Knowing Alone

You don’t know.
I’m glad you don’t know.
There are so many things I know that I didn’t know before.
I keep learning things that I don’t want to know.

It hurts to be alone with these things I’ve never wanted to know.

Still, nobody can know them except for me.

I know sadness. I know pain. I live grief. But I don’t know what to say to you about your sadness, pain and grief. I know that words never brought me comfort.  Not much has made sense in the AFTER. I’m not saying that there aren’t words out there that can bring someone suffering a loss some comfort and peace. But I don’t know what they are.

I just know what you don’t know.

You don’t know how the most innocuous statements can trigger me so unexpectedly.  Like when my son was in his honor choir concert and the announcer man was talking about the importance of music in schools and thanking all the parents for getting their kids to the extra practices on time because that is a “part of parenting”.  Fine statement, right?  But I started crying. Because getting my kids to practices doesn’t seem like “part of parenting” to me at all.    It seems more like being “part of cruise directing”.  Because parenting for me is not about the logistics of getting 4 different kids to different places at the same times.  I have so many wonderful people helping me with that part.  Parenting for me is living, in my mind, the worst possible case scenario for anything and everything that happens with my kids. The phone rings and before I can pick it up I’m already sitting at Harborview at the bedside of someone I love waiting for the doctor to call time of death.  Reliving. Parenting for me is listening to my youngest son cry “I want to be with you” when I’m walking out the door for the fourth evening that week and leaving him with a sitter because I either have to work or attend another one of my kids’ events that will run past his bedtime.  It’s wondering what sort of damage I’m adding to what’s already been done.

You don’t know the sadness that comes with the knowledge that my support group has grown too large.  There are too many of us.  There is a waitlist to get in.  You don’t know that as much as we all need that support group, every one of us is ready to give up our place so that nobody has to be on a fucking waitlist to get some help.

You don’t know that my mind races so quickly I can’t even keep up with the thoughts.  Or maybe it races so I don’t get stuck on any of the more horrific thoughts.  Like how every time my pre-teen son gets upset and slams the door to his room, I am petrified–beyond petrified–that he’s going to hurt himself–because of something I said or didn’t say and because it “runs in the family”.

You don’t know how it actually feels like a physical punch to my gut-it practically doubles me over in pain, every time I walk into the preschool and see an announcement for an upcoming “Daddy-Daughter Dance”.  I know that sign is posted there.  But it’s like a sneaky, scary monster hiding behind the door that jumps out at me.  I am startled by it,  every single time. You don’t know this because there’s no way you would.  What you see is my Kristen suit and a smile on my face as I greet my little guy who may or may not be happy to see me (depending on whatever matters to a 5-year-old at any given moment).

You don’t know how difficult it is to watch one of my kids do something really cool (like the honor choir) and know without a doubt that my husband would be so proud of him.  But how sad it is for my husband that he doesn’t get to be here.  Even more sad for my kids who don’t have their dad in the audience to support them.  I can be present at as many events as I can physically attend, but I can never make up for daddy’s absence at these events.

You don’t know how I can’t get good mental health counseling for my children.  Good counselors do not accept Medicaid.  Counselors will accept cash.  I will give them cash to help my children.  But then I sit through session after session wondering why I’m listening to this person who is not there.  Who doesn’t know.  At the end of the day, there is just me.  I am the only person on this earth that loves and cares for my kids the way I do.  At the end of the day, I am alone in this parenting.

You don’t know how my 6-year-old daughter’s counselor has been listing off the characteristics of a child with ADHD and I’m thinking–“Holy shit.  She’s talking about me.  I have ADHD”. Then in the next moment I’m sitting on my hands to keep from tearing my hair out because what does this ADHD stuff have to do with my child’s anger and grief? I am paying CASH for fucks sake.  PLEASE stop reading this book to my child about how all dogs have ADHD.  I’m about to scream.

You don’t know how counselors that I pay CASH for come up with ever-loving complicated “systems” of reinforcement and consequences for my kids.  They don’t know how asking me to pull together and maintain this “system” is maybe the thing that will put me over the edge.  But I still try.  They tell me that I need to put together a “simple” collage book with my child-one that’s all about said child and daddy.  Put it in a plastic baggie and close it with duct tape so it can never get dirty or wet.  WHAT?  I don’t have time to check my kids’ homework, let alone spend time ALONE with one child (what are the other kids doing at this time?) to make a book that they can’t ever take out of the bag?  Maybe this is my newly, self-diagnosed ADHD kicking in-but I don’t understand the sense of that.

You don’t know how much my body shook as I held my mother-in-law last weekend because she is going in for major surgery and I know she is terrified that she won’t come out.  You don’t know how I locked myself in her bathroom and cried because–oh my gosh.  Because of so many things.  My kids cannot suffer another loss.  I cannot lose her.  I have grown to love her and appreciate her.  We have a relationship. She is Jake’s mother.  Jake would’ve been by her side every step of the way, giving her courage and making her laugh.  I have no courage to offer.  I have fear.

