Thursday, January 16, 2014

Thirty-two Days And Counting

I survived the first anniversary of sorts. Despite my worries, I didn't fall apart, even when the memorial necklace I ordered off Etsy turned up in the mailbox shorthly after noon. Somehow, it seemed only fitting.

I know that at least for a while, the 15th of every month will bring a sense of dread. Now it's been one month, soon it will be two, then three, six, a year. Life, God willing, will keep rolling on and pulling me right along with it, no matter what part of the past I might want to cling to.

A friend who lost her son several years ago told me earlier this week that the dread was usually worse than the actual date itself. It turns out she was right. Thinking about how it was going to be had a whole lot more weight to it than actually living the day itself.

I've found in one month that the problem with grieving is that life gets in the way.

No matter how much some part of me has wanted to do the sackcloth and ashes bit and sit in a corner pulling my hair, there is an even larger part of me that wants to live each day fully, maybe doubly because Ethan isn't living it any more. His legacy isn't going to be about grief, it's about living and making a difference, about reaching out to other people who are hurting like I am and propping one another up on days that we feel like we're falling, its about doing everything I can to help keep this pain from happening again, even if it is only in one life.

I don't know how I'm going to do all that, but I know weeping and wailing won't do it. They won't even come close.

Not only do I want to live and make a difference, I decided years ago that I couldn't let his addiction wreck the rest of the family. I could not always be there for him because other people needed me -- not just his sister, but my first granddaughter and through the years her two younger sisters. Because I'm not just "Ma," but babysitter as well, I can't take time off from family life to grieve. I can't take bereavement days from what is a 40-hour-a-week labor of love.

Meeting their needs on a day-to-day basis gets in the way of worrying about the needs I can no longer meet.

You cannot spend too much time languishing on might-have-beens, when you're surrounded by what might be; you cannot spend too much time thinking about what if, when the sudden silence in the other room probably means someone is either writing on a wall or playing in a sink.

So, just as it has for every day since Dec. 15, the needs of the living -- mine and the people around me -- pulled me through the day yesterday.

The diagnosis of SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder) in E1 has added a new twist to those days as yesterday was not only the one month anniversary of losing my son, but also her first full therapy session. Like physical therapy, which having undergone it I know hurts, it appears this therapy has some lasting aftereffects as well that aren't all positive. Trying to learn how to help her, better judge what is going on in her head, and continue to deal with occasional meltdowns is a facet of my days that goes beyond dealing with three preschool children.

It means my plate is always full and yes, as people keep telling me, I look tired.

It would be easy to say I have too much to handle, and looking at everything going on in my life, I'd have to agree.

That's why there are days when I have to put some of it aside and not handle it. There are days when I give it to God and don't have time for it any more, although I may have time another day and, without so much as a by-your-leave, take it back.

Thanks to the demands of life, I've found that the easiest thing to set aside and leave in God's hands is my son, because he's already in God's hands and has been for his entire life any way. While I need God's help to get through every day, God has work for me to do as well and that work I cannot pass to others. Ethan doesn't need me any more, either through my physical efforts or my mourning.

No, that doesn't mean I don't still grieve him and feel his absence, or that there won't be days when that grief pushes everything else aside for a while.

My place, however, is living. It's marking off another day and going on.

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