Someone asked me that the other day because I remarked that I was struggling with some grief about Callie’s leg and health issues. I’m 100% sure it was triggered by her recent knee surgery.
“Why aren’t you over that by now? It’s been almost 10 years.”
First, geez sister. Remind me to seek compassion from anyone other than you when I need it.
Second, the easiest way I can explain it is–I’m not.
I honestly don’t think I ever really truly will be “over it”.
Grief and loss, especially in this circumstance, isn’t something that I can tuck into a lockbox. Process it, slam the lid shut, and shove it in the upper shelves of my closet to never be thought of again?
That’s not how it works.
The easiest comparison I can equate the grief of a special needs parent to is an ocean.
There are days where I’m just walking along the beach. I’m too distracted by the gorgeous sunset exploding across the horizon, the sweet smell of the salty air, and the feel of the cool tawny sand beneath my feet to truly look at the water. My surfboard is propped up a few feet away from me. I just had a great day on the waves. Those glorious amazing things are just too much in focus–too breathtaking for me to tear my eyes away from to even glance at the ocean.
But I know it’s still there.
Other days, I walk along the shore line, the cool turquoise water lapping at my ankles. It’s not too deep–I can still clearly see the gold anklet I wear on my ankle. The water dances at my feet and the rose gold nail polish I wear on my toes winks up at me in the sun. Like my grief, the tiny waves gently come in and go back out. I look out at the ocean and can hear it whispering my name.
I definitely know it’s there.
And then there are some days. the waves crash into me. Slamming into me, tossing me around like a rag doll. Pulling me down to the extreme depths of despair so deep that the ocean couldn’t even fathom. I can’t catch my breath. I can’t pull myself out. The ocean is all around me–inky black water and I don’t know which way is up. I’m completely underwater. Lost and drowning.
The ocean consumes me.
Sometimes, on those days I have to fight to the surface on my own. Pulling and clawing my way to the top until I can break the wave and draw in air. Giant greedy gulps that remind me that I’m still here. I’m still alive. It didn’t break me. It didn’t consume me. I have to keep swimming.
I’m grateful on the days that I have a lifeguard. Someone that taught me that if I ever get turned around underwater and I can’t figure out my way to the surface–to blow bubbles. The bubbles will float to the top and I can follow them to freedom. On occasion, the lifeguard has to throw me a life preserver or haul me in themselves. It’s not that I don’t want to do it myself–I’m just tired and need some help.
The ocean is too vast. Too strong for me to try to take it on by myself.
I’d love to be able to take that grief that’s tucked safely away in the lockbox and throw it in the ocean. Watch it sink to the cavernous depths of the sea–taking my pain and hurt with it.
Never have to deal with it again.
But no more so than I would tell someone who lost a pet/spouse/child, had a miscarriage, diagnosed with a chronic illness, or suffered a tremendous loss that they “should” be over it in a certain time frame.
Because grief, much like the ocean, is raging, harsh, and magnificent. They both can also be calm, graceful, and infinite.
I’m still learning to balance surfing the darkness until the light washes me back up onto the shore.
Be patient with me.