"I think what's hard for me is enjoying the things that he should also be enjoying, but I'm trying to live for him."
Just a month before Graziella "Gracie" Robertson welcomed her first child on July 4, 2022, she lost her husband, Matthew Robertson, to a rare type of cancer.
Matthew died from epithelioid angiosarcoma, just about three weeks after he first visited the ER. Since then, it's been "a roller coaster of emotions," said the new mom and widow.
"I'm not losing sleep because of the baby—it's just impossible to sleep with the grief that I'm experiencing," Gracie, 30, said over Zoom, per PEOPLE. "So that's what's causing me to be so exhausted as opposed to the baby. I keep saying that at the end of the day, I would much rather be new-mom tired instead of new-widow tired."
The one thing that has been helping her get through this rough patch is their daughter, Mattie Juliette, who is her late husband's "clone," she shared. "She looks exactly like him, and I'm so happy that I get to always have a piece of him with me," she said. "Looking at her and even just saying Mattie every day keeps him alive for me."
Shortly after getting married in September 2021, the couple found out they were expecting, and Matthew would always say how "excited" he was for the baby to be born, shared Gracie.
"Every time I'm holding her, I wish he could feel how soft her skin is. Every time I kiss her, I think, 'I wish he could kiss her, and I wish she could feel his kisses.' I think what's hard for me is enjoying the things that he should also be enjoying, but I'm trying to live for him. I wouldn't say guilty is the word, but it's hard. It's hard enjoying things that I know that he should be enjoying too," she said.
Widow of Young Dad-to-Be Who Died of Rare Cancer Says Their Newborn Daughter 'Keeps Him Alive' https://t.co/DLT2tAwzt9— People (@people) August 23, 2022
Matthew first felt like something wasn't right in May 2022. He kept complaining of tiredness and back pain, which prompted the couple to get a quick blood test done during a routine physical. When the results came back, they showed elevated liver enzymes and an elevated white blood cell count.
In the following days after visiting the doctor, Matthew started experiencing night sweats, and he complained of feeling extremely fatigued as well. One morning, he woke up and said he wanted to go to the ER.
Doctors then ran several tests on him, and they found out that there were multiple lesions on Matthew's liver, spleen, and back, but they still didn't have a diagnosis. So, they were recommended to get a liver biopsy done. While they waited for the results, Matthew kept getting weaker. He was also unable to eat or drink anything, so a heavily pregnant Gracie—her due date was on July 12—took her husband to the ER, where they had to intubate him.
When his results came back, he was diagnosed with epithelioid angiosarcoma. Given his dire prognosis, doctors said the only thing that could be done was to take him off life support, and on June 6, 2022, Matthew breathed his last.
Just a month after the devastating loss, Gracie welcomed their daughter, eight days before her due date. Throughout labor, she felt like her husband was right next to her.
"I just really felt his presence with me the entire time," she said. "I was surrounded by pictures of us and of him and anytime I had to push or I had a contraction, I just looked at him and I kept talking to him and saying, 'Please give me the strength. Please, I need to feel you here.' My mom took a video of one of the last pushes, and you see me holding onto his picture and looking at him and really soaking him in in that moment. I got to say, I 110% felt him there with me. It was bittersweet because he obviously wasn't there physically, but I felt him emotionally and spiritually."
Recently, Gracie says, she started writing a journal of letters to Mattie. "I write about how I'm feeling that day, and I'm honest if I'm having a hard day," she said. "Then, if a happy memory comes to mind, I write it down."
While it is hard to deal with something like this, Gracie is going to take things "second by second, minute by minute."
As for when her daughter gets older, Gracie wants her to know that while she brings her so much "happiness," but she's also not "responsible for it."
"I never want her to think that she can't grow and be the person that she's meant to be because she needs to take care of me or make sure I'm happy," she said. "I want her to be an independent, strong, adventurous woman. That's very important to me."
Representative Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Sofia Bagdasarian | EyeEm