Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Letting Go and Holding on Tight

One thing defines 2013 for me: the loss of Aidan. He died in 2012, but we spent 2013 trying to learn how to live our Aidan-less lives.

I still have days, like Sunday a week ago, when I cry so hard and for so long that I'm exhausted and ready to go back to bed by 2 p.m. But then days go by when I only cry a little bit, like today. I shed a few tears when I write about him; or when I see something Aidan-esque, such as a manatee, a toy train, or a Pokemon; or when I walk past the table that holds photos, cards, and mementos. Mr. Peevie has moments, hours, and days like this, too.

I think this is what getting through grief looks like. Midway through the year I said to the therapist, I don't know how to do this, how to walk through this dark valley. He said, "You're doing it." I suppose what he meant was that I was getting out of bed, working, taking care of my family--sometimes badly, and always with the constant presence of Aidan's absence, but I was doing it.

We took a family vacation to Seattle in late June. We had a fabulous trip--as as perfect as it could be without Aidan. Everything is measured by that yardstick, now; everything is viewed through the lens of not having Aidan. Our photographs have two kids in them, instead of three. We asked for a table for four at dinner; we purchased four bus tickets; four people divide easily between two beds. 

Two kids rolling down a hill instead of three.
In August we attended the wedding of friends whom Aidan loved, and who loved Aidan. I started to cry from the moment the groom looked down the aisle at his bride as her father walked her to the front of the church. I cried for Aidan and for our lost future; I cried because Aidan did not get to see his friends' beautiful ceremony, because he won't have his own, or stand next to C. Peevie and M. Peevie at theirs.

I had lunch with a friend later that month, and our conversation covered many topics--but later she said she felt that every conversation should be about Aidan and about our loss, about our missing him. This notion felt exactly right to me. For a long time nothing else mattered except that Aidan was gone.
I think this is at the Space Needle.
His loss was a bleeding, internal wound that would never heal. It was chronic and debilitating. 

There are still times that nothing else matters except that Aidan is not here. Bereavement obstructs my work, my relationships, even my faith. In church, there are still times when I cannot worship, pray, confess, commune, or greet because all I can be and feel is that I have lost Aidan-- which feels incompatible with worship, and especially with confession. I can look at Jesus, but only as a sufferer, not as a sinner. It's like I exist on two different planes, or in two different dimensions; or I'm schizophrenic. If one personality has surfaced, the other recedes. 

But one year, one month and twenty-one days later, I can see that my grieving has changed from what it used to be, when it consumed most of my waking hours. It is still a constant presence, but it is no longer constantly debilitating. Bereavement has changed me--it has changed all of us--but this new, bereaved me is slowly re-learning how to do relationships, work, and worship all over again.

Part of me feels that this reduction in debilitation is a betrayal of Aidan, like I don't love him enough to keep on suffering the most intense and painful grief. But if I let myself go down that rabbit-hole of despair, I would spend the rest of my life not just grieving, but clinically depressed and possibly suicidal. So I remind myself that moving through grief and letting go of the empty despair of those first few weeks and months is the right thing to do for myself, my family, and for Aidan's memory.
Aidan and Mr. Peevie in Colorado, 2011.

Continuing to let go of debilitating grief, but holding on tight to Aidan, to my memories of him, to the things he loved and valued, and to the lessons he taught me--this is where I hope 2014 will take me. 

But god, I miss that kid.


jkww said...

Oh, Eve, I am ugly crying for you and for your sweet family. New Year's Day has been a different kind of comforting to me in recent years. Remembering, looking ahead. I think about that Weepies song... 'I think of you, and where you've gone. And the world spins madly on.' Big hugs to you on the snowy Wednesday.

RevKel said...

I wept too when I read this. Oh God, how great must be your grief. Thank you for your words. Thank God for Aidan.

studioGypsy said...

❤u all. ❤aidan. xo

alisha said...

Hi Eve, I met you yesterday at the Listen To Your Mother audition. This is so beautifully articulated. I'm sorry for your loss but I am glad that it's getting easier.

jeanie said...

"trying to learn how to live our Aidan-less lives." This is so perfectly said. Once again you open up the wound and let us see inside and remember our own wounds. You are teaching us all about grief. Thank you.

Eve Bradshaw said...

Jk, RevKel, Gypsy, Alisha, and Jeanie--thank you for your kind words and compassion.