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Saturday, October 31, 2015

Holiday Rain

I'm glad it's raining today. It feels right that this morning while driving, I couldn't determine whether my inability to see was due to the rain on the windshield or the tears in my eyes. In an odd way it's comforting when I see that the world is crying too. It's less lonely for the moment.

Halloween hurts. All holidays hurt. I remember very early in my grief when someone said, "Well why don't we just CANCEL Christmas!!" He meant it facetiously, and in a way that said, "what a ridiculous idea", but I remember thinking (and probably saying, because let's face it, I'm not quiet), "Yes! Let's do!" And I meant it. Holidays aren't worth the ache for me anymore. I've discovered that the things that hurt the most, usually do so because they were the moments we loved so much before loss. Grief steals so many things, and the anger  and pain of stolen happiness is sometimes just too much to bear. I used to love the holidays. I remember thinking that I would NEVER miss a Christmas morning with my kids. Being a nurse, that could have proven to be difficult. But now, I'm honestly considering signing up to work extra that day. At least then maybe I could pretend it wasn't happening.

That last thought reminds me of something else I've noticed throughout this process. Obviously, I release some of this continuous pain through writing. I often describe my experiences, mostly for a way to "see", in a concrete way, what I'm feeling. This gets difficult for some people because they make assumptions that my anger or pain  is directed at a certain person or moment. While I'll admit that I've had several not-so-pleasant moments regarding others and my grief, I have to say that a huge majority of the time I don't remember who said what. I just know the ache in my heart and the burn in my chest. I would venture to guess that this is true of most grieving people. Sometimes we're just angry and we just hurt. It probably has nothing to do with you. Grief is very selfish. We won't be fair or even kind sometimes. I'm not saying that's right or even ok, but it just IS. I understand that it's difficult for some to accept this aspect of grief, and it's ok with me if it's something you just can't handle. Just know that I can't be around you. That isn't meant to hurt, it's just reality. I'm doing what I can to live in my skin right now. I can't add hurdles to a race in which I'm barely crawling.

And maybe I "should" be done with this phase by now. Or maybe that's the perception of some. I'll tell you something else about grief...time is a sonofabitch. I've noticed recently when asked "how long has it been" that I hesitate and then answer, incorrectly, that it's been two and a half years. It's actually been almost 3. But I don't want that to be true, and for me it isn't. For me, it was a million years and simultaneously just a second ago. I can't describe the hell that this time confusion creates within my body. Recently someone said, "wow, I didn't think it had been that long ago." My body immediately reacted (and not because it was "wrong" to say it or because I now "hate that person forever"... see above paragraph). Honestly, I don't even remember who said it or where I was. I just know what my heart went through after hearing it..."wait...has it been long? It was just a minute ago that I was tickling him after his bath and trying to keep him from crawling away as he giggled. It was just yesterday that I was standing in the kitchen and heard him call 'Mama' from the living room. That wasn't 'years' ago. Years are long and time is supposed to heal. But my heart still burns."  It's like if I say three years out loud, I lost him all over again. Every day that comes, is a day further from the last moment I kissed his face and my tears fell in his hair. I already feel so far from him. I can't admit to the amount of earthly time.

My grief has changed over time, but I still ache every day. I miss him with every breath. I am no longer afraid of my own death and sometimes would honestly prefer that it come quickly. That isn't weird or worrisome. It's just reality. If you have children, you typically know where they are and who they're with, right? Even if they're grown, you know where they live. You've seen their space. That's all I want. He isn't here. I want to be where he is. You would too. It's just part of loving your children. You may have to get a plane ticket to see your children, but you do it, because nothing could keep you from it. Well, my plane ticket doesn't exist, but you could bet that if I found a way to see him, I'd swim and ocean to do it. Or die trying.

My thoughts are random and haunting today, as they are for most holiday celebrations. I have no plans for the day, and I like it that way. I give myself the space to hurt, but also enjoy. And today I'll be grateful that the world cries with me.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Back to Work

I suppose I should stop being surprised by the roller coaster of emotions I go through on a daily basis, following the loss of Easton. But I'm constantly amazed at how many conflicting feelings I can have in a 24 hour period. This is especially true since I recently decided to go back to work.

I often wondered how that would work exactly. I mean, how in the hell do you fit grief into a work schedule? Since the weather is changing, and my especially difficult season is coming, I've noticed, once again, that daily life has become more tiresome and painful. I guess I kind of expected that again this year, but this time I've added another layer. I'm working. My job involves caring for others. I still wonder how that's going to work some days. I recently had one of my truly awful days in which breathing was particularly painful. As hard as I tried to push past it and ignore the burning in my chest, I just couldn't do it. It was one of those days where even my skin wasn't enough to hold me together. I felt like one wrong move and I would go everywhere at once. The pain is so intense during moments like these and I have no choice but to succumb to the feelings.

I cried at work. Big, awful, crocodile tears in the break room. I couldn't stop them. The pain just leaked from my eyes as I sat trying to eat lunch. But you can't eat lunch when your body hurts like that. The sight of food is exhausitng. As I sat there, I contemplated what I should do next. Would I be able to pull it together long enough to care for my patients again? Was a 30 minute "break" a sufficient amount of time to release some of this pain? Should I go home "sick"?

That last one crosses my mind a lot actually. I suppose I'm not actually "sick"  but I can't think of a time in my life where my body physically hurt more than it does now. I guess I can't call it an illness, but God does it feel like one. One without a medication. One without a cure. I think about those times when I've been ill in the past and how that first day of feeling well again was so amazing. I've wondered what happens to those of us who can't "get better." There is no magic pill. I will be broken until I die. I will hurt with each breath I take.

I don't know what the answers are in those situations. I didn't go home sick that day. Maybe some other day I will. Who knows? I've decided that having all the answers is overrated  (and impossible). Instead, I had a conversation with a compassionate co-worker. I put my uneaten lunch back into its bag, and I stood up. My heart still ached in my chest and my lungs still burned at their struggle for a less painful breath, but I put my stethoscope back around my neck and I walked back onto the floor.

It's healing in many ways, this job I do. I see happy families learning life with their newest members. I talk with scared parents as they navigate their new role. I give pain medication for a pain that can actually be relieved. I love being a nurse, and it hurts me. I adore my job and it wears me out. It brings me great pleasure and intense pain. I suppose that's just what life is now. This is how it feels to be broken.

But, in a way I'm grateful for my brokenness. I'm a different nurse because of it, and I've enjoyed discovering myself in my new/old role. It makes me appreciate the good moments so much more. I'm grateful to my patients and coworkers for the brief distractions from my pain. I'm grateful to my body (flawed as it may be) for carrying me through those hellish moments and allowing me to take that next step. And I'm grateful to my son, whose spirit I can feel with such intensity each time I clock in,  that it sometimes takes my breath away. So, I guess I'll just keep clocking in. I'll probably keep crying. I'll keep putting one foot in front of the other, and I'll probably continue to be caught off guard by the dips and turns of the roller coaster.

I'm grateful to my co-workers for their compassion and patience. I'm grateful to my husband for his constant support (and the flowers I came home to yesterday "just because I'm proud of you"). And I'm grateful to my patients for allowing this broken mother to care for them.