I remember wondering after Benny passed how I would navigate through my grief. How would I handle all of the holidays without him? Could I survive his birthday?
Benny was born in May, a big month for birthdays in mine and my husband’s families. We start with Mother’s Day, which I had just finally stopped grieving once Darcy was born, throw a whole bunch of birthdays in there, including my father’s and Benny’s, and wrap it all up with the day my mom died. All of this happens within a span of 13 days or so. It. Is. A. Lot.
Every year around Benny’s birthday in May, we do a gathering at the cemetery and then something small for the kids back at the house. We sing happy birthday and share memories. I want to celebrate the fact that my son lived, not focus on his death. I have one child who barely remembers him and two children that have never met him. It’s complex and confusing and we muddle through this new world as best as we possibly can.
Every May I am sent into a tail spin. I will add as many projects to my ‘to do list’ as possible. I spend hours on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist looking for bargains that I can transform into something.
I need to keep my hands busy. I need to keep my mind clear. I just need to get through the next 13 or so days. I am in survival mode.
It’s as if I begin to notice everything around me that needs to be fixed. Oh, the cats destroyed the couch?
I got this! I just noticed that the kitchen looked very blah, looks too much like every other new house. Time to add a backsplash!
I’m desperately trying to fix my surroundings in an attempt to fix myself. It’s not possible. I cannot fix this.
No matter how much planning I do, no matter how much I think I have done, I will always add something to Benny’s celebration of life. In part it has become my way of still planning a party for my son, even though he is not here.
I try to find the perfect book to be read at the cemetery. I look for a creative craft for the kids to do in Benny’s memory. I am constantly looking for new ways to celebrate his life. Which is hard because it was so short.
Is all of this crazy? Sure. Do I need to put more pressure on myself to what is already a month heaped with emotional grief? Nope. But here’s the thing. This stuff, this trying to fix things, this need to plan a celebration of my son’s life, it helps. It helps me feel the tiniest bit like I can have control over something, anything in my chaotic life. I like keeping my hands busy and my mind focused. It’s like meditation to me. It gives me a chance to be truly present in the moment.
This is my process. This is how I have learned to make it through an emotionally charged month of ups and downs. My husband and kids have learned to take it all in stride and just accept that this is what I do. This is what I need. And for now it works. Maybe some day it won’t and that’s ok too.
There is no guidebook friends. There is nothing to make it all better. But if you can find something constructive to make it tolerable, you do you. Do what feels right.
I have come to the realization that my father’s death will be the first one where I can have my grief all to myself. I am only in control of my own feelings and my own journey. As it should be in any healthy, normal relationship. You cannot control others grief, but oh how I’ve tried.
When my mom died I was 16. She had been sick for 2 years prior, so I had slowly been becoming more independent over those 2 years. She knew that she wasn’t going to make it, so she tried her hardest to prepare me for life on my own. I think she knew that my father was in no way equipped to handle her death. I sure wasn’t, but I was just a kid.
If I’m being candid, my father failed my sister and I. He was the adult and he fell completely apart. He began drinking again, he began dating almost immediately. I was only 16, but I was able to recognize that his behaviors were not healthy. He was never around and when he was, he was drunk.
I tried my damnedest to make things easier for him. I tried to step up and help out. I put my grief on the back burner while I tried to navigate this new normal. It was extremely frustrating and exhausting. It was probably easier for me to deal with him than it was for me to deal with my own grief.
It took a lot of years for me to make my peace with this and be able to forgive my dad. It was a lot of counseling and trying to look at things from his perspective. It didn’t make it ok, it just made it a little more bearable to live with.
When Benny died, I was once again consumed by everyone else’s grief. I am Type A and always need to feel a sense of control. I was so focused on my husband and my daughter’s grief. It was easier than dealing with my own feelings. What I learned is that control is an illusion.
Being at home for a year is a long time and eventually I had to begin to allow myself to grieve. I couldn’t push this down so far and hide it behind my family’s grief this time. I had to face it head on. It took a bit, but I finally let myself give in.
So, here I am grieving my dad. Alone. There’s no alcoholic to take care of, no husband or child to worry about. Just me. And this grief feels so free and so terriffying all at once. It’s all mine. And I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it.
To be honest, it’s kind of lonely. My family hasn’t stopped and wallowed like in the past. Life is still moving along for everyone. Grief and little kids don’t mix together too well anyway. You cannot just stop when the baby has a fever, or your tween is struggling in dance. Or when your husband gets heat stroke.
I had this idea in my head because this grief was all mine that I would be able to sit with it, yell at it, scream at it, cry with it, maybe even laugh with it for a bit. As usual, life had other plans. That free feeling I felt in the beginning is more like a drowning feeling now as I try to navigate this alone. And that’s ok. I’m used to doing things alone. Sometimes I actually prefer it.
But tonight I will go to a Support Group at Hope Lives Here. I will laugh and cry and probably leave there feeling a little bit lighter. These are my people. They get it. And I absolutely hate that I have to go there, but love being there, if that makes any sense. I’ll feel a little less alone in this.
A little delayed…
I cannot believe that you would have been 7 years old last May. I still picture you as a chubby and adventurous toddler. I’m at a loss at how to wrap my head around who you would be as a 7 year old.
