I’ve made no secret of the fact that the back to school season has been hard. Seasonal changes are also very difficult and I’m realizing it wasn’t just a cold to warm weather thing, as I thought. It’s proved perfect timing for a visit from Brig’s parents. They were on a mission trip in the Philippines when Caleb died. They arrived this past Saturday and it’s the first time we’ve seen them since everything went sideways. Brig is also home while they’re here, so I have plenty of company during the day and loads of to-dos are getting done. There’s been much to discuss face to face, many stories to share, and tears to cry. I enjoy having extra reasons to talk about Bub, share stories, and show pictures and home movies. It’s a bit of a rewind to the weeks just after he died when everyone we know was fine listening and talking about him and no one had grown weary of our grief.
This Thursday marks nine months since I watched the doctors go through test after test over a 12+ hour stretch to declare my Bubba Love brain dead. In the midst of it all, we brought the herd in to tell them he had died and say their goodbyes. The events of this week nine months ago are seared into my mind. Sometimes, I wish they would leave me at peace. Sometimes, I sit and play through every minute, not wanting to forget anything. I don’t sleep much. Yet, it’s been good to get out his obituary, share photos, his hand and foot molds, and get out the sheets of embossed handprints. Honestly, I’ve been back at square one since school started. A visit with family has simply given me an outlet.
All of these things, these keepsakes, are frozen as they are. As he was. I kind of feel frozen, too. Like half of me is in a horror version of Groundhog Day. Each month, part of my mind relives last December. Even when I manage to be present and distract myself, the oddest things can snap me right back to nine months ago. Brig and I were walking the pup tonight and I couldn’t help but think about how nine months ago, at that very time, we had finally decided to leave the PICU for an anniversary bite at Applebee’s (it was the only place still serving food by the time we were on the road) just to stop pacing the halls while waiting for his MRI results. I wound up not able to eat. It was a continuation of a problem eating and keeping food down that would remain a problem for nearly three months.
That’s right. Grief and despair don’t just attack your mental and emotional well-being, but it has physical manifestations. Some people over eat. Others lose hair, suffer from extreme fatigue, sleeplessness, body aches, etc. I had no appetite and when I tried to eat, I couldn’t keep it down. It was the fastest 20 pounds I ever lost…and the fastest 20 I ever gained when I could consume again. That has been just one of mine. You know, because death of a child isn’t enough to deal with.
As I’ve revisited square one over the last few days, I couldn’t help but think about how much our family has changed in the last nine months. We all struggle in many ways and there is no “normal” yet. I imagine we seem to be doing okay to most. I suppose we actually are. We all have our grief issues, though, as a whole, individually, and even in smaller pairings. None of us are who we once were. Brig was telling me just this last week how it’s still so hard for him to focus sometimes. I know exactly what he means.
So many things in life seem trivial to me anymore. So many battles, expectations, etc. are just silly. Perhaps that comes from my disconnect. Perhaps it comes from a place of new found perspective on what is really worth worrying about. So much of me aches for who we used to be. I dream of the laughter and fun that used to have our home bursting at the seams. There’s still joy and laughter, it’s just different and a bit less abundant. Sometimes, it’s replaced with tears or anger that can’t find words. I see the pain in my children’s eyes, in their souls, every time I look at them. This is a pain none of us can escape and I wish I could fix it for them.
I titled this blog post “Finding Comfort From Square One” last night, to have a record of my post idea before heading to bed. I had all these thoughts about how healing and cathartic it can be to relive and rework things. It really has been and continues to be. I suppose I just have more reworking and healing to do than my try-to-be-positive self wanted to admit. I keep catching myself whispering my own little pep talk, “You got this. Even if you don’t, fake it ’till you make it.” My heart just never gets on board with that. What it does get on board with is the ugly cry into my pillow that left mascara all over it a couple of nights ago. It had been awhile since I let myself scream into that pillow. Those cries started with pillows in the PICU and nurses who held my crumpled, sobbing self. They come less often now, but they still come. I imagine they always will. Like waves of the sea, grief comes. There are times when the waves are large and close together. Other times, they allow you to breath, don’t rise so high, or break with as much force. This week, the waves are close, high, and there’s an undertow. It’s a good thing I’m such a strong swimmer and have the sun on my side to keep me in the light.