The Grief We Feel

I had an interesting conversation with a student’s mom today about her son’s difficulty in accepting his parents’ separation. I realized that this child is grieving for so many things. He’s grieving for the family life that’s now gone. He’s grieving for the ideal he once held about his parents. He’s grieving for the man he thought his father was. He’s grieving for a loss of innocence that he can’t begin to comprehend.

This isn’t so different from the grief I have felt. Not only did I have to grieve for the loss of my mother, but also the loss of my best friend and the friendship that was just truly starting to develop since I’d had a child of my own. I grieve for my son losing a grandmother he never got to know and the experiences that he will never have. I grieve for the moments, big and small, that would’ve defined my relationship with my mom over the next 30+ years.

Grief is such a multi-headed beast. It never truly goes away.

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The Verve

I was in the middle of writing a post about how blah I’ve been lately and started to walk out to my car while typing it up.

How do you get through those BLAH days? You know, the ones where nothing goes right. You can’t seem to shake the blues. As a teacher this usually means that there was a rough day with a student, a parent, a staff member, or all of the above.

Add that

That’s as far as I got. My car was warming up so I hopped right in to this song playing:

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This song has been my all-time favorite since I originally heard it in a movie. Every so often I’ll have really difficult days where I miss my mom. Within hours I will hear this song, either on the radio or somewhere else. I have no idea why I think this is a message or some divine kick in the pants to buck up, but that’s always how I feel. Someone is watching out for you so quit worrying!

It doesn’t make all the anger and unhappiness go away, but it does make it bearable. Like maybe Heaven is real?

Before, After, and Now

When my mom died I did the most random thing. I drastically changed my hair. I wore it straight. I got bangs. I died it a deep reddish brown. Why? I have no idea.

My mom loved my hair. It’s one of the few features I didn’t get from her. My hair came from my dad. It is naturally curly, albeit a dirty dishwater color. My mom’s hair was naturally the same color as mine, but she had very fine and straight hair.

Growing up I hated my hair. My mom didn’t know the correct way to style curls, so I was often left with frizzy waves that I pulled up into a pony tail. As I got into high school and began having a say in how my hair was cut I often chose shorter, above the shoulder, options due to the easy manageability. My mom hated my hair short. She also hated it straight.

So therein lies the reason I would so drastically change my look. I wanted to make her mad. I wanted her to know how angry I was. It was my way of saying, “You didn’t consider me when you chose not to wear a motorcycle helmet, so I’m not going to consider you when I change my hair.” Immature? Yes.

Now that my hair has gone back to “bronde” and curly, I think about how much she would like it. Did I change back because of her? No. I changed back because I wanted to. And that’s truly how we have to live our lives, those of us who have experienced loss. We can’t continue to live for someone who isn’t here.

What I do now, I do for me. As hurtful as it sounds, my mom didn’t consider me or her grandson when she refused to wear the safety gear. She didn’t think of the consequences. So while I will no longer go out of my way to spite her, I also will not go out of my way to do what she would’ve wanted me to do. If my mom wanted a say or an opinion in my life, she should’ve ensured she would be around by doing whatever was necessary. Even wearing a helmet.

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Wanted: A Mom

I hate to admit this, but I have a problem. I am always searching for a mom. I know, that sounds incredibly stupid, but it is admittedly true.

No one can replace my mom, but, for the past 2 1/2 years I have been trying to fill that gaping hole in my heart with a motherly figure. And guess what? It’s been a complete and utter failure.

No matter what I do, or who I meet, nobody will love me as unconditionally as my mom did. No one will know literally everything about me, and still consider me the sun in her solar system. No one will worry, cry, and rejoice over me like my mom. I know this because I am a mom.

I will never love another child the way I love my own. My child is the sun in my solar system. He is the light of my life and the reason I get up in the morning. Without him, I would be a shell of myself.

My sun

My sun

And no one will ever feel that way about me again.

Why Christmas Sucks

I hate Christmas. There, I’ve said it. I dread the time from November 1st to about December 29th.  I know, I’m a freak. It’s like admitting that I hate puppies or chocolate. Hating Christmas is unnatural and, as best I can, I try to hide my utter disdain, but it often pops up during this time of year.

Growing up poor made Christmas a real drag. I’d see how stressed my mom would get and, as the big day grew closer, I worried about the lack of wrapped goodies under our fake tree. Somehow, though, she always pulled it off. We always had something.  (Although she was horrible at hiding the presents so I usually knew what I was getting!)

There’s one Christmas in particular that stands out among the rest. I was young, perhaps in 4th or 5th grade. Our dog, Cubby, had escaped out the front door. Being a tiny black Pomeranian, he was quickly run down by a car right in front of our house. My mom, though, grabbed him up and we immediately drove to an emergency pet hospital.

The waiting room was so bright, and my brother and I sat there, praying that our dog would be okay. My mom quietly came over to us and sat down on the plastic waiting room chairs. She explained that there were two options. If we chose to “fix” Cubby’s broken leg, we would have to forego Christmas presents. To a ten year old girl and her eight year old brother, this was a no brainer.  Cubby’s leg was fixed and for the next several weeks he hobbled around in a neon orange cast.