I think of all of the first rights of passage that you have missed at this age. First day of school, first best friend, to name a few. It makes me so sad to think of all that you have been robbed of.
Every once in awhile I see a boy your age and I pause. I try very hard to see you, who you would be. It’s hard. There was a boy at the playground your age with your name right after your birthday. But I’m sure you already knew that.
If you were still here, you’d be enjoying your summer break and gearing up to enter second grade. That seems impossible to me. You’d probably play all kinds of sports and we wouldn’t know what to do with your fearlessness. My anxiety kicks into high gear just thinking about it.
It’s tough to watch your siblings grow and mature and only have those 18 months of memories with you. My mind cannot sometimes understand why that is. These 5 and a half years have really messed with my natural perspective on time.
It’s been rough. It’s hard to think of what it would be like because so much has changed. I have changed. When you died you took a piece of me with you and that’s ok. I wouldn’t want to be the same. I couldn’t be.
Keep sending those signs buddy and keep looking out for us. We need your love and guidance every day. Love you forever.
Do things ever seem like they’re going so great, so you forget to let yourself grieve? I mean, we can’t forget to grieve, we’ve lost a piece of our selves. But do you ever not let yourself grieve?
I’ve started about 5 blog posts and written down a few more and just can’t get myself to finish them. I cannot make myself sit down and write them. It’s super frustrating. I cannot let myself go there right now. And I’m not even sure why.
Maybe I’m scared if I do, it will negate what’s going right in my life. And then I feel guilty if I’m not confronting my grief, because what kind of mom does that make me? There’s so much damn guilt in grief.
I remember being upset in the beginning of this journey for feeling happy. It just felt wrong. Happiness felt out of place in this new normal. Now I feel guilty for not allowing myself more time to confront the sadness. And there’s so much. Even after 5 years there’s so much more sadness. Especially in the month of May.
I’ve spent more of my life dealing with loss than not. And I still cannot figure this shit out. I am exhausted.
So my fellow grievers, none of this makes sense. There are no stages or steps to grief, just a person trying to survive the unthinkable any way that they can. And that’s ok.
In a perfect world, I would have 5 children. I cringe every time that I go to the doctor and they ask how many times I’ve been pregnant. I then have to tell them that I have 3 children at home, one that has died and I miscarried.
Im not sure I ever really processed my miscarriage beyond anger. We had just finally decided to start trying to get pregnant again after Benny died. It had been nearly a year and we were emerging from our grief fog and felt ready.
We were shocked when we were pregnant on our first shot. It took us four months with the previous two. It really made no sense, we were getting older, but alas, here we were. I saw the two pink lines on our eighth wedding anniversary. It felt like kismet.
I was excited and nervous. Still a little shocked it happened so quickly. We were due on May 8th, which happened to be exactly 6 months from when Benny died. It would have been a year after we buried Benny’s ashes.
I wasn’t really sure how I felt about all of that, but I decided it was life’s way of turning lemons into lemonade. Parker and I were truly excited. It was that hope that we had been looking for.
Then I got the call from the doctors office, my numbers weren’t increasing, my hormones weren’t going up enough to sustain a pregnancy. I started bleeding and as soon as it had started it all came crashing down. We barely made it 6 weeks.
I was beyond angry. How could this be happening after all that we had already gone through? It all felt very unfair and I was livid. It felt like we were in a better place with our lives and then this was a slap in the face. I felt cheated.
And I was alone. This loss was so completely different from losing my son. Few people tell people before 12 weeks. I now had to quietly grieve by myself. This was a different kind of hard.
I began to panic. What if I couldn’t get pregnant again or sustain a pregnancy? What if we weren’t able to have more children? I began to imagine the worst and try to figure out what our options were. We knew we wanted more children and that was the hope that propelled us forward.
Then one night about a month later I had a dream. It was about 2 little boys playing in the sand at the beach. One was Benny. I woke up and took a pregnancy test and was pregnant again. Before I could really even process my miscarriage, here I was again.
This time was different. I was anxious about miscarrying again and every other possible thing that could go wrong. I was really scared. I didn’t sleep because anxiety and pregnancy do not get along. I was a nervous wreck.
Something about that dream though took a little bit of the edge off. I felt like it was sign for me to breathe and know it would be ok. And it was Benny introducing me to his little brother Fletcher.
And here we are 5 years after that loss on May 8th. That babies due date. I’m the only one that grieves this day. Carrying this silent grief is tough. If you’ve lost a pregnancy I see you and I’m so sorry for your pain.
This was the day I was dreading. They say it’s every parents nightmare when they have lost a child, that people will forget.
It’s been five years and they have moved on with their lives. I don’t want to say that we have too, we are learning to grow through our grief. Every day is different.
They were there. They saw us. They were with us. They grieved alongside us. But somehow they forgot him. Somehow they forgot what this did to us as a family.
I know that this is about their character, but it still hurts. It hurts to have to explain ourselves. It hurts that they are so far removed now that they just don’t get it. It hurts that they forgot.
I will never forget him. His dimpled smile is etched in my brain. The feel of him in my arms is locked safely within my heart. For me, he will never go away.