I’ve read several posts about all of the beautiful things that we will learn from this pandemic. That we need to slow down. That we need to spend more time with family. That we shouldn’t take simple things for granted.
There are definitely things that I hope change. I think the entire system of education and healthcare has been shown to be insufficient at best. For the first time parents are seeing how fucking hard it is to be an educator in this country. We have learned that our current healthcare system doesn’t work if everyone doesn’t have access to care. We’ve learned that the hourly wage earners are our heros and that our health care workers wear invisible capes. The way we view the world has changed.
And I get that we need a silver lining. We as humans need to bring some meaning into this madness. But at what cost? Is it fair that someone had to suffer in sickness or even die for you to learn that lesson? Is it fair for us to bypass another person’s anguish for our own reasoning?
I am struggling with the memes. All of the happy anecdotal memes that speak of the great things that will happen because of the Covid-19 pandemic. I understand them. I even agree with them. But deep down they bother me.
I know that a lot of people have died. And when people try to add reason to that I have a very hard time. It comes across almost like a crude sacrifice. As if one person’s death is ok because the environment is doing better or it forced Little Johnny to become closer with his dad.
Nothing happens for a reason. Our loved ones do not die for a reason. There is no lesson in any of it. They die and you do the best damn job that you can of picking up the pieces and figuring out what you’re supposed to do next. And who even knows what that means?
I will never find reason with all of the loss in my life. I will not look at this disease and massive loss of life as a lesson. I know what it is to lose someone you love suddenly and expectedly. Neither is easy or fair.
This is complicated for me. Yes I hope that there is change and yes I hope that people recognize that the way we were doing things has failed. But the death of 80,000 people shouldn’t be used as a lesson. It’s unfortunate that it’s taken this for us to open our eyes. So many of us afflicted by grief already know not to take things for granted already. Now the world has joined us.
I have been struggling. The winter is so damn hard for me sometimes. The monotonous days stuck indoors are really hard. As much as I love my children and I love working with my husband, it can all just seem repetitious.
I am desperate to feel the sun on my face and spend hours outside. I want to feel grass beneath my toes and watch green leaves sway in a lazy Summer breeze.
At the same time, I love snow, I love skiing, I love sledding. But I don’t love the darkness and the cold. And it gets to me. I can feel myself sliding, moving backwards. I’m more tired, I’m more irritable. I’m way less motivated to do anything. And once I get into this slump, it’s very hard to ‘unslump’ myself.
There’s all this talk about, ‘being your own light,’ which is great and all, but what if you can’t be? What if what you’re going through is really hitting you hard and you can’t find a way back out? There’s a lot of pressure to fix yourself, by yourself.
This last month has felt this way to me. Just a lot of stuff weighing heavily and I know that the endless winter weather doesn’t help.
I hate the feeling of sinking. I know when it’s happening and sometimes I welcome it for the break that it is. Sometimes I just need to zone out (as best as you can with 3 kids) so I can try and process whatever this new grief slap is so that I can get through it. Sometimes I get stuck. Sometimes I just can’t find my light.
This time I recognized it for what it is. I am feeling stuck. I am feeling sad. I can’t turn my own light on right now. And that’s ok. I didn’t try to fight with myself or self deprecate. I knew I needed something.
Sometimes you need to borrow a little light from someone else. And I’m ok with that. I can’t be everything to everyone without needing a little help myself every once in awhile.
I’m ok with borrowing some light while I take the time to make mine bright again. The one thing grief isn’t is consistent. You can be fine and then all of a sudden something comes along to knock the wind out of your sails. For me it’s been several something’s.
So I’m ‘unslumping’ with a puppy, something I swore up and down that I would never, ever do. We’ve always rescued the big dogs that no one else wants. But sometimes you have to go outside of what you would normally do. If death has taught me anything, it’s certainly to take chances or do something I wouldn’t normally do.
Sometimes ‘unslumping’ means getting out of your normal routine. Sometimes it means go for a walk, get outside. Or maybe treat yourself to an ice cream or a haircut. There’s nothing better than when I feel good on the outside how it helps me feel a little bit better or the inside. Or, go get a puppy. You only have one life, do what you want to make it a little bit better.
‘Triggers’ seems too simple a word to describe how your whole world upends itself based on a small, unexpected event. I like this much better. Kind of feels like a slap too.
Self care is so hard to remember when you are in the midst of your grief. But you are important too! And your grief, your love and your loss are important. Don’t forget to check in with yourself. Perhaps I need to follow my own advice every once in awhile.
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.
**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.
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
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.
Some more great lyrics from Frozen II. Very empowering.
I’ve written about this several times. What does strong really mean when you have no choice?
So it’s a new year and I’m scrolling through my Facebook feed loving all of the great New Year ‘intentions’ when a memory pops up. Hit me square in the gut. Or more likely, the heart.
I cannot believe that this was 8 years ago. How happy and carefree we were. How excited we were!
I can start a new year, a new decade, hell I could change my name and move to a new country and this would still be my reality. I would still have lost such a huge part of my heart the day my Benny died. Two steps forward and five steps back. Such is grief.
I just know now to roll with these sucker punches when they happen now. I smile and try to think of my little guy. I hug my babies a little tighter, smile at a stranger, make sure that the ones I love know it. There’s a calm in being able to control the few things that I can.
I don’t like the word ‘resolutions’ so, I will talk about intentions. This one about sums it up for me.
Happy New Year to my fellow loss friends. May this year be a good one for remembering our children.