It’s coming up on a year since we lost my brother-n-law, and our families’ world has changed so much since our return from Hawaii, it’s hard to even think about what the world was like before that. By this time last year, we had already welcomed a baby into the world and helped my father-n-law through the recovery of his stroke, which happened to be the same day the baby was born. We never saw the loss that was about to strike coming. We were blindsided, without warnings.
Depression and grief are as much apart of our life a year later as it was when he passed a way. I previously have used an analogy about being caught in an ocean wave, but a fairer current description is that we are on a scorched island, like a volcano erupted and burned everything. The hardened lava covered ground, the burned vegetation, and the sky is blocked out by the polluted air. The emergency crews that came to help have largely moved on. Some of the friends that visited our island frequently return even though the island isn’t always the happiest place. Some still circle the island not knowing if it’s safe to return.
We talk about the map to grief, not only do most grievers not have the map, friends and family usually don’t either. What makes it even more complicated is that each person’s map is different. It is an impossible matrix to solve. Not every person handles grief the same way every time and the map some times changes along the way. I have struggled with understanding Shannons map, but I wake up every day trying to figure it out.
Don’t get me wrong we have managed to piece together a new kind of happiness. Sometimes it is genuine and real and other days it is fake enough to get us through the day. I don’t want my children to grow up under a cloud of darkness, so we shelter them as much as possible. Our oldest is starting to ask more questions about her Uncle, and so far we have just danced around the topic, at some point we owe it to her and to even him to explain where he went. It’s hard to explain death to an adult let alone a three-year-old…when Shannon and I think the time is right, we will explain to them the best we can.
Eventually, I think the skies will start to clear up, and the ground will soften. One blade of grass will spring up like the grass that grows in a sidewalk crack, and hopefully, that grass will spread, and eventually, the flowers will return, the trees will come back, and the sky will return blue. Sure there will be rough days with rough waves, but the sunshine will touch most of the island on most days. We live day to day, more like hour to hour sometimes, we don’t always know the mood. Will the tide be too high to bear or will the low tide show us parts of the island we haven’t ventured to in a while?
Depression can make you so focused on not forgetting that you often forgot to remember. My experience with grief is that it feels like if you don’t focus every mental moment on those that have passed, you may not remember the finer points. How they smelled, how they laughed and every other detail that is comforting when you just miss someone so much that it hurts to just even breath. Live goes on though, they say, and it does, you can’t pause it or stop it. You can’t go backward or predict the future. There are no re-dos or do-overs. Eventually, I think you come to a balance of finding a way of remembering that provides comfort with out the pain that trying not to forget brings. That’s my perspective, and as I said, everyone’s map is different. As a family, we aren’t there yet.
Some days I just stare at the metaphoric ground and wonder when is that blade of grass going to spout. When is my wife going to be back to who I married? Then I remind myself that life is a journey, none of us are who we were yesterday, and I don’t expect her to be anyone other than who she is today. We have more good days than bad now, and there are days I think she just puts on a good face but keeps trying to clean up our island, repair what we can, build new bridges and venture out…eventually that hard rock will be fertile soil. Depression can fool you into thinking there is comfort in the darkness and that stark, lonely and barren island is the best place to live. We have other plans though. Eventually, enough light will shine through, and our island will change.
I am so thankful for those that continue to support our journey, they listen to our stories, wipe our tears and are merely present. We have missed phone calls/texts, forgot to send gifts, skipped invites and numerous other things that aren’t characteristic of us. Some days we are tired, overwhelmed, or simply sad. I say we cause WE are a team. We are taking it one day at a time doing the best that we can, and eventually, we will be firing on both cylinders but until then thank you for all those that continue to visit our island even when it’s not the most hospitable.