Tuesday, January 27, 2015

It Makes No Difference

The other night, I was at a concert and had one of those rare moments where, although I had heard this song a thousand times before, it felt like I was hearing it for the first time. And, despite having written, reflected, and shared my feelings on grief intermittently over the past two years, it was as though nothing could sum up how my soul has felt more than hearing a rendition of Danko’s performance:

I went to the concert with my childhood friend who, oddly enough, happened to be at our house the night Todd died. She looked over at me as I was honing in on the lyrics and said something like: “This song is totally you and Todd.” Yes, it was. 

The next morning I read an article by Patrick O’Malley titled "Getting Grief Right" in the New York Times.  I found it comforting and spot on especially this excerpt:

“Based on my own and my patients’ experiences, I now like to say that the story of loss has three “chapters.” Chapter 1 has to do with attachment: the strength of the bond with the person who has been lost. Understanding the relationship between degree of attachment and intensity of grief brings great relief for most patients. I often tell them that the size of their grief corresponds to the depth of their love.”

Todd and I had such an amazing, wonderful bond that stemmed from our compatibility and attraction to one another but developed and grew because of our intense situation.  At such a young stage of our marriage, we found ourselves skipping through decades of phases most couples go through in a lifetime together. And, certainly the depth of our love could fill an ocean.

O’Malley’s article continues to explain the debilitation his patient suffered during her time of grief. It’s true there have been days I’ve wanted to stay in bed and let my sadness and loneliness cover me like a blanket but I had the boys and they needed me as much as I needed them.

I feel unbelievably lucky (I don’t know if that’s the right word) that during the days, weeks, and months following Todd’s death I never felt debilitated. Instead, I was able to compartmentalize things  - for better or worse – into two separate rooms within my heart and mind. There was the room for the boys which was filled with a lightness and joy that, as a new mother, I hadn’t felt before. Then there was the room that contained my grief for Todd. The idea for the rooms began as a figurative image in my mind but as time went on I realized it came from a literal place.

The boys were only 4 months old when Todd started sleeping downstairs in his hospice bed.  Moving Todd out of our bedroom and into his new, makeshift room was the second worst thing I had to do. (The worst thing happened about a month before - when I had to walk into Todd's hospital room and tell him that Hospice was our only option.)  As a family of four, we hardly spent time together in Todd’s room. It was just too difficult. Twins. Alone. Hospice. I spent most of my time with them either in their nursery or the kitchen. So, I would wait for the boys to fall asleep at nap-time or bedtime before I could sit in Todd’s room.

Very recently the two rooms I created and separated seemed to connect for the first time. The boys and I were lying in my bed, watching the sunrise, and snuggling.  William pointed to Todd's hat on the dresser and asked, “Mama, is that Pop Ricky’s hat?”  I told him, “No, it was Todd's.” Andrew then asked, “Now it's yours?”  I nodded my head, “Yes.”  Quietly, we watched the sunrise until Andrew asked very sweetly, “Mama, where's Toddy?”  I couldn't answer. My eyes welled up with tears. Breaking the silence, William whacked me on my nose by accident causing a few more tears. They each snuggled up closer to me and Andrew said, “Don't worry Mama, I'll take care of you...”

Yes – the sun still shines – sometimes even brighter than before. It’s a different kind of sunshine though. And, when I am in that room alone dealing with the loss of Todd as a companion, husband, best friend, and more it just “makes no difference…”