The Next Right Thing

**Spoiler Alert for Frozen II**

Clearly I am on a Frozen II kick this week! If you don’t have little kids, or haven’t seen it, you have missed Disney getting grief right. I know that I’ve posted other songs/lyrics from the movie, but this one was a gut punch. I have never been so bowled over by a scene/song in an animated movie before. And I was prepared!

It all started when my oldest came home one day to tell me that Olaf the snowman dies in Frozen II. I knew we would be taking the kids to see it, so I needed to be prepared. We love Olaf over here (I swear my 4 year old son is part Olaf), so I was worried how my kids would handle this. I was concerned it would be triggering for my eleven year old, who is the only one to know her brother before he died.

I reached out to a friend, who reminded me that this was a Disney movie (in other words , everything ends well), but that that scene was sad and Anna sings a song about loss. So I knew what was coming. And I sat in that theatre and I cried my damn heart out.

I watched Anna hold Olaf as he was being reduced to snowflakes and my God it took me back to the last moments of holding Benny and saying good bye. And the lyrics to the song that Anna sang during that scene were probably the best description that I have ever heard of how to handle early grief.

This is cold
This is empty
This is numb
The life I knew is over
The lights are out
Hello, darkness
I’m ready to succumb

I follow you around
I always have
But you’ve gone to a place I cannot find
This grief has a gravity
It pulls me down
But a tiny voice whispers in my mind
You are lost, hope is gone
But you must go on
And do the next right thing

Can there be a day beyond this night?
I don’t know anymore what is true
I can’t find my direction, I’m all alone
The only star that guided me was you
How to rise from the floor
When it’s not you I’m rising for?
Just do the next right thing
Take a step, step again
It is all that I can to do
The next right thing
I won’t look too far ahead
It’s too much for me to take
But break it down to this next breath
This next step
This next choice is one that I can make

So I’ll walk through this night
Stumbling blindly toward the light
And do the next right thing
And with the dawn, what comes then
When it’s clear that everything will never be the same again?
Then I’ll make the choice
To hear that voice
And do the next right thing

I’ve seen dark before
But not like this

Nearly seven years later I’m still stumbling around trying to do the next right thing. Some days are easier than others. Some days there just don’t seem to be any right things.

I guess that’s all we can do when we are confronted with such a huge loss, is realize that the life we knew is gone and try to figure out what is next. And that can seem very overwhelming.

Anna reminds us to measure time slowly at first, break it down to make it more manageable. You shouldn’t try to figure it out all at once.

But we always must go on. Even though we don’t want to and the grief is so heavy. We must make the choice to keep moving. And keep doing the next right thing.

#thisischildloss

2020

I’m not sure anyone actually enjoys getting older. Tomorrow marks the beginning of another decade and on January 24th I will be entering my 40th year. I was born in 1980, so my birthday always coincides with the year. Each new decade, I am a decade older.

I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been dreading this until recently. How the hell am I that old?? It doesn’t seem possible. I look in the mirror confused by the same eyes that have looked back at me since I was a young girl. Sometimes it feels weird to be in my body. And then I look back at pictures and memories and I’m floored by how much I have done. And how much time has passed.

I always dreaded getting older. My mom died young at 49. The thought of losing everything scared me. Then my son died at 18 months and the term of dying young seemed relative. None of it makes sense.

About a year ago a fellow loss mama shared with me that she loves getting older. And I didn’t know what to say. I hadn’t ever thought of that attitude as an option. But now as I look back on the last decade, not only am I happy to be getting older, because of every day is a gift, I cannot wait until midnight.

Everything is numbers for me. And these last 10 years have SUCKED. I continue to feel like my 30’s weren’t so great, ok, they were awful. I am convinced that if I go into my 40’s with an open heart and mind, I may have a fighting chance.

No, there are no promises this decade won’t suck too. That’s ok. It just feels like I grew up. A lot. And maybe I can be better prepared for my 40’s to suck because I’m not only taking the sorrow with me, but the growth as well. And that’s something.

So Happy New Year. In this moment, I welcome my 40’s. We’ll see how I feel about it in 24 days.

Trauma Changes

Besides where this article reads that ‘crisis happened for a reason’ there is so much truth. You will never be the same. If you can take that new version of yourself and look at them and be the tiniest bit happy with what you see, then I call that a win. We get so few wins in this dance of grief. Take what you can get.

