Man. That’s a great title. I never write the title first. I have to half-admit I did so hoping it would lead to some incredible insight to put down on this paper right here.
Let’s start with what I do know. I know that life gets real, much to our dismay, and that ultimately our children bear witness to it. And I also know that they are impressionable, and they’re sponges, and that they tend to save up stuff for when they’re grown and can tell us how hard their life is and that it’s all our fault.
But like, it’s real. Life is the real deal. Emotions are the real deal. And sure I’d love to tell you that every time I have an emotion slightly left of center that I sit my daughter down with the sunlight streaming in softly through the window and explain it with such eloquence and ease that she shall never be impacted.
But…. no. I mean, I do my best. And I know you also do your best. But it’s hard. Home is where we are the most ourselves, and the most emotionally messy when it gets hard; and alas, it’s also where our kids live. (Why is that? Doesn’t grandma need a sleepover?)
So, here’s what I’ve come up with- thou shall not torture oneself with worry about how the children will be impacted by our grief and our sadness. If we’re aware enough to worry about it; we’re probably already doing a good enough job (that sentence was more for me than for you, but you’re welcome to wear it if it fits).
And if they are acting bonkers because we are standing slanted like we haven’t had our V-8? Toss our your arms to offer a hug. Get down on the floor and listen about Shopkins or BB-8 for thirty minutes or so. They’re pretty good about living in the moment. Maybe they’ve got some good stuff we need to learn.
Don’t marry someone just because dating them has been super exciting; it’s not always going to be. Sometimes you’ll be holding a bowl in front of them, waiting for vomit, and wondering how long until your own will come up.
Don’t search for a partner based on the life he or she can provide you with, it could all be gone in an instant. You know that.
It’s not about the ring (though mine brutally kicks ass), the baby count, or the square footage. It’s not the clock ticking, the race to the finish line, or the prepping to take the world’s most beautiful photograph.
It’s about finding the one person who is willing to show you who they are, when the chips are down.
It’s about them knowing you’re going to tell them the truth when they need to hear it most. And it’s okay because it’s why they asked you to begin with.
You don’t have to always be up together and you don’t need to be always down together, and I’ll be damned if one more person says the best way to do this hard part of life thing is to just “take turns.”
Do it because of love. Do it because you laugh at the same stupid stuff and because you can freely admit you hate how the other one chews or breathes or folds their shirts.
Do it because when the world suddenly goes dark and you find yourself furiously slapping the wall trying to find the light, you’ll know that’s the moment when nothing else matters.
And do it for the moment when the light suddenly switches back on, and then watch the scene in omnipresent distance; as you both tip your heads back in laughter. And relief.
Do it for the light.
Something short of the precise opposite of writer’s block is happening to me. I was originally going at a manageable pace that I could bang out one of these pieces between one to three times a week, but now I’m just inundated with mental word piles. It’s a little like racing home when you’ve really got to go to the potty.
Yeah. I just wrote that.
So now, while I try and figure out which the heck gasket is leaking in my brain, I’ve been just making notes in my phone instead. I don’t want to lose a thought, but these are not quite ready yet. They still need to sit in a bowl in the fridge with a towel over them.
I have about fifteen towel covered bowls in my brain fridge right now.
I didn’t even know I had a brain fridge.
This morning I did my daughter’s hair for the first time since Christmas morning.
Alright calm down. I bathe her. Ok. Her hair gets brushed. I just leave before dawn and my hubby has learned to do the low pony tail and I don’t get to really do it anymore.
And I missed it. And I miss her. I now work the longest day I’ve ever worked since she was born. I had it really, really easy there for a good long while.
But now we smell each other when I get home. I’m sure this is fine. It’s biology. It’s motherhood. Or something. But we do. I drop my keys and sit down on the floor in basically the garage, and we just hug.
And then she takes off across the house to the kitchen, and loudly submits her application for something in the fridge that daddy has already repeatedly told her “no” about.
The (brain?) fridge is like an endless list of options but with vaguely defined rules.
Some kind of dough is rising in there.
But for now I’m just gonna turn out the light and go to bed.
1). I have the worst cut near the underside of my pinkie toe from stepping on a cookie cutter that was on the floor in the kitchen.
2). Kindergarten registration is a week from tonight and whenever I begin to mentally formulate any word that begins with “ki,” I let out a convulsive gasp followed by hair trigger weepiness. It happens so fast and takes me a good fifteen to twenty seconds to recover.
3). For efficiency, I’ve been trying to run through that entire process while I’m taking a potty break at work. The only part that still needs hammering out is how to make the tears on the front of my shirt dry by the time my hand is back on the door handle.
4). Damnit air.
5). Today I found an unexpectedly comfortable seat on a spot of soft grass on a tiny hill on the playground and I felt so guilty about enjoying it that I kept calling kids over to talk to me so I could still “do the teaching.”
6). Today while changing diapers I said to a coworker- oh my gosh- I just realized I always expect the boys to have pooped, and never the girls. I feel so bad.
7). When, in ten to fifteen years, this generation of boys is angry at us for accusing them of doing all the pooping, you’ll be able to trace it back to this post.
The things I’ve learned about grief. Not an exhaustive list. Just a few things.
1). When you bring food: it’s not just about getting us fat, or taking something off the plate of the mourners. It’s about something even deeper. When you bring a meal to a grieving family, it gives them a space to come and sit down together at the table. If you give a grieving wife a meal, she’ll share it with her kids and her grandkids. The kids and the grandkids may come to the table. Sitting together, they’ll talk. And cry. And laugh together.
2). When you send cards or well wishes: it helps fill a bowl of comfort near those mourning. Maybe you don’t know what to say. Do we ever know what to say? But when you say something, anything, it’s heard. It’s felt. It gets added to the refilling of the heart pile. You know and they know it replaces nothing and no one. But what it does do is spread love, and holds space.
3). Mourners are scary to the outside world. They are a walking reminder of the thing we all live in fear of. And for a moment in time, they are living it. Their homes become places we used to love to visit, now are maybe doors we find ourselves shaking while knocking upon. The tasks they have to do, the phone calls they have to make all remind the outside world what we know; it’s inevitable. And someday that pain will be mine. And someday after that, that pain will belong to my loved ones. But if they let you in; go. If they want to share pictures and stories and empty spaces in closets; go. Grieving exposes a gaping wound; take a deep breath, and join them.
4). Grieving makes you miss everyone and everything you have ever lost. It’s cumulative. I believe that’s why the wave it brings roars only louder and louder as the days pass. It reminds you of all that loss, of all the unexpected change you’ve had to face. I guess that’s just part of the process of it all, and there’s no use fighting it (there’s no use fighting anything, really). You lean in. And you hang on. And you cry.
5). And also; don’t try to stop the mourner from crying. Crying is a bizarre gift. When I was a kid I was somehow put under the impression that it was bad. That it was holding onto pain. But my gosh, crying releases pain. It’s just so hard to watch sometimes. So keep an eye on each other. Comfort the loved ones of the ones who can’t stop crying. Comfort the ones who can’t seem to start crying. Whatever goes. Not being able to soothe your next of kin is the hardest thing I’ve ever faced in this life so far. So take care of the mourner and also take care of those taking care of them.
6). And finally- grief is surprisingly stupid silly in the moment when you realize sometimes it includes a crap load of laughter. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard before. Or cried so hard. Or felt more loved. Or felt more sad. It’s just, all of it. It’s all of it. Just make sure no one you know is having to do it alone.