I’m especially grateful to Angie for starting this Right Where I Am project (for more about it, see her post) because it helps to see where others are in their grief as well. It adds context and makes me feel less isolated and odd.
I am not always sure that I know where I am, which is, I guess, a big part of where I am. Almost three years later and I’ve only now sought out professional help for depression and anxiety (or/and possibly PTSD). One of my biggest problems in life is that, even though my poker face is transparent as plastic wrap, I pull off a very convincing imitation of “fine.” I also keep telling myself that I should really be fine, even while I tell myself that “should” has little to do with my reality. I am trying to pretend less and to speak to myself kindly instead of critically, and that is difficult. And if this sounds like I’ve got a lot of voices in my head, well, there are lots of days where it feels pretty crowded in here.
I am still figuring out how Teddy’s death has affected me and I am starting to realize that some of my coping strategies aren’t good long-term plans. Two years ago, I did whatever I needed to do to get through – to get through another day, another hour, another damned diaper commercial. These days, getting through isn’t the only thing, usually isn’t the main thing to consider. That’s a relief, but it also means a lot of readjusting, and I’m not sure I’m ready to readjust yet. My timeline, it is not a timeline that syncs well with this world that moves on as if babies dying is no big deal.
It helps that Teddy’s little sister is in our lives. She has been a big part of my healing and she is bright and busy and amazing. Yesterday before bed she sat in the rocking chair reading Ten Little Ducks to me with much babbling and emphasis on the high points.
“Oh, no!” she said.
“Oh! The ducks all fell into the ocean!” I said.
She turned a page. “Growr!”
“The polar bear says “Growr,” I affirmed.
“Oh, the seal does say ‘Ar, ar!'”
“Quack, quack. Quack, quack, quack! D’ar.”
“You make such good duck noises. And I see the stars.”
She read it to me twice. I almost cried just because I’m so amazed at how alive and interesting she is, because she’s turning more and more into her own little person and I revel in the fact that I get the chance to watch it happen and see who she is becoming.
The flip side to all of this is that she also reminds me of all I’m missing. She wears her brother’s Cubs cap, she reads his books, but she takes up her own space in the world. His space is still empty and I can’t fill it with busyness or imagination or distractions or sheer force of will. Would Teddy have laughed like that? Would he have loved ducks and bears and lions? Would he have been busy, busy, busy all the time, or more laid-back? The biggest part of my grief right now is all of these things I’ll never know, that I should know, and while many days this ache is just part of the background noise of my life, there are still times when it knocks me over, makes me gasp and gulp.
I still miss my faith and at the same time I’m still angry at God. I realize this doesn’t make much sense. I’m some sort of mish-mosh of lapsed Lutheran, Agnostic, Neopagan, and Neoplatonist at the moment. It’s very messy, but maybe I should come up with a catchy name for it, find some followers and make some billboards?
Two containers of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream sit in the freezer, waiting for me (did you know their “Late Night Snack” ice cream has chocolate covered potato chips?!), and my lunch today was a chocolate bar, pop tarts, and a diet coke. Which is an example of one of those coping strategies that I need to revise and rethink. At some point in the past year eating, specifically eating things I know are bad for me (the pleasures of rebellion, maybe?) has become a strong source of comfort and relief. It makes me feel better, the primal mindlessness of eating ice cream straight out of the container, turning my brain off and focusing on the tactile sensations and the flavors and the small but suddenly really important decisions like whether or not to take another spoonful. I love it, but it’s not sustainable.
But this week I have ditched the nursing bras and am really happy to be wearing ones that hoist my breasts up and make them look more bouncy and less jiggly, more Mad Men and less Madwoman in the Attic. Seriously, I’ve been checking my boobs out in every mirrored surface I pass today just to see how fine they look (mighty fine!). It occurs to me that there hasn’t been a time in past couple of years I would have done that or even been able to imagine it.
I am happy, a lot of the time, but it’s a complicated happiness.
And I still want Teddy back.