The first day of school was yesterday. James took the requisite pictures, but put the camera down somewhere I can’t find it, so I’m going to have to take that up with him later today.
It was beautiful and exciting. All that the first day should be, and all of my children were WAY taller and WAY more grown-up than I was ready for. It’s odd this year: 7th, 5th, 3rd, and 1st grades. Good mix, that.
And I think they were much more ready than I was for everything to crank up again; not just because they’re eager to be with friends but also because they feel like tackling order and work and schedule? Can they be that mature? Probably not all of them.
Rob told me with indignation that 5th grade does not get recess. Oh, the horror. Abbey’s locker shelf broke on the very first day, and Corrie needs a tooth pulled so she’s hardly eating anything. Nothing’s perfect, right?
When I listen to what they say and get dinner done and do the last pickup and close the doors, then comes the end of the day and that’s the sad part.
I still feel sad every time we shift from one season to another. Every change in weather, every birthday and new shoe size. All these turns are the WRONG DIRECTION without Lucy. I feel outraged and lost that she isn’t here to see them with us, as if we’ve taken the map and made the drive but couldn’t reach where we wanted to go.
This summer our family participated in a Grief Group called The Lighthouse. It has sessions for different ages so that most of our kids were in different groups. The counselors talked about different stages of grief and the effects of loss, followed by discussion. I’m making it sound pretty clinical, but I think it was a very positive experience for us. Sometimes being assured that you are normal and your feelings matter is a rare thing, and they gave that to us.
Death changes so many things. Possibly what changes the most are the people left alive after death happens. I cannot recognize myself anymore as the person I was when Lucy was alive. James and I recently watched a BBC television miniseries about death in a small community (called “Broadchurch”), and I couldn’t get over how FAMILIAR the characters’ statements sounded to me. As if the story was scripted from the hidden recesses of my own mind. I know that grief isolates. It was just arresting to see it played out it front of me, especially because it often feels like the only people living with Lucy’s absence are the people in this house.
A blogger named Linda Holmes wrote this about Broadchurch.
“The show is about the town of Broadchurch, where the body is found, and about the way grief is so unwieldy and burdensome that it interrupts and interferes with every other emotion. Trust is upended, old wounds are opened (and others are healed), and relationships are threatened by the deeply human but totally wrongheaded tendency toward trying to negotiate the terms under which others manage pain.”
That last statement has a lot to unpack inside it. I often feel oppressed both by my impression that others are trying to negotiate the terms under which I am managing my pain, and my vague resentment that they aren’t managing their pain like I am – a wrongheaded tendency on my part. It’s complicated. Probably why I avoid writing about it very often. And why I have a difficult time talking to anyone about this.
One of the things we talked about in our group was that the average grief experience is during 3-5 years after the person you love dies. And that children grieve a loss again at every new stage of development: gradually growing to understand fully what has been taken from their lives. That’s a long time. A lot of new seasons. Daily life often feels like a long haul, and it does not make your feelings GO AWAY or CHANGE to talk about GOD.
Having a disabled child puts the difficulties of your life right out front, and being the parent of a dead child plants them in the rocky soil of a thorny internal landscape. I, like Demeter, only seem to cultivate dead soil inside waiting for Persephone.
James and I talk a lot about what we can control and what we can’t control. One of the most helpful things to us in our grief journey has been the ideas and principles of Alcoholics Anonymous. There is an emphasis on dealing with things one day at a time, on surrendering what you can’t control, on choosing not to act out of frustration or resentment. We read the little AA book and talk about bits of it from time to time.
A new season is not the end. Nor the beginning. Just a part. – Katie