Tweet I have a secret.
It is an image ingrained on my eyelids; with each blink I am reminded by the vision of her face. My skin is covered by the flesh of another, yet you cannot feel it. There is a stone in each lung; huge, blocking, rough edges beginning to wear smooth with each labored breath. And yet, I stand in front of you and smile sweetly. Nod my head accordingly. Pretend I hear the words you speak.
But inside, where your eyes cannot see, my seams are coming apart. The thread unraveling. I try so hard to break the thread off with my hands but it refuses to snap. I hold on tighter and tighter, fingers gripped white, shoulders aching because I cannot catch a break. I cannot rest. Or, rather, I cannot find the time to fall apart.
Grief - traumatic or not - has been described as waves in an ocean. Some days those waves are manageable, almost compellingly soothing. There is a comfort of sorts in the gentle lull of grief. Closing your eyes and remembering a smiling face feels like the warmth of the sun touching your cheek. Remembering a funny story or a tender moment can bring a smile laced with salted tears. It is in this calmness of grief that one can easily remember their faith, can easily draw strength in creating or doing something positive in honor of their lost loved one. You find you can tolerate the frigidness of the water because it only covers your ankles. While cold, it is manageable.
But then there are the moments and days when the grief is the dangerous waves that crush spirits and end lives. Breaking waves that collapse on top of themselves; swell waves that seem cruelly never ending, destructive plunging waves so powerful they drag token objects back into the unrelenting sea just because they can. Unpredictable rogue waves that seem to come out of nowhere are probably the most lethal: no one ever sees them coming.
Those days, when the battering of grief attempts to slam me against the rocks, burying my head well into the depths of the frozen, darkened sea, it takes every ounce of energy to raise my head above the surface to take a gulp of air. I just want to stop treading water. I just need someone to throw me a life vest so I can float for a minute and catch my breath. That's all.
I've tried to schedule my breakdowns. I know they're simmering beneath the surface. One doesn't mother a child for nine years and grieve only for six months. I realize fully and completely that this is just the beginning of my grief journey. I have gotten my course schedule and I'm headed off to pick up my books... but I've got an entire semester ahead of me. I need to figure out how to find my classes, how to negotiate new teachers. I have passages to read, assignments to complete and tests to take. And then I have another semester after that.
Immense Grief is not a quick and easy process.
Probably the most ironic thing that has happened - and I don't believe ironic is the proper word - is the not-so-subtle reminder that per employment policy we are only allowed 3 days off for funeral leave. Three days to bury a child and return to work as if nothing ever happened. Three days to makes sense of it all so you can focus on spreadsheets and staff meetings. Three days is not enough. I took seven.
Seven days is not enough.
I just want regular time periods to lay on the rocks. Silent or sobbing or pounding my fists against them, before I need to jump back into the ocean and give it another go. I need to remember this for when I win the lottery and create my own business: that per policy, my grieving employees will have rock time.
I'm not asking to be handed a free pass to shirk my responsibilities. I've proposed working four 10-hour days and taking Wednesdays off; a scheduled breakdown day, if you will. It hasn't worked out. I have enough strength for two days, then I seem to fall apart. Without being able to regroup, the rest of the week just gets awful. I get to work at 7:30 and leave at 5pm. Then I have to get Brody, make dinner, do household chores, attempt to effectively parent a now sibling-less child, give baths, brush teeth, read books, tuck in. And if I stay up late to grieve - to sob, to shake my fists at God and question why my daughter? Why was this part of the plan? Surely whatever you wanted me to learn I could have learned another way. Surely You could have made another way! - - if I stay awake until the birds stop singing and the train whistle blows and the only sound is the occassional siren, in order to feel the touch of God again, hear his gentle whisper, she is well; I will help you through this - - if I stay up all night to do my grieving then I am simply too exhausted the next day from lack of sleep to do any good. (Trust me. I've been doing that. It's not working.)
I believe that if I could just have Wednesday I would be able to glimpse the roadside sign offering a grieving respite. I would be able to hold out just a little bit longer until I get there. It's like when you have to go to the bathroom really, really bad and you look out your windshield and see blocks and blocks of warehouses; you convince yourself you're not going to make it, you'll explode and it will be awful, but the second you see the glow of that 7-11 up ahead you know that you're going to be okay. You'll get there. You will make it.
I'm just asking for a chance to try and make it.