Friday, April 3, 2009

My best friend, who happens to know a thing or two about grieving, suggested to me this past weekend that I should be journaling more.

I know she's right. But the thing about grief is that sometimes it's so exhausting just getting through the necessary "to-do" items for the day that it's hard to even entertain the idea of doing anything "extra," much less doing it.

Right now, anything "extra" in my world is defined as something that neither me nor my children is dependent upon for breathing and staying alive. Yes, that means my husband is kind of on his own!

We are heading into the four-month mark and there's something about this particular milestone. I remember reading it after Natalee had died, and trying to give Tammy ample warning. For some reason, I kind of forgot about it for myself until just recently.

The four-month phenomenon goes something like this: Four months have now passed since the death of your loved one. In that time, it's likely you've even gotten through the first significant holiday or other event without them. Other people who are close to you, but were not necessarily as close to the loved one, have moved on into their normal lives and are, on a subconscious level, anxious for you to do so as well. Certain behaviors, actions, and feelings that were ok in the weeks following the death are suddenly starting to seem odd. After all, it's been FOUR months.

A few weeks ago, a man I do not know wrote a very nice letter to the editor about my dad. The next morning I tried to read it to my kids - to illustrate to them another part of their grandfather's legacy - but could not get through the words without crying.

My 6-year old daughter, usually very sensitive and intuitive, said to me, "Isn't it about time we get moving on from this?"

I was stunned. Sometimes, as a parent, it's like a double-whammy in the grieving process and I guess that's something I don't feel some of family or friends really understand. In that moment, I needed to teach her about grieving - while dealing with my own. So I tried to explain to her that grief has no timeline and that it's ok if she's feeling better and not so sad, but I'm just not yet. And it's all ok. She immediately wanted to just drop the discussion, and was obviously remorseful she'd said anything at all. Now that's acting just like an adult.

Last week I attended the memorial service for my aunt, my dad's sister. When will I be able to get off this ride? She died March 19th, just about 3 months after my dad, after a brave battle with cancer. Her memorial service was beautiful and touching, but I don't think I've ever felt so emotionally removed from a situation that I should have been in touch with.

As I watched the video of pictures of her life play, my heart broke at seeing pictures of my dad. And my grandpa. And my grandma. And now my aunt. All such had such a huge presence in my childhood, in shaping me, in creating the person I am today. And all of them are gone. And I need and want them all HERE still. I felt like I was standing outside a window looking in at a life that couldn't possibly be mine. How is it possible to have everything I wanted in my life and still be so miserable and lonely?

I'm not in a good place right now, but there's really no place for that in daily life. When people ask how I'm doing I try to be honest but the truth is noone has time to hear it all. And everyone has their own life problems and issues to deal with, including grief. I'm hoping that by recognizing the depths I'm sinking to, I'm taking the first step in climbing back out. I never expected it to be an easy or short road - and truly the loneliness is the only thing that has caught me by surprise.

When Natalee died, I was angry with people around me who were having babies and just assuming everything would be ok. It got so that I stopped seeking out friends who were pregnant, because I just felt so frustrated with them. Now I find those same feelings starting to surface again... toward friends and family who are just going on with their lives exactly as they've expected to. Nothing about my life is what I expected it to be six months ago and none of it has truly been by my choosing.  And it continues on.

I've been giving some of my friends a hard time about upcoming vacations... it seems like 3/4 of everyone I know is headed somewhere sunny and warm for spring break. And the truth is, most of them need a vacation every bit as badly as I do - they also need a break from the strains and stresses of family illnesses and other stressful life events. In some ways, knowing that we all share those burdens is even more depressing. But I'd be lying if I didn't admit to being jealous, I would love nothing more than to escape this town for a few days and leave my worries behind - as much as one can anyway. But even that is not up to me, and a vacation right now is just not possible unless I feel up to doing it on my own with the kids. And THAT doesn't sound like much of a vacation, does it?

So here I am... trying to process all of this, struggling to get out of bed on the days I have nowhere to go and resentful of the days I have somewhere to go because I can't have time to myself and the life I used to know. 

So there ya go Tammy, I journaled it.