Almost three and a half years ago I was thrown into the world of the grieving parent. At the time, I was in a highly alert state, taking words that were said to me and dissecting them one by one. Sometimes people said things that I found confusing, and maybe even hurtful. I started reading…
I’m living in a weird parallel universe of those who see strength in me and those who think I’m crazy. Those who recognize in me someone who hasn’t given up and those who think that I still hurt is ridiculous. Those who think I’m inspiring and those who think I’m neurotic.
Truth be told, I’m probably a little of both.
Meltdowns caused by triggers are happening less and less. I naively thought that meant that I was all better–that I was on easy street now.
Silly, silly, woman.
Triggers are always going to present themselves and I’m getting good at recognizing them. I pulled up to a red light the other day and looked into a van that was beside me. It was full of babies in car seats, I looked over and smiled and I was ok. Proud of myself for being so unaffected. Until a baby boy, probably 9 months old, looked out the window at me, reached up to the window and kind of waved his hand around and it was like I was drowning again, immediately taken back to a place where I couldn’t breathe. I sat at the red light stifling the sobs that were trying so hard to escape.
Moments like that are fewer and farther between, so now when they hit, they hit hard. When I was in the midst of grief, happy times were sporadic. Now that happy times are becoming more normal, the grief hitting out of left field is a punch to the gut. I’m not sure how to maneuver myself in the paradigm shift, this space in between happy and hurting.
I have passed many milestones in the life of a grieving mother. I have held friend’s babies, I’ve walked through Target and didn’t panic when I found myself in the baby aisle. Things that sent me into a tailspin of pain before have lost their grip on me and they didn’t send me over the edge. I didn’t end up in a mental hospital; I reacted like a normal person. I was quite proud.
Then there’s yesterday.
My Dad had to have surgery and it was in the hospital I’d spent 3 weeks and had my boys. Driving past was hard for me in the past year, it brought up too many memories so I avoided it whenever possible. Knowing I had to walk in there to be with my dad was overwhelming but I had these grandiose ideas of my new, happy, well-adjusted self not only walking in but I was going to go to Labor and Delivery. I was going to go hug the nurses I hadn’t seen in a year. I was going to go show them how strong I was.
The best laid plans and all that. Not only did that not happen, it really didn’t happen. I cried for 2 hours before even going to the hospital at the anticipation of walking through those doors. I couldn’t not be there for my parents so I gave up on the idea of eye makeup and made my way there. I sat in my car, in the hospital parking lot for 45 minutes, crying. Trying to give myself a pep talk, trying to tell myself that I was strong enough to walk through those doors. That the hospital didn’t have any control over my emotions.
I walked in, sunglasses on, tears streaming, but I was there. And I felt ok. My dad came through his surgery, 4 long hours later, and I was relieved. I went to get my mom and I dinner and when I came back he’d been moved to the rehab floor. Floor 5. 2 floors up from Labor and Delivery. I got on the elevator, pushed the button and said a silent prayer that I wouldn’t see any pregnant woman or babies, that I’d get a straight shot to the 5th floor. And I did.
I walked down the hall, the smells taking me straight back to December 10, 2012. I reminded myself to breathe. I walked in my Dad’s room and he looked pitiful. He was hurting and groggy and laying in a hospital bed, in the exact same kind of room I’d been in. I didn’t fall apart.
Then I went to to the bathroom. I sat down, looked around and realized that the bathroom was identical to the one I’d delivered Fletcher in. It was an immediate soul crushing feeling. The room started spinning, the flashbacks were flying at me, I couldn’t breathe. I rushed out of the room, not wanting my Dad to see me crying, but all I could see was my Mom standing there, waiting for me. Knowing before I even came out how devastated I would be. She opened her arms and she just held me as I fell apart. I crumbled. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t stop the sobs. I couldn’t do anything but let it out and she couldn’t do anything but hold me.
I stood at the window, consciously willing myself to keep breathing. And I did. One breath after another, until the tears stopped falling.
I faced a huge hurdle. I fell apart. I felt pain I haven’t felt in a long time. But I let myself grieve. I let myself hurt, I let myself fall because I knew that there were loving arms to catch me.
There was no judgment, no fear of looking foolish, no worry that I was crazy, just understanding that my heart was hurting for what I had lost and then peace at realizing how far I’d come.