The Holiday Rollercoaster

Originally Written December 14, 2009

It’s been six years since my son died… almost seven. It’s been seven months since my father died… almost eight. Here I sit, a veteran of infant loss and the holidays, a newbie to losing a parent. In the years since Ian, my son, died, I’ve learned that the holidays can be a roller coaster – some years have been brutal, others have sort of quietly lumbered by in muted sadness. Bittersweet but tolerable. Right now, for reasons I can only speculate on, the grief feels like a roaring train flying down the track this year…. loud, beyond my control, overwhelming, and a little over powering. A lot of stimulus drive the train … and I’m not sure which one has it’s foot heaviest on the gas pedal.

I think in missing Ian, this year would have normally been more on the muted sadness side. There, a dull ache, but one that didn’t overshadow my happiness. But last week, a member of my family was hospitalized with some pregnancy complications. Thus far, everything seems to be turning out okay, but she was in the same room where Ian was born. Stillborn that is. And since then, the floodgates have opened on the memories from that time. Some so traumatic, some mere ghosts of grief stricken conversations that took place. Some an overflow of forgotten regret now spilling back over the surface.

Since my dad died in April, I’ve done, I think, pretty well. He made me promise to focus on good things -where he was going, who he’d be with, that he’d always ‘be with me’. I am, I try. And often I do well. But I have been so nonstop busy since he died, constantly in motion. And when I’m not, I find myself hiding from the grief in ways that are not going to help me in the long run. I have worried from the beginning that ‘another shoe’ would drop and the grief would really hit me. I don’t know if that’s an unnecessary fear or a gut instinct. But since he died, I’ve also been busy as hell being the ‘doting daughter’, trying to take care of mom, keep her busy, keep her laughing, giving her things to look forward to … and not taking any time for me. I have to. She needs me. And I can’t let that slide. It isn’t an option. And I think with the support of my family, we’ve all done pretty well at keeping her going. And we share the load, it isn’t all me. But when it’s my down time, I don’t let myself think very often. Is it I don’t let myself? Or is it that it just doesn’t come? I’m not sure. But now, with the holidays here, I watch mom struggle a little more and there’s nothing I can do to protect her. I look around at my family and realize that dad truly is gone … that this really is our ‘new normal’. And I find myself missing him so much… his face, his voice, his smile, his touch. I miss my daddy… and I long to go back into the past 40 years of my life and be his little girl a thousand more times. Part of my comfort these recent months comes from Faith in where he is now, that he is with God, that he is whole and perfect, faith that he is with my son too. And for his joy, I give thanks. For his absence, I hurt more deeply than I have words to describe. I will never let go of the joy for him, but I can’t help but feel the sorrow of his absence – It’s like our family was a circle, and it’s now broken. In time, we will figure out how to close the circle together and keep him at the core of it through his legacy, but for now, it’s an open hole, and through that opening, the heartache of missing him comes flooding in.

It all swirls around, mixing together, making it hard for me to know where to start in the sorting out of it all. In spite of medication to manage my anxiety, sadness hums inside my chest, waiting for the button to push the tears into motion. I have that feeling I used to get — afraid if I start to cry I will never stop. My throat is constricted with a tension I haven’t felt in some time. My sleep is disrupted by racing thoughts of both profound loss and everyday life, so loud they wake me just as true rest begins.

I need to sit down in a quiet house… no TV, no phone, just silence, and my memories of my dad, and let the tears come. I can feel now that they need to come out. They are eating at me, and tearing at my heart, and I know I need to let them come in order to heal. Grief is beginning to turn to anger, and I’d prefer to let the pressure off the valve before I have myself a knotted up mess … I’ve been there and i know how hard it is to untie them again. I know how they consume, and devour, and I have too many ways I need to win that battle — too many reasons I can’t afford to lose. People are depending on me. My life is depending on me. I am depending on me. But I think it’s time I let God wrap his arms around me …. lean on his shoulder and cry. I so often forget to do that … I so often am in the habit of fighting through life’s hard times alone. I don’t mean to, I just forget to reach out.

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