The grief process has surprised me. Intellectually we knew what to expect, but when you are in the middle of it nothing can prepare you for the experience of it. For the first month we were walking in a fog, functioning, and attempting to make sense of our new normal. The first half of the second month was much the same but after about 6 weeks the grief hit. We quickly realized what a salve the shock had been and how much we had yet to deal with, though there is no way we could know how long we will be in the middle of it. With each week since then it seems as if the grief has gotten a little stronger. Am I depressed? No. Am I happy? At times. But how much can I live when I am always living missing half of every breath I breath? What is it like? Where do I begin? Does anyone really care to know anyway, when what I have to share seems so sad and so hard to write. The only thing that compels me to write is the thought that perhaps this will help someone else or will help someone else reach out to someone hurting.
There are so many places I see Drew. We hung all of our Christmas ornaments and as we reached into the box we found Drew's ornaments, one of which had his handprint on it. We had dreamed of the day when he would look at that with us in awe that he was that small. We had a conversation with our small group about babies and the lovely things they do and the topic turned to babies pooping. Jordan and I were immediately transported to the hospital room where we cannot even write what our memories hold. My beautiful niece comes up to me every time she sees me (she is 6 weeks older than Drew) and asks to see "Do", the pictures of Drew in the locket close to my heart. I took the laundry out of Peyton's room this morning and went by Drew's room looking for random dirty articles and was poignantly reminded that there was no laundry in his room. I sit at the computer this afternoon in the middle of what would have been naptime and hear a noise only to remember that it is not a baby summoning me. I babysat my niece last week (which is such a blessing) and went to change her diaper and realized how natural that felt - but was struck immediately by the realization of why - I should be changing diapers too. I have a preschooler who does not need diapers and who is so far away from "baby" - I have been so quickly transported out of baby world when my mind is still in the middle of it. I walk by the corner of the living room where the tree was and realize how vacant it looks without the rocking chair that provided so many good cuddles over Drew's last 3 months and upon closer observation see a spot of milk on the floor below that must be left from him (I even cleaned it I'm sure before the tree took the spot over). I look at the kitchen and appreciate the space it has now, but then realize that with that space is also an absence of Drew's special little chair that supported him while I was feeding Peyton and him. I would say music touches me with him and a little bit of heaven every time I hear it, but I can't bear to listen to music that reminds me of him often right now - I know the time will come (I have to segregate those opportunities right now into very specific moments when I am prepared for it). I loved going out with the kids during the day but now it is almost too hard some days because there are so many unpredictable elements - I never know what will remind me of Drew. I know it's not bad to be reminded of him, but I would rather choose the things that remind me of him and the timing. I walk home from dropping Peyton off at Kara's for a day and am reminded of walking that path home with Drew excited for the opportunity to spend a day one on one with him and now my arms are empty on that path. I reach for a spoon for Peyton and see the one we got for Drew that he loved to chew on. I watch Peyton kiss "Drew Bear" good night and kiss him where Peyton instructs me to, and then we say, "Good night Drew Bear" every night and then cuddle Peyton to sleep while my thoughts drift inevitably to thoughts of Drew and Peyton together. I write a card or a letter and always stop abruptly when I begin to sign it wondering how to sign it. What do I say when I am trying to say Drew died - how do I put it into words? So many conversations with friends bring reminders of Drew and watching brothers together always pricks my heart. Drew caresses me with his memories often and I am so glad for those. I wish memories had smell and touch, but I will take the visions I have of him instead, thankful for the days we had with him. My heart will go on without this piece, but as a bird without a wing I will always notice the fact that his presence is not one of physical body but of spirit. I know God will repair my wings, but I have to learn to fly all over again.
Some friends have asked whether we would rather not talk about certain things and to that my current answer is that every parent always wants to talk about their children. Our conversation will just have a different spin on it, but does that mean we don't want to talk about Drew? Not at all! What do we have left of him but thoughts, memories, and conversations? Please let us talk about him if the opportunity arises and don't be afraid to ask the questions. If the timing is not right we will let you know. If we are with someone who is afraid to talk about him or our experience there may be an awareness of the unspoken in the room regardless. It's a strange place to be because talking about him often brings tears but working through it is therapeutic I suppose - if someone gets in an accident, has a stressful run-in with someone, or experiences a challenging event the first thing many want to do is to talk through that situation. In grief though, I think people are afraid they will hurt the one who experienced the loss when they talk about their loved one, when really, that person might need nothing more than to be able to talk about them. There may be moments we do not want to open up, as it seems there is a period of not wanting to talk, or rather, of wanting to be able to control the moment of opening up as one moves through the grief process, but by asking, you allow us to decide. There are so many parts to the grief process! How did we wake up here?!
I feel we are at the stage of withdrawal right now and if we have not returned a call or sent a thank you, please forgive me/us. We will, but when the time is right. If I think about what withdrawal is for many experiences, it is a stage of the body yearning for what it is missing and experiencing extreme symptoms while it attempts to readjust to the new way. I feel a little like that - in a stage where we are so intensely trying to make sense of things that all our energy is applied to survival and little energy is left over for anything else. If we nudge ourselves out of our comfort zone we realize life is still good and involvement with community is a blessing. Getting there is another matter. I guess I need to yield to the stage instead of trying to fight it (thanks Amber for this advice so long ago!) and then it will be a little bit easier to face.
One more random thought occurred to me as I reread this post - are there certain things that have been hard to hear over the last 3 months? I think the hardest things to hear are: 1)"At least you still have Peyton." (I realize many times every day what a blessing he is and am extremely thankful for him, but saying that feels a little like saying, "At least you still have your front wheels to drive with even though you lost your back wheels." or, "At least you have one wing to fly your plane with.") 2) "How are you doing?" (What can I answer to this? Especially if we only have 2 minutes to talk. This question seems like a question one asks expecting me to open up about my deepest feelings in whatever time we have available and regardless of our relationship depth. A better way to express concern and curiosity might be done by saying, "You have been on my thoughts a lot lately and I hope you are doing alright." This allows me to open up if I am ready to and expresses concern, but doesn't force me to talk about it if I'm not ready to). 3) "Call me if you need to talk, or just stop by." (Thanks for the offer, but when in the middle of a crisis the last thing I feel inclined to do is pick up the phone or go over to someone else's house. As mentioned before the focus is on survival, not maintenance of friendships as selfish as that sounds. It's not intentional, not for a moment. It's just part of breathing. It would be better if you call me, or stop by (after calling) to see how we are doing.)
What things have people done that have really helped? Apart from the cards, visits and meals immediately after Drew died here are a few of the things so far that have been the most helpful: 1) Random cards or flowers sent after the immediate rush often come on a day that needs a pick-me-up. 2) Anyone providing a memory or picture of Drew is always like a ray of sunshine in my day. 3) Telling me what Drew meant to you always helps bring a smile. 4) One of the most special things that someone has done for us is to give us a gift certificate to buy a tree to plant in his memory. I could list more but my brain is on freeze right now so I will list some ideas over time.
We have received an update on Drew's disease and the impact it could have on any future family members. We will post an update when Jordan and I can sit down and write about it together. Thank you for all your prayers and thoughts - we appreciate every one! Please pray right now that God will grant us wisdom and peace over our decisions that must be made soon. Thank you so much.