I can’t believe it’s been so long since I’ve written – how neglectful I’ve been! I have found that every time I had the inspiration to write, it was always at the most inconvenient time. But here I am to recap the last three months of this beyond shitty year, which included the first holiday season without my mother.
October was a difficult month, as if there are months that aren’t. I started going to grief therapy – I had been before I had the baby but had stopped and switched to a new therapist. I have to say, I know a lot of people feel weird about going to therapy – but it is seriously changing my life. She gives me new perspective on things, and is really big on self care, which is so hard for moms to do in general, so I am really loving this one. It does bring a lot of feelings to the surface though, so therapy days are always difficult. It turns out I spend a lot of time avoiding my feelings, and talking about them with a semi-stranger really makes avoiding them impossible. Who would have thought? (Note the sarcasm).
October was also a really shitty month because it seemed to be the time that Isabel, my now nine year old, really realized my mom was never coming back. Children handle grief differently, so her age being a factor and her just not really understanding death completely, coupled with the fact that we don’t see my mom everyday, I think it took a little while to hit her. One night we were driving home and she just started crying in the car. She cried the entire forty minutes home quietly in the backseat. When we got home, she went upstairs to her room and laid in bed and cried some more. When I asked her what was wrong, she just said, “I’m really never going to see Dranny again? What are we going to do for Christmas, my birthday, every holiday?” And so instead of saying anything other than the complete truth, I just told her, “yeah those are going to suck a little bit. But they won’t always suck. One day they will be not so sad anymore. But right now they are super sad, and that’s ok. We don’t have to pretend that they’re not. We all are allowed to be sad when we feel sad, and happy when we feel happy.” And so we just laid in bed and cried together. We talked about my mom, funny things she used to do, things we remember about her. Isabel has started writing letters to my mom, which I think helps her. Think your grief is bad? Try having to make sense of a child’s. It is the most heart breaking part of all of this shit.
November came and began the official start of the first holiday season without my mom. We used to give her a hard time and called her the Grinch because she was never motivated to decorate the house or go Christmas shopping, so I always did it for/with her. This time I found myself taking over the role of the Grinch because I did not want to do a damn thing this year. It took all of my energy to put up the decorations in my house. Having small children obviously helps put you in the Christmas spirit, but truly without them I would have stayed in bed for most of November and December. It also brought my first birthday without her. I typically don’t even remember my birthday half the time because it falls either on or a day or two before or after Thanksgiving, so we are always running around anyway, and with kids it’s just not a big deal or celebration. Again, I would have chosen to stay in bed on my birthday, but we were going to my grandma’s for her Thanksgiving dinner, so thus another reason to pretend to be a functioning human. This month brought the first time I really found myself depending/listening to my therapist. We talked about my birthday at length. She lost her mother at an extremely early age as well, 21, so I feel an immediate connection to her. When we were discussing it, she asked if I was excited for my birthday, and I answered with an honest NO. Her advice was to do whatever would make me feel mothered. She told me that now that my mother was gone, I needed to mother myself, take care of myself, and so I needed to do whatever would make me feel mothered. Even if that was to be left alone, to go have dinner with my friends, to get my nails done, to take a nap – whatever that was, I needed to decide what that was, and plan on doing that. In normal life we would have gone to my grandma’s, so that’s what I did. I wasn’t as sad as I thought I would be, just the same general melancholy I always am. Could be worse right?
November brought the same fucking bullshit nightmare I had been living through to a close friend of mine. After battling an illness for what I’m sure seemed like an eternity and somehow still not enough time, a friend that I have known since I was twelve years old lost her father. I’ve discovered a new found form of torture to watch someone you love go through what you know is just the fucking worst thing she’ll ever live through. To know what’s coming for her and her family, just the utter devastation this unfathomable loss brings to every aspect of your life, is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. The only silver lining (which is something we try to find with each other weekly) is that we have each other. When I am spiraling and sitting on the bathroom floor, having the ugliest, most violent, this is how I’m going to die meltdown, my first instinct is to text her because I know she just gets it. She gets it in a way that no one else can, no matter how hard they try to. I can confess to her all of the things I’m thinking or feeling, no matter how shitty or horrible sounding they are, because we live in the same darkness now. I wouldn’t have wished this on her or her family, and I would do anything to make it easier for her, but I gotta say, having her is one of the more comforting things in my life. Thank God for “death friends.” I think I should trademark that. Patent pending.
