My Grief Superpower

Well, this certainly describes me. And seeing it written out like this almost makes me realize how pointless it is. Almost.

How am I doing? Some days are awesome. I can get through the day and just exist. I don’t feel like I have to weigh every decision in life or death. I can just be.

Other days I panic when my husband takes the kids in the car. What if they all die in a car accident? Or when the kids are wrestling, what if one of them hits a piece of furniture and had to go to the hospital? Or worse? Or what if they choke and I’m in another room? Seeing as how my two littles can’t seem to make any type of good decision lately, this is completely plausible.

I found that when we were out pre Covid that I would always be very aware of my surroundings. I made sure that I knew where an exit was ‘just in case.’ Now Covid has sent me into another spiral of worst case scenarios. Just 2 years ago I rang in the New Year in the PICU with my littlest on oxygen. I know what it’s like being scared my child couldn’t breathe and I know I don’t want to go back to that.

So maybe my hypervigilance is my super power. I don’t want a cape or bat signal to notify others of this, I have a hard enough time trying to keep my own family safe. However, if I’m around your kids, I will be watching them as if they are my own. It’s not because I don’t trust you as a parent, but rather some messed up part of my brain thinks I can save you from the same fate. Maybe I just don’t want anyone to have to go through what we’ve been through.

A huge part of doing this for me is knowing that I feel like I have done everything in my power to prevent something bad from happening. I think I’d like to be able to tell myself with confidence that it wasn’t my fault. Because child loss is so tangled in guilt and self doubt. This ridiculous anxiety is my way of trying to counteract that.

Rationally, I know all of this is crazy. But so is grief and death and trauma. I don’t think imagining worst case scenarios is a healthy use of my time, however it’s now a part of who I am, like PTSD is. And I have managed to learn how to live with it so it doesn’t totally consume who I am. Today. Tomorrow may be different. If I’ve learned anything on this journey, it’s to never expect to ever be perfectly ‘healed’ or ‘over it.’ That simply doesn’t exist when you’ve lost a child. It’s all in learning to live with it.

I’m the one

I’m the one that drives 12 in a 40 during a snowstorm because I’m scared of crashing.

I’m the one that panics when the 3 year old sleeps through the night, because she usually doesn’t.

I’m the one that cries at doggie daycare drop off because I’m afraid of my puppy with the other dogs.

I’m the one who tries really hard not to go into stores and religiously wears her mask.

I’m the one that decided to keep her daughter remote during a pandemic because she’s scared of it.

I’m the one who lost her mom to cancer at 16 and her Dad to bad lifestyle choices at 39.

I am the one who was hit by her car in her driveway and watched her son die.

I am the one with PTSD, anxiety and probably a myriad of other issues.

I am the one that doesn’t necessarily live in fear, but has lived too much in reality.

I am the one that has seen too much, lived too much loss, yet still really hopes it will all just be ok.

This is what is left and I’m tired of apologizing for whom I’ve become.

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.

What’s Your Word?

I have decided that I need something to hold onto this year. Last year was a stunning disaster of epic proportions and this year hasn’t exactly started off so great. I’m tired of waiting for the world to get it’s shit together enough so that I can breathe.

Grace is the word that I will be taking with me on this journey into 2021. Grace is what I will be holding, for yours truly and others. I need to learn to forgive me and not be so hard on myself. I also need to learn to hold grace for others.

I’ve been home with my children since March. We’ve spent a considerable amount of time together. And I’ve begun to notice that my 12 year old daughter has more love and respect for herself than I do at 40. She is unwavering in her view of herself and I have never been more proud. It is easy for her to make a decision and she is guided so effortlessly by her moral compass. She has compassion for herself and others and almost always seems to make the right decision. I am jealous.

I would give anything to be as self possessed and confident as this child is. I come off as tough because I had very little choice in that department. And maybe tough is construed as confident, yet I feel anything but. I am constantly second guessing myself and how I interact with others. It is absolutely exhausting.

I feel like at 40 I am flailing. It has been a very hard year with heavy choices. I feel as if grief has consumed me for so long, that it’s hard to know who I am anymore. What is left?

I’m feeling very confused about who I am. I think that’s a part of growing up and maybe that’s what this is. It’s hard to look at yourself and not feel recognizable.

2020 showed me that it’s time to begin paying attention to what is going on in the world. I need to be aware of what’s happening and begin to strengthen my convictions. I have 3 little people that need to be able to be a part of the solution, not the problem. But, before I can do that, I need to work on me. I need to figure out exactly what I want and need from this life.