As this was before the purchase of the fake tree, we also had to forego buying a Christmas tree that year. There were no decorations, no ornaments, no Christmas. My grandma eventually found out and she did bring us a tiny tabletop tree, but it wasn’t the same.

As a parent now, I still can’t even imagine the strength it took for my mom to admit that, should we fix Cubby’s leg, there would be no Christmas.  I still stand by my decision, and I know my brother does as well. But this was just the beginning of my hatred of Christmas. I saw the defeat in my mother when she had to admit to her children that we couldn’t have our dog and Christmas. There just wasn’t enough money for both. Deep down she knew what we would pick, and she knew we would never hold it against her, but I know she felt inadequate. Who wouldn’t?

Now that my mom is gone I despise the holiday even more. As young adults, the tradition of “going home” for the holidays is what everyone does. They travel by plane or car to arrive by Christmas morning, just in time for the ceremonial gift exchange followed by a magnificent feast.  This whole ordeal is lead, created, and orchestrated by the family matriarch. She preps and slaves in the kitchen for hours as the house fills with the smells of fresh bread, roasted meats, and Yankee candles. The tree is lit, the television is on, and the “kids” are routinely being called into the kitchen to set the table, put dishes on the table, or mash the potatoes. It’s the typical Christmas, straight out of any holiday card.

Without the family matriarch, the holiday suddenly loses its traditions. Gone are the trips home. Gone are the delicious meals, with plenty to take home. Gone are the holidays. Sure, my husband and I travel to his parents and celebrate, but those are his traditions. His family. My stepmom also hosts Christmas for my step siblings and extended family, but, again, her traditions are not mine. While the food is great at both homes, it’s not my mom’s. The ornaments on their trees are not the ornaments that my brother and I eagerly placed on our tree each year as we reminisced about how and where the bauble came to be in our possession.

This year, as Logan is just now old enough to help hang ornaments, my husband and I began to reminisce about each, sharing funny stories and anecdotes as we thought back.  But there was no delicious food and ancient Christmas decorations. Nobody comes to our house to celebrate, as I’ve hardly earned a matriarchal position. I’m not ready to take over the reigns of holiday hosting, and it will be a long time before I’m prepared to do so.

Until then, there are only 363 days until the next Christmas.

Advice

I know that nothing I say is going to ease the pain or make anything better. But I still feel compelled to let you know that you are not alone in your pain. You feel lost. You feel angry. And that is okay. It is okay to be angry with God, life, yourself, everyone. It’s okay to feel like you don’t know how to go on. Losing someone, let alone the person who knows you better than anyone else in the world, kills a part of you too. You will never be the same person you once were. This is a defining moment for the rest of your life. The pain doesn’t ever go away. Your body gets used to it and adapts, but it will always be there and always be a part of you from now on.  In the end it just sucks. You want to lash out at everyone, refuse to get out of bed, and just let yourself go.  As time goes on you too will go on. You won’t understand how or why, given that you are still in such pain, you are able to go on, but you do.  I’m here if you need to talk, although I know that the only person you really want to talk to isn’t here anymore. It’s not the same. It won’t ever be the same…

One of the hardest days of my life

Dear Mom,

I’ve avoided writing for so long. I just didn’t want to think about any of this. For a while I was doing well – surviving, dealing with life, and keeping busy. I didn’t avoid my feelings. But, after getting so used to it, I guess I “fell off the wagon.” I stopped writing. I stopped dealing with it. Instead, I focused solely on work and not on anything that involved feeling or emotion. Looks like that worked out well. (sarcasm)

October was a tough month. I spent my 28th birthday without you. For the first time in memory, I didn’t have my mom to take me shopping. Do you remember that we would do that every year? You refused to get me gift cards, and now I know it was so that we could spend a day together. Looking back now, it meant so much to me to have those memories. Now I know that it a tradition I will want to carry on with Logan. But, even so, it didn’t make my birthday any easier, knowing that I didn’t realize last year’s shopping trip would be the last one for us.

You missed Logan’s first Halloween, in which he dressed up as a monkey. We would have gone over to your house to “trick-or-treat.”

You missed hearing about my first real business trip; the first time I ever traveled alone (without family). Logan had to spend four days with Adam’s parents. We couldn’t really ask anyone else to inconvenience their lives for four days to help us out…

Tomorrow you’ll miss Logan’s first birthday party. Monday you’ll miss his first haircut, on his actual birthday.

And this is what I’ve been avoiding for almost two months. I’ve been avoiding thinking of all you’re missing.

A Growing Boy

Dear Mom,

You’d be surprised at how fast Logan’s growing. He’s already crawling now, and he’s actually quite fast. He loves to crawl around to the kitchen sink and watch me do chores. He’s also babbling a lot now. When I write this it makes me sad to think how much you’re missing. You won’t get to teach Logan how to make homemade Play-Doh. You won’t get to attend his first birthday party, which is already being planned. You won’t be at his first day of school or his last day of school. I know people will say that you’re watching over him, or whatever, but that’s not even close to the same thing. Having you be a part of his life was the plan. Having you be his “Grandma Ba” was the plan.

