This week I did two things. I continued what I imagine is the incredibly long process of figuring out how to tend to Brayden's needs on my own now that Rich is back to work. And I also managed to find some thinking time as I spent some time alone for the first time in a while. In the last 13 months, I've grown accustomed to "me time." Always finding an excuse at least a few times a week to spend time alone practicing self-care and reflection. So as overwhelming as the past few days have been, in a lot of ways they've also been really good for me too.
I thought I'd piece together some of my thoughts through the last few days (ahem, week) that I've missed for Capture Your Grief.
Day 21: Relationships
I've already written at length about relationships. Those that have strengthened. Those I have lost. Those I have gained. When I hear the word relationship right now, there's one that comes to mind that I feel a little worried about. And that is the one between this baby in my arms and the one in my heart. Brayden and Ryan. How will that look? Because one thing is for certain: I want them to have one some day. I'm not totally sure how it will look yet. But I've seen it be possible, and I want that for my boys.
Day 22: Pearls of Wisdom
The only piece of advice that I've taken and really ran away with has been: Do what I need to do in my own time. This whole grieving thing looks different for everyone. How I grieve my son is going to be different from how someone grieves a father, a brother, an aunt, a grandparent. And even how someone else grieves for their child. I have climbed through the darkness time and again by doing whatever I need to do to get myself there. And this bit of advice, this "pearl of wisdom," has allowed me to do that without guilt or fear of judgement. That has made all the difference.
Day 23: Sounds, Seasons, + Scents
To this day, I still think of Ryan whenever I hear the song, "Riser" by Dierks Bentley. At this point, I can't even remember why that song takes me to him, but it does. It's everything I had hoped to be able to be after losing him. Strong again. Unafraid. A protector of him and my family. I work on these things every day, and it always seems that when I need the reminder most, that song pops on the radio and gives me a boost. I will also always think of Ryan when Fall arrives. Ryan came to us at the end of summer. But I don't remember it being summer at all. Probably because when I "emerged" from the thickest fog, it was suddenly Fall. And I remember the fear of seeing the seasons change and feeling that time was moving on without me. I still love the Fall, for all the beauty it brings. But it will always remind me of Ryan. And when Fall creeps in, there will always be a little jolt to my heart that time has kept rolling on.
Day 24: Consciously Becoming
"So many of us split our lives into a timeline of before and after our children died. Who were you before your children died? Who are you now? Who are you now in this present moment? What are you feeling? Have you been irrevocably changed by the death of your children? How are you different now? Do you love anything about the new you? Do you want and old part of you back? Who are you becoming? " ... Well then. Those are some big questions. Questions I think anyone might have a hard time answering, let alone someone in my shoes. Someone who spent a year defining and defending her motherhood only to bring a baby earth-side and have to wrestle with the term "motherhood" all over again. So instead, let me say: Yes I'm a bit different since Ryan died. But I am still me. A little bit broken. A little bit stronger. I'm a walking contradiction, I guess. I am consciously trying to become better. A better mother. A better wife. A better daughter. A better friend. Just a better me. And in that way I'm the same as I've always been. Maybe a bit hard on myself, actually. So I'm also trying to take it easy on myself. 1 month, 13 months, 5 years... I'm always going to be changing and evolving and growing. And that would be true even if Ryan had stayed. Except maybe then I wouldn't be that little bit broken.
Day 25: I Am (Finish these sentences:)
I wish... I could watch my boys grow up together.
I remember... what I imagined my family would look like some day.
I can not believe... how wrong I was.
If only... I could have them both here with me, instead of only one.
I am... once again trying to figure out my "new normal."
Day 26: #WhatHealsYou
This. This is what heals me. I've been swimming in a sea of diaper changes and feedings, trying to figure out a routine. Trying to learn how to mother a baby on earth. I wouldn't trade it for anything. But then this guilt sets in. This consuming guilt that the garden in the back has yet to be tended to, yet to be prepared for winter. I haven't been the cemetery in 3 weeks. I haven't written here in a week despite an overwhelming flood of feelings and thoughts. I haven't even had the presence of mind to light Ryan's candle in the whirlwind that has been the last 2 weeks. So when one of many nap times rolled around today, and I sat down to REALLY get into this catch-up session, I found I could breathe a little lighter. I'm "healed" at least temporarily from the "mom-guilt." When I'm focused on writing, I'm focused on Ryan. Sure, I'm still tuned in to the hiccups and grunts and sighs in the bassinet next to me. But my heart is with my other son. My first born. And that brings me some peace.
Day 27: Family is Forever
I have built a family of four. (Five, including our dog, Chase!) And even though all four of us humans aren't here walking the earth, each and every one of us plays an important part. Each member is forever. And because of that, it's so important to me that they're all acknowledged. Before my parents left after Brayden was born last week, they wanted a picture with their grandkids. "All four of them," they said. My sister's two, and Brayden, and Ryan's bear. When my dad grabbed the bear to hold in the photo it took everything I had to not break down in tears. Not because I was sad. (Though, yes, I was certainly sad Ryan wasn't physically here for the photo). I wanted to cry for the joy that he was included. Then today, in the mail came a big package addressed to "Mr. Brayden Francis Russell." (Which was adorable to see, by the way). Inside, from my mom (and dad) was a Halloween package for him. There was a card, some bottles, soother clips... That kind of thing. But there was also a card addressed to Ryan. A perfect little Halloween card with a message for him. And yes, okay, I cried. And my heart sang a little too. Because I have two sons. And the acknowledgement of that will always bring me simultaneous joy and longing. It's all about the confirmation that my boy is forever part of our family.