I started going to the movies by myself.
I like it. I need it. I mean, I really need it.
There are obvious benefits: no one steals your popcorn or asks what just happened because they were totally not paying attention; and there are the obvious disadvantages: no one to go get you a refill because they're annoying you by asking plot questions they should already know the answers to, had they been paying attention.
But that's not why I do it.
It started as a necessity. A holiday without when my oldest daughter was out of the country on a much-deserved escape from reality and my youngest was with his father celebrating with his family. I was very alone on Christmas and the thought was destroying me. I felt frantic. That's a very common emotion felt after the death of a child: franticness.
It pops up whenever it feels like it. Frantic means, wild or distraught with fear, anxiety, or other emotion. Sometimes it shows up at obvious times like a holiday. Other times you're standing in the freezer section at the local Piggly Wiggly completely frantic with some overwhelming emotion because a box of popsicles triggered something within you and you can't breathe and you can't think and your baby died and your eyes are wide and you can't figure how to get out of the stupid store and why did this have to happen to you? What did you do to deserve this?
Frantic shows up a lot. Enough years pass and one day your arms are strong enough to hold Frantic at bay for a bit until you can actually get in your car and process. (That's another thing mothers of heaven-children become well acquainted with: learning how to process.)
Anyway. It was Christmas. I was frantic. I needed a plan to avoid jumping into that Dark Pit that was calling out to me so gently and sweetly. Come. I have a big fluffy mattress and pillows at the bottom. I have comfy blankets. It's dark so you won't have to see all those happy people. You know, the ones who get to keep their children... Dark Pits are liars. Plans to outsmart Dark Pits are necessary.
So, I hopped on my computer, conducted a Google search and created a spreadsheet that helped me pinpoint four different movies I could see in one given day without any awkward wait times.
I had the best time ever! There was hardly anyone in the entire complex until the 7:00 pm show started, and by then I had three movies under my belt.
Something happened that day that I needed. I needed to be alone. I needed to escape in a healthy way. (No alcohol. No hatred.) And I needed to not be required to be an active participant.
You see, something else happens when you lose a child. Those people around you that love you and care for you? They desperately want you to "get better." The thing is, we don't. We will always be grieving. We just learn how to make it less obvious so others feel less awkward. We still hurt. We still want to cry. We still long to physically hold our children. We still want to talk about it. But we know it bothers you. We know it's hard for you. So, we buck up and make sure that you are convinced that we are fine. And for the most part, we are. But not every single second of every single day. Whether you realize it or not? You really hold those stricken by grief to a higher standard of doing fine.
When we're not fine and we get quiet, that's when the trouble starts.
When we're quiet, you get uncomfortable. When we know we're tired and need to just sit this one out, you panic.
It's okay. We don't blame you. We know you don't have much experience in how to be friends with someone who lost their child. Nevertheless, sometimes we just need to process. Or ward off Franticness. Or sometimes it's as simple as we're just tired of smiling right now. We're not going off the deep end. We just need some time.
You're probably wondering why we just don't go to therapy. We do. I mean, most of us have. We frantically dialed a number and explained our kid just died and we're drowning and we get an appointment. But it becomes very clear very quickly which therapists understand grief and which ones learned about grief in a textbook.
Do you know how many times a mama has told me they stopped going to therapy after they realized they were holding back sharing because they knew it would upset their counselor? True fact. That's one of the first places we learn that Hard Grief is not acceptable in normal society.
Grief is hard and it is heavy and textbooks underestimate its power. If you can't be real with a certified therapist what options do you have?
I happen to have found popcorn is quite therapeutic.
There are times when I feel Frantic approaching and I know I need to get myself to a matinee. I have my boundaries: no killing, no deaths and no telling anyone I'm going before I go. Too often they want to force themselves along or convince me it isn't healthy for me to go alone.
Here's a fun fact: healthy people go to the movies alone all the time! No one looks at them with sad eyes. It's usually more in awe. I could never go to a movie by myself! That's so cool that you do that!
We need to start looking in awe at those who struggle when they are taking healthy steps to balance themselves.
A lot of mamas without have started running. That's something deemed healthy and good. Training for a marathon gives you lots of alone time to process where you're at emotionally. But running is kind of hard. Then there's that cold, raining weather you have to contend with. And hills. And dogs that run out of yards. And gnats that accidentally get swallowed when you're gasping for breath.
At the movies, they have really comfy chairs. And popcorn. With butter.
Some mamas journal or write poetry, others garden. One mama told me she learned calligraphy because she liked how it demanded her to focus. As she got more proficient she said the repetitiveness of the strokes and the sound of her pen on the paper was soothing. Some mamas will knit or sew or bake fancy cakes to forget the stress of the moment. I go to the movies.
The key is to find what works for you and then make time to do it. Whatever it is doesn't matter, as long as it is a healthy choice and one that refreshes you.
Keep going, mama. You've got this.