Grief lull

My grief has been in a lull for the past few days. The fifth month since he died has passed. It was an anniversary that I dreaded – the time when his days alive would equal his days gone. Leading up to it, I was in a black hole of depression. Since it has passed us now though, I feel better. Or maybe I’m just getting used to him being gone. Or maybe I’m back in denial. Who knows? Grief  is a constant surprise.

Since I’ve quit work, my emotional stability has improved 100-fold. I am more patient with my daughters. I have the ability (and maybe some desire) to cook dinner again. Household chores don’t weigh so heavily on me. I guess, in other words, I am enjoying being a stay-at-home-mother.

Seven to ten years is when emergency veterinarians really start to burn-out on nights, holidays, and weekends. I think I was reaching that point anyway, and then James’s death just exacerbated that feeling. It’s hard to reconcile all of the time I spent in school and all of the student debt with being a stay-at-home-mom, but right now, it’s best for my family. It’s also best for me.

My radio show (Calling All Species) had its debut episode last Friday. I’ve been wondering where radio has been all my life. It comes so naturally. Of course, the show is vet-centric, all about animals. It’s a great deal of fun, and it brings me out of my grief. I’m also writing daily. I’ve started a fiction novel. Of course, there is a great deal of autobiographical content, but ultimately, it will be fiction.

I’ve been spending less time on social media and more time working in my yard. I finally got a vegetable garden planted – tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, peppers, and corn. I also finally planted my flower beds. For the past year, they’ve been serving admirably as weed-growing beds, but I finally got around to cleaning them out and planting actual flowers.

On the anniversary of 5 months since James’s death, I did something rather drastic. Growing up, I used to taunt my parents and my aunt with the statement that I would get a tattoo as soon as I turned 18. Once I hit eighteen, I realized that there is nothing that I would want permanently on my body…certainly not a dolphin or a Chinese symbol or something else equally meaningless to me.

When James died, for some reason, it came to me that I should get a tattoo. I’d never really had the urge, and yet, here at almost 38 years old, I suddenly felt the need to have a physical reminder of him on my body at all times (as if the c-section scar wasn’t enough). For weeks, I thought about it, but nothing seemed right. I thought about a line of poetry – especially “nothing gold can stay” from Robert Frost, or “the lowest ebb is the turn of tide,” from Longfellow. Yet, I couldn’t find a font or position I liked, and I decided that it wasn’t “meant to be.”

And then, the day before the fifth month anniversary of his death, it hit me like a bolt of lightning. For days to weeks, I had stared at the beautiful mural on the wall of his PICU room. It was a mural of leaves becoming a butterfly (a Rajah Brooke’s birdwing butterfly). When I thought of it, I knew immediately. On the anniversary, I went to a local tattoo studio and had that mural tattooed on my back. And it is beautiful.

All in all, the days pass me by. The agonizing phase of grief has subsided somewhat. The pain never goes away, and I never, ever stop missing him and wishing he was here. All the same, we keep going. The river keeps flowing, carrying me along in the current. I can’t swim against it to stay with him. I have to go wherever the river goes. It is life. We go on while our loved ones recede into the distance. The human spirit is ever resilient.

I love you James.


5 thoughts on “Grief lull

  1. Such a beautiful post. Your journey of healing is inspirational. Your tattoo is just perfect. Forever with you is that sweet butterfly that transformed your life.


  2. As I read through your posts about James, ‘catching up’ as it were, and I see the pain & loss in your words, I remember why it is I am catching up…
    As I write this, and read about James, my own pain comes raging back, and I enter a battle of wills with myself – the part of me that wants to close the screen and read another day in order to avoid/escape the pain, and the part that knows yours & James story is my own, albeit different, and I can’t escape a moment of this pain, only delay it…
    I then read a comment that causes a burst of laughter through the tears, and I remember why I read, why I subject myself to what surely must appear as masochistic to any who haven’t lived this nightmare; you, James, Jim, your girls, your entire connection to any other lives, while not the same as mine, is made of the same fabric of reality, because I wish to honor you & James & all those connected to James by reading about your story, the same as Ben managed to connect us.

    My laughter came over your comment about your tattoo…
    Imagine the same event but change the age to about to turn 50! My niece and I will be getting matching ratios of a butterfly for Ben, but ours are made of two B’s back to back with the shadow of a butterfly surrounding them. A tattoo was one of only 2 things my mother made it clear would cause my brother or I to be “kicked out” prior to each of us leaving home on or own. At least I know I’m not crazy now, at least, not as judged in the reality you and I now must live in.

    Thank you for writing your blog, it is a fabulous, wonderful, amazing, painful & tragic love story that is one of less than a handful that can make me truly believe there are still beautiful things in my world.

    The Other Cat 🙂


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