Slumberland

‘You have the dream you’re meant to have; we make sure of that. What happens next is up to you.’

Tonight we previewed Slumberland (spoiler alert). I had watched the trailer and thought it looked fantastic, albeit sad. It deals with death and grief. Seeing as how Fletch came to us tonight with his Dinosaur book in tears because the Dinosaurs all died, I figured this was something we should watch first. And I’m so glad that we did.

I bawled my eyes out through 40% of the movie. A PG childrens movie completely wrecked me. And I mean wrecked in the best way possible. It put into words how we deal with grief, how desperate we are to see our loved ones in dreams and how even when we are desperately sad, we can still find hope.

It touched on so many of my grief experiences. In the first few minutes of the movie, the main character dreams that her Dad died. I honestly believe that there’s a subconscious link between life and death. My Mom came to me in a dream to say good bye and moments later I awoke to our house phone ringing and I knew that she was gone.

The entire movie is based upon the main character wanting to find her dead father in a dream so that she can stay with him. My god, that is all that any of us grievers want. I sat there crying, begging for a good visitation dream. It’s been so damn long. And I miss my people. I want to find a pearl so that I can wish this dream into existence.

When that pivotal moment finally happens, when the main character can have her Dad back, she finds that she has to wish for something else. Something has become more important than her Dad. And it’s awful and beautiful all at once. Because she found hope. And in finding it she had to let go a bit. And that is really fucking hard.

I wish I could say that I thought this was a good idea for my kids, but it’s not. It’s too close to home. There are some scary parts too as well as a lot of drowning. We’re a little too sensitive over here and will have to wait a bit. But the overall theme of this movie is absolutely beautiful. Especially if you need a good cry.

‘Life is waiting for you, Nemo. It would be a shame if you missed that.’

We Almost Made it

When Covid hit in 2020, I was scared shitless. I had enough anxiety in just trying to get through every day and convince myself we would be ok. And then we were thrown into a pandemic.

We washed our groceries. We wore our masks. We stayed home. I celebrated every time another one of us was able to be vaccinated. Because I was scared. And you can sit there and tell me all that you want about the chances of any of us getting really sick. Because statistically speaking, my Bennett should be alive too. So numbers are meaningless to me.

I lived in panic. None of us were technically high risk, however anytime we got sick, Perry (my youngest) got REALLY sick. At 6 months it was an ER trip with the flu because she couldn’t keep any breast milk down. At 18 months it was 2 ER trips and an Urgent Care visit before we finally landed in the PICU for 4 days. On oxygen. With Pneumonia. In the same hospital where my son was pronounced dead 5 years earlier. I feel like my anxiety over her is justified.

And it finally happened, we got Covid. I knew we would get it eventually and I had honestly made my peace with it after we were all vaccinated. That shot gave me the tiniest amount of hope that maybe things could be normal for us again.

I didn’t even know that I had Covid until I was 4 days in, I thought it was just a really, really bad migraine. Thankfully I wasn’t around too many people besides my husband (and we were at a work event😬). I test us at the first sniffle and I honestly tested myself on a whim when we got home. And it was positive.

When I tested positive, I ran to Walmart curbside the next day and had them fill my trunk with every cough and cold serum known to man. I had no idea if any of it would actually work, but I wanted to have it all on hand.

We made it 2 days and I was actually convinced that I had contained it to myself. And then everyone started falling like dominoes. One positive test after another. Perry’s one test never came back positive, but she started in with a fever and cough.

And then she just couldn’t stop coughing. We tried everything, brought her outside, used a humidifier, cough drops, sleeping elevated. For 24 hours she coughed and coughed and coughed. And I was terrified. We broke out the pulse oximeter that I bought at the beginning of Covid and saved ourselves a trip to the ER. Because I was ready to go. But her oxygen levels were perfect. Thank goodness.

This has been my worst nightmare since March of 2020. And that probably seems crazy to some, but once you truly understand how fragile life is and how quickly it can all change, all bets are off. Thankfully, after a week of rest, we are back at it.

Holiday Presents

Every year we lay out all of the kids gifts to make sure that the piles look as even as possible. We’re dealing with some crazy age ranges, but I try really hard. My son’s pile looked meh.

