"Don't get dirty!"
"Don't hit your brother!"
"That doesn't match. You need to change your clothes."
"Don't touch the glass with your dirty hands!"
I know I've talked about this particular issue more times than I can count. But it's just THAT consuming. I cannot describe what it feels like to have your identity stolen from you, one piece at a time. Grief and major loss changes you at your very core. Of course some small parts of you remain intact, but so many things about your personality are fundamentally different. It changes the way you view life, of course. It changes the way you view death. It even changes the words that come out of your mouth. Not one of the above sentences are currently part of my parenting repertoire. But they were at one time, right? I remember being concerned about those things. That old part of me must have said them, because I hear them now from others and I think, "That sounds so familiar, and yet unbelievably foreign."
I'm inundated with a barrage of conflicting emotions all day long, every day. But there are certain moments that are so supercharged that I can't even begin to do it justice with words. I liken it to a snow globe. Each flake is a different emotion, and when shaken, the calm of the globe is disrupted within an instant and the emotions swirl around in a thousand different directions, never following the path you think they will. I'm doing a terrible job of explaining this, but it's probably the most difficult part to try and describe. At any given moment, I can be extremely angry, happy, sad, afraid, and grateful. So many things about my new perspective are gifts, but not all of them. Some of them just make it hard to live in the world.
Everyone has a "carpe diem" attitude for short periods of time. Something major happens on a global scale and the whole world can be on high alert, and filled with a new sense of appreciation for the small things in life...for a moment. But, inevitably, we go back to normal. Life takes on that predictable ebb and flow and we sink back into our daily grind. I've found that this isn't the case with grief. I can't get back there. Sometimes I'm begging to be back there. I'm begging to fit into the world around me. I can't "turn off" the part of me that says, "none of this matters." It's like the phrase, "don't sweat the small stuff." I'm never sweating, because for me, nearly every part of life is the small stuff. I don't get worked up about much anymore, and of course that can be very freeing, but it also makes it difficult to be around me. How annoying is it to constantly be reminded that your everyday worries are essentially nothing? I can't imagine what it must be like for those friends who've stuck around long enough to find out just how much fun I am at the moment. It's difficult for ME, and I'm the one doing it, so it must be hell for them sometimes.
I no longer care if my children get dirty. It just means they're capable of doing so. They can run through mud, or slide into home. I'm grateful for that simple gift they've been given, and I don't assume that it will always be something they're capable of doing. And the command, "Don't hit your brother!" doesn't apply here. I'm amazed at what my kids have taught me about letting them simply experience things without my input. I remember when my youngest son used to hit my older son in the nose, repeatedly. Easton was a toddler, and at one time I would have explained to him that hitting wasn't nice, and that he should stop what he was doing. But, he'd already taught me to step back and let my kids fight some of their own battles. If Logan had wanted him to stop, he could have remedied the situation all on his own. So, I just sat back and watched them. I offered no suggestions, and today I'm incredibly grateful for the lesson they taught in that moment. That "game" in which Logan was absolutely getting hurt, is one of his favorite memories of his brother.
"Don't touch the glass with your dirty hands!" We say this one often, as children are always walking around touching things with their grimy little paws. Yet again, my kids taught me to let that one go. Ironically, it was after his death that Easton imparted this wisdom. I remember when it was just the two of us at home, and I would try desperately to get a workout in, around his highly demanding schedule. Due to the fact that he had so many seizures, he could never be left alone. Consequently, he had to be right next to me during every attempted workout. He found it quite hilarious that I was jumping with the lady on the screen, but even he, with his limited mobility, would tire of just watching and crawled over to the TV. That, in and of itself, was honestly a miracle. Then he would pull himself to his knees and touch every part of the television that he could reach. When I "scolded" him for being in my way, he'd look back at me with an ornery grin and continue to smear little hand prints all over the screen.
As you can probably imagine, the months ( and even years) following your child's death, involve very little cleaning. In fact, it involves little more than breathing. So, several months after the most horrific day of my life, I pulled myself from the fetal position and began attempting to clean up the basement. When I got to the television, I stopped dead in my tracks. There, on the screen, were perfectly preserved, ornery baby hand prints. In that moment, I could see his effort, his grin, and his eventual reach in my direction. Of course it dropped me to my knees, but it also gave me a brief moment of connection with the boy I hadn't held in entirely too long. See? A million emotions at once. And this example is the best I can give as to the constant push and pull in different directions. It helps me describe what it's like to never again be concerned about small things like smudges on glass. In fact, it's not just that I don't "worry" about such things, I actually beg them...please, my babies...touch the glass.