Sunday, August 7, 2011

2011 219/365 Some Years: Black and White Hydrangea and a Ramble About 10 Years of Grief

Some Years: Black and White Hydrangea and a Ramble about 10 Years of Grief
My beautiful son, Nathan, was born 10 years ago on August 9th.  He died 10 years ago on August 10th ~ after surgeries to correct Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome: HLHS.

Some of the past 10 years I have felt like glass as my sweet Nathan's birthday and anniversary of his death approach; always the anticipation worse than the anniversary days themselves.  Some years the grief came on and I was the last to recognize it; the anxiety, the irritability, the scatter-brain-ness finally giving way to a choking rush of tears releasing another year's worth of pent up pain.  Other years I have felt like the only one who recognized it..  Some years I want to talk about it.  Some years I want to be quiet.  Some years I cry a lot and some years a little.  Some years I just want to listen to Cindy Bullens sing out all the hurt in my cracked heart.  Some years I seek the waves of the ocean, needing them to crash louder than the waves echoing in the emptiness I sometimes feel in my arms, the hole that gapes in my center.

Some years I need to tell my story out loud and some years I write.  Some years I explore the parodoxes of being a bereaved, "happy-sad" parent through words and pictures.  Some years I drink wine because (for me) it can release the pressure, taking the edge off enough so I can stay connected to my loved ones and my daily life.  Some years I am afraid to drink too much or sleep too much or be alone too much for I might just never resurface.  Some years I've thought I was the only one who remembers, who lost that day, who grieves his absence, who wants to celebrate his birthday with cake and remember his death day with hugs, a visit to the cemetery, and a candle.  I've found out otherwise- I wasn't alone, there were others right with me - family, friends, strangers.

Some years I want to go to Boston, back to the scene of the tragedy both at Brigham and Women's and at Children's Hospital; just steep myself in those places, those moments when it all happened.  Some years I want to return to the doctor's office in Derby where 38 weeks of pregnant bliss were charted and monitored.  I haven't had a year so far in which I wanted to return to Bridgeport Hospital where we were given the devastating news about what we were facing.  We were treated so well at Bridgeport - it was as if time was suspended and a holiness surrounded us there.  I have unfinished business in the other places, I guess, our treatment there leaving wounds that haven't quite closed, scabs to be picked.  Maybe some year I'll be able to let that go completely, there is already more understanding and compassion and less intensity and anger.

Some years I want to walk the halls of Griffin Hospital where we planned for "Naffey" to be born, where pregnancy blood tests were performed, and where Emma (her "th"s sounding like "f"s) attended "Big Sister Class".  Some years I just want to stay put.  Some years there has been guilt and regret and confusion.  Many years a sense of blessing.  Some years I want to help others find their way.  Some years I just can't go there and need to be focused on me, my family, my present.

I am on uncharted waters, with no maps, no compass, nothing to consult as I continue my path without my son.  I have learned to let it be and let it become.  It ebbs and it flows and I am mostly always alright now, although I still get overwhelmed easily by details and small stresses, my memory is *shot*, and my heart waiting to be betrayed again can cast a shadow on the joy in my life if I don't work really hard not to let it.  Some years I've been more fragile than others.  I can only tell what it looks like by looking back.  I won't know, really, what to expect in the years that follow, maybe more bittersweet milestone moments, more wondering what he would be like, more gratitude for what this experience has given me and less feeling robbed.  The grain of sand becomes the pearl.

This year is different from those before it.  I had a sort of shock therapy these past weeks leading up to Nathan's birth and death anniversaries.  Energetically I've had the back of my hair grabbed, and my head forced under ice cold water again and again the result a smashing out of some of the most hardy places of fear and trauma the loss of Nathan left on my heart and psyche; the unprocessed bits that have been waiting for it all to happen again.

In a strange twist of events, I found myself, 10 years later during this season of grief, back on a cardiac wing of a hospital.  This time for my dad.  This time the same roller coaster - spirits climbing up with good news only to plummet with bad.  This time the same agonizing wait for word after a procedure that should have taken an hour and a half took three and then when another, more precarious surgery took seven and half hours instead of the four we were told to expect.  And, while I have new tools for coping, I had sparks of energy vibrating in every cell of my body as each moment ticked by in a fashion so very similar to the wait we endured while Nathan was in surgery.  I wanted to call Paul and scream to him that it was happening again.  And, although I was comforted to know deeply that if my dad died that day that he knew deeply that I love him and am proud of him and that I know he loves me and is proud of me, I also can't imagine a life without him in it.  The wait continued until I was drowning in the surety of us being brought into the small room.  The one off the main waiting area.  The one with the painting of the sailboat, meant to calm the uncalmable.  Like the one where we were told Nathan hadn't made it.

In the end, there was no meeting with the doctor in that room, only two phone calls - one to tell us it was taking longer and one to tell us it was a success.  That was different than ten years ago when we were called and told Nathan was fine, but he never came up from surgery.  Everything was fine, but we waited to see him for close to six hours without anyone telling us anything and then followed by the worst.  And now more than a week after Dad's surgery, he continues to do well and as expected.  He survived and continues to get stronger.  That was different than ten years ago.  And my dad's doctors were humble and polite, confident, but human.  It was healing for me to witness the caring manner in which they worked with my family, so different than the way we were treated in Boston.

So it seems that some years I find myself turning over and over again what happened when Nathan was born and then died, but this year I find myself seeing something different - a different and just as likely outcome to a medical trauma.  Nathan didn't survive, but my dad did.  The places in my heart that remember the excruciating pain of Nathan's death in a way that continually lives the loss and waits expecting there to be more -- that actually see loss as the only outcome --woke up as my head was being plunged into the icy cold water of the 12+ day ordeal of my dad's heart surgery.  Woke up to the here and now.  Woke up to a different scenario - the one really happening, not the one in which I lose everyone I love too soon.

Some years this grief is huge and it is heavy, this year it seems a touch lighter with a hint of deepening hope and a broadening sense of possibility (maybe even trust) in the inner recesses and outer corners of my heart - the whole of my heart - for things turning out to be OK.

All years, Mommy loves you, sweet boy.