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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Right Where I Am: 1 year, 10 months

Many thanks to Angie from Still Life with Circles for coordinating the Right Where I Am project for all of us to talk about where we are in our grief. 

I'm lost.  I have gone to look for myself.  
If I get back before I return, please ask me to wait.  

I should find this on a shirt and wear it every day.  Or maybe put it on a button.  Either way, this is it.  Most days, I am okay, as far as okay goes after the loss of a child.  But, quite honestly, I am still looking for myself.  I am twenty two months without my first born.  Twenty two months trying to figure out who I was then and who I am now.  Twenty two months trying to figure out where I was, where I am and where I'm headed.   

Twenty two months ago I was wife to a playful and passionate husband.  Twenty two months ago I was a self-employed physical therapist and owner of a private physical therapy practice.  Twenty two months ago I was Deputy Chief of an award-winning and trail blazing volunteer fire department.  Twenty two months ago I was a daughter, sister, niece and friend.  Twenty two months ago I was me.

Today I am still all of those things.  I am still a wife, still a self-employed physical therapist, still Deputy Chief. i am still a daughter, sister, niece and friend.  In fact, at first glance, the pictures are quite similar until you hold them up to the light...that's when the differences can be seen with clarity.   

I am still still married to the body that I took for better or for worse, richer or poorer, sickness or health.  Sadly, he is not the man that I married.  Playful and passionate is gone.  Don't get me wrong...I don't expect him to be the same man that I married, because I am certainly not the same woman that he married.  But most days I cannot even catch a glimpse or the smallest remnant of the man that once existed.  In the days immediately following Gracie's death, I experienced a very unexpected urge and need to be physically close to my husband.  My recovery prevented intimacy, but even if that had not been an issue, my husband and I were certainly not on the same page.  In the months after Gracie's death, as we started talking about TTC again, any mention of intimacy immediately turned to talk of beer, Wi.ld Tur.key or scotch; there was no baby making without my husband first indulging in one of the three.  Twenty two months and one rainbow baby later, my husband is still dealing with the same mental block, and it's beginning to take its toll on me mentally and emotionally.  No matter what, I love him more than words can describe, but God help me, I miss my husband.  I know that he will never be the same, but I am having such a hard time dealing with the drastic change in our physical relationship.  Never in a million years did I think there would come a day that I would miss the man that had to be beaten off with a stick.  But I miss him...some days, almost as much as I miss Gracie. 

I am still a self-employed physical therapist; I still own a private physical therapy practice, but it's not what it was 3 or 4 years ago.  I used to be the persona of incredible motivation and over achievement.  If I thought it, I made it happen.  Now, some days, I consider myself to be very lucky that my doors are still open.  I still work hard, more or less because I don't have a choice, but I just can't keep up any more.  I have spent the last 15-18 months trying to find my drive...trying to find my passion...trying to find simple focus.  Focus.  HA!  Right now I should be doing end-of-the-school year paperwork, and I'm blogging instead.  Blogging has become a very common diversion for my paperwork....which just puts me further and further behind the 8-ball.  (And the further behind I get with paperwork, the more imposing the financial implications.)  It's absolute agony for me to complete a simple 8-10 sentence report for a patient's visit to the doctor, but I can sit and bang out a 4000 word blog post without effort. 

I am still Deputy Fire Chief.  Blah.  I have been a firefighter/EMT/rescue technician for 17 years.  Somewhere along the way, I picked up a gaggle of faithful 'subjects' in the form of junior firefighters that used to follow me around day and night.  My commitments and responsibilities at the fire house used to rank very high on my priority list; I used to shoot out of bed every time the pager went off.  Now...I just don't feel it anymore.  Initially, I thought that it would get better as I moved away from Gracie's death...that my spark would come back and I would get back in the saddle.  Not so much.  That same drive that I talked about's gone...and it carries over into the one aspect of my life that I thought would go unscathed.  It makes me sad.  Actually, it makes me really sad.  I worked my ass off for 15 years to gain the respect of the men around me, and for the last 22 months I just haven't cared. 

I am still me.  The new me, and as I said at the top of this post, most days I am okay.  True statement.

There are still days that I think it would be less painful to stick a fork in my eye than deal with my thoughts and feelings.  Those are the days that I walk around with blog posts running and running in my head and no opportunity to sit down and get any of it out.  At this point, though, the good days pretty much outnumber those days.  But, I wish I could make people understand that a 'good day' is not synonymous with the return of the 'old me.'  It means that I am functional; I get up, take care of my family, go to work and do the other things that I need to do to effectively remain part of part of society.  I sleep well and cry very little; outside of the first month after Gracie's death, this has been the norm for me, but I cannot begin to explain it.  Occasionally, there are days that I feel like I'm encompassed by fog and I run on autopilot; these are the days that it is in everyone's best interest to take a step back and carefully choose their words.  Thankfully, these days are becoming fewer and further between.

Gracie's pictures and memento shelf have a place in our living room.  I frequently carry Jenna over near the photos so she can see Gracie, and I tell her a little bit about Gracie while we look at her picture.  With the exception of a couple specific articles of clothing, Jenna uses the things that were purchased for Gracie.  I'm okay with this, as we had originally planned to use as many of Gracie's things as possible for subsequent babies.   

