grief · Uncategorized

What You See (And What You Don’t)

What you see is me being strong.

What you don’t see are all the times I’m so very weak.

What you see is me smiling.

What you don’t see is the pain creasing the corner of the smile.

What you hear is my laugh.

What you don’t hear is the effort it takes to produce the laugh.

What you see is me looking perfectly normal.

What you don’t see is the giant hole in my heart.

What you see is my stoicism.

What you don’t see is my vulnerability.

What you see is how well I’m coping.

What you don’t see is the enormous effort it takes to do it.

What you see is that grief seems to have come and gone.

What you don’t see is how I just don’t want to burden you with it.

What you can see is taking everything I have. It seems like I’m supposed to pick up and move on, so I put on the show and do my best, but it’s a thin veneer. Life only pauses briefly for grief, then it zooms ahead at normal speed, forcing the griever to keep up.

Often it’s easier that way. I feel like I’m staying ahead of it when I keep moving, but it’s right there on my back all along, just waiting for me to remember the weight of it. And when I notice it it crushes me.

So if I seem a little edgy, a little quiet, or have a hard time coming out of my shell, I need you to remember this: I’m not trying to be difficult; in fact I’d much rather just be my normal self again. Truth is I barely remember how to be her right now, and I’m afraid she’s never coming back, which makes this even harder.

Please don’t hold it against me, I’m doing my very best.

grief · parenting

Grubby Gratitude

With Thanksgiving Day situated toward the end of the year it’s natural to reflect back and take stock on the cumulative blessings of the year.

I believe in gratitude, I believe that focusing on all that we have to appreciate is a worthy practice no matter what, and especially valuable in times of heartache. So, this November I’ve been on a quest to find my gratitude and to meditate on the good in the world and my life.

What I have found is much like what I imagine finding gold to be like. I’m busy looking for something sparkly and clean, clearly beautiful and valuable. What I find is specks in an ordinary rock, stuck in the mud. It’s valuable, but so much more complicated than I expected.

I don’t remember the last time our family had a “normal” year. A year in which we didn’t go to bed on New Year’s Eve ready to bid good riddance to the heartaches of previous twelve months. And I don’t remember a Thanksgiving on which we didn’t have a lengthy list of things that make our hearts swell with gratitude. The problem is that too often the hardships cover the blessings, disguising them and making them look less valuable.

Looks are deceiving.

Nothing nothing will undo the pain of living through tragedy. This year our blessings, which are many, are shrouded in heartache. But they are there. They’re beautiful and worthy and wonderful. It takes work to reach into the mess and pluck them out of the yuck and clean them up. I find myself reluctant to start because the dirt looks like how I feel.

This year my gratitude is grubby, but it is there. It’s going to be a work in progress, but I don’t want to be so overwhelmed by the mess that I don’t even try.

My giving of thanks will be subdued, I might not be able to muster effusive delight over the many things in life that I have to be grateful for. Rather, I will be intentionally noting the beauty around me, seeking it out and tucking it away in the depths of my heart, where it will fortify and warm me in the days to come.

grief · parenting

A Grief Observed

It’s been almost 2 months.

Living through child loss for 2 months feels simultaneously like no time at all and like an eternity.

I keep chasing the same thoughts around like a dust devil until it disappears. Then awhile later it blows back up and spins in circles until it gives up again. I never catch it. It never stops returning.

I go back in time reviewing all of the interactions. Could I change one and have a different outcome? After chasing them all down I only return even more unsure.

If I could just hug you, and shake you, then hug you again. I’d probably yell for good measure, then another hug.

But that’s not an option anymore.

I think I’m stuck in the anger stage of grief. Anger at you, anger at me, and especially at all the shit that happened to you; at the broken road you were put on, over which none of us had control.

My head knows there’s nothing I could have done, but my heart won’t let it go.

Maybe I should be looking forward to a heavenly reunion, but there’s too much bitter in that bittersweet thought.

I hope that the peace which always eluded you is now yours. That’s my only comfort.

I hope that the trauma that burdened you like a mountainous backpack has been cast off and into an endless abyss where it’s weight will never crush you again.

Is it too late to remind you that I love you, that you are worthy and deserving of love? Perhaps you know that now in a way that was impossible to grasp when you were here.

I miss you. I always will.

special needs parenting

Moments of Unexpected Grief

As we drove up the hill to my parent’s condominium for Easter on Sunday, one of those moments happened. The trigger was tiny, ridiculous, but there it was. A toddler walking with his dad, holding one of dad’s fingers, going at a turtle’s pace.  And there it was, as if it dropped from the heavens into my heart, sorrow, and a tear, quickly rubbed away hopefully unnoticed by anyone but me. 

It was one of those unpredictable moments of grief that crop up along the way when you parent children with disabilities. Why did that sight get to me?  Because we did that exact same thing with oldest child, Hannah. The child who sat through church and then has to wait for dinner on a holiday, and they’re restless and buggy, so you take them out for a little walk to blow off the steam. It was a totally normal parenting moment. 

And a moment I never shared with my boys.  

Alex could walk around that age, but going for a walk was out of the question, and Ben didn’t even take his first steps until he was well over two years old. 

When we found out Alex had Down syndrome when he was born we took the time to grieve the big stuff and gain perspective, the big stuff isn’t sneaky, it’s right there in front of you, demanding to be dealt with. It’s the minute, every day moments that sneak up on you with grief that’s almost entirely unpredictable. 

How would one expect, when carting an 11 and almost 15 year old to Grammy’s house to be struck with a moment of grief from early childhood.  Even though it can be a giant pain in the hiney to have to manage a restless toddler during a long day of holiday celebrations, it so often happens that during those moments the real sweetness of parenting occurs. That time he first sees a frog or picks up a stick which, during the course of the brief walk, becomes all manner of tools. The moments of little joys that are often remembered long after all the egg hunts and Easter dinners become almost indistinguishable in our one from the next in your memory. 

Then there are the moments you don’t realize you’re missing until it smacks you in the face, with no advance warning, and that is the ongoing grieving of parenting children with disabilities.  You can go weeks or months without ever feeling a twinge, but there’s always something beneath the veneer that is waiting to be revealed, with the most uneventful of events. Like seeing a father and son out for a perfectly normal walk.