Evie is not 15 months like it says in the header. She's 17 months. And, Lila quickly moves closer to being a four year old every time I look at her. The header is reminding me that I've been stuck in time for six weeks. I have tried to write this post probably thirty times. It's just never right.
This blog used to be my therapy. My "you are not alone" soap box of motherhood. Now I'm afraid of over sharing and afraid of subjecting you to the really real life that is currently mine. I've never had that fear before. I have always embraced being candid and hoped that you would indulge in it with me. Motherhood is hard. Parenting is really so very hard...and amazing. If I feel that sharing my parenting world is worth writing a whole blog about (for a select few readers), then I owe you the opportunity to know what happens to a parent when they lose a parent. Grieving while parenting doesn't really have a word like "hard" to tie a pretty bow around. The closest I can think of is ugly.
I'm 32 years old and my dad passed away unexpectedly six weeks ago. Because writing helps me to understand everything so much better I began to email myself instead of writing blog posts. I wasn't ready then to share. I actually labeled the emails "in place of blogging" with the hopes that I could figure out how to appropriately write a post about this. I have since given up trying to be appropriate. Death is hard AND ugly. Nothing appropriate about it.
SO, I am simply going to cut and paste my emails to myself here diary style. I know that I'm over sharing. I know that it's hard to read. Believe me...I do know all of this. But, similarly to being the first of many of my friends to have children, I am one of the first to lose a parent. Maybe in some weird way I just want you to know I've been there and it was awful...and I'm coming through it every day.
Here goes (he passed on 8/25/12) ...
That feeling in the pit of my stomach that is creating the nausea began slipping away. We went camping and I was so distracted by my children and making sure Evie didn't eat straight dirt that it was gone. We come home and one of his good friends calls me and it's back. Just that fast. Molly brings dinner. Nicki sends a Facebook message checking on me. People that I adore but that I would never expect to check on me are checking on me. People want to send food. I get five cards minimum a day in the mail, and something pops up every single day reminding me. Sometimes it's a little something. Other times it's a big gigantic something that makes it hard to catch my breath. Of course, every day starts off and ends with it. I read this blog religiously. I've mentioned it before. Momastery. She's a recovering addict. She's out to change the world one battle for love at a time. I feel like I want to be her (as a writer that is) and be her best friend all at the same time. She calls them lobsters. The addicts who get so lost and even lose their lives to it. They are someone's lobster. I haven't read far back enough to know why she calls them that. He wasn't technically an addict was he? I mean, of course he was. Just because he didn't have that last line of coke doesn't mean that last piece of steak didn't kill him. It doesn't mean we aren't just as angry with him for leaving too early when he could have stayed...if he had just tried harder to stay. Just because he had a heart attack doesn't mean he hadn't given up.
I type those words and the nausea becomes a lump in my throat. It's like someone is jumping up and down on my heart. Don't think those things I say to myself. Don't be angry. Focus on the sad because the angry does no good. The sad leads to healing and reminiscing. The angry leads to more anger. That's how anger works. It can be such a small seed that leads to a mountain of weeds you can't get rid of. It's been a little over a week and the weeds keep growing. But, some part of me knows the anger will fade away. I look at my girls and I can feel how he felt about them. That's the only "feeling" like that I have been able to have yet. It's so strange to look at your children through the eyes of someone else. So strange I can't even begin to explain it. What I can say is while it's overwhelming it's intoxicating. I look at them all day every day. When I see what I feel like he saw I just want to hug him.
A little piece of us dies with the departed. That's all I actually remember hearing at the memorial service in Florida. I was having a hard time putting this into words for myself. This intense, debilitating pain that feels like a cloud I can't escape. How do you survive the death of a part of who you are? A part that is so deeply lodged there yet completely broken. I have come to learn that really all you can do is survive it. Everyone says celebrate him...think of the good memories...know he is in a better place. I'm not there yet. Not even close actually.