I Am Not Who I Once Was

Take Time

This is so very true. As a mom I put a whole ton of pressure on myself to do ‘all the things.’ All the time. It’s exhausting.

My brain is constantly swirling with my to do’s for work, for home, for my kids and sometimes even myself. I often joke that my brain looks like an internet browser with 30+ tabs open. Because, well, life. And that is a lot. All of the time.

Sometimes when you’re running like that all of the time you forget that you can stop. The Earth will not stop spinning and fall off its axis. Your to do list will still be there tomorrow.

When Benny died, the world paused for me. Those to do’s suddenly disappeared. Everything just stopped, it was almost as if time stood still. All of a sudden I wasn’t running, hell I was barely crawling.

Me, who always had a plan always knew the next step, had nothing in my sights. I was injured so I figured I’d be home for a few weeks from work. Well, a few weeks turned into a few months and then a year, and then a decision to leave my career. I walked away from a job I loved with people I adored. And it took me a year to come to that conclusion.

I didn’t drive for about four months after the accident. I couldn’t handle the responsibility of being in control of a motor vehicle, even though we were hit outside of my car. It all seemed like too much. It took me about 18 months before I would drive longer than a half hour. I still won’t go longer than an hour or two by myself in the car. And I used to sit in my car from 3-5 hours a day at my old job.

What’s my point? Be kind to yourself. Grief takes time, so take time for grief. You do not have to figure it all out today. One of the best pieces of advice we were given was to not make any big decisions / life changes during that first year. It may not work for all but it worked for us. It gave me a chance to get my footing back and decide what was next for us so that we could start walking towards what the future held.

Just Moving.

Thirteen years ago Parker and I set out to purchase our first house.  We were 24 years old and living in our first apartment together.  I had some money left to me from my mom and it was fairly easy to get a mortgage back then.

We started looking about 30 miles west of Boston, but there was little in our price range.  We knew that we could handle a fixer upper and looked forward to getting our hands dirty.  Because the market was crazy at this point, we ended up looking in Worcester.  It was much farther west than we wanted, but it was what we could afford.

I remember pulling into the driveway of 72 for the first time.  We got out of the car and walked through the jungle of the back yard and I knew.  This was it.  It was exactly what we wanted.  We went inside and took in the wood paneling, shag carpeting and green metal cabinets.  Looking back, I’m overwhelmed at the amount of work we took on with this house.  But over the last 13 years we made her ours.

At first it was Parker, myself and our crazy pack of cats and dogs.  We celebrated Christmas’, birthdays and hosted numerous parties.  Parker proposed to me in that house after we lived there for a year and a half.  We had our wedding rehearsal on our front lawn.  It’s where we began our marriage and started planning our future.

We found out we were expecting our first child within those walls.  I had so much fun setting up a nursery and spent a year painting a barnyard mural.  Teriffied as all new parents are, we brought home a little baby girl.  She got to spend 8 years growing up in that house and playing in that yard.  She learned to walk on the hardwood floors in our living room and spent numerous Halloween’s trick or treating around our neighborhood.

Once you have kids is when you really begin to meet your neighbors.  We were lucky to have some kids move in over the years and be able to form a close knit community.  Some of these people have become our closest friends.

Because our daughter needed a sibling, we had a son.  Suddenly we were busting at the seams, but in a good way.  There was so much laughter and love.  Such noise and chaos that can only come from 2 kids, 2 dogs and a cat.  Life was good.

When my son died right outside that very house, I thought that our world was over.  I could not imagine how we could move forward.  At the hospital, my sister asked me if we wanted to go home or would we rather stay at a hotel.  I paused for a moment, but decided I wanted to be home and sleep in my own bed.  I didn’t know it at the time, but I was making a very monumental decision.

That aside, our community came together to take care of us in numerous ways.  These amazing people that were our neighbors took care of us and held our hands during the hardest time in our lives.  We were so lucky to have this support system.  These people took care of us and showed us so much love.  It helped us to be able to grieve.

Over the course of the next year I struggled with our home, the driveway mostly.  I refused to step foot where the accident had happened.  I closed the door to my son’s room and didn’t go near it for a good 3 months.  His toys were still all over the house and the baby gates were a constant reminder of what was missing.  It was awful.  But it was still my home.