I have a confession to make… I looked on Facebook for the kid who was driving the truck that hit you. I know, it was a stupid decision. But I waited four months, so it wasn’t a spur of the moment decision. I don’t know what I expected to find out. This person is just a typical college kid, enjoying life at a state school. What I find odd is that there is literally no mention of this life-altering experience. No, Facebook may not be the medium of choice for venting one’s frustrations or sharing information. However, you’d think something abnormal would come across the radar in someone’s profile. Nothing. Nothing? Nothing?! I’m trying so hard not to judge this person, but, had I been in those shoes, my life would have been forever changed. I don’t know what I thought would be an appropriate Facebook post… Maybe something along the lines of “tough day?” But there’s nothing. It just baffles me – and from the outside, for those of you that read my posts, it will be easy to come up with some excuse or rational explanation, but just think about how your life would change had you been involved in a fatal accident that took the lives of two people. Would you go on with your life as though nothing had changed? Would you update three days later about some pointless crap? Three days after my mom’s death I was updating Facebook with the details of her funeral. Three days later my brother and I were going through piles of papers, forms, and statements so that we could find a way to pay for her funeral. I know that if I were involved in some kind of accident that took the life of another person (let alone two people), I would be so shaken and upset that I would hardly know which way was up.

Sigh… this post took a completely different course than I had intended. It wasn’t the plan for me to become so upset and agitated at things I can’t control. It wasn’t the plan for me to share how angry I still am. It wasn’t the plan for any of this to happen, was it?

Autumn has arrived

Dear Mom,

Autumn has arrived. I don’t know why I’m telling you that, but it’s just odd to me that we’ve entered a whole other season. Three months you’ve been gone now… and time still continues on. The world doesn’t stop, although it certainly feels like it on “those days.”

I had to go over to the house last weekend to look for some plates. Do you know where they are? They’re the “German” ones (although Aunt Debbie says they’re actually from Canada) from Grandma. I can’t imagine where they would be since I have half the set here already. Everytime I go over to the house, which has literally been twice in three months, I feel like I need to take this or that with me. Everything in there has a meaning or story. I could literally recite a little tidbit about each item in that house. It’s hard to NOT want to just take everything, but holding onto “stuff” won’t bring you back, no matter how much I wish it were so.

You’d be proud to see how big Logan’s getting. He’s crawling now. We purchased his first Halloween costume, which I know you would hate because it was so expensive. But it’s his first Halloween and the costume is absolutely adorable, so why not? I just can’t fathom how much he, and everyone really, has changed since you left us. Some days it seems like a lifetime ago, while others it feels like yesterday.

I still find myself “forgetting” that you’re gone. It’s like that brief second where I think I’ll call or see you, but then realize that will never happen again. It’s hard. It really is. I never thought I’d be without you in my life at only 27. I’ve learned to do more on my own now, whereas I used to call and ask you. I still don’t cook, though, which I’m sure pisses you off.

Hamilton Co. sheriff’s department said that the crash report would be done on Monday. I don’t know how I feel about that… Obviously I’m glad to have it done and behind us, but it will be hard to NOT read it. And honestly I don’t want to read it. I don’t want to look at the pictures. I don’t want to read witness statements giving me a second-hand account of how you died. But how can I not when it’s right in front of me? I’m actually nervous about it… as though Monday brings some monumental decision. It doesn’t. It just brings all the pain and sadness back from where I’ve locked it away.

I still have my days where I feel so disconnected to the world. I wonder what the purpose is. I wonder why we have to go through this. I wonder if there’s anything after, and if so, what is it? I wonder about stupid things, like if you get remarried because your spouse dies, do you have two spouses in heaven? How does everyone get along? Is it crowded there? It must be. People have been dying since the dawn of time, so there are lots and lots of people around, right? Thinking about this stuff makes me feel so small and unimportant. It makes me realize that things I used to worry about aren’t even a blip on my worry radar now. It makes me feel like I’m just going through the emotions because why try any harder than I have to just to get by? None of this will matter in the end… While that does sound apathetic, it also pushes me to make my time here meaningful. Am I really doing what I ought to be doing? Am I using the talents God gave me to my best ability? I often don’t think so. I feel pushed to do something else, to search for that one thing that will make me feel a little bigger and more important. Mostly I feel pushed to take control of my own happiness and success. I’m tired of having things dictated to me. This is how I should be as a wife. This is how I should be as a teacher. I really think I need to lead the way to my own happiness. Nobody else is going to “fix” me. And, to be honest, I can’t fix myself. Not where I am now. I’m stifled and choked with policies, rules, and trivial expectations. My creativity is beaten down and my personality is locked away. Instead I’ve become someone who is angry, bitter, and cynical. Not only has this become my coping mechanism, but it has also become a way to deal with me feeling that I’m not being heard. I have amazing ideas. I am innovative and creative. I need to know that I’m valued, nurtured in my profession, and cultivated to be a leader or part of the leading body. I just feel like there’s more for me and I’m not quite sure where to look just yet…

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