Grief is complicated. Parenting is complicated. Parenting through grief is super complicated. Yesterday was a day that I am not particularly proud of. I yelled at my kids, shamed my son for accidentally smacking me in the face, and asked the tired and hungry babies to please shut up while they were screaming at me from their high chairs. I joined Sofie's class on a field trip to the fire department, but really wished I could have just gone for a massage. I threw toys on purpose because they were in my way and I was tired of stepping on them. I finally got out of the house in the evening to attend my baby loss support group (which I hadn't been to in months), but the heaviness of my day made talking about Mila even harder. I cried all the way home, wishing things weren't so hard some days.
Life is hard.
My mom and sister and I went to see the movie This is Where I Leave You a few weeks ago. It's about four adult siblings whose father has just died. The movie is all about relationships and I sobbed through the whole thing thinking, "Life is so hard some times! Marriage is hard. Parenting is hard. Balancing work and home is hard. Friendships are hard. Losing a child is hard. Going back to school is hard. Having an aging spouse or parent is hard. Ugh. It's a really good movie, but ugh.
The thing I feel so awful about right now is that my grief has paralyzed me in times when I feel I should be more present, more responsible, more attentive, more creative, more thoughtful. Grief makes it almost impossible to process or cope with anything out of the ordinary. I want to rejoice in my children and the beautiful blessings they are, but I am stuck. I am tired, and I always feel like something or someone is missing. I want to create happy memories with my family; taking trips, playing, crafting, singing, dancing, but I am exhausted and overwhelmed by the idea of simply keeping four children safe and healthy. Earlier this fall, Sofie wanted to join Girl Scouts with all of her friends, but I convinced her that it would make our week too busy. The truth was that I was too tired and overwhelmed to commit to anything else. Now she feels left out and so do I. Grief makes me want to isolate and hide, but this time I kept something really fun from my daughter and I can't make it right. Would I be a better parent if I wasn't full of regret, grief, anger, and sorrow? I'm pretty sure.
I feel like Charlie and Sofie got the best of me. I was thrilled and grateful beyond words to be their mama. I felt like after years of infertility and an excruciating miscarriage, I had been given the world. I was alive. Their first three years were filled with laughter, silliness, creativity, and attention. Then, I wanted more and things went horribly wrong. Ellis and Julian are such blessings and I want to give them the same experiences that their older brother and sister had, but I am a different mama now. As a licensed teacher, I have all of the education and tools to create a positive, loving, early childhood for them, but grief and self pity rear their ugly heads at least once a day and I am toast. I have lost some of my tolerance, patience, and compassion for others, including my own husband and children. Now, when I see the mom ignoring or yelling at her kids in public, even though I still judge her a little, I can relate. I think, "That poor woman must really be hurting." I get it. It's not easy being responsible for other humans, and then to have to be cheerful and positive all the time while your heart is broken?
I've become a mama bear (even more than I was before). When your child (or children) die, you will do anything to prevent it from happening again. I can't stand to see my children hurt, left out, or bullied. I have started to speak up for my babies in ways I never knew I would have to. I've yelled at the neighbor kid for pushing Sofie around. I walked to the bus stop to scare the 5th grader that thinks he can force Charlie to the back of the line or push him into oncoming traffic. I stopped a car in the alley that was driving too fast and told the driver that my children are playing outside and if I ever see him driving like that again I will call the police. Booyah!
I just don't want my children to hurt like I do. I want my kids to feel normal, included, and loved. I want to be enthusiastic and fearless. I want to fight for them and for their dreams. I know, life is full of disappointment and hurt and it can make us stronger, but I'm not there quite yet. A dear friend of mine shared the idea that if we want to enjoy our time on earth, we must delight in every moment. Every moment. Pain or joy, it is all part of the soul's experience . . . the human experience. I wish I could remember that.
I guess what I want to tell every friend of mine, every parent, every teacher, every family member, is that I'm trying. I'm trying to show up. I'm trying to remember the best ways to teach and discipline my children. I'm trying to remember your birthday or anniversary. I'm trying to remember that I'm not the only one in pain. I'm trying to smile and live in the moment. I'm trying to take care of myself. I'm trying to be understanding and patient.
And tomorrow I'll try again.