Friday, June 7, 2019

Grief, Gently

We're walking hand in hand and she's grasping a letter I wrote, signed, addressed and stamped. I'm carrying the baby on my hip and she's waving a chubby, dimpled hand at the cars that pass us. Maggie stands on tiptoe to slide the letter into the mail slot, tall enough finally at four. She pauses out in front of the post office, gazing across the street.

"I miss our old house. We had a lot of fun there."

I pause too and follow her gaze. There it is.

In the year plus since we've moved, I've carefully side stepped this place. That's the thing about grief and moving on. You get to work it out your own way, right? Except, when you have kids? It doesn't work that way. When you have children, you have your own process, your own path...but you also walk theirs with them. 7 kids means 7 paths, plus mine. 7 unique interpretations. 7 hearts mending in 7 different ways.

You'd think I would've realized it, but it wasn't until my oldest son was driving me home from the grocery store a few months back that I saw it clearly.  Driving permit still crisp in his pocket, he seriously and cautiously clung to the steering wheel, eyes laser focused on the road ahead. I thought for a moment that he forgot where he was going, had taken a wrong turn. In the gathering dusk, the light in the windows shone brightly as he drove by, agonizingly slow -

and raised his hand in a half wave, half salute to his childhood home.

My heart crumbled in my chest.

Being a Mama means requires self care. Being a Mama also requires self sacrifice. It is within the tension of these two things that we live, heart forward, opened up to show up for our kids, no matter what.

I squeeze Maggie's hand. "Yes, we did have fun there. Let's walk by."

The peonies I always loved in the front garden are opening up. I look up at the window of the room where 3 of my children breathed their very first breaths and, for a moment, feel it all. The good times. The bad. The heart of that home, that time, that life. It hurts.

That's the thing about grief. You can't really control it at all. Maybe, in learning this with my kids, I'll find a gentler way for myself.

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