Living With Grief

It’s Sunday morning. I’m stretched out on the couch wearing comfy pajamas, a super soft fleece blanket draped over my legs. It’s dark outside, a rainy, overcast day. There’s no one else awake at the moment. I’m trying to write a book, but every time I glance up from the laptop, my gaze focuses on a family pic, one that includes my son.

It’s been nearly two weeks since I’ve felt the waves of grief crashing over me. Admittedly, it’s been nice. Grieving is exhausting and if I’m really being honest here, I’m kind of sick of doing it. I’m not foolish; I know it will never go away, but I do welcome that time when it doesn’t encompass my life, when it isn’t a major player in every moment of every day. That will happen at some point, won’t it?

It’s coming again, though. I can feel it. That lurch in my chest on Saturday as I dusted the mantel, over which a gorgeous black and white pic of my two children hangs. I think they were five and two or maybe six and three in that picture. Her arms are thrown around his shoulders and they’re both smiling, so obviously happy. Like at that moment, they knew they had their whole lives ahead of them–together–and in general, it was gonna be positive. It’s amazing how swiftly such an outlook can change, isn’t it?

My daughter is starting to talk about her brother with more frequency lately. I know this is good, because I know she’s still grieving too, and she’s struggling to figure out how to get on in this world in a capacity she never, ever expected: as an only child. I know she’d sure as hell rather not have that status. Besides wanting her brother back, she doesn’t like having all the attention focused on her, plus I know she feels this new sense of obligation to be “good” for the sake of her parents’ sanity. So not fair to her. To any of us.

But it’s hard, so very hard. I’m not there yet; I can’t talk about the good times, the memories. I can’t look at the pictures for more than a moment.

Two of my nieces spent the night this weekend, and I pulled out his bike so they could all go bike riding. Just cleaning it up; greasing the chain, putting air in the tires, wiping off the dusty seat was hard, because it makes me remember. His birthday, when we gave him that bike. His surprise and elation; it hadn’t been what he was expecting, but he’d been thrilled. We’d nailed the birthday gift that year.

And now we have an extra bike taking up space on the back porch.

Even though one of my nieces is the tallest and therefore would have been most comfortable on his bike, my daughter claimed it as her own. She does that; what’s his is now hers, and she’s not really interested in sharing. I get it, although I’m not like that. I’ve been more inclined to throw things away—because what the hell am I going to do with them?—whereas she collects mementos, physical reminders of the memories. I don’t begrudge her this, nor was I about to suggest she let the taller girl ride his bike. Those seats adjust, and mine worked just as well for my niece.

And then they were off, riding up and down the street, armed with sweatshirts to protect them against the slight nip in the spring air. Enjoying themselves, the comradery. Life. The way kids should.

 

Tami Lund Headshot 2014

 

Tami Lund writes books, drinks wine, wins awards, writes blogs, and occasionally sends cool newsletters. Signup here: http://www.subscribepage.com/Tami_Lund

School Pics & Deep Thoughts

We received my daughter’s school pictures today. It’s a day I’ve dreaded since March. Not literally because it was her sixth grade pic – for such an awkward age, I think she looks pretty darn cute, actually.

The school pics are proudly displayed in side-by-side, 8×10 inch silver frames. Each year when we receive new pics, I open the frames, look through those from years past and then add the new one to the front. Then I replace the frame in its place of honor, near the backdoor, which sees way more traffic than the front, so they get a lot more views that way.

This year, I have only one to update. My son’s seventh grade school picture is the last one we will ever have. It won’t change. He’s gone forever. My daughter’s pictures will update each year; she will grow and change, and he won’t.

When I placed her updated picture next to his, it didn’t look right. They were almost three years apart in age, two years apart in school. Now she looks only a year behind him. Next year it will be her seventh grade pic, then eighth. At some point, she will look older than he does. She will move on to high school. Senior pics. Graduation photos. College. Hopefully, a wedding photo, then family portraits with her own kids.

And all we’ll ever have of my son is his seventh grade school picture.

I’ve had this conversation with my dad, who asked what I thought he should do with the photos in his own home. My husband and I have also had this conversation. None of us had an answer.

And now the day has arrived, and I need to make a decision, for my own state of mind. I looked through his school pics, thinking maybe I’d just replace the seventh grade one with an older one, one from elementary school, when he still had that utterly adorable baby face, when we could not in a million years have imagined let alone predicted his life would be cut short at thirteen.

It still didn’t feel right.

And then I thought about the plethora of baby pics. You know how it is in the first few years. You take a million pictures and save every one. I found an 8×10 from when he had just turned four, and my daughter had passed her first birthday only a few months prior. One of my favorites. Possibly the favorite.

I slid it into the frame in front of the school pics and replaced it on the shelf. And you know what? It works.

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