I saw something passed around on social media about Christmas. It was addressed to those who recently lost a loved one.
It ends with: “Next year won’t be as hard. Trust me”.
In fact, this year may have hurt even more. The year after you walk through in a fog of shock. The year you’re supposed to be “fine”.
But I saw all the other little girls in their pretty dresses. And all the bright eyed little ones waking up early. All the photos with Santa.
Ours was so quiet. Just Joe and me exchanging gifts on Christmas morning after sleeping in. No early wake up. No squeals of excitement. No dresses. No bows. And before her that was fine. Joe and I spent many Christmases that way.
Now all we could think was “it should be so different”.
After Christmas dinner at my grandma’s house, I took pink roses to the cemetery where her stone just got placed.
This year is just as hard. Trust me.
Joe and I just returned from the Dominican Republic. While I always find my time near the water comforting and healing, there were just some things on this trip…
Joe got sick while we were there. I had a little melt down that day. I was just tired, frustrated, disappointed and annoyed (not at him). Another day, I was sitting on the beach reading The Girl on the Train. If you’ve lost a little one, avoid this book. Too many triggers. I think I’ll start a bereaved mother’s book club with a list of books not to read. While I’m reading a particularly disturbing section of the book, I hear a woman at the bar. Clearly intoxicated. And loudly professing how much she misses her child. And then what a (insert not family friendly name that you might also call your cat) her husband is because he lets their little one sleep in their bed occasionally. And I lost it. Poor Joe. Had to chase me as I fled crying to the restroom. And that’s the thing about grief. You don’t really know when you’re going to get overwhelmed. Or what—or who—will cause it to rear its ugly side (because like I’ve said—it’s always there. Just sometimes it’s under control).
The trip happened to include two anniversaries. We released Zoey’s ashes into the ocean one year ago on December 8th. And I lost my dad 18 years ago on December 13th. Neither seems possible. There was a night we sat down on the beach looking up at the stars. I could almost feel her there against my chest. Her breath against my skin. Almost. But all too soon reality crashes in and reminds you just how empty your arms are. Looking up at the sky and taking in the stars and talking about the universe, you question everything. I’m sure many have wondered if I’m crazy for believing I’ll see my little girl again. For picturing her with my dad eating ice cream cones and playing tricks on us. But it’s the only choice I have. I have to believe that I will be reunited with them or this world without them is too much, too long, too hard to withstand. I have to believe they are together and I will be with them someday. It’s the only way to survive day after day. The pain has not lessened. Knowing I’ve held her for the last time is not any easier to bear more than a year later. But imagining her in a beautiful place surrounded by the others I love brings me comfort.
And once again it was hard to leave the water. The place where, despite the little annoyances this particular trip brought, makes me feel at peace. And I always wonder if it’s the last time I’ll see the beach. Because we know all too well that life can change in a heartbeat. I hope we make it back there again. To sit and let the ocean breeze wash over us. To hear the waves crash. To look out over the water and hope she’s somewhere even more beautiful.