Thursday, May 5, 2016

Empathy, Loss, and the Social Contract

So, I get it, it's part of the human condition we must say something in times of great loss. It was one of my least favorite parts of dealing with losing Jake. The well meant, banal platitudes. Saying something, while essentially saying nothing.

Fortunately no one to my memory trotted out my least favorite of these "I know how you feel." Really, no, you don't... The only people, I would've accepted that from, my parents, said, we understand losing a child, but not at the level you guys do. Taking nothing away from their grief at the loss of their eldest child, my brother survived 40 hours before he passed. Jacob was a year and half. 

Grief, the process of accepting, understanding, and coming to terms with the loss of someone we love, is a unique, and individual journey. I know how I feel/felt about the loss of my grandmother and grandfather. Losing them was like losing two of the brightest stars in my sky. Compass points I could always turn to on my journey, if I felt I was getting lost. However, I can't presume I understood that loss to the same level as my mother and her siblings did. It's different, it just is, the nature of the relationship colors everything, including how you grieve. 

No one who comes into my life now will understand the dynamic of my grief over Jacob. And even Traci's grief, is different than my own. We are getting closer and closer to this divorce being fully realized and finalized, but I can't imagine no matter where life takes us as we travel separate roads for the first time in half our lives, that we won't check in with each other and probably share some tears every August and February. 

And even people offering advice and well meaning platitudes about the divorce don't understand either. Because while every divorce is generally the same, the relationships being separated by it are different. Traci and I spent the bulk of our married life getting by, waiting for the next crisis, and alternately leaning on/needing each other and hating/blaming each other for the problems we each saw. We never learned to communicate effectively, to work on what pulled us together in the first place, and to attack the problems while they were small chips, before they were major cracks.

That being said, I've seen that woman carry me on her back walking through Hell, laughing at the devil the whole way...She has iron in her veins. But she is also soft as butter on the Fourth of July. In our 16 years together, she taught me strength. I am forever indebted to her for that.

I know as I begin to let go of all these things I cling to, out of familiarity I will eventually come out the other side, brighter, stronger, more fully realized. I'm finding outlets for the grief, using it to begin growing, to begin rebuilding.

So be patient with me, share those well meant words of encouragement about how it'll get better, I'll be ok...but understand if I grumble about it.

Who knows, I may yet grow enough to not refer to the last year and a half as The Darkest Timeline. Maybe I'll grow, change, adapt, and look back at this time, and see all the points of light I can't/don't/won't see and I'll notice them, realizing how well lit this road really is.

Meanwhile the only way out is through, right, so I shuffle on, taking the steps, moving forward, only occasionally backward. 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Lonely Won't Leave Me Alone

The worst part of this new transition from a wife and a houseful of kids to a crummy apartment and no one to come home to, is the solitude, the loneliness. At times it's almost soul crushing, the silence swallows you, and then it just makes it easy to fall into a depression and a funk.

I've tried to fill the silence and the hole with video games, junk food, other baser pursuits, but I've realized that it's not going anywhere, so I guess I need to learn to enjoy my own company. That's a process. I would love a friend to "date" but that hasn't happened. Lord knows I'm too broken to be in any serious relationship, but I miss the company of someone of the opposite sex, just to talk to, be close to. Maybe I shouldn't want that right now and I should focus my energy purely on refining, rebuilding, myself.

It's hard to go from constant companion, to solitude though. Like, real hard. I can't have that/be that with Traci anymore and that just causes damage to whatever strands still connect us, which I hate.

I feel unlovable, and so utterly rejected, at times. That's hard, because I know somewhere out there is someone looking for everything I am, everything I can bring to the table. But the timing is off.

It's hard work learning to love yourself. Especially if you're a persnickety, perfectionist, who tends to overestimate your own flaws. Add in the things that you never considered flaws that your ex says are just impossible to live with/accept and it becomes that much more difficult.

I've had a lot of help getting to this stretch of road where I finally feel like I can slowly take honest looks at these things, stripped down to the bare bones. Decide which are flaws, which can I improve, which are just ingrained character traits, and which I like, regardless of the flaw, and love and accept those, and expect any future "friend" to just accept them as well.