I’ve gone around and around this in my brain and I think I need to fall back in love with myself. I need to learn to love not only my good parts, but the parts that don’t make me whole. I will never be who I want to be while grieving the loss of my parents and my son. And I need to learn to love that person anyway.

I need a little grace this year. What’s your word?

2021

The 2010 decade sucked for me. I felt like the 2020’s were going to be my time! I’m a January baby and in 2020 I turned 40. I figured this was it! I was going to rule this decade!

So, we all know what happened there🙄. I don’t really want to claim anything in 2021. I’ll just be happy to put 2020 behind me and take a nice deep breath and hope that 2021 will surprise me. In a good way.

I am holding onto hope. I’m hoping that love wins out in 2021 and the world looks more like the world that we knew in 2013 when Benny died. When people were good and kind and caring.

I hope that the loss that happened in 2020 isn’t overshadowed by the political BS occurring daily. Remember when September 11th happened and we were shocked and horrified as a nation? We are seeing September 11th level death daily. It makes me so sad. To be complacent in others suffering instead of coming together to try to help is not ok. We need to get back to that mindset of holding space for each other and caring.

It has been a really, really tough year. I have been challenged as a mother, wife and business owner like no other time in my life. Maybe except for 2017 when we were homeless (because we sold our home and the housing market was nuts) with a 2 week old baby and just bought a business. But the challenges this year have been different. I’ve felt so out of control and anxious. I’m exhausted. I’m trying the best that I can to make the right decisions for my family (whatever those are) and trudge forward. But my god it is hard.

I’m working on self acceptance. I’m relearning to like myself and trying to show myself a little grace. 2020 has given me ample time to think and reconnect with me. It’s a process.

So there will be no big New Year celebration. I’d be surprised if we all make it to midnight. And that’s ok. I’ll be holding my breath for 2021 and hoping against hope that it’s a little bit kinder to us all. Because I can’t be the only one that needs a break.

Brave

I’m not feeling very brave. I’m feeling very beaten down and tired. I’m feeling overwhelmed by the fact that it has been 7 years since Benny died. And maybe if the world wasn’t a disaster, and school wasn’t a mess and work wasn’t overwhelming I could spend 5 minutes actually acknowledging this very fact.

My soul is weary. Maybe even more so than it was 7 years ago. The constant reminder of death, the statistics and the faceless people is too much to bear. Because I know how absolutely soul crushing it is for these families to have to try to pick up the pieces. But I don’t know how they do so in the absence of hugs and physical touch.

I don’t think that I’m fighting so much right now as I’m surviving. It seems to be a constant game of defense, as something new rears its ugly head to contend with. I don’t feel like I’m pushing away the waves as much as I’m being slammed by them. Over and over as I try to right myself and swim again.

Trust me, I very much want to give up some days. I want to get in my car and drive until I’m somewhere, anywhere. I want to be done with 2020 and all of its constant reminders to ‘enjoy every moment, because you never know when it will be your last.’ If anyone knows about death and loss, it’s me. My bingo card is filled to the brim. It’s overwhelming to constantly be reminded of this.

But I’m here. And tomorrow’s another day. And hopefully I will find my 5 minutes of peace with my grief. And if it’s brave to just exist right now, to just be, then maybe, just maybe, I am brave.

End of the World Thoughts

Well damn. Here it is. Every day of my life. Every little thought that something could go wrong. Some days are worse than others. When you’ve lost as many people as I have, maybe you’re just more aware of what can happen. The anxiety certainly doesn’t help though.

Anxiety and Fear of Losing Loved Ones

‘Pandemicing’

I had a virtual physical yesterday which was interesting. In all honesty it made the health conversations much easier with my doctor and I kind of like her more now that we can laugh about my cat walking in front of my face during a zoom call. This is the first time it felt more personal and less clinical probably because I was at my own house in my pajamas during this conversation.

One of the questions before we even sat down was if I had an increase in anxiety. I honestly started laughing. Who doesn’t have an increase in anxiety right now? Who isn’t having scary thoughts? I’m pretty sure I’m not in the minority here.

My doctor asked if I felt like I needed to speak to a therapist and I honestly had to think about it for a few minutes. I’m pretty sure I’m going through what everybody else is going through on some level. So my answer to her was my anxiety has been worse before, this is manageable for now.

It’s manageable at the moment because we are all healthy. Is my life an absolute shit show some days? Yes, yes it is. As much as I love being home with my kids it is exhausting being home with my kids. My husband is still working and has had to pick up the slack at our business that I cannot attend to. So that means longer hours for him and in turn longer hours for me flying solo over here trying to hold everything together. It’s a delicate dance and it doesn’t always work.