You don’t know how much I hate myself for wanting to do things for myself.  I’m not just talking about a “nice bath” or a girls’ weekend getaway.  I am not going to pretend to be selfless or some kind of martyr.  I want things too-things that don’t have to do with the kids at all!  But I know kicking and screaming and flailing myself around on the floor doesn’t actually work.  I don’t know how to make it work and if I figured it out-would I just hate myself for actually doing that thing for myself?  In our modern American culture, people give you lip-service about how moms need to take care of themselves in order to take care of their kids–the whole airplane/oxygen mask thing.  But then society frowns upon moms who do just that.  Because how are we supposed to squeeze in “me” time between extra honor choir practices, birthday parties, “mandatory volunteer hours” (okay what the fuck is that even supposed to mean?), work, counseling, laundry, sports practices, math team, school projects that are supposed to be completed with “limited parental involvement”, all while making sure our kids are eating organic, well-balanced meals, brushing their teeth WELL, flossing (haha), showering WITH soap, changing (and/or wearing) underwear, and taking them on field trips to homeless shelters so they can truly understand how privileged they are?   I want more than that.  I hate how selfish that sounds.  But that’s my true confession.

You don’t know these things, because how would you?  Just like I don’t know you.  I don’t know what to say to loved ones who have lost (or are losing) their loved ones.  I don’t know what to say to strangers who are suffering loss.  I don’t know what’s under your suit-the things that hurt you and scare you.  But it’s so important that I realize that I don’t know and you don’t know.  The best looking, fanciest, perfectly creased, cleanest suit could be hiding fear, pain, grief, trauma, illness, anxiety, nightmares, sadness, panic, anger, guilt, regrets and more.  I wish I had known more about what was under the Jake suit before it was too late.

 

 

 

 

Barely Existing

I am barely existing.

This is how my very wise friend described me.  She is right.

It is August. I hate August. I wonder if I’ll always hate August. It has almost been a year. One year. That was supposed to be the magical number. “After a year”, “in a year”, “give it a year”, “no big decisions within a year”, etc. I wonder what is supposed to happen? All of a sudden it’s almost been a year and I feel worse than ever. I wonder if up until now I’ve just been more numb or in disbelief or distracting myself in order to not feel the pain. Because it has hit me hard recently. The pain. The true understanding that I am the only parent of four young children. The emptiness. The loneliness. The despair. How did I manage to get through the last year?

The Kristen Suit is wearing very thin. It has holes and tears-exposing what lies underneath. Someone recently spoke with me about karma. If I believe in karma than I have to believe that I deserve this pain–that deep inside of me there is something very wrong and evil and pretty soon it is going to show through the Kristen Suit. I am so scared to find out what this is.

We got a fantastic offer on our house a few weeks ago, but it fell through a few days later. No movement since then–so we are living at my parent’s house and driving back and forth. I haven’t seen my dog in over a month (he’s staying at a dog ranch and from what I hear he is very happy!). Living out of suitcases and not knowing what is going to happen –doesn’t help any of us. As my father is recovering from surgery, my mother has become very sick. I feel as though this past year has really taken a toll on both of them and on their health. I hate it. I need a different plan. But I am empty. The only thing I actually can feel, the only thing I can actually think about is this pain-the hole constantly burning in the center of my body.

Last month I talked about pursuing new interests. YAY! I was all excited about these interests. However, I didn’t think about the obstacles an only parent of four children faces when trying to pursue new interests. It is easier said than done.  I did manage to go rock-climbing this past weekend (after a ton of work trying to figure out who was going to watch my kids all day). It was absolutely amazing. I went with a group of women I had never met before. They don’t know my story. They don’t know about the Kristen Suit. When I dropped down from my first climb that day, I unexpectedly burst into tears. The women I was with assumed it was because I had been scared. But I wasn’t scared-at all. I cried because while I was climbing up that rock, all of my focus was there–on the climb, on the rock. I didn’t feel the gut-wrenching pain. When I dropped back down, the pain came back full force and that is why I lost it. I had felt what it was like to not feel the pain-and I wanted that back.

One of Jake’s buddies told me about how they used to pray to the “Hawk God” during Seahawk games (I think I’ve mentioned this before).  I keep wondering-where is the “God that makes the shitty feelings go away”?  Because I need that one.  I need that one to take this pain away.

On Jake’s birthday this year, the kids were very excited to write messages on Chinese lanterns and send them up to daddy in heaven that night at the beach.  We ate Jake’s favorite foods, talked about our favorite Jake memories, and wrote messages on the lanterns.  We went to the beach and tried to send the lanterns to heaven.  The first three we tried caught on fire instead.  We didn’t try again.  The kids were devastated.  Their tears and wails were not drowned out by the ocean or the wind at the beach.  I hugged them and made shit up about how daddy heard their messages anyway.  But, THE KIDS’ MESSAGES TO THEIR DADDY IN HEAVEN CAUGHT ON FUCKING FIRE.  Where is the “God who gives little kids their daddy back”?  I need that one, too.  I’ll even take the “God who comforts little children who have lost their daddy by helping their lanterns fly out over the ocean”.

