The funny thing about grief is how it follows you everywhere. It’s like when you were in sixth grade and there was a third grader who thought you were awesome and kept popping up in the lunch room and the library to ask you what you thought about his teacher, or if you could help them reach a book on the top shelf. Like Colin Creevy in the Harry Potter books. Colin was a huge fan of Harry, and kept showing up at the weirdest places, and Harry had no idea how he got there, who invited him, or what he was doing in the first place.
My grief is like that. No matter what I’m doing, it always seems to pop up and remind me that it’s there. Sometimes I forget about it for an hour or two. It’s like this cape I wear that has become part of my wardrobe. For the first few weeks after Baby T died, I had no idea why I was wearing a cape. Who put this cape in my closet? I don’t wear capes. I’m not a cape-person. I’ve never been a cape-person, not even when I went through a grunge phase in high school.
But suddenly there I was, wearing this very uncomfortable cape to work, to church, even in the shower. Now, two months on, I don’t think about it so much. It’s just always there. It makes some activities difficult, and it seems to make me cranky and moody, but surely that’s to be expected. I look like Zorro, after all. So, for the most part, I’m not continually aware of this cape. It’s even become kind of comfortable, in a way. Familiar. Warm.
And then I’ll catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and think, “Yuck. Who put this cape on me?” and I’ll remember that I put it on, and I can’t take it off. At least not yet. Maybe over time it will wear out, and I’ll be able to choose a new cape, in a happy color. But for now, this is my nice new two-month-old cape. It’s what I’m stuck with.
My grief is that cape. I’m not constantly aware of it. Sometimes I go for an hour, two, maybe even three without thinking about it. Then I’ll laugh at something on 30 Rock, or I’ll be listening to Bach and doing the dishes, and it will pop up behind me. When I turn around to see what’s tapping my shoulder, it will punch me in the face.
It’s a b*tch like that.
I don’t like my grief very much. I don’t like it because I don’t think there will ever be a time when it will go away completely, and not ever come back and punch me in the face again, and make me feel stupid for forgetting about it for a couple of hours.
I know that eventually it will go away for days at a time. Maybe it’ll even go on vacation for a week or two. Heck, maybe someday it’ll even go on a meditation tour in India, wind up doing magic mushrooms on the beach in Goa, and forget about me for a whole month.
But it will always come back and punch me again. Jerk.
When I get pregnant again, I’m afraid my grief will hover over me the entire time, pointing its ugly finger and reminding me of what can happen. When I actually have a child, I’m afraid my grief will be in the delivery room with my hubby and I, just hanging out in the corner eating an apple, and reminding me not to get too happy, because you just never know what can happen.
I wish I could tell my grief to go away and not come back, but there are two reasons why I can’t. First, my grief doesn’t seem to take direction very well. He’s an untrained pit bull that I need to tread around very carefully.
Second, my grief is a big link to my son. When I think of my son, the grief invariably comes around and makes itself comfortable on the couch, and I’m afraid to tell it to leave too forcefully because then it might just listen to me and go off somewhere, taking my memories of Baby T along with it.
I think that eventually (with time, therapy and our support group) I will be able to think about Baby T without having to make my grief a cup of tea while I’m at it, but for now, this is how it is.
So I go through life very carefully these days because I never know when I’m going to get punched in the face. It happened at Target the other day when I unintentionally walked through the baby section. That was stupid of me, and my grief saw every opportunity to hide behind a stroller and surprise me. I was a walking target (no pun intended) there.
But sometimes it’s more subtle. Like when I’m driving and sing along to a song and, out of the habit I developed over five months, I rub my belly and say, “Baby T, we’re listening to Jason Mraz. We like him.” And then I realize that Baby T isn’t in my belly anymore, and wham! I’m suckerpunched on the 210 freeway.
Right now my grief is a loud and bombastic jerk. I’m hoping that over time he will mature into more of a quiet painful splinter somewhere you don’t notice it so often. Then maybe my grief and I can engage in a productive conversation, and I might even be able to embrace him. For now, though, I just want to shoot him.