The First Three Months (on grief and surviving)
Easter Sunday will mark three months without Keith. My head feels like it is spinning when I remember he is really gone. These last three months have flown by but also feel like it’s been years since I last sat with Keith in the hospital.
I miss his friendship. Caleb does so many quirky, loveable, and aggravating toddler things that I should be able to share with Keith. Libby has just started smiling and I should be able to send him her photo to help him get through a long day of clinic. We should be able to crash on the couch and watch Jeopardy. Some days there’s a sense of profound sadness when all I can hope for is the feel of holding his hand or hearing his voice and I hate having to remind myself he’s not coming home. I hate having to learn to parent on my own and make decisions on my own; I even found myself missing cleaning the kitchen together.
And yet, life feels mostly normal. It’s a new normal that I wish weren’t real, but at least we are finding our new rhythm.
The other day, Libby and I were cozy on the couch when Caleb came over and snuggled in. It was hard to admit that we are a family of three, and not four, but it felt good to do something we’ve always done. We still have our weekly play dates, go to Bible study, and see our friends. We’ve adapted to a new routine: one that isn’t structured around when daddy comes home from work, but it’s still a routine.
Each morning we get up and have breakfast. Each day we go for a walk, run errands, or see friends. Each afternoon Caleb naps. Each evening, we eat dinner and go through the same bedtime routine we’ve been doing since Caleb was a baby. And each night I get some quiet to myself as long as Libby is compliant.
Most days are actually pretty good. Having two kids by myself isn’t as awful as I thought it would be (much thanks to them both being good sleepers!). There are crazy moments of tickle fights, Caleb’s incessant need to be a snake or roll across the floor, and other general hilarity. There are tender moments of being sad together, of hugs, of reading books, and of snuggles before bed. And there are triumphant moments like when Caleb discovered he was tall enough to do something new, when he realized he could “read” Brown Bear, Brown Bear, or when he found the Netflix app on my phone and helped himself to an episode of Super Why.
We are carving out our new identity as a family.
It’s in those unique moments when I can see the healing and growing that’s happening amongst the surviving, that I know everything will feel okay again one day. For now, we will be content to have good days and days that I want to shake off like bad dreams. We will eat chicken nuggets with mac and cheese and occasionally crash at the dinner tables of friends. We will take time to ourselves and we will explore new places. But mostly, we will just be and delight in the seemingly mundane because it means a season of stillness and not the constant change and upheaval of the last few months.
I’m keeping my world pretty small these days as it’s still difficult to communicate with people since the brain fog lingers, but I’m really doing okay. I’m surrounded by people who love me and are ready to help at a moments’ notice. I have my moments of struggle and anger and sadness, but also moments of joy and bouts of laughter. That’s what grieving well is all about: to recognize what you’re feeling in the moment (good or bad) and really allow yourself to feel it. I don’t feel guilty when I’m happy and when the sadness rolls in like a storm cloud, I know it will pass.
It’s hard work to survive and to grieve well, but the promise of healing makes it worth it.
Last night at church I was reminded of one of Keith’s favorite songs: Oceans by Hillsong. The bridge struck me as describing exactly what I want my attitude to be. I have my fair share of whiny days where I argue with God constantly, but I keep hearing these words rolling around in my head:
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders / Let me walk upon the waters / Wherever You would call me. / Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander / And my faith will be made stronger / In the presence of my Savior
I have more thoughts on this, but I’ll save them for an Easter post. Listen to the whole song here.