Today in the middle of a Pre-K lesson about the letter ‘S’ I broke down crying over the fact that we had to cancel our trip to Storyland this August. I am just now seeing the irony that Storyland begins with ‘S’. Yes we are all healthy and lucky to be so and yes I am grateful to be home with my kids. However that does not minimize the fact that I am sad. I am sad that my youngest is at the perfect age and has just recently become obsessed with princesses and will miss out on this experience this year. And I know there have been worse things going on in the world and we’ve gone through terrible things as a family, but I do not want to minimize my feelings. Because if I do that, then I will not deal with them. To put it plainly, this sucks.

I’ve seen so many posts mocking the graduates of 2020 who did not get their prom or graduation ceremonies and comparing it to Vietnam. Well yes, it does make you think about what that generation went through. However, it should never minimalize what these kids are going through today. One experience does not negate the other.

You are allowed to feel what you are feeling. It is all valid. Whether you are home with kids or you are home alone or you are surrounded by a huge family right now This is still really, really hard. And you are allowed to feel sad and you are allowed to feel anxious or any other emotion that you are going through. And you are most certainly not alone in these feelings. Just like everybody grieves differently, everybody ‘pandemics’ differently.

Pandemics, Paranoia and Loss

I am having a hard time putting into words what I’ve been feeling the last few days. Anxious is probably a good place to start. Maybe followed by feelings of vulnerability and lack of control. I’ve been feeling exactly how I felt right after the accident and Benny died.

It’s hard to even write that because nothing concrete has even happened to trigger these feelings. It’s the not knowing what is next with Covid-19 that is eating away at me. I am struggling.

I’m feeling overwhelmed as both a small business owner and a mom. But I’m mostly feeling overwhelmed as someone that has witnessed tragedy close up. It causes me to pause and panic. I want to know all that I can so I can best prepare for whatever outcome we may face when this is all over. And call me crazy, call me paranoid, that’s fine. My reaction is my own and is a reflection on my life and my experiences.

So we may make choices that you don’t agree with concerning ourselves and our family. We may be a little more paranoid and a little more afraid than you.

I’ve held my son as he died. This is not something that I share lightly, but rather to explain that we will take every step that we can health wise and financially to keep ourselves from going through something like that again. I know that children seem pretty safe with this virus and Parker and I are also pretty low risk. But there are no guarantees in this life. And unfortunately, we know that all too well. I will do anything to keep my children safe from hurt.

I also would never want to pass this sickness onto someone that is immunocompromised or elderly. That alone is enough to keep me home and minimally at work. I don’t want to be the reason that someone else has to suffer.

I’m scared. Loss has scarred me in a way in which I will never heal from. It makes me anxious when others may be complacent. It makes me recognize each little thing that can wrong every day.

It has also taught me about love and hope. And I don’t take either of those lightly. I am humbled by the amount of both that are part of my every day life. And I desperately need to hold onto them in the coming days to see me through.

I have no idea where this ends or what will happen. Just know that if you have suffered loss and this Virus is leaving you on edge and feeling completely vulnerable, you are not alone. It’s ok to not be ok. We will get through this easier if we can acknowledge this and realize that we are all in this together. ❤️

Denying Myself

How many of us do this daily? We walk around with a smile on our faces while in reality all that we really want to do is cry. Because we are dying on the inside missing the hell out of our loved ones.

Look, people mean well. They want you to feel better, they want you to move on. Even those closest to you. They want you to be happy. How much of our happiness is derived from someone else’s needs?

I have children, so my grief sits somewhere in a back corner. When my son died my daughter didn’t want us to sit around crying. We did, everyone did for the first few weeks and then slowly it became less and less. I still cry, in the shower, in the car, putting the toddler to bed, in the pantry. My lovely private places.

Why the hell can’t I show this to my kiddos? I have no problem showing them anger, happiness, why not show them sadness? Why not show them that grief can be handled healthily? Why do we hide our sadness?

I’m legit asking. I wish I could explain why vulnerability is bad. I wish I could understand when I was taught this concept. Maybe it’s a coping mechanism I’ve picked up. Who knows?

One of the only places that I can be my true grieving self in at my grief groups. I can be real with my anger and sadness over my son’s death. And it’s ok. It’s my ‘Benny time.’ And I look forward to it all month because it’s like offloading so much that has been stuffed down deep inside.

And here obviously. Here I am still in my protective bubble. And I know that most anyone reading this gets it. And even if they don’t, they can empathize. Because wearing this mask is exhausting sometimes.

#thisischildloss