Keeping my distance

photo by  Susan Licht

photo by Susan Licht

At this particular moment, if asked to look back and define my grief from two years ago I would say that it that happened to me, in a soul-crushing, world-shattering way, over and over again as an unyielding constant of my everyday life, painfully stretching minutes into hours full of anger, longing, regret and guilt.

Now, on this particular day, I may answer the question differently. This grief, this day-to-day living without my child, has subtly morphed into something that I attempt to manage. The emphasis is on attempt because, of course, there are still several moments of gasping for air, of pure frustration, of pure hell where that familiar and overwhelming crush of grief has, without notice, claimed every inch of my mind and body. But more and more, I am able to better distinguish those moments that have mixed in them love, warmth and connection Those moments existed two years ago, but were hard to recognize through burning and blurry eyes. Without question, these mixed moments are the very foundation of my everyday rituals, a diligent hand and careful needle weaving in, out and around the many threads of my life. And even now, more than 730 days later, there are moments that bring a smile yet still burn and blur my eyes, filling me up with mystic romance rather than salty bitterness. Additionally, through many sessions of trial and error, I am also better at anticipating the situations, words, or even individuals that I know will offer me nothing but pure bitterness. Sometimes (and only sometimes) as the pungent taste seeps into my tongue, I am able put away the emotion and temporarily concede there is no escape.

As I walk to my car after work in the early evening darkness of winter, I realize that my shaky situational management has, what appears to me, a consequence. I cycle through the past moments of avoidance and self-preservation, replay the flashes of tense minutes forced upon me, of gritting my teeth through apathetic dismissals veiled in platitudes. I weigh them against the softer moments of kind words, timely gifts and acknowledgement, but find an imbalance. I question my arms-length approach and its role in my struggle to sometimes define the current landscape in my journey. And perhaps, following an illogical and harsh line of thought, I question this as a design flaw in connecting with my daughter.

This thought looms over me on my drive home, and uncharacteristically, I float out a short and soft plea to Lydie to talk to me, to let me know she is there, to give me a wink. Truthfully, I am not sure how I feel about this – if Lydia can really hear me, or if her spirit and energy are swirling somewhere in the universe. I do not prescribe to a faith-based ideology to give structure on an afterlife, or defined rituals on how I may reach loved ones waiting in a specific celestial location. Even as I whisper my plea to her, I feel just a bit foolish and desperate. Is seems pragmatism is my downfall. But despite this, I desperately want to feel connected to her, even if it means staring at my steering wheel and talking to someone that I am not even sure can hear me.

I arrive home and walk into our household’s normal evening rush, kicking off my shoes as we dance around each other in the kitchen, grabbing cups and plates before we finally all make it to the dinner table together. As I do every night, I light Lydie’s candle before sitting down giving us all the opportunity to tell her that we love her. However, on this particular night, big brother Ben was busy carefully measuring the perfect portion of ketchup to accompany his chicken nuggets and missed our family moment with Lydia. Realizing this, he expresses his regret and looks at us with a pouty lip. I explain to him that while it is nice to tell Lydie that we love her when we light her candle, really we can tell her that we love her whenever we want.

“I love you, Lydia Joanne!” he belts out with a smile.

“That is nice,” I let Ben know.

“You know want she say, Daddy?” he asks.

“What did she say, Ben?” I ask.

“She said ‘I love you, Ben!’” he says.

“That is really nice, Ben.” I reply.

It is really nice. And for me, timely. A moment I can collect and hold on to, a wink that fills me up with romance for my family, and a moment that reminds me of the everyday space created in my life just for Lydia. A moment to balance out this beautiful mess of life and grief.

How do you manage the imbalance of grief? Do you ever find yourself dismissing the urge to grieve in the moment due to time and place? Have you carve out safe spaces to allow yourself to grieve?