Crashing Back

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Aunt Elise’s Lambi (conch) Recipe (Thanks for teaching it to me, Poppie Joe)

In the midst of a disagreement with my tween yesterday it all came crashing back. The reminder of another year celebrating holidays with painful gaps. What I wouldn’t give for a holiday dinner circa five years ago…before it all started to go wrong, one little memory at a time. Back when we were all gathered around a huge table, piled high with everyone’s favorites, cracking jokes at each other and marveling at how big the kids were.

I held back the tears because I was driving and she was angsting. I still haven’t learned to let go. I know I need to. I know it’s eating me up inside. I know that life will never be the same as it was even two years ago. I’m wondering if the cosmic trick is finding the peace, beauty and celebration in the gaps. I’ve been skipping over them, jumping around them and just plain ignoring them…but they won’t go away.

My aunt Elsie and nephew Coby were absolute characters. They were full of jokes and mischief.  My aunt was also an incredible cook. The majority of my Thanksgivings were spent with one or both of them. The blessing in not having lived with them prior to their passing, is that during the day-to-day it’s easy to think they are just going about their business. It’s the times when families gather that I can’t get away from how loud their absence is.

As I type this today I have friends experiencing life-changing illnesses, friends who will be going through their first holiday without a loved one and our own stew of grieving and trying to cope with the unrelenting pressures of the life I’ve crafted for us. I have been restless and unfocused the last few days. Once again I am reminded that I can’t fix any of it. I can’t turn back time and I can’t put the lost puzzle pieces back in the puzzle.

I don’t love this new reality and that’s a huge problem. This is the one I have. It’s infinitely better than the one millions of people are facing at this very moment. Intellectually I know that but emotionally I need to recalibrate some things. Maybe making a list of the things I’m grateful for will help. Maybe diving into the work I’ve been circling around will distract me and help me realign with my purpose. Maybe finally getting a therapy appointment will be the permission I need to just let it go. No matter what, I know it’s a process.

These feelings won’t suddenly evaporate. I loved my aunt my entire life and Coby for all of his 18 years. Life heaps so much pain and trauma on you, but I guess there is a blessing in the midst of all that dumping. I guess the fact that I’m still here, presumably to see more days, is the gift. The pain will ebb and flow and in the midst there will be joy, love, elation and hopefully moments that feel like heaven on Earth. I’m a betting kinda woman, so I’ll hang on for those beautiful moments and I’ll work to let go so I can process the dark ones.

Holidays can be a terrible time of year for some. I don’t doubt that I will end up in a corner crying before the weekend is out. My tear ducts are primed and warning me that my reservoirs are about to overflow. My hope is that the happiness outweighs the darkness, but either way my prayer is that I’ll still be standing on the other side and that I remember the work to be done. Not just the work to advance my career, but the work to unburden my soul and lift my heart back to the light.

May you find moments of peace and joy this holiday season <3.

Life After – Hangover

This morning I got up determined to hit my desk the minute I got my kid off to school. I was showered, dressed, computer on, coffee warmed up and nearly four hours later I have done virtually nothing of substance. That’s the truth of dealing with the consequences of mental illness and losing a loved one to suicide.

The conversations that happen in the recesses of the light aren’t shared publicly, get pushed aside and forgotten in the attempt to re-enter the hustle and bustle of daily life, yet leave a lingering filthy residue on your soul. The pain uncovered, the searing confusion about which way to turn, fear and uncertainty about making the next right decision and putting one foot in front of the other zap the clarity, energy and drive that is otherwise present on a Monday morning.

The process of caring for our grieving children can suction the life and soul from you if you’re not careful. I initial started to write that I compartmentalize my needs so I can support my daughter in her grieving, but that wouldn’t be true. The truth is that I keep my rawness in check in case I can’t put it away in time to support her every need. It’s as if I’m afraid that connecting to the pain will leave me in a formless puddle of anguish and either she’d either come across me like that or need me and I won’t be able to shape myself back into ready to go mom.

Last night we celebrated what would have been my nephew’s 19th birthday. A friend asked how it was. I told her the truth, it was beautiful, sad and ugly. That’s the truth.

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Lighting the paper lantern to release with love in memory of Coby

No, I’m not going to tell you how hard it was to hold my sobbing child’s hand while in the other room a somber Happy Birthday chorus was being sung in Coby’s honor. No, I can’t articulately express the lengths of my emotional fatigue and desire to get to a day when thinking of Coby or my Aunt, who took her own life just four month’s after Coby’s suicide, results in happy memories. No, I have no recipe for dealing with the complexities of the ravages of mental illness and suicide.

 

Today I do my best not to beat myself up for my lack of focus. Maybe my brain is pacing itself until my soul is ready to digest the latest round of conversations, observations and realizations. I am not living through a normal situation and I am reminding myself that my responses are normal. I think one of the greatest tragedies that comes from these acts are the pain coming together unleashes. Yes, it is part of the healing process but it is awful.

One of my saddest memories will be my daughter telling me that she didn’t want Thanksgiving this year. She didn’t want to have any holidays without Coby. It took my breath away. I could have never been prepared for her to articulate that. In hindsight it made sense, but I was so unprepared. Thankfully we made it through Thanksgiving and had a beautiful holiday in spite of the pain. Hopefully one that she’ll put in her happy memory chest.

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Young and innocent

I don’t expect December 10th will come again anytime soon without some version of a sledgehammer of pain, but I do look forward to the day when it’s more of a tug. Each day moving forward is another step out onto the broken sheet of ice – some steps land solidly and bear the weight while others leave you plunging into the freezing water. Today I am sending strength to my family, and all of the families, who can’t see the light of day, can’t see the next step and struggle to even take the next breath. I can’t imagine what you are feeling. I am so sorry and I love you.

Today I will be gentle with myself. I will prepare to receive my young person home and do my best to be present, loving and open to sitting in her grief with her if need be. And once I put her to bed, I’ll do my best to sit in my grief, assemble my broken pieces, put them back into some semblance of new normalcy and do it all over again. Maybe, just maybe, if I keep walking through it with my eyes and heart open I will eventually get to the  other side.

More than anything in the world, I wish Coby knew he could have talked to me -that I would have been here and that suicide wasn’t his only answer, but in matters of life and death like this there are rarely second chances. If you are reading these words and are struggling, please seek help. Life gets a little bit dimmer each time we lose a soul.

If you are in need of help please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline  1 (800) 273-8255

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For more information on Coby and the Fly High Coby Fund:

https://www.gofundme.com/flyhighCoby

http://www.nj.com/mercer/index.ssf/2016/04/parents_of_teen_suicide_victim_starting_nonprofit.html