He’s 6 years old and I worry so much about him being overindulged. He’s our rainbow son following his brothers death. It’s kind of hard not to spoil him. I’m lying. It’s kind of hard not to spoil all of the kids. But the last thing that I want to do is create another entitled male in this world.

I really tried to reign in Christmas a bit this year. We went crazy last year because of Covid and experience gifts were not going to happen. My kids already have SO MANY TOYS. I didn’t want to add to that. I do a pretty good job of finding deals or buying second hand, so cost wasn’t really a factor. I just didn’t want all the stuff.

Until I looked at the piles. Mostly smaller items. And I got really sad. We tend to buy our kids more stuff because we don’t have much family. My kids miss out on so much with my parents gone. I grew up in a HUGE family with lots of cousins and Aunts and Uncles. So many traditions lost and so much time they never got to spend with my family. They never had the grandparents to spoil them. And it sucks.

We have a stocking hanging on our fireplace that we fill every year with notes. There will always be an empty seat at our table for 6. They are missing their brother. I have one less child to enjoy the excitement of the holidays with. And that sucks.

So here I sit feeling really shitty and really sad. I’m trying to compensate for something that my children probably don’t even realize they are missing. But I know what it’s like to look forward to big family gatherings. I know what it’s like to play with my cousins and grow up enjoying the holidays with them. Obviously, Covid complicates that too this year.

So I may have added a few things to my cart tonight. And I’m begging myself to not feel bad about it. I’m trying really hard to not spin out about if I’m ruining my kids by giving them too much. I’m choosing to look at it that they are only little once. And if I’m being over the top, so be it. I’m still trying to figure out this whole grief/life balance stuff. But I’m tired of feeling guilty about it.

Back To One

I have been struggling this week. Sending the two older kids to school after having them home for over 18 months, has been really, really hard. Having them home was really, really hard too, but this is a different kind of hard.

I cried for days leading up to that first day of school. I knew I was going to miss the kids, even though they do make me absolutely crazy sometimes. I don’t want to paint a rosy picture of a perfect quarantine. Our time at home was anything but. There were plenty of fights, screaming, hitting, biting, normal sibling stuff, just amplified. But they were home and safe, so it wasn’t all terrible.

When Fletcher first climbed up onto the school bus on Tuesday, Perry’s face fell. And she cried. And then I cried. We met him at the school (even though he didn’t want us) and when we left I was crying all over again. I figured it was just normal ‘letting go’ grief. Watching your kids need you less sucks.

With both of the older kids in school, it’s been just Perry and I. We’ve played games, baked a ton, had some dance parties and just tried to figure out the silence. She has a very special bond with Fletcher and this has been extremely tough on her. Perry may be a fighter, but she loves BIG.

I’m feeling so overwhelmed by the silence. And I’ve been at work and in and of the vet with a sick cat, so I haven’t even been home exclusively. But something just feels wrong. And familiar. So as I was pulling the Zucchini muffins out of the oven today, I had a realization. I’m back to one. One child at home. Just like after Benny died and it was Darcy and I.

I’m not sure if I feel better or worse now. Being able to recognize why this all feels so awful makes it a little easier. I feel a little less crazy. But man if it still doesn’t sting. It brings me right back to the days after losing Benny and trying to navigate that awfulness.

It’s also really hard to watch your rainbow babies outgrow their brother. He never got to any of these milestones that my kids seem to be flying through. And as excited as I am for them, there’s a part of me that will always be really sad for the ‘what if.’

Rainbow Guilt

I don’t know how to write this without it sounding horrible. Or totally confusing. Or just completely fucked up (excuse my French). It’s a rabbit hole I try to stay out of because once it starts, it’s hard to stop. And it’s laced with so much guilt.

Once Benny was born, Parker was done having children. I had had always wanted 3, but I was pretty set with being pregnant again and was happy with our little family. So I began to get rid of the baby gear, my way of acknowledging that  the baby factory was closed. I had always wanted to be younger when I had my kids because I had lost my own mom so early on in life. It was feeling like a good decision for us.

