It’s so strange to decide what we’re ok with in processing our grief. Sometimes all we want to do is feel ‘normal’ how we used to. Ignorance is bliss, and maybe I was happier before I understood the fragility of life the way I know it now. Maybe I was even more stable before losing our two babies – Lord knows I felt impervious at times. But now… I don’t know. This new normal (version 2) isn’t exactly something I want to stick around but it’s also I have left.
Finding that balance between processing my grief and grieving continuously is a strange thing to quantify. As a parent, I feel myself becoming afraid of forgetting my children when I have multiple good days in a row. It took two really hard days when I went from a high-high to a low-low to really comprehend the dangers of this kind of thinking, and I’m thankful for my best friend being there for one of them. It’s part of why I got Jonah’s heartbeat tattooed on my arm – so that I can carry him with me on my good days without feeling like I’m losing him. Just being able to look down and see it and remember what it sounded like takes me back to how excited we were the first time we heard it.
The other side of the spectrum, however, is accepting what moving forward looks like. I’ve been told by several people that it doesn’t get better, but it does get easier. You learn how to live with the cards your dealt and moving on isn’t the same as leaving them behind. There’s no manual for how to handle this stuff and we all get stuck at some point. I think, for me anyway, that the key is finding something to bring you back. I look for Jonah when we’re out – something I’m sure is pretty common for parents like us. I don’t always find him, but when I do my heart sings. It’s such a warm thing to feel like he’s here with me. I feel him when I write and when I go into his room. I feel him the most when I hear how the Jonah Experience has helped people in their lives, and that kind of pride is indescribable.
I took to writing as a way to process things for myself and to reach out to other fathers in particular to let them know they aren’t alone. Maybe you don’t feel confident in articulating what you feel or maybe this emotional stuff isn’t your thing. Maybe you are just a private person or one who takes a while to warm up. Or maybe it’s been so long that you don’t feel like anyone else wants to hear it. Grief, like love, has no time limit. But while you’re there, do the things you love and carry on their spirit. Whoever you are, be that. Our children are looking down on us, waiting to see our happy days and experience them with us whether we can put words to them or not.
This message of finding balance is particularly important to me because I’m about to be out of my comfort zone for the next several days. I’m going rafting with people I have chosen as family (my first time ever, by the way!) and will be out of service the whole time. If I’m being honest with myself, I’m terrified. This is my first real test in taking him with me and having faith that he’ll take care of his momma. This is my first time not being able to log on and feel his spirit moving the way I am right this moment. I keep telling myself I can still write to him while I’m there and I can still look down and see my blood pumping through his heart beat. This is also my first time taking him to do something I’ve never done, if I’m keeping the perspective of a father and not just an almost father. It’s going to be tough, but we can do it one day at a time.
I truly believe that my boys are watching over us, waiting to see who their parents are as people. My legacy as a father has nothing to do with the house we live in or the cars we drive. My legacy as their father is represented in the number of hearts that are touched by their memory, and in the way that I reflect the qualities I had hoped to teach them. Somewhere out there I’ll find the balance.
I hope you can too