Monday, May 14, 2012

Cloudy with a chance of rain

We had several days of rain last week.  The waters flowed, the desert smelled delicious.  We have grass growing in the yard and the cactus and desert willow are blooming like crazy.

Rain falling, thunder booming and somehow we muddled threw our third year of remembering Philip's birthday without him.  An acquaintance suggested to me that maybe if I didn't mention Philip so much, the kids might be less sad.

Maybe I should concentrate on looking forward instead of keeping our focus on what used to be.

The little aside bothered me more than I wished it would have.  It was sweet advice, offered in love.  The truth is, I don't really mention Philip that often, but when the kids bring up his memory, I elect to go there with them.  Bottled up pain and grief doesn't help anyone. 

After we got home from the Highschool Athletics banquet, where Thomas, Patrick and Maggie were all honored, I went to say goodnight to Maggie.  She was lying in bed, reading the Navy Seal Workout book.  Philip picked that book up from Goodwill or some other second hand bookstore when we were homeschooling.  He would get the kids up and outside most mornings and take all five of them through paces.  They did their calesthenics on the concrete pad he poured out by the backdoor.  Then he would take them on a cross-country run he developed on the farm, running through the pasture, over the stream across a fallen log, climbing up and over a fence.  They would complain and fuss, but you know they loved it.

I asked Maggie if looking through the book made her sad.  She seemed happy and pensive, thinking about her dad.  I never even brought him up.  The kids seem to have no problem having his memory come up, at all sorts of times. 

Do you know that the Athletics Banquet was the very first kid's school event where I didn't silently weep, embarassed by my tears, feeling the pain and loss of Philip?  I didn't even realize it until the next day, as I recounted the story to my boyfriend.  And then I cried.  Because I didn't cry the night before. 

Then I asked my dear, dear boyfriend if it bothered him when I grieved Philip in his presence.  True love is being able to share one's true feelings.  Even the sad ones.  I was sweetly reassured.

Each of the kids mourned a lot last week.  I wonder if the fact that we are surviving without Philip ever leaves them feeling confused and a bit guilty like it does me? 

One of my other little ones came to me after school on the day of Philip's birthday.  "At least I didn't cry in school today and have to be sent to the guidance counselor's office this year," she told me, tears welling up in her precious eyes.  Letting me know she really needed to cry.  But was ashamed of having to expose her weakness to someone she didn't know. 

I didn't work as much as I needed to last week.  I spent more time cuddling and bike riding with kids and hanging out with them to talk, listen, just be.  They need so much more than I can give.  We all worked outside in the yard for a few hours on Saturday.  I spent Saturday evening with grownup friends and had fun and danced and drank wine and ate good food and tried to forget for a few hours.  Instead of the hard, extra challenging exercise bike rides, I had leisurely ones with Nora, enjoying the clouds and the puddles.  Took a couple of naps.  Didn't clean the house.

I was going to keep all this stuff to myself, but then I thought about the conversation a friend and I had about our kids and their grief struggles.  There are several young people I know who are having serious battles, and in each case, counselors suggest that unresolved grief is a root cause.  Some kids come away from the loss of a parent seemingly unscathed, but then there are the others, who try to assuage the deep loss and ache with drugs, alcohol, unhealthy, damaging relationships and other things. 

Grief counselors suggest that being allowed to remember, to tell the story, to feel the waves of pain is part of the path toward healing and healthy adjustment.  Finding the right people to listen and bear and share is important.  Maybe the reason I don't feel like writing anymore is that I am tired of having to admit that grief still affects us most weeks.  And that it is still hard.  In fact, being a single mom just gets harder and harder.  I imagine that a few readers of this blog can understand what I am talking about but the others out there who have yet to experience deep loss must be getting a bit tired of this. 

Life is a tangled up mess sometimes.  In the middle of the pain and loss, we have great joys and successes.  The bakery is thriving.  Who would have thought I could have brought that equipment here to our new town in the middle of nowhere and be able to generate an income?  A small income, but sufficient for the most part. 

The kids are finding their way in this town.  Yesterday Rose and Maggie went off on their own for a 2 1/2 mile run around the loop.  And then up to the top of the mountain behind the University campus up the street.  I regularly hear the sound of girls playing the piano.  Thomas is often chopping up something in the kitchen or coming back from a big bike ride.  Patrick is off working or running or doing some kind of community service if he isn't at a robotics conference or history fair. 

We have a church family and friends.  I have some Bible study ladies and you know how I love those bible study ladies.  The brisk, 50 degree mornings and lack of humidity invigorate me.  The smell of creosote and view of the mountains inspire me.  Because of work and school I don't get to see my parents as often as I would like, but I know I could if need be.

I suppose  I am writing because I wish others who are grieving to be reassured that we are all in this together, and from what others who are further along in the journey tell me, this is normal.  Please, when you are feeling a wave of pain, find someone who loves you enough to listen.  Not everyone can handle our grief.  There might be people in your life who have their own struggles and simply can't bear another drop of pain.  I believe we can ask God to show us who might be a safe friend who can share our burdens with us.  Sometimes a journal might be the safest friend.  Just like a splinter that festers and burns when left in the foot or the finger, so is grief and painful memory shoved to the side. 

I thank God daily for the faithful friends who have been willing to walk alongside us on this journey. 

PS thank you for the kind comments.  They mean so much to me.  I am behind in letter writing, email returning and comment responding.  Just because I don't respond doesn't mean I wasn't deeply touched by your encouragement. 


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Krys said...

My mom told me when my dad died, that "if we didn't have love, we wouldn't have let's have oceans of love or ripples of love, but let it wash over us". I Love talking about my dad, even though I had him into my adult years, the grief is still hard. But I can't imagine not talking, laughing and loving the stories about him. It keeps him alive!

Anonymous said...

One of the reasons I was drawn to your blog was because of the way you so eloquently express your grief and that of your children. And, like you say, for those who have never experienced deep loss, it may seem to get old. However, when you write about your dear husband, it reminds me of my own deep losses and I take the time to experience my own grief that, even though it's been many years, needs to be pulled out of the drawer and paid tribute the the fact that those individuals did exist and were loved and are forever missed and never forgotten.

I have my own fear that I will die alone and no one to miss me as I've lost my only child. There is no legacy left of me to remember or carry on my existence. The stupidest question that I'm left with, is who do I give all the heirlooms and pictures to? There is no one to appreciate the stories that come with the passed down antiques and china.


Truthseeker said...

Having experienced the loss of many loved ones...I know from it that the grief MUST be let out and that memories don't always = grief. It would be so much sadder if one never brought up the loved one....then it would seem as if their life didn't matter. So talk, laugh, tell old stories and mention the name, often! For it's through the laughter & tears that the person lives on and you know the life has counted and is remembered and missed.