Monday, November 18, 2013

Why Year 2 is Harder

I made it to the One Year Mark. Actually, I made it beyond the One Year Mark because that was October 24th and we're past that now. Preparing for the One Year Mark is like experiencing the anticipation for the worst dentist appointment on the planet: you get sick and fidgety, you can't sleep, you have awful nightmares - and yet somehow you make it through the appointment with little awareness how you even arrived at it. You wake up and it's suddenly Day One of the 2nd Year; the clock flips over and a new countdown begins.

I made it through because I was busy. I was busy planning and celebrating the First Anniversary of Her Death.

I made it through because over one hundred balloons were released in her honor. Not just in the cemetery in our small town, but all over the world.
Photo Credit: Kimberly Barker-Ries

I made it through because little children laughed and played just like normal kids do - and I can't tell you how good it feels to be around kids who just say it.
Photo Credit: Teresa Rogers-Shallcross

I made it through because the sky was lit with eleven lanterns symbolizing eleven years of her life.
Photo Credit: Tracy Christianson

I made it through and then we ate and a song was sung and a slideshow shown and we all hugged before we went home. Except my home was empty. Way too empty. And the thing is, it will always feel like that.

Because it's supposed to.

When you lose someone you love with all your heart, you're going to feel empty.

And what makes it feel even more empty is realizing that the majority of everyone else stopped feeling shocked and completely thrown for a loop. They've readjusted, settled, gotten back into the swing of things earlier and with better ease than you did.

For me, it's just all hitting me now.

It's as if  I've been standing tall and strong against First Year because I knew I had to. I knew I had to draw up my courage and stand in the face of the biggest, angriest giant I've ever known. I knew I had to face Grief head on, shoulders back, eyes wide open, or risk losing before I even started.

But now, a year later - my eyes burn, my back aches, my head bows down low.

I made it through the First Year, but I'm not done fighting yet... and I so desperately want to be.

As if that's not unfair enough - seriously: I made it 365 days! Can't I get a reprieve? A furlough from grief? A weekend without my heart stopping as I form the thought Avery would have loved this. Without picking something up only to realize the person I was buying it for is not even of this earth? But I know I can't. See, that's not in the Rules of Children Dying. You never get a reprieve. You just learn to swallow around the lump in your throat, how to take in a gulp of air and look to the right before the tears come. (Those tears, oh, how they make people feel uncomfortable.)

But, no - that's not enough unfairness. Somehow, Year Two brings with it the incredible disappearing  act. I'm not talking about friends and family; I'm talking about the thick, foggy haze your brain has been graciously wrapped in for the past year. It's acted as a cushion from reality, helping to soften the blow by allowing you to be completely unaware of life around you.

You get used to it.

You like it.

It feels good.

But suddenly that haze begins to lift, slip away from your mind and you become sharper, more aware. You realize hurts have continued in your absence. Friends got divorced. People lost jobs. The one person you tried really hard to like has just consistently become meaner. The neighbor disputes the lot line. The laundry that was allowed to pile up because it isn't important right now has somehow shifted into it's not healthy to let this go. The bank account you haven't balanced in over a year is now wondering how $57.17 cents can be missing. And the one person who knew your daughter the best - who has grieved her like their own - is now being called to stand up to fight a giant unknown of their own - and not only do they not deserve to be - you're so off your game you don't even know how to help.

And with all of that comes full and complete, crystal clear awareness that this is the second holiday season without your daughter... this time you don't get the cushioned haze of stunned disbelief to help cushion the blow. No, this season you're facing it bare knuckles and without protective gear. This season all your senses are back. This season you're an old pro at Christmas Without. This year you are fully aware that the time between the last time I saw her and the date on the calendar gets further and further apart.

And while your senses are heightened to a degree that makes you feel like this is all way too cruel for any one person to handle - everyone else has lapsed into Phew! At least this year will be better!

We are so far apart from each other.

I am so far apart from you.

My grandmother lost a child. Her son. He was older with young children of his own, but that doesn't matter. Losing your child is a specialized grief, regardless of details. My grandmother was the only one who understood what I am going through. I asked her once if she ever looked at the autopsy report. She said no. That she didn't need to. That report wasn't going to tell her what she already knew; her son wasn't coming back and would never grow to the potential she dreamed of for him.

Because of my grandmother, I was able to sit across from the District Attorney and look him in the eye and tell him that I didn't need to see what was in that particular report.

She told me about people gossiping and turning around in the grocery aisle just to avoid her - and that it was okay; people just don't know what to do sometimes.

My grandmother was 95 and had a heart attack just days after Avery's would-be 12th birthday. When I saw her in the emergency room she looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, "Maybe I'll get to see Avery today."

It was her way of telling me she'd be taking care of her in heaven. It was her way of telling me I could let go of a bit of my fear because Avery would be in good hands.

A couple days later I was sitting alone with my grandmother in her hospital room when she asked if I had sent a lady to talk to her. "No, I didn't - well, what did the lady look like?" I asked.

"Oh. I thought maybe you sent her to talk to me," my grandmother explained. "She asked me if I was a God Girl - and I said Yes! Yes, I AM a God Girl!" A ninety-five year old God Girl. (See what Avery has already done?)

My grandmother passed away on November 4th. She was the one who let me know it was okay to think about things, consider them, analyze them - but not to get stuck in them. That the only choice we have is to make good of what we've got. Complaining about what we don't have won't make things suddenly appear. That goes for rusted cars and tattered furniture just as much as it goes for heaven-homed children.

And so, I sit here, on Day 25 of Year Two, knowing that one person in my entire family - in my entire circle of close friends, really, who gets grief  because they lived grief is also gone. And that makes Year Two really kind of unbearable from my current point of view.

Because a mother who has already lost a child knows that the empty spot never really goes away, and she's able to tell other mothers who will lose their children that it's okay, it's supposed to feel that way. They're able to look at you with gentle, knowing eyes and explain that when you lose someone you love with all your heart, you're just going to feel empty.

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