And then Benny died. Suddenly our little family became too small. Everything felt wrong. It is really hard to wrap your head around someone dying in an instant. I watched my Mom suffer from cancer for 2 years. As awful as that was, it made the end a tiny bit easier. What happened with Benny is completely illogical. I will never understand why he had to die. I will never try to find meaning in it. It just is.

I remember being in my room with Parker the night that Benny died. I remember looking at him and saying I wanted more kids. This was never to replace Benny. I just knew in that instant that I wasn’t done. I wanted Darcy to have more siblings. And Parker felt the same way. We were numb and terrified. The worst had just happened.

We waited almost a year. Then I miscarried. And I was angry. I stupidly believed (again) that more awful things couldn’t happen to me. How completely naive I was.

By some small miracle we had Fletcher and Perry. I know how very lucky we are to have them. Rainbows aren’t promised. 

So here in lies he rabbit hole. If Benny hadn’t died, would Perry and Fletcher cease to exist? It’s pretty awful, right? I’d give anything for Benny to still be here and make it all just a horrible nightmare. But how do P and F factor into that?

It’s kind of like, what came first, the chicken or the egg? I can circle the drain a bit if I think too hard about it. But honestly, none of it was ever my choice, it’s just how things happened. I guess there’s a romantic notion in thinking we can change the past.

I used to think about this constantly after Fletcher was born. And then I would feel guilty. Guilty because I would do anything to have Benny back. And then guilty because I would do anything to protect my new baby. It was this awful dance of guilt between the deceased and the living.

As Benny’s birthday comes closer, these are the things I think about. This is the ‘stuff’ it brings up. The missing just gets so hard sometimes.

Marbles

So here’s the thing about loss. When something really awful happens, you begin to realize how little control you have over things. And that maybe something bad can happen again. And it’s terrible.

I’m paranoid and anxious. A lot. I try really hard to reason with myself and be realistic, but man there are just some times when it is really difficult to let my guard down. In my 41 years of life there has been so much damn loss. And grief. And trauma. So much of who I am and how I react now is a trauma response.

Let me preface this story by stating that everything turned out fine. Earlier this week I was in the living room on the floor working out. My littles were on the other side of the couch playing with marbles and magnets. I was less than five feet away. I could hear them giggling and goofing around. Then I could hear something in their mouths and my ‘Momdar’ went into hyper drive.

As soon as I popped up to ask them what they were doing, I could hear a slight choke/cough and my 3 year old Perry began crying, saying she swallowed something. To say I panicked is an understatement. I completely freaked out.

She swallowed a 1/4″ steel ball. At first I thought it was a magnet and then I really started to panic. I called her doctor and was told that the NP would call me back soon. It was a long 20 minutes.

I called my husband who convinced me the marble wasn’t magnetic. That made me feel a little better. I was convinced we would have to go to the hospital and they would have to open her up. During Covid. I was freaking out she could have aspirated it. Every awful scenario played out in my head. I was texting and googling like a madwoman hoping to find someone who had gone through this before and could guide me.

The worst part was that I was right there when it happened. I was maybe 3-4 feet away from the kids and she still swallowed the damn marble. I was a second too late in realizing that my kids were making very poor choices. And I was really angry at myself. And my kids of course, because they both know better than to put stuff in their mouths. But they are just kids. And I’m the adult.

But I couldn’t prevent it. I couldn’t predict it would happen. And I felt completely out of control. And anxious. And really angry that I was fearing for my child’s safety again. I’m pretty sure I aged another 10 years in those 20 minutes.

The NP called and wasn’t concerned. It was a good thing it was small, it was a good thing it was round, because it wouldn’t get stuck. Even if it had been a magnet that’s fine as long as it’s just one. I breathed a huge sigh of relief.

Here’s the thing about trauma, the small things become big things. They send you completely down the rabbit hole. Just when you think you have something figured out, life throws you a curve ball. This was my reminder that I cannot control every situation. It was a reminder to give myself a little grace.

Oh, and that marble, came right back out.

1,000 Years

My heart hurts so much after reading that singer/songwriter Christina Perri’s daughter was born sleeping. This after she suffered a miscarriage.