December is bullshit and almost over. I am so ready for this fucking year to be over. It has, aside from the miracle that is Eleanor, my now 6 month old baby, been just the worst year imaginable. It has taken from me in ways I didn’t think was possible, in ways I am still barely surviving. I’m gonna be honest with you guys – Christmas was the fucking worst. People say the build up is worse than the actual day, for me, that just wasn’t the case. I was so busy the month of December that I was able to again *avoid* really thinking about it until it was too late. Good thing I see a therapist right?
My sister got engaged on December 17 and I helped my now soon to be brother in law plan the surprise. Let’s get real – my Aunty Mary did most of the planning – I basically told her what Sara would have wanted and she made it happen in the most perfect way imaginable, so I can take credit for literally picking up the phone and calling her. Sara had always said she liked when the whole family was around for after the proposal and kind of an impromptu engagement party, so that’s what we did. I brought me actual anxiety thinking about this engagement; I just didn’t want her first thought to be, “I wish my mom was here,” even though I knew it would be. So I filled the day with as much detail and surprises as I could. We got our nails done earlier in the day so her hands were pretty. I told her we were getting our pictures taken at the event she thought she was going to so that she looked good in photos. There was more food and wine than we could possibly consume, though some of us tried to. Pictures on every table of Sara and Michael growing up, and then together from the beginning of their relationship to the Disney trip they had just gotten back from. There were flowers and personalized cookies and cake and a champagne toast I cried through. I hope in all of those details my mothers presence was felt. I hope the day was more happy than sad. But I know no matter what I do, this is just not the way it’s supposed to be. It’s something else I’m working through with my therapist – all good things are allowed to feel bittersweet, because they are bittersweet, and it doesn’t make them bad. It is something I need to acknowledge and accept, allow it to become a part of me. Easier said than done obviously.
After the engagement is Christmas and I was not prepared for my feelings, which I know sounds completely fucking stupid, but I wasn’t. Everyone said, “the build up is the worst part,” so I was kind of banking on that. Super didn’t happen. I had gone to my parents house a couple weeks prior and got the tree out and decorated for Christmas Eve. I was really not anticipating how hard it would be to do that without her. Putting ornaments on the tree, ones she made or ones I have spent my life watching her put on the tree, was one of the hardest things for me to do. We did dinner Christmas Eve like we always have done, at my mom and dads, all of us together, like always. Last year we did this at my house, but the kids had asked my mom before she died to have it at their house again. So that’s what we did. Because Dranny told them we would. So we ate and tried to busy ourselves with the tasks of the day, but at some point you just can’t pretend anymore. I had found these cardinal ornaments when I went shopping with my dad for a tree, and I thought how perfect they would be for all of us to have. Cardinals are said to be visitors from Heaven, so my Dad bought us all a cardinal for our trees – now we all have visitors from Heaven on our trees every year. We opened presents with the kids, and I saw my brothers eyes fill when he opened his ornament. I was in the kitchen opening a bottle of wine, the wine my mother loved, using her wine key, and I felt like I was being suffocated by the enormity of her absence. It was Christmas Eve at eight o’clock and I just couldn’t make it anymore. My sister looked at me and asked me what was wrong and I just lost it. We stood in the kitchen and hugged each other while I let myself come undone. I had no idea at the time that this was only going to get worse as the night wore on.
A few more glasses of wine, which I’m aware doesn’t help, and a few more hours go by, and I find myself completely unable to pull it together. I just can’t stop crying. I am crying as I’m pumping breastmilk, cleaning up after everyone, putting the baby to sleep. I’m able to pull it together for mere moments, only for everything to come falling down again. It’s become more than just missing her – I have become completely enveloped in this overwhelming sadness that I can’t escape, this longing in my soul for her I just can’t take any longer. She is every where in this house, and yet somehow, no where at all. Despite this house being full of people who love me and loved her more than any of us can understand, I feel completely and utterly alone. But somehow, either due to exhaustion or the grace of God, I am able to calm my thoughts enough to go to sleep. So I sleep, in my old room, in the house that I grew up in, that my mother raised me in, in bed with my children. Maybe this is how my mother wanted the evening to end – me wrapped up with the two people on the planet who love me the most. Maybe.
Christmas day is exhausting and full of places to stop and people to see and presents to open. I am lucky so many people love my children and my husband and I so much. We are going from 8 am until we get home at 10 pm and I settle into bed for some much needed sleep. The day is wonderful with people who have all of us on their minds and it is nice to be thought of, but I am glad when we are home and in our own beds. The holidays are almost over, and for that I am thankful. I am ready to *avoid* things again. I have a therapy session scheduled for this afternoon, so don’t any of you worry 🙂
As I’m writing this I think my New Years Resolution is to write more. We’ll see.
Until next time….