Time, energy, and space are precious commodities. I never realized how much until Emerson passed. Grief takes an immense amount of time, energy, and space. Luxuries I do not have. See, I am still a mother. Both to two young boys and a new mother to our infant daughter. Time and space are rarely available. Energy seems to me a mythical creature for when I do have some free time and space (generally thirty minutes when all three children are miraculously asleep), I cannot seem to find this mysterious energy supply.
So here I sit. Mired in grief with very little availability to process. It’s hard for me to explain this so good luck following. When I cry for my son, it is soul wrenching. If I let the tears come, it is followed by deep exhaustion and a migraine. I am worn out, truly worn out, after I cry. I need to sleep both to regain my energy and to renew my soul. I’m always worn out these days, but I still can get out of bed and take care of my children every morning. Yet in order to do this, there is a large part of my heart I have to put in a box.
I seal my grief up because I have three surviving children who need a mom; not the broken helpless woman I am in my grief. So I don’t let myself feel. I turn it off. I am so amazed by women I know who can take time during their day to cry and mourn their children. I know they feel the same deep heartache and I know they have responsibilities of their own, including surviving children. I don’t know how they do it; how they let their hearts feel so openly. I’m amazed by these women. My grief is tightly controlled.
Here’s a story that makes me feel horrible: on the one year anniversary of Emerson’s passing, I did not cry. I wanted to cry. I wanted to stay curled up in bed the week before and the week after. I wanted to watch old videos and pull out pictures and completely lose myself. But I couldn’t. My children needed me. I have no problem showing grief to my children. They saw me cry many days after Emerson passed and on the few days when the deep grief escapes my safe little box. But I can’t feed my children if my grief is out. I can’t dress them. I can’t read them stories. I can’t take them to the park or change their diapers or hear what they are saying to me. My grief truly overwhelms me. So on the one year anniversary of Emerson’s death, we did look at pictures. We told stories to the kids about Emerson and Matt and I even went to the cemetery (but only for a short time because the kids needed us). But I didn’t get what I needed. I didn’t have time to write a story or share a memory of Emerson on Facebook or here. I didn’t get to cry with abandon. I didn’t get to fall into the despair that is always with me. And I truly felt like a horrible mom for Emerson that day, because I knew I had to be a mom for Sorkin, Lincoln and Anna on that day, and the day before, and the day after.
Grief is something of a luxury. You need time and space and energy. Not to say I don’t grieve daily. I feel that ache of missing my son every. single. day. In every moment. I wonder who he would be now and miss him in all the little moments (and the big ones too). There is not a day that goes by that I don’t speak his name. He is never far from my heart, my mind, or my lips. My children hear about their big brother and remember him through our stories. But the deep grief that runs deep within me, I have to manage that. I don’t have the capacity for the deep grief. And it builds within me. and it does need to come out. For my children, I worry that it is even more complicated than this. While I speak of this deep, heavy, large grief and how I tuck it away, the grief is never gone. My children see their mother sad all too often. They know about death and heaven. They visit the cemetery. They have a shadow hanging over them of their brother. I want them to love their brother. I want them to know who their brother was and how happy he made us. I don’t want them to think their brother ruined their mom or took away their happiness. How do I do this? I don’t know. We’re trying to learn and figure this out as we go along. Inevitably, all three of my surviving children will be shaped by Emerson’s death and I don’t know what that looks like or how I can make Emerson’s death a healthy part of their development and life.
And, as if that was not enough to place on my shoulders, it’s gotten more complicated. Having Anna here makes my grief more complicated. How can a mother wish to go back in time to when her eldest was here but before her youngest existed? I know that I cannot go back but even thinking “what if” or “I wish we could just go back…”, which are normal thoughts in the grief process. Yet, they feel like a betrayal to my daughter. I know I cannot go back but I also feel that I have (for the time being) closed the door to wanting to “just go back to when…”. It’s hard to grieve Emerson’s loss and celebrate Anna’s life at the same time. I need time and space to process these complicated feelings. In a perfect world my four children would be with me. I wouldn’t need to balance this guilt with the grief (there’s more guilt than this…there’s always more guilt). I wouldn’t need to process the grief at all because my son would be with me. But I don’t get to live in that perfect world anymore. I don’t get to know life with all four of my children.
Still, I know I have shut down a part of my heart. And all the love and support from family and friends, all the therapy, and all the prayers will not open that part back up until I am ready. When will that be? When will I have the time, the space, the ENERGY for grief?
My heart is broken. I can never be good or whole again. Even when I’m happy, I am heartbroken. I picture Emerson everywhere and his ghost is with my always. It is both cruel and kind that I never dream of him; if I did, what would be the point of waking?
He is everywhere. He is with me always. Yet I wish I had more time for him– more time for me. More time to grieve him like a “good” mother. Emerson was such an amazing person and he deserves to be honored and remembered more fully than I can do on a daily basis.
Last year, several of my colleagues and friends planted a magnolia tree for Emerson at my parent’s house. We’ve been watching it bud and bloom this spring. As we watch it come back to life, I tell my children it is Emerson’s tree and we talk about their big brother. I remind them that he loves them. I remind them that he is always their big brother, always a part of our family. I tell them the stories-their memories- of when Emerson was here. It’s not fancy nor is it nearly enough, but it’s how we honor Emerson as best we can. We speak his name. We can never forget him as he burned his light into our lives forever.