Her song, a Thousand Years, has been Fletchie’s and mine since he was born. I would sing it to him at bed every night and every naptime. Now when it comes on the radio he immediately seeks me out. And then falls into my arms in a blubbering mess. Because this kids loves more than anyone I’ve ever known. And he feels more than most people.

Some part of him recognizes how shattered my mama heart is. I swear he understands. So he holds me and I hold him. And we sob. Every. Single. Time.

And my heart is broken knowing that another mama is struggling. Her words have had such a huge impact on my healing and now she knows this pain. It makes me very sad. Sending her family so much love.❤️

‘And all along I believed, I would find you
Time has brought your heart to me, I have loved you for a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more.’

Class of 2033

I was invited to a Facebook group tonight for when my son enters Kindergarten this Fall. My head nearly exploded when I read that he would be graduating high school in 2033. As in, 13 years from now. As in, I will be 53 years old. Even better, I now know that I will be 55 when my youngest graduates.

And to some, that probably isn’t even that old. It isn’t in the grand scheme of things, it’s just not what I planned for me. It’s just that little reminder how off kilter things went.

We had Darcy when we were 28 and Benny at 32. I wanted to be a younger mom. Not because it was this great life plan, but because my mom had me when she was 33. And she died when she was 49. I wanted my kids when I was younger because I wanted them to have as much time as possible with us. I was so constantly concerned about something happening to one of us.

How disgustingly ironic my life became those 7 years ago. I was so worried about something happening to us because I never thought that anything could ever happen to one of my children. None of us do until it happens.

So here I am again, in a bitter twist of fate freaking out at how old we will be come graduation time in 13 years. So much can happen between now and then. So much can change. And it freaks me out. My mother wasn’t at my graduation. Or my wedding. She wasn’t there when her grandbabies were born.

I know that I’m very lucky to have my rainbows. I just need a moment to catch my breath and scream at the Universe. This anger has caught me by surprise because it’s been a long time since I’ve felt this way over everything. The need for control is rearing it’s ugly head again and I just need to shake my fists a bit to release this energy building up inside.

#thisischildloss

Raising Grieving Children

I was home with my little rainbows the other day when my four year old son came over to me with tears in his eyes. I was potty training with the 2 year old, which consists of whisking her through the house before she can pee on my carpet whilst she screams at me that she has to ‘go right now!’. So I’m in the middle of wiping butts and washing hands when her brother approaches me with big crocodile tears running down his cheeks.

‘What’s wrong buddy?’ I’m asking not really paying attention as I’m trying to clean up the mess his little sister made. ‘I really miss Benny. I’m sad that he died.’ he replies standing there clutching his big brothers picture in his hand.

It was as if someone punched me in the gut, or maybe more accurately, the heart. This beautiful child of mine never even met his older brother. He was born nearly 2 years after he died. It completely throws me when this little 4 year old has these very intense moments of loss.

Later in the day my son was talking about music and how sad music makes you feel your feelings, especially when someone dies. Then you cry. This little guy may be more emotionally mature than I am.

And what am I supposed to do with this? Never in a million years did I expect my rainbows to feel the loss of their brother they never knew this deeply. The whole thing is baffling and overwhelming. My older daughter who knew her brother has been in therapy for years and we’ve all been getting the help that we need. I guess I figured that Benny would be an abstract idea to these ‘after’ children.

Maybe it’s because we have pictures of Benny up all over the house. We talk about him and share stories. We celebrate his birthday and visit him in the cemetery. My children have been raised surrounded by tragedy and death and the realization that young people die too. It’s awful to even pen these words.

I wish I knew how to best handle these moments when they happen, or at least be able to be better prepared for them. But like most instances in parenting, it’s learning as you go.

So I got down on his level and hugged him tight. I told him that I was sorry that he missed his brother and it’s ok to be sad. I cried because it made me miss his brother too. It made me miss everything my boys never got to do together.

As I collected myself the kids became busy with Batman and my son had moved on. He accepted the fact that Benny was gone and he was ok with it, for now. I wish that I could be as resilient in grief as children are.

#thisischildloss

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