Updated: Sep 23, 2022
Grief has been an old friend to me. Since I was a young girl I’ve lost many friends and family member to an array of deaths dealings; cancer, car accidents, overdose, suicide. I know love and loss very intimately and until I became a parent, I could not understand why I was chosen to experience so much grief. Nonetheless, grief has visited me in recent years and this is only a glimpse of my story.
It’s was October 11, 2017. Twelve days before our child’s first birthday. I had just started school and was taking my first big exam, answered three questions, and got the call from our brother’s lover. “I can’t find Darren” she said, on the other end of the line.
NO”, I replied. “Wait for me, (my parent is with our kiddo and he has friends at the house.) I’ll come home and take over and we can send them down. Please don’t go by yourself”. Damn. Was that a mistake.
Our child’s first birthday was shrouded in sorrow. We were so luckily to have so many loved ones surround us at that time. Darren's death was a great Homer community loss but for us, it was the death of a chosen family member, a brother, an uncle, a kindred spirit. The heaviness of his death that overshadowed my child’s first birthday was crushing but we chose joy and celebrated anyway. I’ll say that the intimate way that I know grief allows me to cherish the small moments of joy that surround us it in retrospect, it was excruciating to swim to the surface and looking back now, I wanted more than anything to have ONLY joy on my son’s first birthday. But we only move forward.
As time went on, my partner held it together for the most part. He would share with me glimpse of his pain with his words but the sorrow was looming. He would share with me that he was having flashbacks. These began to happen more frequently over time and my partner took to alcohol to sooth his pain. That worked for sometime until he got into and accident at work at the beginning of the Covid pandemic, April 2020. There was an explosion in small space and he burned his hands and face. After that my partners downward spiral became unbearable and unsafe for our family so in December 2020, I gave the ultimatum, “get help…quit drinking…or we are moving out”. My partner chose life. He shared with me dark secrets that he has kept but quit drinking and we’ve been going to therapy. He took the reigns and here we are.
I know grief now more intimately then many and as I share this experience I wonder, was the cumulative grief meant to serve as buffer to hold this pain for myself, my partner, and my child? Was I meant to grieve many losses so that I could bear witness to my partners pain without judgement, as far as he needed to go before he could stand tall and look at his pain? So that my son can see that momma HELD IT DOWN? So that he can see what love looks like in all it’s rawness by my choosing to stay and hold on until the last shoe dropped so he could understand that when you love someone you stand by them, steadfast in your self respect and boundaries while seeing through the dark? I don’t know. Maybe.
Grief and parenting simultaneously have challenged me to the core. From both parenting and grief, I have learned that it’s not one day at a time, but minute by minute, play by play. I have learned that I am really good at being comfortable with discomfort. I have a well that runs deep with patience but that well has its limits. Forgiveness is a priority and it might be the hardest thing I’ve ever done when head to head with running away. Self care sometimes means just washing your face. Gratitude, oh sweet gratitude. You are the soul that soothes to savagest of beasts. Nature has real magic. When loneliness sets in, reach the fuck out. That true friends just listen. That parenting means sitting down and crying with your child when they are throwing it down. Holding the line is really really hard and flexibility is EVERYTHING.