Even after all that had happened, it was still my safe place, my bubble if you will.  After the accident, I was teriffied of going out, being anywhere where ‘something’ could happen.  I mean if an accident can occur right outside your home, then surely much worse can happen out and about.  I felt safest in that house.

Over time, I slowly put my son’s stuff away.  The baby gates disappeared.  Toys went into his closed up room.  We remodeled some of the house and these projects got me excited about the house again.  They gave me something to focus on, something to change.

We began to heal in that house.  It didn’t happen overnight, but slowly over time.  Like a catepillar in a cocoon working towards becoming something beautiful.  Let me tell you, it was a lot of work and a lot of therapy.

A year after the accident we decided we were ready to try again.  We were willing to give the Universe another shot and give our hearts again.  I miscarried in that house.  I think I was more angry than sad at that point.  I was so pissed that we could lose something more.  At that point I wasn’t scared, I was damn determined that we get another shot at love.

We brought Fletcher home to that house nearly 9 months later.  It was hard having another boy, especially one that looked so much like his brother.  We struggled.  I had no choice but to accept the driveway as it was because this little boy had to be carried to and from the house in his carseat safely.

Eventually we made the decision to move Fletcher into what was his brothers room.  It sucked at first.  I rocked him in the same chair where I last sat with his brother, looking at an almost identical face.  I added Fletch’s name to the wall, right below his brothers.  It was as if they were sharing a room.  In some ways that was true as all of Benny’s clothes were still in the dresser, same as the day he died.

We raised another boy in that house for 2 years.  We held our breath until he was older than his brother had been when he passed.  I panicked over every sickness and accident and would google myself into a frenzy.  We spent 15 months of sleepless nights with that little guy as he settled in.  Those walls somehow held me together.

When we found out we were expecting again, we knew our days in this house were numbered.  We were crammed in there and had eeked out every available square foot of living space.  We hemmed and hawed.  We loved this house, but it was time to go.

I was ok with the idea as an abstract.  Maybe it wouldn’t sell.  Then we’d be stuck and have to make it work.  Well it sold, and rather quickly.

Then I was excited.  We were moving!  A new house to decorate!  A fresh start.  Then it was ‘we’re moving forward?’, ‘moving on?’.  Nope.  Just ‘moving.’

Just moving.  Leaving our home behind.  Taking our kids out of their house.  Walking away from where we raised and lost our son.  I can honestly say that I haven’t cried this much since my son died.  And this was our decision!

I’ve had a few months to really think about this.  I am heartbroken to leave my house.  It is the longest I have ever lived anywhere and there are so many memories and so much of my life tied up into this one house.  Not one room has been left untouched, we have spent countless hours making that house into exactly what we wanted.  Our home.  I am absolutely devastated.  Just because we decided to leave doesn’t make this any easier.

This house is where Benny lived.  It’s where he took his first steps, said his first words.  It’s where he’s real to me, where he exists.  This is so hard to walk away from.

It’s also where he died.  It’s the last place that I held him.  It’s where our lives completely changed.  It’s taken me a very long time, but in this process of moving I’ve come to realize that I finally made my peace with it.  I feel ready to move because I’m ok with this house.

I cannot describe how freeing that feels to be able to say this.  I never imagined a time when I could feel this way about this house, I didn’t think it was possible.  Maybe it’s because we’ve redone the house since Benny’s passing, or because I’ve brought other babies home here.  Whatever it is, I’m so glad that I chose to come home the night of the accident.  It allowed me (forced me) to deal with the reality of everything.  It was a massive part ofy grieving process.  It’s just taken me a long time to figure that out.

Thirteen years almost to the day that we purchased our home we said good bye.  Someone else is living there now.  God, it pains me to say that.  I’m broken up even as I write this.

We said good bye to our house and our community and it is killing me.  I have brokenheartedly had to say good bye to some of the most loving people we have ever met.  Sure we’ll still see them, but I will miss being outside and waving and chatting with everyone.  It’s just not the same.  So much of what made our house a home were the people that lived around us and supported us.

We won’t go far, but it is so much further out of my comfort zone.  My bubble is gone for now.  It’s time to make a new one.