Dreams

The other day Brian was helping me in the kitchen as I prepared dinner when he looked at me with glistening eyes and said, “What would she be doing now?” He didn’t have to specify who “she” was or what exactly he was asking, I already knew.

“She’d be talking. Not a whole lot. But several words by now I’m sure.”

“Would she be walking?” He asked.

“Walking? She’d probably be running by now.”

I watched the corners of his lips turn up just slightly, like his proud smile was some kind of secret he was trying to keep inside of him.

This pride we feel is an interesting thing, and not easily understood by those who have not been where we are. To think about all the growing and thriving she could be doing right now if things had been different brings so much mixed emotion. The most apparent and obvious are the negative ones, the pain, the longing. The ones that form tears in my eyes and an ache in my heart. But there’s a pride in imagining her growing up, and the joy that would have brought.

Sometimes, for the briefest of moments I pretend it was all different. I ignore the fact that she never came home from the hospital and let myself imagine what it would be like if she were racing around the house with our dog, Lana in tow. My ears fill with the symphony of tiny footsteps and excited squeals. I close my eyes and watch her black hair bounce in the air as she plays. Oh, it feels so good to imagine how those curls have grown since the day she was born. I sit there in that joy for just a moment. And then…

The weight of the world falls back onto my shoulders, and reality floods all my senses like a rising tide, washing all my dreams away.

But that imaginary joy, it still left its mark on me. A hope for what is to come. On that day when that little girl turns around and sees me standing at the gates of heaven. One sweet day.

Until then, I will do my best to thrive here. To build something beautiful from the wreckage that became my life nearly eighteen months ago. And I’ll dream, because no amount of anguish can take that from me.

I’ll dream about life on this earth. I’ll dream about growing old with my sweet husband. I’ll dream about having more babies. I’ll dream about having a farmhouse with a bountiful garden. I’ll dream about finally living next door to my best friend. I’ll dream about holidays surrounded by family.

But most of all, I’ll dream about her until I won’t have to dream at all.

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Turning off survival mode.

It has been just seventeen days since we ended our first year of grief, and I am already thinking about the second. What will happen this year? Will it be drastically different, or more of the same? I wonder if we should continue celebrating the monthly anniversary of Aria’s birth, or are we supposed to stop at twelve? I wonder if I’m going to cry less, or feel less triggered by everyday things.

I did this a lot in the first weeks after losing Aria. I kept looking to the future, wishing for time to hurry past so I could get to a place where I was able to function normally. In the days leading up to Aria’s birthday, I kept wishing I hadn’t done that. I spent a whole year on edge, anxiously waiting for the days to pass. I didn’t really live, I just moved through the motions.

My goal this year is to change that. It’s time for me to stop being in survival mode all the time. I need to force myself to get out and start overcoming my fears. My counselor tried coaxing me out of my bubble six months after losing Aria, but it gave me a ton of anxiety and I realized I simply wasn’t ready yet. Now, the thought of going back into the world is exhilarating and exciting. I feel like I am on the cusp of so much opportunity and that feels really good.

In fact, some things have already changed. I shared on Instagram earlier that we just adopted a dog named Lana. She is a one year old, German Shepherd mix, full of spunk and lots of love. She has already taught me so much more than I thought she would. Sometimes I find myself spending several minutes just watching her sleep. She makes me forget about running errands or cleaning up the house. She reminds me that it’s OK to slow down and enjoy the little things. She’s also done some remarkable things for my grief. It is often said that grief is just love with nowhere to go, and because of Lana I now have somewhere to express some of that love. It’s also much harder to have a bad day when she keeps laying next to me, begging for belly rubs.

I didn’t anticipate Lana joining our family when we rang in 2017. In fact, I was pretty against getting a dog because I am such a clean freak. But Brian did a lot of convincing, and meeting Lana allowed me to open my heart. I am wondering, “what’s next?” But I am going to do my best to just be still and wait. Most of our biggest gifts aren’t things we can predict anyways.

 

Overcoming our differences in grief

Our differences are what make us unique and special. Our differences are important, and make life interesting. They make life more meaningful.

But sometimes, our differences can really divide us. They can cause arguments, and even full blown wars.

Lately, I’ve been wishing the rest of the world was a little more like me. I’m very open about my journey with grief. I tell people when I am hurting in a very public way, both on my blog and social media accounts. I share these things for a lot of reasons, but mostly because it keeps Aria’s memory alive. But not everyone is this vocal, and sometimes it can be really hard on me.

When I’m really upset, or missing Aria so much that I’m drowning in my emotions, I almost always text, call, or speak with someone. I do this so that I always have a support person to help pull me out of the darkness, or prevent me from falling in too deep. This is a really important process for me.

But not everyone is like this. Many people tend to grieve silently, so they don’t often send us a text that says “I thought of Aria today” or “I cried today.” I think people assume that telling us about their overwhelming moments, and the tears they shed will break us down even more. But truthfully, it would help us a lot.

First, it reminds us that we aren’t the only people who think of our daughter on a daily basis. We can’t read minds, so we don’t know unless someone tells us. And when they do, it makes my heart sing. I love knowing the ways our sweet little girl has impacted other people’s lives. I love knowing that her presence on this earth continues for more than just Brian and I.

Second, if someone were to tell us they missed her so much that they shed a few tears, we would feel less alone in our grief. Of course, we don’t want everyone around us to be sad, but it is really nice to know we aren’t the only ones grieving this loss. Which again, we just don’t know unless we are reminded.

Over the last six and a half months, people have often said “let us know if you need anything!” And it’s so frustrating because I almost never know how to respond. I will likely never say “I’m having a hard day, can you come do my laundry?” But I have a response now. All we really need is to know that people still have a relationship with our sweet little girl.