I’m beginning to see the smiling faces of all of my friends kids on social media, all gussied up for the first day of school…or remote learning…or homeschool. With everything going on over the last 6 months, I had forgotten.
No I didn’t forget Benny had died, the rainbows and I drove by the cemetery the other day blowing kisses and saying a hello. I had forgotten that yet another school year has begun. Another milestone has been missed. Another memory will never be.
This is a messed up year in a lot of ways and maybe that’s why it didn’t occur to me until I saw a child Benny’s age. They were all dressed up and smiling for their first day of 3rd grade. I cannot believe that he should be starting starting 3rd grade. I cannot believe that it has been that long.
I just had to sit and do the math over and over, because it’s hard for me to rationalize in my mind that he should be 8 years old right now. While this year has provided me with time with my living children, it has kept me so busy that I feel I have neglected time with my dead child. Time in general in 2020 seems to be an abstract concept.
So I’m sitting here, with really tired eyes because it’s been another busy day. And my head is spinning as our new school year is right around the corner. And I just needed to make some space. I needed to take a moment and wrap my head around the picture that I should be taking of my crazy 8 year old guy as he starts whatever version of school we would have chosen, without the guise of loss hanging overhead.
I can almost see the smile with those dimples. I can almost hear him and Darcy rough housing and bickering like my rainbows do. I can imagine that he would be a mess before I even had a chance to take a picture. Because he was always into something. I can almost feel the hug that I have been dying to give him since 2013 when this whole disaster started.
Another school year, another landmark missed. That’s the thing with grief, you don’t just lose somebody all at once, but rather in pieces, over time. My god, I miss you buddy.
On the eve of the first year, I feel I still cannot talk to you. Rationally, I know that you’re gone, but I still can’t quite accept or understand it. If I can’t believe that you’re gone, how can I accept that it’s been a while year?
While I lay here trying to come with grips that it has been 365 days since you’ve been gone, I’m reading your eulogy. I’m wondering how I keep you alive to my children, who are so young. I’m trying to figure out how come my children have more ghosts as family members than they do flesh and blood. And it makes me really sad. Because none of this is fair.
But to try to imagine you alive during a pandemic isn’t really fair either. You never were very good at following the rules or doing what you were told. You were stubborn and a royal pain in the ass. It would have been pretty awful.
You could be pretty awful. And how we could fight. But it doesn’t change the fact that I miss your voice on the other end of the phone. I miss your ridiculously crude jokes. Hell, I even miss arguing politics. ‘Opinions are like assholes,’ you’d say, everybody has one.’
You were flawed and broken. And at times you failed me. But I still loved you. And I still have so many great memories with you.
I think I’m so tired of all of the loss sometimes that’s it’s just easier to put it away for awhile. I wrap it up in a box and leave it on the shelf with all of the others, as I decide which one to unwrap. Well, it’s been long enough. And so much has happened since you’ve been gone. This year has been HARD. And I’m tired.
When you died, it wasn’t just me losing my dad. It was the nail in the coffin that made me an adult orphan. I’m parentless. My kids won’t grow up with either grandparent. And that’s fucking hard. This empty feeling inside of me grows bigger with this statement. Because I’m so tired of loss. I’m tired of sadness and pain.
It’s been a year. And there is a lot to unpack from my life as I wrap my head around how your loss defines me now. And I probably won’t know what that even means for a very long time.
We just finished watching Hamilton here tonight. There’s just so much to digest. I’m still not even sure what we watched because not only was it visually stunning and musically unique, there were so many phrases/lyrics that struck me.
‘There are moments that the words don’t reach There is suffering too terrible to name You hold your child as tight as you can And push away the unimaginable The moments when you’re in so deep It feels easier to just swim down.’
‘There are moments that the words don’t reach There is a grace too powerful to name We push away what we can never understand We push away the unimaginable’
Both of these passages are taken from the song ‘It’s Quiet Uptown’ and are actually about two parents after the loss of their son. I can tell you that I wasn’t expecting this from a musical about Alexander Hamilton.
