Progress and Luggage

When I look back at the things I wrote more than a year ago with the idea that time makes pain an easier burden to carry in mind, I could almost be mad at myself for not believing it then. Of course it makes sense that in the early days of grief (and even for a whole year afterwards) I couldn’t even imagine a time when I would care about anything at all ever again. But the wise mothers, years out from their loss(es), who were a guiding light for me then, would have every right today to tell me, “I told you so”. (Obviously they would never do that.)

I have been feeling more at peace (or calm?) lately than I have ever felt before about losing Odin. It almost makes me sad to say that, but only almost. I realized this when I was having brunch with a couple of my loss mom friends last weekend. We were talking about how when we are in large groups of happy people we feel the most alone. L1 described feeling like a ghost around some of the people who she used to be closest to and even around her own family. And I can completely relate to that feeling. It’s awful. When the people who you’ve depended on your whole life; people who have known you for years or even decades just don’t seem to see you anymore it is devastating. And there’s really nothing you can do about it. It’s no one’s fault, it’s just part of the fallout and a secondary thing to mourn on top of the devastating loss of your baby. During that conversation, though, it occurred to me that the last few times I had been with large groups of people I hadn’t felt as isolated and I didn’t imagine screaming and running away. For many many months after we lost Odin I couldn’t sit at my in-laws’ dinner table with the family for a meal because it was just too much. Too much mindless chatter. Too much laughter. Too much noise. I would inevitably end up in tears and have to excuse myself. But the last time I was there, I got through the meal and felt okay. I still have a very low threshold for small-talk but aside from that unavoidable part of any family gathering, I realized that at the last wedding we went to (which was in May) I genuinely had fun. L2 talked about how her therapist suggested that to cope with social situations she “not bring everything [her experience]” with her. And I offered that at this point in my grief journey it’s less of an active choice to bring my baggage with me into a social setting whereas before I had no control over it. I used to be handcuffed to a massive bulging suitcase that sat in my lap and I couldn’t even see over it — now it feels more like a purse that I can hang on the back of my chair. At least most of the time anyway.

This is not to say that I am cured! Oh boy. This is, after all , The Longterm Project. One of my fears about “healing” is giving people permission to treat me like I didn’t live through the most horrible thing imaginable. I think that’s why it is hard (for me) to admit progress out loud. Giving the impression that I’m “over it” is terrifying. So even though I probably don’t need to, I’m going to give in to my paranoia and reiterate that there is no getting over this. Even a couple of nights ago I cried while N was playing the piano. He definitely plays some songs that tug at my heartstrings but that night it was the simple fact that Odin would never hear N play that made me incredibly sad. And I expect those moments to come for the rest of my life and I welcome them with an open heart.

And so, despite my resolve to hang onto my sadness (because it used to be the only way I felt connected to Odin), I feel like I’m just a little bit more capable of looking forward. Losing Odin has taught me that there are very few things in this life that we can control. But what I can do is imagine a future where Odin is still at the forefront of everything we do for as long as we are here to do it. I can live in a way that honours his memory and keeps him in my heart always. I can do things that would make him proud. And until my last breath I can be sure that he remains, as always, our beloved son.

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The Weight of Wonder

I haven’t written in a while. I guess it’s partly because what they say is true. With time, grief becomes easier to carry. It becomes more like a familiar companion than a tormentor. And I guess when things are easier there’s less to be fired up about so I haven’t been as inspired to write. But tonight the moon is so bright that it doesn’t really seem like nighttime and I’m here, awake, wondering.

What would he look like?

Now that winter is at a safe distance and vitamin D levels are on the rise it feels a little more possible to make plans. Last summer we were in survival mode but this summer can be something different. I think I can imagine making it through an entire wedding or social event without being crushed by the loneliness of being surrounded by so many happy people.

But what would he sound like? What would make him laugh?

I’m less anxious about going to malls and parks and dodging the minefield of strollers and Baby Bjorns. I don’t think I’m likely to weep at the sound of a newborn’s cry anymore. I’m slightly less upset by pregnancy announcements and the sight of a pregnant woman doesn’t bother me much anymore.

But what would he feel like to hold now?

It’s true that I don’t cry as often anymore and that life’s routines are basically the same as they were a year ago (a fact which is difficult to consider. Time = black hole). It’s so easy to get caught up in those routines and before you know it the date on the calendar shocks you. I miss Odin every day but I feel like I’m doing alright.

But what would he call me?