When it's too hard

My kids on their first day of daycare.

My kids on their first day of daycare.

I haven't written in a couple months. I have been traveling this summer to see family and since I've been back in town, I've been busy with work and preparing to return to school. Finally things are settling down and I have time to sort out all my thoughts. 

It was so good to spend time with Isaac's family and with my own family. There is something so special about seeing all the people who have been with you throughout your life. Visiting Utah and Idaho feels like I'm stepping back into a live photo album where I get to relive memories with my loved ones. Vacation was difficult because I don't have as much time to ponder and process my grief. I often feel distracted and sometimes I like that, but other times it can be frustrating.

Since I've been back from vacation, I've been feeling the grief more deeply. Leaving my loved ones awakens another sense of loss. I felt a lot of stress the week after vacation as I tried to get our life back together. The week after that the kids started daycare. I decided to put them in daycare a month before I started school because I figured we would all need time to adjust and I needed some relief.

The kids were excited to go to daycare the first day. After I dropped them off, I cried. I spent most of the day with friends--I really needed to connect with other people as I let my children go. When I picked up the kids they were so happy and didn't seem eager to leave. It felt reassuring to know that they liked their daycare. The next day they were excited to go again. But, when I picked up the kids Wyatt said that he didn't want to go to school anymore and told me, "I miss you too much." It's so hard when he says things like this because I miss him too. After the kids went to bed that night, I lost it. I tried to go to sleep but I just felt so sad. My kids are all I have left and sending them to daycare is a way that I lose them too. When I picked them up from daycare they seemed older. They aren't babies like they used to be. I miss being around them but this experience also triggered another loss: loss of future babies. If Isaac was alive I'd probably be pregnant right now. Sending the kids to daycare brought all these losses to the surface: the loss of Isaac, my kids growing up, the possibility of having more babies at this time in my life, and the loss of my life as I knew it. While moving forward is good, every time I take a step forward the wound stretches and reminds me that it is still fresh. With each step, I feel like I'm further from Isaac. 

Sometimes I can just take one step at a time. When I focus on the present and just do what I have to do, it becomes more manageable. Experiences like sending the kids to daycare kind of come like a punch to the chest and make me realize how big grief is. A friend asked me, "How do you do it? How do you do all of this by yourself?" When someone asks me that my heart just sinks because I don't want to do it. I don't want to do any of it alone but I don't have a choice. So on Tuesday night the tears came and they weren't stopping. I got off my bed and got on the floor because I was looking for a picture of me that Wyatt could take to school for when he missed me. And I kid you not, I looked over at my bed and saw a tick making a beeline for my pillow!! Oh man, I lost it. But then I thought, well thank goodness I'm a mess or that stupid little tick would be sucking the blood out of my head right now. So gross. (For those of you who don't know, I don't own pets but I had a tick infestation at my home about 3-4 months ago.) I also got an email that night from my lawyer that the other guy in the accident with Isaac finally agreed to the insurance settlement. I had been waiting to be served papers. In a way that is a huge blessing, but it still brought up all the unresolved issues from the accident and not knowing what really happened. 

The rest of the week the kids fought me on going to daycare. On Thursday, Wyatt really didn't want to go. He was pleading with me and he said to me, "Mom, it's too hard for me." I just wanted to break down and cry because I get it. That's exactly how I feel! This is too hard! It's too hard for him, it's too hard for me. It breaks my heart that even though this feels too hard for him, he still has to do it. I try to comfort him but sometimes it seems futile. I can't fix it. I can't protect him from this pain. I can't even explain it to him in terms he'll understand. He talks about Isaac a lot and still asks a lot of questions. Rose has started to talk a lot more about Isaac. She cries for her daddy and she even says, "Daddy got an owie." I was surprised when she said that because I've never told her about Isaac's accident. She picked that up from Wyatt when he he talks about how Isaac was hurt in a car crash. He has never used the term "owie." I'm just blown away that she realizes what has happened. I guess part of me hoped she would be oblivious for a while. She's two. Who wants their two-year-old to feel this? 

The truth is that I don't always know why I get up each morning and do it all over again. There is a part of me that hopes that the pain breaks. I hold on to that. During the times that grief knocks me down, I get stuck in this tunnel that makes me question if I'll ever feel light again. When will I be able to move forward in my life without feeling the urge to wince? Part of me knows that I don't get that luxury anymore. At church we were discussing what it means to live the gospel. As we talked about life, someone brought up the quote, "God only gives us what we can handle." A week ago a friend sent me a meme that stated, "God gives us only what we can handle. Apparently God thinks I'm a badass." But seriously, you gotta make memes like that because if you can't laugh about how ridiculous your pain is, what else can you do? God definitely gives us more than we can handle. I can't imagine that anyone of you would say, "Sure, take my spouse, my child, whatever you think I can handle." Everything in you rejects even the thought of losing your loved ones.

I delivered Rose naturally. I had thought that I wanted to deliver her naturally but by the time we got to the hospital I wasn't sure and thought, "I should probably just get the epidural. I don't need to be brave." By the time the anesthesiologist came in, I knew it was too late. I couldn't sit still long enough for them to inject the needle in my back. It was this awful place of pain because I didn't know how long it would last. I couldn't go back and prevent the pain from happening. I had to endure it. The sorrow in my mind was real. I knew that even my body wouldn't help me and just pass out. I was going to have to feel the pain, all of it. I didn't know what to do with my mind or my body. I felt so stuck, so resigned. Then just in that moment, I realized that I was pushing. I then told the nurse, "I'm pushing!" They ran to get a doctor and they saw Rose's head. I remember the doctor hurrying to put her gloves on to catch Rose. I felt what they call "the ring of fire." But after Rose's head came out, I remember feeling the rest of her slip out so effortlessly. And then I felt this high like I'd never felt before. I felt empowered like I had never felt before. 

Sometimes when the grief feels intense I try to remind myself that often this is how we experience pain. We get to this place where we know our own strength isn't enough. We can't turn back and we can't move forward any faster than we already are. I think this is where we begin to feel the strength of God or our higher power. This is where we have to connect to the divinity within us that teaches us that we have real power. It's hard to dig deeper and find the will to keep going. I only have 32 years of experience but in my years, I've learned that healing is not a linear process. It happens slowly and grows exponentially. Often the beginning part of that curve can convince us that the healing will never get to threshold we long for. I know that if I stay close to God, and if I listen to the things he tells me that I need to be doing in my life, that eventually I'll feel the relief that I seek. I know this because it has happened before. I've never had to experience this deep of pain for this long, so even though I know these things, I still struggle to believe that it can happen this time. I'm not sure when I'll see the light at the end of the tunnel, or when I'll realize that I'm pushing. It was definitely not these past two weeks. I know what it feels like to come out on the other side and that feels pretty amazing. Some days it is too hard, but maybe I'll grow into it, you know? This didn't happen because I'm strong. As this happens, I feel my muscles growing and stretching. It doesn't feel like strength because it's survival. I've heard people talk about "thriving" in your grief. Blah! No one thrives in grief. You survive. That doesn't negate what you are doing. Anyone who is grieving knows that showing up each day is sometimes all you can muster. And sometimes God helps you and sometimes He can't and you wouldn't want him to. Love requires you to feel it, to bear it. When you sign up to love someone, you can't possibly understand the pain that comes with losing them. All you feel is the joy and glory that come with connecting so intimately with another person.  Grief is love. Pain is the price. And at some point, we all pay it.