Monday, January 30, 2012

Ready or Not ...

There is no way possible to prepare a toddler for the birth of their younger sibling. We all try. We buy books and videos (I suppose they are DVDs now) all about new babies and big brothers and sisters. We talk about the baby. We train the older child to point out where the baby is in mommy's tummy, to even kiss the tummy, and to talk about how excited they are for the new baby to come.

But let's face it. Toddlers have absolutely NO idea, really, what is coming. No matter how well they answer all the questions. No matter how often they kiss that belly. A baby comes, and it takes mommy's time, and toddler's old car seat and crib. It cries, and needs attention 24 hours a day. The big sister or brother's routine is turned on it's head ... just like the entire household. My #1 reacted by loving #2 to death, but acting out towards Larry and I. #2 tried very hard to pretend that #3 simply was not there. #3? Poor #3's life fell apart. She cried and was sad constantly. I thought we'd ruined her previously insanely cheerful disposition. (I've long since figured out that #3 will react strongly no matter which way her feelings lean. She'd just never before had reason to be so distraught.) #4, being the caboose, just chugged along, asserting his preferred position as the big black engine.

I find myself similarly blind-sided. I thought I'd had a handle on grief, that I understood what it would be like. With my husband's poor health for nearly our entire marriage, I've imagined more often than I care to admit what it would be like to lose him. I thank God that I haven't, and that he seems to be getting a handle on his immune system. Losing a parent can't be more traumatic than losing a spouse, right? And in the past two years, I of course had contemplated losing my mother. In some ways, I'd lost parts of having a mother when I became the caregiver. So when she passed, I had it all mapped out: get through the funeral, get through my grandmother's funeral, get through Christmas and the school holiday, and then I could mourn properly. I think I imagined needing a good week or two to earnestly fall apart, and then I could slowly rebuild back into normal life.

I didn't anticipate that holding in pain for several weeks would make me scared to finally let go. And I'm scared of mourning too much. It feels like it might drown me. I didn't anticipate that I'd feel such let down from all of my care giving duties. Or that, being a home-body sort of girl, I'd hate to be home. Or that when I'd then try to fill up my time with being out of the house, I'd become exhausted. That church would be one of the most difficult places to be. That trying to get back into a diet that I gave up on during the hospice phase would induce major emotional stress. I didn't think that I would just not be able to bring myself to start working on all of the projects I've not had time for over the past years.

When I do start to let go, to cry, to feel sad, there emerges the presence of this obstacle that I can't even name. It's something that I need to get over, get through ... I'm not sure. I can't decide what it is. It must be loss. But it feels like something more sinister than that. Something nebulous and concrete all at the same time. I have no idea how to defeat it. I had truly thought that when my mom died, the hard part was over. I'm starting to wonder if I was wrong about that.

In an effort to gain some control, I imagine that it would be helpful to go on a trip somewhere entirely unremarkable. All by myself. For several days, maybe even a week. I would cry and read and watch harmless movies and just lay there. I almost feel that if I could do that, then maybe I could be done and move on. But not only do I not have the opportunity for such an indulgence, I fear it would probably work out as well as my original grief schedule did. It's frustrating to be a rather self-aware person who finds herself unsure of how to proceed, of how to help myself through this. Nothing seems right. No course seems like the one I want to take.

To be honest, much of the time, I'm doing alright. In those moments, when I start to worry about all of this grief work, I wonder if I'm making a bigger deal out of it than I need or ought. I have always had a tendency to over-think things. But then a bad day will hit, and I'm pretty sure that I'm not just being dramatic.

I tried to enlist the aid of Elmo and Mr. Snuffleupagus in my kids' transitions from baby to big sister. They were entertaining, but ultimately ineffective. There's surely a plethora of resources out there to help in this transition of mine as well. I imagine they'll be more helpful than Sesame Street was with my two-year-olds. Eventually I may have to put on some big-girl pants and seek them out.

7 fishy comments:

Gloria said...

Forget about putting on the big-girl panties for awhile and just let yourself feel what you are feeling.

Don’t try to explain it away or hurry it…you can’t do either! You can’t ‘get through it’. Instead, it flows through you and then onward. If you try to dam grief up, it will crush you when it finally breaks through; and it will break through, no matter how good we think our defenses are, or how ‘strong’ we think we are.

It is what it is, and it takes as long as it takes. Grief has it’s own timetable. One day, you will realize that life is moving along again, and that your grieving is a part of your life, yes, but not in the forefront anymore. It can only get to be a background part of our lives if we let it pass through us and move on.

Be strong enough to let yourself feel what you feel. You can handle it. And you don’t have to handle it alone. There are many who care and will be there for you when you need us. Let us be there! It’s a privilege!

Let yourself be human, and call me when you need me.

Renn @ The Big C and Me said...

Mina, I ditto with everything Gloria said! We can't manage grief. It has a life and a mind of its own. It is from a place beyond our ability to full grasp, just as our loved ones are now in a place we cannot fully grasp.

All we can do is provide ourselves with a soft place to land going forward.

Surround yourself with people who love and support you, people who are safe. Spend as little time as possible with folks who are energy drainers.

Walk beside the stream of grief. The water will pool and stagnate at times, yes, but at other times it will ebb and flow and gently meander around the bends of life and offer you solace and comfort and yes, even joy.

Marie, a BC survivor and blogging friend, recently lost her mother and writes often of her struggle with her grief. Her posts may be helpful to you. Her blog:

Be gentle with yourself and please take care!

Thinking of you and sending {{{hugs}}},

Kristin said...

The grief process is unique for each person. But, if you allow the Savior to walk with you through this, He will help you grieve in a way that will benefit you the most. He has felt this for you...He knows how to help you! You're amazing and you'll figure this out!!

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Lara said...

Hugs, Mina. I can't's true, so I have no advice. But I am thinking about you!

Lisa said...

Love you. You don't have to be superwoman, your kids will learn more from you seeing you as a woman with emotion and the ability to grieve a beloved family member, than they would seeing you as a rock that can't be shook.