring the shit out of me. Is she watching me lay in bed all day? Is she watching me yell at the kids? Is she seeing Stuart and I fighting and saying horrible things to each other? It really messes with your head to think that your 7-year-old daughter could potentially be watching you make all these mistakes in your life. I found myself sitting with her and apologizing for all the things I had done wrong since last time I saw her.

I would leave feeling like crap about myself so I had to stop visiting her.

It has even changed my thoughts on what happens after we die. I’m now choosing to not believe that our loved ones are still with us, guiding and steering us in our lives. They are just gone. She is not watching my every move and constantly being disappointed in the choices I’m making. I have to think this or I can’t live my life. I can’t apologize to her every day. I can’t sit out with her and explain myself.
I also know that I have to let go of her and by not going out there – it allows me to do that. I need to be present in my life and know that I’m doing the best I can. I can’t continue to tend to her or think that she needs me to come out there because it means something to her. She is gone. She is not keeping score and I need to remind myself of that every day.

A fear of mine is my children saying that I never got over her death. If I go out there and sit, it just reminds me of all the horrible things about her life and I can’t move on. I’m swept up in the lives of the dead people around her as I tend to them as well. It’s a sick way to spend your day when you have so much in your life that is good.
I still go occasionally. But it’s brief and sometimes cold. It has moved toward bringing her new flowers or some silly lawn ornament that I stick in the ground. I still put my hand on her name when I’m there so that she knows it’s me – but as soon as I feel the punch in the gut, I remove it quickly. It’s like a bolt of lightning that runs straight to my heart. I feel like my relationship with her is dwindling away, but maybe that is the right thing to do. I need to take a step back from the pain of her and the guilt that it brings to my life.
But it also makes me feels like I’m losing her all over again.



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