We are winding down summer break, all the birthdays and events that have truly made this THE best summer in my entire 41 years of existence and for reasons I am so very proud of. I’ve worked tirelessly to get and be here. However, there are 2 realities that have been largely weighing on my heart and mind amidst all this wonder of summer. One being that Brandon would’ve been starting junior kindergarten come September, and two, it’s really beginning to hit me the milestones and celebrations that Jackson will only ever share with 1 living parent. Brandon and Jamie’s absences are never far, but they are surely in my face this past week and a bit now.
Both realities punched me square in the face the morning of Jackson’s 9th Birthday while baking a cake. I prepare myself for milestone days, birthdays, ‘angelversaries’ etc etc… For example, I spent the day before and day of what would’ve been Brandon’s 4th Birthday, with my BFF, parents and another close friend beside the pool at my parent’s home. A safe and quiet space with 30 acres of land some of which holds some Brandon’s ashes. A quiet dinner and night with my Mom and Bill going into the day of his 4th birthday was exactly what my heart and soul needed. I didn’t anticipate either of these feelings rushing in and in turn was not prepared for the overwhelm of these truths. This in turn plays a wicked game with my mind than triggering my mental health, namely my anxiety as it demands I be on top of everything at all times. My day planner houses all I need to know about my schedule and what I can anticipate on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Day planners don’t hold schedules for grief waves or emotions.
Last week, following the fun of Jackson’s birthday, for the first time all summer long, I felt the darkness of the waves of grief, my mental health and my inability to control the things I cannot control. I reminded myself daily that in order to get through, I had to move through my emotions and the physical toll it took on me. I was down with a headache (I never get headaches) for 2 days, I was getting sick and for only a moment, felt guilty as hell for being so happy all summer long and in a state of what I would call remission of my mental illnesses if not for but a moment. I have not felt such crippling anxiety since early June. I was scared again to move forward in the wake of this all doing it by myself with Jackson, knowing it’s all me and I was heartbroken that I was only sending one little boy to school come September 3, 2019. It’s all such a HUGE horsepill to swallow and it’s exhausting, even on the best of days.
I’ve visited the thoughts of single parenting on my own until Jackson is an adult, I’ve visited the thoughts of milestones that will be missed by his dad and knowing how it makes me feel let alone, how it makes Jackson feel. I than feel heavier trying to carry it for Jackson so he doesn’t have to bare the pain I know all to well when it comes to losing a person we love. I don’t want him to hurt but, that’s not very realistic at all. I want him to be 9 and live so freely and lovingly that it looks as though pain never existed for him. I’ve visited the pain of milestones my deceased son will never get to live. I’ve never felt quite so saddened by it though. Maybe because I haven’t had to face a major milestone yet like, his first day of school…. It was more about the medical milestones that would’ve come with his Down Syndrome diagnosis. Like the day they pulled his G-tube out and me realizing that milestone was a massive one. Oh how I cried at how well he had done and how far he had come in such a short time.
The key to this all, visiting them. Visiting all the thoughts and ideas of what was and could’ve been however, not staying there. I will never forget what my grief counselor, who counselled me after Brandon’s passing and again last year in the wake of Jamie’s loss said… “I would be more concerned if you WERE NOT having any of these thoughts, ideas, wondering, what if’s, that’s when I would be concerned.” I forget that I am allowed to visit the darkness, even when I’m feeling the light of living on and within myself. I sometimes forget the trauma of a fateful morning in 2015 that profoundly changed my life. I forget that I am allowed to have ‘down’ days within this freeing feeling of living again rather than just surviving the day. But, I do just survive some days. I do feel so much pain and emptiness even at the best of times and that makes me human. That’s the premise and point of my blog. This afterglow of life after surviving what in the loss community is called ‘the unimaginable’. After surviving trauma.
I have written before and will write it again that I would not be where I am today without a massive support system personal and professional. Though all the work is done by ourselves, it cannot be done alone. I can count on one hand how many people in my life truly ‘get it’. I’ve lost friendships, possible relationships, job opportunities and the list goes on solely because of my mental health and the amount of grief I carry and will carry for life. Dating is an utter joke in the wake of this all, another blog for another day and oh the hilarity of that all. I am of the opinion that those were not the people or places for me. My life is better without having to pretend to be what I am not. I will never be that person for anyone. I’d much rather be alone than give to anyone who cannot respect the person I am and why I am that person. No one has to understand our specifics, but, they can respect our realities. Never settle for anything less than that. Any thing less is surviving and I choose to live rather than just survive and remember, on any given day, at any given time, it’s ok to not be ok!!
A massive shout out to my BFF, my person, my sister from another Mister, the one who truly gets me and all of my shit… Lisa A…aka Hooker… for living right along with me in ways I have not in years this summer… From hospital visits to Sarah McLachlan at Jackson Triggs to farm days by the pool and all nighters filled with laughter for the ages… Here’s to sooo very many more together!!! What would I do without you… #oliveyouhooker