Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Battling the Demon Grief

Last night I let the demon grief out of his box.

I know that he lurks around my house, waiting for me to stumble on a memory, find an old note, see a certain look in a child's eye. He no longer hides in the familiar photographs on the wall or my computer -- the ones I touch lightly in passing, sometimes bestowing a kiss via my fingertips as I go.

Those are faces of Ethan I've come to accept I won't see any more: the smiling preschooler with a bunch of flowers, the elementary school boy grinning with his best friend, the chubby middle schooler with glasses and braces, the high schooler posing with a friend in a formal dress, the last Christmas with Ethan clowning with my dog. Those are all of him I've been able to handle, and they are each so different as to be five different boys.

Although my mother took down photo albums and cried over them after Ethan died in December, I've avoided them because I know that right now they are filled with pain.

While trying to stack albums the other night after hunting for a notebook stored among them, I first found a treasure -- stories Ethan wrote in elementary school about my dog, Lucy, and her time traveling exploits. I wasn't brave enough to read them, but just knowing I have them, brought a smile to my face. It also put me off guard so that when the cover fell open on an album and the smiling face of a blond-haired toddler peered out at me from an 8x10 portrait, I smiled at that as well.

There was my little boy and it didn't hurt to see him.

So I looked to see what was behind that picture and there were more 8x10s. A whole stack of them tucked into the front of the album, the young man already beginning to take shape in a little boy's face. And that was when the demon grief got out of his box.

I stifled the scream that threatened to come from my heart, closed the album and gently placed it back on the shelf. But putting the demon back into his box wasn't that easy.

The house was quiet with sleep and I took the dogs and fled to the kennel and fell apart. I cried as I haven't since the first few days and it felt as though I were losing another piece of my heart. I prayed and asked God, "Why?" How can a loving God make a boy live in the pain Ethan lived in? How can He make me feel as though my heart is being pulled still beating from my chest over and over again?

Even remembering that ache makes me hurt all over again. There have been days of peace and sunshine, but right now I feel like I'm drowning again.

Right now the pain of losing Ethan is as fresh as it was Dec. 15. Right now I don't want to do the things I know will make me feel better. I want to take the album off the shelf and turn every page. I want to play his CDs and take his old hoodie out of the storage bag and breathe in his scent and imagine him in my arms. Right now, while the demon grief has control, I just want to die.

But I won't.

I'll take a deep breath and drink a little more coffee. I'll take another deep breath and fool around on Facebook. I'll keep breathing and looking out the window at the stormy sky and the birds at the feeder and my dogs looking for spots of sunshine to warm in. I'll keep breathing and put on some shoes and take a pack of dogs on a chilly walk.

I'll keep breathing, and I'll put the demon grief back into his box and tie down the lid securely until I'm ready to fight him again, or until he sneaks from some unexpected spot and fills my heart with questions and despair and pain. And then I'll do this whole exercise over again, because that's the only way I can do this thing called mourning and this thing called life.

I'll keep breathing because in time, I'll be reminded of the reasons I keep breathing.

One of my house dogs will come looking for me and the click of little nails will remind me they need me. The phone will ring and it may be a friend, or my husband on his lunch break and there will be conversation and caring and I'll know someone else needs and loves me. My daughter will call with an update on her morning and the background chaos will remind me of a whole lot of reasons to get up every day. The morning will pass and the girls will arrive in all their drama and potential and the demon grief will be firmly in his box because there is no place for him when I'm carried along by their energy and life.

I'll keep breathing because there are still things I must do. Even if my heart is broken, it keeps on beating and I'll keep on living until those tasks are done and my journey complete

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