Saying hello to what will be a very emotional month for us. Sloan’s 2nd birthday is days away, another Christmas without him lies ahead. December 30th, my 32nd birthday, will also mark the day Phoenix will have officially outlived Sloan.
This year has been so difficult for us and such a test of our coping mechanisms. last year it was all so fresh. Sloan’s death had loomed over everything regarding us, for everyone. Everyone knew about it, everyone was profoundly impacted by it, everyone mourned it.
There’s something bereaved parents call “The Settle Down”. I’ve spoken of it before. It’s when the dust clears around the wreckage and everyone begins to mill about their lives again, the immediate shock has worn off and their lives go on, but the bereaved are still buried in that smoldering wreckage. Everyone has seemingly moved on but we’re crawling around grasping for normalcy in flames, screaming inside “But we’re still on fire, don’t you see it?!”. And nobody can hear us, because it should all be fine now. Because we too, end up moving through the wreckage and stand upright again, we too have long begun to appear to function again, to have gotten “better”.
A friend recently said “It’s like after a hurricane when the tanks and relief workers leave and the rubble and shit. The water lines and power lines are still fucked. It’s like a bomb went off and they came in and said: you good? You alive? Cool. Nevermind the house, the neighborhood, your limbs, are severed and wrecked. How will you eat, how will you sleep, how will you do things day to day? Everything is the wreckage and you’re walking around a world that looks like the middle east after a bomb but nobody can see it. You’re like “We can’t even walk outside what the hell is wrong with you people!”
I struggle with shit people can’t even see. Getting dressed, going places. Smells, sounds, songs, shows, talking, being around people in moments I don’t want to be. Things unravel me that didn’t before and I just seem rude or people’s favorite description- “dramatic”.
I had a delayed reaction. For a year I did it alone. I had a husband who couldn’t even talk about it, who refused because that was how he coped. Every little thing completely undid him, so I walked on tip toes, suppressing my own damage in order to tend to his. I had to keep it together. Because Justin wasn’t, and because Rowan needed stability. People think I should be “over it” by now and stop talking about it, calling me a victim or saying it’s for attention. Them not knowing it was me, who made all the phone calls, made the plans for his body, made appointments, answered the questions, paid all of our bills, brought in our only income, managed it all during the darkness. So that he didn’t have to. And it’s not Justin’s fault. You deal with loss how you deal with loss, it’s different for everyone, and he needed what he needed. But I was forgotten there, and now I’m having to face my own shit.
I have always been a person to wallow for five minutes, a few days, be completely destroyed by whatever is stomping my flame, and then I get up and dust off and do the tear wiping, telling myself “I’m okay, move along” so I can get shit done. And I do it quickly. But, this isn’t quick so it’s thrown me for a loop. His death is there, heavy and dark, challenging our every move, our every thought, always. It didn’t only happen to us, it defines our lives, and every moment is about it.
I think people just don’t realize that things are still so fresh for us. And that is in part because of Phoenix. She’s this amazing blessing and in so many ways she’s helped us to heal. But her presence is also an ENORMOUS trigger. She doesn’t replace him. She doesn’t erase the hurt or the loss. This interrupted the process of our grieving and turned it into something more. Now it’s grieving and trying to heal, while also dodging the daily triggers of having another infant so soon.
I can recognize and cherish every bit of this miracle that she is, I’ve bonded with her in this soul joining way, because of Sloan. But, if I go to the bathroom will she be okay when I come back? If she’s quiet in the car is she breathing? What if the Owlet stops working? What if she’s allergic to that food? What if that’s not just a cough? Is her nose running? It’s like two steps forward, one step back.
It’s all surfacing recently, but now is the time of “after the wave” when it’s quiet and all that hand holding and back patting is slowed down. The aid has headed out but the wreckage is still left. This is our disaster to sort through, but we’ve had no preparation, we had no warning, so it’s taking longer for us to make sense of it.
The thing about bereavement is that it is never over and done with. Our grief will never go away. It’ll grow as he would have. It’ll become a toddler, and a preteen, and an adult. We will have to continue to evolve with the grief and wreckage in its different stages. Right now, we’re still figuring out how.