Old friends have exited, but new friends have entered.  Some 'old' friends want desperately to understand, and perhaps even feel, our pain and grief; most have no desire to understand it or accept it for what it is.  I appreciate those who make the effort, and I generally don't have the time of day for those who don't give a shit.  There is a special place in my heart for a very small number of people around us who have been profoundly affected by our experience, and have a very hard time dealing with it. All in all, though, it's still an incredibly lonely place, and I have learned that there are very select few people that I can turn to for the right kind of support at the right moment. 

I still struggle with my faith and trying to figure out why God would ever do something like this.  I still occasionally feel some degree of contempt toward those who have no idea how lucky they are to never experience difficulty getting pregnant, pregnancy loss or baby loss; likewise, I occasionally feel contempt toward those who constantly feel inconvenienced by their kids.

Sometimes I'm still amazed by how profoundly our loss can affect pre-existing 'baggage' and and vice versa.  I've actually spent quite a bit of time thinking about this lately.  I have one sister, and although we have our differences, we have always been pretty close.  She left two weeks after Gracie's funeral for a 2+ year assignment in Africa with the Peace Corps; she is expected to complete her service and return to the states some time in December or January.  Prior to her departure, we talked on the phone daily, and usually supplemented that with daily online communication.  While she's been in Africa, we've been lucky to hook up online once or twice a week for a few minutes and/or via once every month or two.  Obviously, lots has changed in her world since she's been gone; she has, after all, been living in Africa for almost 2 years.  Lots has changed in my world since she's been gone.  Even with the 'regular' communication we have had since she left, she has essentially missed my entire grieving process.  That's not to say that my grief or my grieving process are her burden to bear, but rather to say that there are many things about my grief and grieving that I have not said or shared with her that I would have undoubtedly shared with her if she had been stateside for the last 2 years.  There is so much about me and my hubby that she will just not understand or get once she gets back and resumes regular interaction with us; likewise, there is also so much that I will never understand about her...and perhaps a thing or two that I will never want to understand.  Truth be known, I feel like we will welcome a stranger back into the country in a few months, due in large part to all that has unfolded since the death of our daughter, and I am quite unsettled by it. 

It is still sometimes difficult for me to watch as two little ones around us grow up.  My husband's cousin had a little boy just two months before Gracie died, and my very best friend in the world had a little girl 3.5 months before Gracie died.  We see one relatively frequently, and I see pictures of the other even more frequently.  As much as I love her, the pictures of my friend's little girl sometimes really tug at my heart; they help me to visualize exactly what I am missing out on with my beautiful little girl.  Aside from these two little ones, I do pretty well around babies and toddlers that are the age that Gracie should be. 

So, where am I headed?  It's impossible to know.  If I take only one 'lesson' away from this entire experience, it is this...  I must, must, must accept that, no matter how much I want to believe otherwise, life works on its own terms...not mine.  I can do things to influence the path of my life, but for the most part, it's completely out of my control.  To that end, I know that I don't want to be solely defined by the loss of my daughter.  It will always be part of who I am, and shape some of the things that I do, but I don't want it to be what I am.  I am still working on this.  It is safe to say that I will never regain the innocence or naivety that I had before Gracie died, but I do think that, in time, I will be able to recover some of the spark and pizazz that Gracie's death smacked right out of me.  So I am going to keep looking for that spark and pizazz.  At the same time I am going to keep trying to find some way to ease some of my husband's pain - for his benefit, for our rainbow's benefit, and for my own selfish benefit.  How long will it take?  Forever.  It will all be part of our life long journey.  Where will I be in six months or a year?  I'd like to tell you that I will have found a few remnants of my husband, found my focus and gotten back on track at work, found my spark and drive and gotten back on track at the fire house and picked up where I left off with my sister.  The truth is that I have no clue, but if you made it this far, I invite you to stop back at some point to see where I am. 


Becky said...

Thanks for sharing. I agree with you on that people seem to think that just because I am having a good day does not mean that I am over my son's death and the old me is back. Sorry to hear people think that way about you. Take Care

still life angie said...

Thank you for sharing right where you are. xo

Hope's Mama said...

Gracie is a beautiful baby and I absolutely love that name. I'm so sorry she's not in your arms.
Here via Angie's project to lend my support as someone a little further up the road.

Mandy said...

I too had a similar intimacy experience after our most recent loss and found solace and help by reading "The Sex Starved Wife". An internet search for that will also pull up some articles which pretty much sum up the book. I would highly recommend it.

erica said...

Oh, your Gracie is such a little beauty. I'm so sorry for your loss. Thanks for sharing this post. I am hoping hard that some of your spark and pizazz returns to you sooner rather than later.

Holly said...

So much of this road is unknown. It'd be so much easier if there was something that said do this and it'll be better and it were true.

Fireflyforever said...

Visiting (belatedly) from Angie's project.

There is so much here that I utterly related to - the loss of drive and pizazz, how a good day does not mean "I" am back, just that I am functioning in my "new normal".

"Life works on it's own terms" - we had a rough intro to that particular lesson, but yes, that is it exactly.

I am so sorry that your beautiful first born daughter is not with you, right now.