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Sunday, November 27, 2016

Sure Momma, Sure

He was the most agreeable little boy, my Logan. He used to toddle around, literally agreeing with everything I said...."sure, Momma, sure!" His little voice was always so high-pitched and excited. Somewhere along the way, I blinked and that sweet, blonde baby turned 13. His voice is deeper, his jokes are awful, and his cologne is abundant...

He's recently become too cool for some family outings. He still goes, but he brings an ipod to prove his disinterest in happenings around him. So, I wasn't overly surprised when I met my family at the Christmas Tree farm on the day after Thanksgiving and was told by my daughter that Logan was still sitting in the van.

"Logan is being a butt, and won't come out to help us look for the tree..."

So I trudged up the hill to find him, my legs feeling like they weighed 100 pounds each. I was "trying" this time. I have been absent for the holidays the past four years and I was really trying to be present for these few moments while we found a tree. But it's a soul-crushing experience for me. Still, I was trying, so I made my way to the van to drag my tween from his hiding spot.

I looked in the window and saw him hunched around his ipod, hoodie pulled up over his head, intent on some sort of cyber-world domination, no doubt. But then he caught me looking at him and his face just fell. I opened the door and he scooted over as far as he could in the passenger seat and I sat next to him. And then, this child who is too cool, who is taller than me, climbed into my lap, laid his head on my shoulder and sobbed.

I said nothing. I just held him as his shoulders heaved beneath my hands. He doesn't like to talk about it, so we didn't in that moment, but we didn't have to. I knew. My heart was screaming too. Words were unnecessary.

He decided to ride back home with me while Jeff and the girls hauled the tree home in the van. I waited for him to talk if he wanted to, expecting nothing. We rode in silence for awhile and then...

"He should be here, Mom."

"Yes, he should be. And I'm so incredibly sorry that he's not."

"When we were waiting for you to get here, Addi kept saying, 'we have to wait for Mom to get here'...I didn't say anything, but in my head I was screaming, 'SHE'S NOT THE ONLY ONE MISSING!!'"

In that moment, as the tears spilled over, he wasn't just my little boy. He wasn't  my annoying tween. He was a fellow broken heart. He knew grief. He knew it well, and I'd felt alone for entirely too long. So I thanked him. I thanked him for sharing that, for saying what my heart was screaming, for being brave enough to admit to his pain.  And because he'd shared, I did too. I told him that I'm trying. That every day feels like Christmas Tree day for me. And that although I'm eternally grateful for the moments we have as a family, that I forever feel that missing piece...

"Have you noticed that we don't take family pictures anymore? It's not because I don't want them. It's because I can't. My whole family isn't here. And that's hard for some people in our family. It's hard for them to understand why I can't. And that's ok. They can't understand. And I'm glad they can't. It just doesn't change how I feel."

"I can understand that, Mom. It makes sense to me. We don't have to do them."

I thanked him again. And again and again. I thanked him for sharing and I thanked him for making me feel less lonely and I thanked him for making the tree process better for me. Without him there, it seemed as though Jeff and I were just taking the girls to get it. Neither of the boys were participating, and somehow that makes breathing easier. So, because of his bravery, and his ability to allow himself to truly feel, he'd saved me. That's how we're doing this. We aren't doing it "right." We aren't always making the best decisions, and we certainly aren't doing anything that makes sense to anyone else. But we're doing it. We're breaking when we need to, and we're saving one another when we can.

He may be taller than me. He may be too cool. But all I saw that day, as he lay in my lap, pouring his heart out was my little blonde baby telling me that what I'm feeling is ok....

"Sure, Momma, sure..."

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Grief That Stole Christmas

Well, here we are...another holiday season. These damn things just keep coming. I go through so many emotions this time of year. I'm currently pissed. And of course, we all know that anger actually comes from a place of hurt. And that it does...grief HURTS. I can't describe the pain of "preparing" for yet another holiday season without my son. He'd be six now. What should I be finding to put under the tree for a six year old? But more specifically, what would MY six year old want this year?

My job is hard right now. It's difficult to hear the excitement of families as they welcome new babies into their homes for the holiday season. It's a gift to witness it, and a pain I can't describe all at the same time. So often I turn to anger during this time of year. It's easier than breaking, because once I do there will be no going back. I have recognized that my anger/hurt/desire to not participate in life right now has been difficult on some of my co-workers. I'm sorry for that, and I wish I could handle this differently, but I can't .

I'm so UNBELIEVABLY tired of living in a world without him. I don't want to do it anymore. That statement freaks people out and usually illicits some sort of side-long, uncertain glance and complete silence. Don't mistake my pain and misery for wanting to end my life. That's not what I want. I just don't want to keep living here. There is a distinct difference between the two. And I'm almost certain that if you've experienced this kind of loss, you'll feel the same. It's not such a difficult concept, really. You know where your children are, right? You know who their friends are, where their interests lie, etc. Even if they don't live in your house, you visit them. And why? Because you miss them, but also because you want to see their living space  You want to see where they lay their head at night. That makes sense. I understand that. I just want the same thing.

The idea of stages of grief often make me laugh. The thought of having "stages" suggests a linear movement, and that just isn't the way this works. There have been times in the last year or so that I've been actually thriving despite the intense pain of grief that never leaves me. I'm grateful for those times, but they can't last forever. Lately, I am feeling the immense pull of debilitating grief. I'm so angry and so incredibly hurt that I can't concentrate on the simplest of tasks. I just can't. It doesn't matter how hard I try to push it down, it cannot be denied. I'm turning inside myself, and I can feel it. My insides hurt. My skin is all that's holding me together, and even that skin feels foreign. While I may carry on a conversation outwardly, inside I am screaming. Constantly.

I recently had a conversation with a fellow broken mother about the agony that is our existence. We were discussing the idea of "gratitude" in terms of life now. She quite correctly pointed out that people who grieve tend to feel some sort of obligation to prove gratitude despite their pain. And it's true. There seems to be some sort of unspoken rule that if we mention our pain, we must also mention our gratitude. That's exhausting. And the truth is, I know very few people who show gratitude for daily life as intensely as that of someone whose heart is irreparably broken. She is grateful. I am grateful. Every. Single. Day. But sometimes I'm also pissed. I have great difficulty with someone describing a grieving mother as someone  who is "doing really well!" It's said with such admiration and excitement sometimes that it honestly makes it difficult for me not to punch them. And it's not because I want anyone to hurt like this. I certainly do not. But, I guess I'm writing to those of us who aren't ok. I'm writing to those of us who are sometimes so angry that we feel as though we could spontaneously combust at any moment. To those whose chests burn like fire at the thought of having to hang stockings and buy gifts for a day that will forever feel empty.

The holidays are here, and so I'll die again, just like last year and much like I anticipate I will do every year until I no longer have to endure it. I ask for patience from those around me, but I definitely don't expect it. I ask for understanding but am fully aware of some people's inability to give it. I am sorry for my inability to listen to Christmas music without feeling anger. I'm sorry for my attitude that is in direct opposition to social norms during this season. But I'm mostly sorry that I have to do this again.