During the 13 1/2 months since Devastation Day, I continue to discover that I have changed so much that it might be easier if my physical appearance matched my new and not so improved self. Maybe instead of green eyed, 5’3″ blonde, if I was 5’10”, a redhead with brown eyes, people would not recognize me and therefore their expectations and judgments of me would fade away. Since I would not look the same as I do now, my old self would magically cease to exist since for all intents and purposes, there is now very little of me left anyway. As more time goes by, I am realizing I am no longer sturdy.
Last Friday afternoon, as I was walking to the parking garage, I kept hearing bells clanging, people cheering and clapping coming from all different directions. My car was parked near the convention center so I wondered if there was a cheerleading conference in town. Sadly, my first reaction was please make it stop. Don’t they know my daughter died and here I go again heading into a weekend which no longer holds the same anticipation and possibilities as the days all run together now?
By the time I exited the garage, the cheering voices had gotten closer and I noticed a group of women wearing pink shirts with photos on the front. Some of the women walked with black or pink ace bandages on their knees and around their ankles. Oh my gosh, this is the breast cancer 3 day/60 mile walk! Suddenly, I found myself sobbing with a respect that made me want to jump out of my car and hug each one of those brave warriors as they walked or limped by. These women know joy, sorrow, hope, grief and courage. Whether it be the courage to walk the road with their loved one, regardless of the outcome, and/or the courage to fight and survive. As I waited patiently at the busy intersection as a lady with a funny hat directed traffic to help the warriors to cross the street safely, she turned to me and noticed I was crying and mouthed “I Love You.” Her assumption of why I was crying was probably a bit misconstrued, but her empathy just made me cry even harder.
There are times I am able to look up from my own sorrow and tune into the other walking wounded among me. And happy endings do exist but not for all of us. I am not proud when I find myself broken and bitter yet I am human and life really sucker punched me by taking my daughter away. My new counselor said it won’t always be this way but not to deny the feelings. Embrace what you feel when you feel it and hopefully in time, it will work it’s way off of your radar and be replaced by emotions that serve me better.
Always I am reminded that even though I have done 13.5 months of hard time, that my “journey” is still new and I have to adjust my expectations of myself accordingly. However, I am getting to a point where I no longer have the energy to deal with those who believe I should be better now. There is a rage inside of me unlike any feeling I have ever experienced or even realized until I picked up an electric hedge trimmer and went a little crazy on the bushes and hedges around my daughter’s house. I was swinging that hedge cutter around attacking those sweet grass bushes as if they were the enemy. Yes, I am angry but don’t diminish my anger to a stage.
So far, I have only had two sessions with my new therapist/counselor and both times I left in better condition than when I arrived. As I have shared with a few of my friends, having someone validate the significance of losing my daughter with just a nod or a glimpse into her eyes made me realize how important it is that others understand what life is asking me to do by going on without Amy. And it goes without saying that I remain truly sorry that my counselor lost a child and can relate to this unimaginable pain and my shattered life. I would not wish this kind of pain on anyone and to have someone who “knows” help me figure out how the hell I am going to live my life without Amy, while they are walking the walk too, makes a difference in my ability to trust she can help me.
There are unspoken words between my counselor and I which save me so much time and energy. I am spared from spending countless hours in therapy crying, talking and earnestly searching for words which explain how sad I am in an effort to be understood. Please don’t compare the loss of a child to any other loss. Yes, many know what it’s like to have a broken heart but this is a life sentence. Believe me I am not being melodramatic when I say losing your kid is in a league all of it’s own and I had no idea before Devastation Day how horrendous it is. I was the first one to resist the idea that this was the worst possible thing that could ever happen, but dammit it is!
Most people sympathize with any family who loses a child and I do believe there are wonderful counselors out there who have not lost a child and are very capable of helping grieving parents. I say this so no one thinks I am knocking their individual counselor. That being said, I personally needed a counselor on the same journey who understands because I will admit to spending most of the past 13 months feeling very misunderstood.
As I have said many times, you don’t have to fix me or even comfort me, but please respect the loss of my daughter and the devastating effect that loss has had in my life.
Simple things bring me to my knees. Watching someone pass me with curly hair; driving by cars which resemble Amy’s car; a door; a closet; ordering a table for 4; holidays, weekends, every day… The mere idea of walking into a hospital after my last two experiences at a hospital, which ended in the tragic death of my mother-in-law and then four months later, my sweet Amy, is unfathomable. Walk in my shoes before you assume anything. On second thought, don’t. Just trust me when I say I CAN’T do something, that I really CAN’T! And know that if my presence was vital, I would do it but the circumstances would need to be critical.
I have not recovered! I am not doing better. I still cry every single day, numerous times. I still wake up in the middle of the night hysterical because losing Amy is the first and last sobering painful thought I have each day. I am forever changed and I am so unhappy. It’s not a choice, but rather a consequence. This world is not designed for me anymore. I am just doing my time to the best of my ability.
No one should have to work this hard to get through a day. Stop the world I want to get off occurs to me when I am in my darkest corners of despair, yet I do realize that I have to keep working hard and pushing my weary self in order to get to a place where not every day is such a challenge and requires so much energy. But it takes time — years — so put away your calendars, expectations and ETA because I will get there when I get there.
Some where over the rainbow … Maybe that’s where my peace is… Anyone have the address so I can put it in my gps?
Remembering Amy and all the warriors among us on both sides of the veil.