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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Please

AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!   You can't be gone. You just can't because I can't do this.  I can't take it anymore.  I don't want to be here. Not without you.  Please, please, please come back.  I'll do better.  I'll figure something out this time.  Just come back. I can't breathe. I can't sleep.  I can't move.

Nights are always harder, but days aren't much better.  Reaching into your empty crib and coming back with nothing is like being stabbed repeatedly, but being unable to turn away from the knife in hopes that at least once the reach will be rewarded.  I can't stand being in our van without you.  So many things I used to take for granted and I didn't even know it.  I just want one more glimpse in that rear view mirror.  I want to hear you say, "Momma, Momma" and when I look back you'll be pointing to the little tv which is your way of asking for Mickey Mouse during the short drive to pick up your brother and sisters from school.  But GODDAMMIT, no matter how many times I look back there, you've never there.  The car seat is empty.  It's EMPTY!  How is that possible?  You were just there.  We were just playing the echo game where you'd yell at me and I'd answer with the same sound and then you'd smile the sweetest little knowing smile.

Why can't I hear you playing in the water during your sisters' baths?  Why aren't you splashing and bothering them?  Why aren't I complaining about having to change your pajamas AGAIN because you've gotten soaked with the suds of their bubble bath?

Can you hear me sing your bedtime song every night?  Can you hear me tell you that I love you to the moon and back?  Do you see me looking at the empty little rocking horse in your room?  I still leave the night light on for you.  I don't want you to be scared.

I take you with me to the mailbox every day.  I sing the Blues Clues mail song just like we used to.  But you don't lean over and play with the flag anymore.  You don't try to take the letters out of my hands.  Why did you stop?  Why aren't you here?

If you just come back for a little while, we can try again.  I'll work harder.  I'll give you anything.  I'd give you everything.  I'll take your place.  Just come back.  I know I sound crazy, but I don't know how to do this. How do I do this?  How do I drive an empty vehicle?  How do I get the mail?  How do I go into my bathroom and brush my teeth without you reaching into the sink to splash the water?  We did these things together.  We slept together, we played together, we cried together, we laughed together...and now, I'm certain that we breathed together. Because sleep no longer happens, playing can't be done, crying is so lonely, laughter is so full of guilt, and I haven't taken a full breath since you took your last.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Drawing The Short Straw

Why are humans so clueless when it comes to grief?  I mean, with all of the knowledge we possess and all of the things we seem to "understand", why is it that we absolutely suck at this concept?  I'll tell you why, because it's freaking INSANE.  That's why. It's up and down and in and out and guiding and twisting and pushing and pulling.  Even the person going through it has no freaking clue what's going on at any given moment.  So, it really should be no surprise that someone who hasn't had a significant brush with grief wouldn't know what to expect.

Grief, like everything else, is best understood only when you're experiencing it firsthand.  I realize that this seems sort of obvious , but I think I'm just so unbelievably shocked by the things that I'm learning, that I need to do things like state the obvious.  I'm constantly amazed by other people's reactions to someone who is grieving.  It's like it's the first time we've ever considered the possibility that another human being could be in this much pain.  We fumble for the "right" words, and we trip over the wrong ones all the time. We try to find a common ground when we know that one doesn't exist.  We reach out hesitantly, desperately wanting to alleviate pain, but oddly enough, looking for our own comfort at the same time.

It's as if we're children, and we have no previous life experience to guide us.  Although, oddly enough, children are so much better at it than we are.  I can't believe how many times I've heard someone say, "I didn't want to say anything, because I'm afraid I'll make you sad."  This blows my mind.  First of all, I hate the word "sad". I use it all the time, but I hate it because it doesn't even scratch the surface.  I'm not "sad", I'm broken, I'm shredded, I'm turned inside out, I'm lost, I'm gone.  But, I'm not "sad."  Secondly, this is a constant state for me.  It is the very essence of my current existence, so hearing you say his name or bringing up a memory you cherish will not make me "sad."  In fact, I LOVE hearing stories about him.  It's hearing them stop that will be unbearable.

One of the worst things about grief is that it changes so many hidden aspects of your life.  It's not enough that a piece of you has died, you're also faced with a whole new set of "normal."  People who used to call and text, asking mundane questions, or just making a funny joke aren't doing that anymore.  And I don't say this to make my phone start lighting up like the Fourth of July.  Because I NEED the space, but it doesn't change the fact that this is yet another difference.  I think the changes have to do with the fact that when the earth loses even one soul, it's thrown off a bit.  Alignment is going to shift. Life is going to shift. I truly believe that we're all connected, and on some level we all feel each other's losses.

This brings me to another point.  ALL grief is different.  I'm always interested to see the ways in which people try to connect their grief with someone else's.  I'm not surprised, just interested.  We all do this.  It's part of our need to stay connected.  I do this, too.  Even now, I find myself seeking out others who have lost children.  But guess what? Not ONE of us is the same.  We all grieve in totally different ways and we're all in different stages.  I thought that talking to someone with a sick child would be more like my situation than someone who lost a child in a car accident.  And while there are certainly some similarities, the truth is that each situation is so incredibly different because of the people involved in the grief.  This shouldn't be all that shocking, but I assure you it is.

