I thought about you today…just like I do every single day. I was driving down the road, headed to the store. On my way, I passed a car wash that was named , “The Buggy Wash”. For most of you, that would mean nothing to you…but for me…it brought back sweet memories of Aaron’s toddler days. I’m not really sure whether I should share this memory, because I know that it would embarrass him. However, I know you’re wondering what significance “The Buggy Wash” would hold in my memories. It would be one of those embarrassing stories that I would pass on to his future wife and children….but I can’t do that. After that memory hit me, I smiled. After I realized that I couldn’t pass it along to his future wife or children, sadness set in. Grief is such a complex being….and yes, I feel like it is a being. It lives and breathes within you, holding you hostage to whatever feeling and emotion is aroused when you experience those little triggers. And I tell you…those triggers take place daily in the most mundane of activities…things that once were such insignificant events. After you’ve lost a child, the little things become the big things that hurt the most. It’s those special little details that you knew about that person….that ONLY you knew….that hit you the hardest and pulls you back into that deep, dark hole of depression. People describe grief as ebbing and flowing…and sometimes that’s true….but often times it’s a tidal wave that crashes over you unexpectedly, pulling you under the water and thrashes you around the sea floor…slamming against the rocks or reef, slicing your skin deeply. It holds you under as you struggle to hold your breath….and then it washes you ashore…torn, battered, broken, weakened, exhausted, and in deep pain. That’s the best way I can describe those waves….those waves absolutely deplete me.
The whole month of February was one of those waves. I tried several times to sit down and put pen to paper during the month of February, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. It took all of my mental, emotional, and physical energy to just make it through the day…the whole month. For that month, I was drawn back into that deep, dark hole that I couldn’t seem to pull myself out of…and I didn’t really want to pull myself out. I just wanted to be there. I know that sounds strange, but when life all around you is normal for everyone else, it’s exhausting to try to fit into that world…one where you no longer belong. And for the most part, I stayed in that hole. I did go to work, but even there, I stayed in my own little world. I interacted with people on a superficial level and immersed myself into work and getting things organized, but had no meaningful contact with much of anyone. It’s like my whole world and my emotional being was so out of control…spiraling into a deep, dark depression. And because everything felt so out of control, I desperately tried to control anything and everything that I could. I began to buy things to organize my space at work and things to organize at home. As those things were delivered to my house, I worked diligently to get things “in order”. Despite my efforts to “control” my world, it still felt so emotionally chaotic. It’s amazing what grief does to your body and your mind. You desperately search for something…anything to make your world normal again. But the search is in vain, because it will never be the normal that it was before. I’ve known that for a long time, but I don’t know exactly how to deal or cope with that.
I’ve heard many people say that the second year was worse than the first year. To that, I would agree and disagree. I’m not sure that it can ever get worse…it just gets different. And what’s so hard….you never know what that “different” is going to be. You can’t prepare yourself, because you don’t know what is just around the bend. The thing is…that you often set yourself up for disappointment, because inside your head, you think…”Surely the 2nd year will be better.” or “Maybe in the third year, it will be better.” You look for something….anything that will give you hope. But when those markers roll around, and you find that you aren’t “better”, it’s so completely devestating. So, as I move into this third year, I don’t know what to expect as time progresses. I guess I’ll do what I’ve done since February 10, 2016….live one day at a time…or from one moment to the next. But that makes me anxious, because I like to be in control. Control…don’t we all like to be in control? But what I’ve come to learn is that control is really a facade. We think we are in control of our world, but really there is nothing outside of ourselves we can control…and sometimes that’s even difficult to do. I’ve lived my whole life thinking “I” could control my world and all that was in it. Now, I don’t mean that I consciously thought about actually controlling things, but we all make decisions each day in order to “control” situations and events around us. When things go our way, we think we have controlled the situation. When things don’t go our way, we work and strive to find a solution that will control the situation. Sometimes those decisions work….sometimes they don’t. But when it comes to life and death….we have absolutely no control. I think we all know that deep down inside, but because our lives go along as we expect, we become complacent and take for granted that things will always be that way. We unconsciously think that nothing can happen to us or our family…like it does to other families. And then it does, and we are devastated and unprepared to deal with the emotional, mental, and physical stress that comes along with such life changing events.
Grief is the most unforgiving foe I have ever encountered. I’ve heard it stated that grief is a passage and not a place to stay. But that statement is untrue…grief is a journey along an unrelenting path…that you live with daily. As time passes, the path of your journey might become a little easier to maneuver and navigate, but you still encounter that rugged terrain that takes everything from you as you try to continue along your path. That’s the facade of control. You move along and it seems that you’re getting a grasp on your pain….but then you hit that rugged terrain…unexpectedly, and it takes you to your knees once again. I’m still dealing with that, and I’m going into my third year…unable to control what lies ahead.
God bless all of you who are traveling along this unrelenting journey with me.