Frustrated with myself at my frustration towards people who have happy things going on. I want to erase this from my mind and move on and make happy things happen. Instead, I have zero motivation, lots of anger, and this cloud I'm trying to push away seems to like it here.
I went a whole week feeling not sad. Or, maybe it was more like five days. And when I say not sad I mean not violently crying every. single. day. Regardless, I couldn't figure out where the cloud went. It hasn't been that long really. I felt a little scared that it was gone. Almost like something must be wrong with me. Then last night it reared it's ugly head. That grief monster will find you and when it does you will not be ready.
I want to say it started because of a commercial I saw on TV. This commercial is so good. I typically hate commercials. Truthfully, DVR is the best thing that ever happened to technology if you ask me. But, for some reason this commercial was on and I couldn't breathe again. I couldn't think. All I could do was stare and wait to feel overwhelmed by it. When it was over I wasn't overwhelmed. I was tired.
Later on I went to bed and the grief monster was there. Of course, that's when the monsters come out anyway right? I think I've said this before, but what do the grievers do when there is no one to hug them through it? How do they survive? I don't understand. I want to go find people who don't have that and just hug them all day.
My aunt passed away just four months before my dad. My cousin sent me the stages of grief. I read them but felt like they must be so different for everyone. Not that I need to know which one I'm in or which one is coming. It's more like when something is happening I want to read the stages and make sure I'm normal. Especially when nothing about this feels normal.
Unfortunately, the hardest part of all of this is how distant I feel from my own life. I see people and feel miles away. I see my own children and have a hard time connecting. As if this wasn't hard enough. I want to look at Lila and somehow express to her concrete thinking three year old brain that her mommy will come back. Instead I power through because that's what moms do right? Instead I hope that somehow I provide enough happy mommy throughout the day to suffice for now.
September 18th was going on a month ago now. After that email I officially entered the stage known as depression and began to fear I would never leave it. Blogging not only seemed absurd, but emailing myself wasn't even on my radar anymore. Survive the day was the name of the game.
Slowly somewhere in the past three weeks I've started making peace. I've cut myself some slack in the parenting/being a wife department. I've taken this more as a day by day thing than a get over it and move on thing.
People constantly say that being a stay at home mom is the hardest job ever. Honestly, I don't think anyone believes that unless they've done it. And the ones who have done it just smile and nod when the ones who haven't say "it must be tough work!". Don't get me wrong. It's glorious and a true gift in it's own right. BUT, you don't get to crawl in bed for days and cry. You don't get to be miserable and truly BE it as much as you need. That more than anything else has been the hardest part for me. Small children need so much and give so much. They know what's up even if they don't really know.
Lila knows me angry, frustrated, happy, and excited. She now also knows me very sad. It has made her more empathetic. It has made her more aware of her own emotions and how to express them. It has helped her even when I felt like I ruined her by letting her watch TV all day when I just couldn't be 100% mom that day.
The depression feels gone. The anger is slipping away very slowly. My house is actually sort of clean. My kids see happy mommy most of the day. Things are turning around. I try to feel this as it comes and hold onto the normalcy as much as I can. I still fear the grief monster, but at least now I feel better equipped to take it on.
For those of you who were there that night...for those of you who have held my hand, called me, sent me messages, brought us food, sent a card, cried with me, watched my children, etc. etc. you must know how important that is. Often people don't know what to do in these situations. My best advice is do whatever you can. Every little bit adds up to quite a lot. Know for a fact that it makes a massive difference even when you feel sure it doesn't.
Also know this. When a person is out of sorts, has a bad attitude, or is downright nasty stop yourself in your reaction and think. What is going on with this person? Grief can make everything ugly and difficult. Remember that. If they are a stranger cut them a break. You have no idea what happened to them yesterday. If they are closer to you and you don't know the cause assume the bigger person role. Maybe they just aren't ready to tell you yet. I'm not saying excuse awful behavior. Just look and think a little deeper. Find a way to rise above just in case they feel so lost they can't see you for the tears they are choking down. I didn't know that before. I know that now.