I’m at a point where I just want to move back home.  Get all our shit out of storage, bring home the dog, and go home.  I know financially it’s not the intelligent choice–but maybe at some times in life, there are intangibles worth more than money.  My realtor convinced me to drop the price on my home because this is the hardest time of year to sell.  I let her do it because I can’t make a fucking decision on my own anymore.  But I keep wondering–why?  Just go home, Kristen, and try again in the spring if you want to.  Why take less than the house is actually worth because it’s not the best time of year?  I’m not even strong enough to stand up to my realtor. What a fucking pansy I am.

My oldest son loves rollercoasters.  I have always hated them.  Jake was the designated “roller coaster” parent and I was the designated “carousel” parent.  This year, I asked my son if he wanted the extremely fun and beautiful babysitter to take him on the coasters, or if he wanted me to take him.  I let him know I was a little scared, but I would certainly face my fears and ride rollercoasters with him.  He said he wanted me.  So I went.  Guess what?  Turns out I like rollercoasters (well except for the one I almost died on…but that’s a story for another time).  I also know I showed my son that it’s okay to be scared sometimes, but having courage can help you discover that you might have been missing out on some really great things and thank goodness you had the courage because from this point on you can enjoy all the rollercoasters you want (symbolically speaking, of course).  I also try to keep this in mind for myself–having courage can bring on very cool and fun stuff.  But lately, the pain has become my standard.  Defenses are down and all the bad stuff is making its way in (or out). Courage is gone.

So, the year mark.  What happens after it? Am I supposed to snap out of it?  Does everything that life is supposed to be like all of a sudden fall back into place?  Because I am overwhelmed just thinking about the things that happened in the aftermath last year.  For example–the first day of school.  It was a very, very sad day.  After school that day a bunch of us went to the park so the kids could play.  I remember feeling like everything was so surreal.  Was I really standing there with my friends making small talk about the first day of school?  I know I will be sad on the first day of school.  I anticipate having flashbacks.  I wonder if every first day of school from here on out will be sad for me?  I vividly recall walking into preschool to pick up the little ones and seeing that only MY name was on the parent pockets–Jake’s name wasn’t up there with mine anymore.  It was literally a crushing blow.  That’s how I feel all of the time now.  Like I’ve been sucker-punched in the gut.

The urge to flee is a very familiar feeling for me.  Whenever things got tough in my life, I would have this strong urge to flee.  I went to NJ on vacation for a month.  I thought I was fleeing.  I only realized that this pain is something I carry with me wherever I go.  It was right there with me in NJ.  I could move to the South Pole, and it would still be with me.  I just wish something could take it away.  Please just make it go away.

I’ve noticed that I have also been flooded with memories of Jake-not of the incident-but of us.  I remember he could make me laugh so hard that I had to beg him to stop because it hurt so badly.  The majority of the times that happened, he wasn’t even trying to be funny.  I’ve been remembering our trips to Hawaii-especially the most recent one for our 10th Anniversary.  We had so much fun.  I remember baseball games and picnics and going the movies.  I remember everything.  I miss him.  I miss his Chris Farley imitation.  I can’t stop thinking about him.  I wonder if I’m actually starting to believe that he is gone.  A year later.  Maybe that’s why the pain has gotten so much worse.

I went to a support group tonight and realized that I am not crazy.  I’m fucked up, sure-but people in my shoes are generally fucked up.  I also was reminded that grief is not a nice linear process.  It’s not a checklist you can go through–shock (check), denial (check), etc.  It is more like a spiral that winds back around and re-crosses the same places you thought you had already been through.

Another friend who always seems to know the right things to say, sent me a message to let me know the “KM (me) Fan Club” is super big.  So big, in fact, that if the “KM Fan Club” were to hold a meeting, they would have a hard time finding a venue large enough.  Her message brought lots of tears.  I know I have this enormous group of friends, family, strangers even–who love me and support me–and I am so blessed in that way.  So how is it that I feel so lonely?

Remember the stump?  On my favorite running trail?  The cosmic bus stop?  It’s empty.  Completely cleared off.  I was heartbroken during my first run back when I turned the corner and saw that it was empty.  However–when they cleared it off, they did miss one item.  A ceramic touchstone I had left for Jake.  It was all that remained.  It reminded me of my soul.  Completely empty except for this love where Jake used to be.  But now the love has turned into pain.  It feels like that’s all I have left of me.  One big, tangled knot of hurt rolling down the street.

I can’t hold together the seams of the Kristen Suit anymore.  I’m not even present.  This scares me.