Something I've noticed and struggled with recently is the fact that I tend to only gravitate toward a small group of people.  I can only speak to certain individuals right now.  I don't know why this is, but I do know that I can't help it.  What I've learned though, is that this makes those who have always been close to me, uncomfortable.  I am truly sorry for that, and if I could change it I would.  But, I can't.  This is just how it is right now.  It doesn't mean that I love you less or that you've done something to hurt me.  This isn't about anyone but me.  As selfish as that may sound, it's the truth.  This is the raw, harsh truth of grief.  It doesn't make sense.  It hurts, and it leaves us questioning every part of it.

I don't intend for this to sound like a complaint. And I certainly don't want anyone to think that I'm above any of this. Until now, I'd never been through this either, so I said/thought all the same things. To be quite honest, I'm still confused as to how this works.  I'm simply trying to put into words what it feels like to be in this world I'm living in. Well, at least what it feels like for me.  I'm sure others in similar situations could disagree, and that's ok.  In fact, I would expect that to be the case.   Just know that wherever I am in this process, however I seem to the outside world, I still feel the connections.  I feel the love and support. I feel the pain and empathy. And I thank you for all of it, even if I can't say it to you right now.  I especially thank those who have seen my worst and haven't run away screaming.  Sometimes I feel like you drew the short straw, and although I'm inclined to apologize for that, I'm so very glad you did.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Easton Timeout

I've tried several things to make the burning stop, to feel like my feet are on the ground again.  That doesn't get better, no matter how hard I try.  But, today, for the briefest moment, I felt ALIVE. He was with me. He was beside me, in me, all around me and I FELT him.

A woman, who'd gotten my name from a mutual friend, called today and talked to me about her child and their battle with epilepsy.  This was the first time in a LONG time that I'd talked at length about something that had been literally every second of my life for  nearly two years.  When my son died, that part of me seemed to die with him. I'd lost that connection to a world that had become home.  We talked about therapies, medications, and diets.  But, most importantly we talked about how DAMN LONELY it is to live in the world of seizures.  We talked about how terrifying it is to discover the lack of information out there, the fear in the pit of your stomach that threatens to swallow you whole with every decision you have to make.  It was good to hear my old voice.  It was wonderful to know that I am still in here, somewhere.

After that conversation, my kids and I had our very first "Easton Timeout."  I'd encouraged others to take this special timeout with their families, but hadn't actually been able to do it myself.  You know how you work so hard at making a perfect life that you forget to live?  This is where the Easton Timeout comes in and saves you.  I got my children some ice cream after school.  It was before their dinner and it's the middle of winter, but I didn't care.  And then, something amazing happened.  I'd been wanting to do something like this for along time, but I felt, in that moment that my son was saying, "Right now.  Do it now."  We provided a little "pay it forward" sort of moment for some strangers there.  I attached a little note that said, "This is an EASTON TIMEOUT!  Be someone's superhero! In memory of Easton Zanger."  As soon as I handed it over to person who would deliver the message, I felt my baby right next to me.  I looked at his picture on my dashboard and I swear his smile grew a little wider. I felt life coursing through my veins.  I immediately started to cry.  Now I KNOW what I'm supposed to do.  THIS.  I'm supposed to encourage love for others in his name.  I'm supposed to be that voice on the other end of the phone for the scared and lonely mother who thinks she's drowning, but whom I know is giving her life to her child.  I'm supposed to remember.  I'm supposed to give. And I'm supposed to LOVE. 

I will, Baby.  As long as I'm here, there will be love.  There will be extra family time. And, there will be superheroes!!!!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Scared Tummy

It usually starts with a picture. And, it typically happens in the early morning hours because I haven't yet gone to sleep. No sleep because it's too hard to shut my eyes. There are too many "other" pictures there. Pictures that will never leave, no matter what I do to stop them.

It grows from somewhere in the middle of my chest, and then seems to sweep all throughout my body.  It's a suffocating, crushing pain mixed with an angst that I can't possibly do justice with words. My eyes actually widen, my heart races, and I'm acutely aware of just how FREAKING EMPTY my arms have become.  I want to get away, but I don't know where to go.  I want to scream, but the screaming inside my head is so loud that I wouldn't be able to hear my own voice anyway. I want to know WHY? Over and over again, I want to know WHY?  And HOW?  How is it possible that I actually won't be holding him again?  How can it be that the weight of his body will no longer be felt by these arms?  Really?  It really happened?  So, he's never coming back?  Really, never?

And I can't talk myself out of these moments.  No magic pill. No perfect answer. No amount of kind words, thoughts, prayers, food, smelling clothes, punching the wall, therapy, or any other "coping" technique can take me out of that moment. It's terrifying and all-encompassing. I've struggled so long to put a name to this feeling.  I haven't been able to put into words exactly how it feels.  And I've tried several times because it helps me to see the words, to know that I can have something concrete. But, I've been a mother long enough  to realize that I should have known where to look for the perfect articulation. My five-year-old daughter is a genius.

Morgan (fidgeting on the couch next to me): "Mommy.  Sometimes I just get so scared.  I get scared and I don't know what I want."

Me: "You know, Baby, I feel like that a lot.  It scares me too, and I don't know why."

Morgan: "Sometimes I'm scared in my tummy.  But now I don't know what part of my body is scared.  Sometimes I wonder if it's all of my parts. I used to go find Easton when I was scared, because he made me laugh.  I can't do that anymore, Mommy.  Because he's in heaven. I don't want him to be in heaven anymore. I get tired of having a scared tummy."

So, if you ever find yourself at a loss for words, wondering if there is anything you can say that will be "right", go find my daughter.  She's gotten it "right" so many times.  I hate that for her, but am so very grateful that she knows how to say what I can't.