Meanwhile, I'm starting to almost like the quiet, if nothing else, I'm writing. Trying to read more, I picked up The Alchemist the other day. I've heard it's a pretty good read about self discovery and that journey.

Plus I swiped some of the Tom Clancy books I didn't have yet, so time to read, write, embrace myself. Love myself, love others, be happy in my circumstances and let the good find me.

I even watched A Few Good Men last night without someone complaining about be fair, it's irresistible to me if I know it's on... I can't not watch...

Lonely won't leave me alone, but I can choose to be happy/ok, with it.

"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood..."

Time to pick a road and get moving. Standing still ain't doing no one any good.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Questions I Can't Answer

I used to love talking about my boys. I still do, but now it's awkward more than awesome. That's frustrating, although I suppose understandable.

The question "How many kids do you have?" That one sucks...I mean at work, interacting with a guest, I say three and
move on. But if it's someone I want to let know me, it's harder. When does one politely spring a deceased child into casual conversation. And will they find me too crass if I say I have three left..., as a means of acknowledging that I had more children before.

It's easier everyday to talk about, and remember Jake. His sweet smile, his adorably demanding personality. I've decided he knew his clock was wound short, and he wanted all the attention. I'm ok with that. I still wish he had seen his daddy before the anger, before I was so lost in my pain and depression. I worry for the other three hoping I can get myself out of this before our relationships are tarnished.

Navigating these waters is tricky, I want to honor, remember, and talk about my sweet boy, just as proudly as I talk about his brothers. But I don't want people to think I'm dwelling on the past, or being macabre, or weird. I just want Jocko to be loved by everyone who hears his story.

We, as a family are anonymously famous, no one before or as far as I know, since has recurred with Hartsfield. We've done it twice. I mean that's worth telling people about, right...

But beyond that, I want people to know about Jake's warrior spirit. His sweet little giggle. His harrumph noises as daddy squished him.

I want to get back to the way I used to be, when someone asked me about my kids and my eyes would light up. I'm headed back to that, but I still have the moments when someone asks and my eyes well with tears, my voice catches and I'm unsure how to respond to questions about my boys.

I find myself so angry at God so much of the time these days, that I turn to the Blessed Virgin a lot asking her intercession to ask for the things I need. I've started asking Jake to intercede for me too. Mostly I just like having a chat with him. I'm usually able to sort myself out after those talks.

Please, ask me about my children, but understand if my breath catches, and I need a minute to start telling you how amazing my sons are.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Pain Don't Hurt

If you know me, you know I love Patrick Swayze movies, especially the action ones. The title of this post is a reference to Road House, my favorite Swayze flick. Trouble is pain does hurt. Particularly the mental/emotional type pain. It festers, it lingers, it becomes physical pain. The pain of loss, the loss of a child, becomes a crushing weight. We look at our children and we see a sort of immortality. To then be holding them, lifeless, cold, gone, just drains you. You lose your compass. Down is up, East is West...everything is wrong, nothing makes sense.

Losing Jake was awful. And the aftermath just keeps increasing the confusion. I've spent the last 15 months searching, looking for a reason, clinging like a drowning man to the things that were there before Jake died, I thought I needed them, thought they were the definitions of happiness for me. I've recently realized that I was merely clinging to the familiar.

A marriage that already had some severe cracks, saw its foundation crumble, saw itself collapse in the grief and mourning. A beautiful new home, that was a promise of a new beginning, now haunts me.

I struggle with the idea that God kept me safe during my accident that morning, and yet Jacob died. I know God doesn't work that way, but still, why was I ok, why couldn't Jake fight off the infection. But, I've begun to realize that I can sit and stew and soak in the pain. Or I can acknowledge it, accept it, figure  out how to grow from it, use it as a building block to create a brighter future.

So, since I need to use that, and since writing has always been one of my healthier outlets, why not get back on this horse, and try to sort through this pain/confusion/emotional ball.

So dear reader, a few promises, I'll try to write more. I'll try not to use this space for pity parties. I'll hopefully make you think, make you laugh. I might even make you cry.

Thanks for taking this journey with me....let's see where the road takes us.