In the background of the song the cast is singing, ‘they’re living in the unimaginable.’ That’s probably the best way to describe life after child loss. We are living in the unimaginable. No one can understand this life until they are thrown into it.
Another song that struck me was ‘Who Lives, Who Dies, Who tells your story.’ Because that’s what we do as parents of children who are gone. We tell their story. We say their names. We remind people that they were here.
‘And when you’re gone, who remembers your name? Who keeps your flame? Who tells your story?’
This of us that are stuck in the unimaginable tell your story. We remember and we keep your name alive. If you haven’t watched Hamilton, I highly recommend it. It’s beautiful from beginning to end.
In the years since Benny died, I find it really hard to try to force myself to do something I don’t want to. In the early days it was honestly hard to do anything besides breathe. Getting up and living was about my limit. And that’s ok.
Now I find that the amount of fucks (pardon my French) I have available on any given day is minimal. I’ve really been able to refocus on what actually serves me. And if it doesn’t, I’ve become pretty good at letting it go.
It’s not always easy. Saying good bye to a relationship is hard. Setting boundaries on what I will and will not spend my time on is hard. I’m a people pleaser and I like to help. But I’ve learned through my grief that I can’t help others if I’m run ragged or if my heart is not in it.
I’ve come to learn that I cannot force how others feel about me and I think I’m finally ok with that. So much of this grief process for me has been making peace with many different aspects of my life. It can be exhausting. But sometimes, it can also be a little bit freeing.
I’m done forcing things. If it doesn’t fit into my life, it’s time to take stock and decide how I want to handle it. Life is too short for me to be doing things if they don’t make me happy.
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.
I used to sing this song. All of the time! When we had Bennett, there was never a grand plan to call him Benny. He was named after Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice and Bennett also happened to be my husband’s great grandfather’s last name. It was kismet.
But like most names, his was shortened. Never to Ben, it just didn’t work for him. It was ‘Bennett’, or ‘Benny’, or ‘Bennett Fletcher’ when he was really doing something he shouldn’t have been. Which was often.
We sang ‘Benny and the Jets’ in our house. We sang it a lot after Bennett was born. And today it came on in the car as I was driving to Walmart for my pick up order. And by some small miracle, I was alone. For the first time in nearly 3 months I was by myself and actually able to lose my shit.
I’ve been crying a lot lately. I’ve been crying over the uncertainty, or how unfair things have been for my kids, or how awful and divided this world has become. I’ve been crying over what I am missing. But I have not been crying over my Benny.
Today I had this beautiful moment. By myself. In my car. I had this moment to cry for my lost son. I had the space for a few minutes to grieve. I cried about him and not about any other injustice going on right now. I cried and I felt better. I felt good that I was able to hold this moment for him. Because with everything else going on, it’s been really hard to have my Benny Moments.
I needed this so much today. Thank you buddy. It’s so rare that I’m alone these days. It’s even more rare that I’m in the car going somewhere. Maybe he knew I needed this. Maybe it was kismet.
I fear that I have fallen so far down the rabbit hole (though I’m not entirely sure which one, because this one is so very complicated), that I’m not sure where I’m at anymore. Every month in 2020 has been one tragedy following the next. And I’m tired. And I’m unsure of who I am and what I’m meant to do with this life. It’s all just so overwhelming.
I miss my Mom. I miss my son. And even though he could be an awful pain in the ass, I miss my dad. There is so much complicated shit going on that sometimes I forget that grief. It blocks it out. Just for a moment because it’s so overwhelming. But then it comes back and the hurt and the love and the pain are all still there.
It hides there for a bit under the surface. I find it under the sorrow of watching our world crumbling, witnessing the awful divide of our country. I feel it in the anger of the injustice of what continues to happen unchecked by those in power. I glimpse it in the helplessness I feel at this very moment. What can I do to help?
And it’s a lot to carry with me through the day. My heart feels very heavy and my soul, weary. And my grief feels ever present. I miss my people. There are too many gone from this life.
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.
Have you ever listened to a song, like a million times, and realized it has meaning? You really know the words and you sing along every time it comes on the radio. And then one day, you’re driving along and the full meaning of those words smack you in the heart.