You know how you feel when you've been out of touch with someone for so long you're not really sure how to open up the lines again? Well, hi.
It's been over a year since we last chatted, during the darkest, bleakest, worst days of my life. Days I wasn't sure I was going to survive, and to be honest, wasn't sure I wanted to. But here I am, and yeah, I don't know. ~awkward shifting of feet, and biting lips~
When I started this blog, gathering friends and family along the way, I was a way different woman; different outlook, different concerns, different goals. The most shared comment I heard those first few weeks after losing Sarah was, "Death of a loved one will fundamentally change you, and if you aren't careful, you'll get lost trying to find your way back." After the first three months when the fog of shock lifted and the full force of losing my Big Girl hit me, I realized I wasn't me anymore. Most of my waking (and sleeping) thoughts were on my girls, but mostly on Sarah. My time, focus, energy and wits were completely involved in keeping her alive, happy and healthy. And now she's gone. Yes, I know I have Jaylee Bean who still needs me; who always needed me, but due to the differences in their personalities, was often overlooked. Jay was the easy child, and I never worried about her. But suddenly she was the sole focus of my attention and I realized after 20 years, I hardly knew her. I had her likes and dislikes, schedules, favorite foods, etc., but I didn't really know her. She's got her Poppy's drought-dry sense of humor. How can you tell a non-verbal person has a sardonic sense of humor? You wait for the dust devils and tumbleweeds to roll by. She observes everything. And she passes judgment. One of the things her teachers and I discuss is her ability to cut you to the core with a look of derision. If you get on her bad side, she'll give you the cold shoulder. Again, how is that different from just not being able to talk? Jay can ignore you so hard you start to doubt your own existence. And you will do whatever it takes to make it end. She knows this. Which is probably why I don't really worry about her. If I die, there will be fresh minions to take my place.
Her teacher's favorite saying, "It's Jay's circus and we're just her trained monkeys." Truth.
Six months after, the pain started lessening and I started to panic. It felt like losing her all over again. If I laughed, or had a good day, or ~gasp~ enjoyed myself, I got hit with an overwhelming wave of guilt. What kind of monster would stop grieving long enough to laugh? That's when I sought grief counseling. This was something I couldn't fix myself, I was too close to see the damage I was doing to myself and family. Something I heard repeatedly, from my counselor and the other parents in the support group, "If the grief doesn't get you, the guilt and regret will." And it's true. So many nights I kept running different scenarios, reliving that horrible morning trying to see what I did wrong. So much time spent feeling guilty over things I didn't do, did do, didn't think to do. I was told that the guilt and regret are often ways of avoiding feeling the loss. As long as you keep thinking you could have done something, you don't have to face the reality that you can't do anything anymore. It's out of your hands. She's gone and nothing I can do will change it. Feeling good, having a good day, wasn't betraying her, wasn't forgetting her, it was living. Something I still have to choose to do every morning.
Nine months after brought Her Season. Sarah loved the Fall; football games, Halloween, Thanksgiving (turkey and pumpkin pie), and then Christmas. Each first without her was brutal. But not just for me; the whole family was grieving and didn't feel like celebrating. We didn't see anybody for any of the holidays. We just couldn't without her. And then, BOOM, the first anniversary of losing her. I still have a hard time saying "her death", too harsh. Mom and Poppy came over to spend the day with me. Spouse had to be on the road, so he suffered alone in a stupid hotel room in Vancouver. To be honest, I don't remember anything that happened that day. Mom had to remind me they spent it with me. And then, last Saturday, May 18, would have been her 24th birthday. We spent it doing everything but talking about it. It was also Panhandle High School's Prom night. Just too much to deal with. Until it was bedtime and I brought it up. Spouse hadn't even realized it was the 18th, which I can't blame since he'd been on vacation all week and you know how that messes with your calendar. But still. I felt like I suffered alone all day. I've got to stop that. So Sunday, I took a walk along the South Turkey Creek Trail at Lake Meredith and spent the whole morning with my Sweet Sarah. We had a good talk and she reminded me that life goes on and it's still beautiful if you're willing to see it.