There are defined stages of grief (five to seven depending upon which model you use): 1. Shock/Denial 2. Anger 3. Bargaining/Guilt 4. Depression 5. Acceptance and Hope. They manifest differently for everyone. As far as I can tell, there is no "What to Expect When You're Expecting" type manual for grief. There's no pregnancy-type app you can download that says "Today you're 26 weeks pregnant. Your baby is the size of an eggplant. Her eyelashes and fingernails are sprouting."
Maybe I should design one. "Today you're twelve days into grief. You'll make a caprese salad using the basil plant your mom loved so dearly and remind yourself to Google how to take care of it. You flip through your recipe binder while making a grocery list and realize that 90% of your recipes are on lined 3x5 inch note cards from your mom. It occurs to you how much her handwriting looks like it's in italics; a distinct forward slant. Did the nuns in high school teach her that? A lump forms in your throat when you realize how you're going to have a cooking question in the future and you'll go to grab your phone and realize that she won't be on the other end of it with a response."
As far as the stages of grief go, shock has become my friend. Daily activities are carried out in a mechanical fashion, emotions dulled by a sense of numbness. Feelings that were once vibrant and dynamic are enveloped in a haze. People speak to me, trying to convey information. Their lips are moving but I hear nothing. The world is happening around me and I'm not participating in it; I'm merely watching it. Is it horrible to say that I don't mind it? It's comforting; a layer of protection from the reality that you know will come.
That reality is something I am dreading. A hospice nurse told me "The only way out of grief is through it." Do I have to drudge through it? Can I skip it? Please??
When my Dad died, I implored my friends and family not to send plants and flowers. I didn't need all of this foliage around my house serving as a constant reminder; green leaves rubbing my face in the fact that I was now fatherless. I wanted to ignore this fact. I wanted to skip the grief.
With my mom, I realize that foliage or not, I can't ignore this. She's everywhere - EVERYWHERE. It's not just the recipes; it's the kitchen table my kids eat at every day that she tiled herself during her mosaic kick. It's in my jewelry, my clothes, and my shoes (she had a thing for complimenting shoes). It's in my childrens' clothing, their toys, and their art supplies. Her memory is embedded all over this house. Don't even get me started on my sister and how my mom radiates from every idiosyncrasy Leanne exhibits.
Where was I going with that thought? Oh I don't know. Welcome to my scrambled brain. It's that haze I was telling you about.
Let's get back to the logistics: 1. Why did you disappear from Instagram? 2. I just heard about your mom; what happened?! I thought she was doing SO well! 3. How's Leanne doing?
1. Instagram - We love Instagram; our appreciation for this simple little form of memory storage is deep. However, this feels too big...too heavy...too overwhelming for a small square and trite caption. We'll be back to Instagram eventually...when we can somehow get a handle on this, remember how life used to go, and figure out how to chunk it out in small doses. In the meantime, I'm going to try and document our journey here. Writing has always been therapeutic for me. Your feedback is also therapeutic. Please don't hesitate to leave a comment or email CatfishWithKetchup@gmail.com if you're so inclined.
2. What happened to Mama Hop??? I've struggled with this one. How many details of this story should I share? What's relevant and what isn't? I just lived it and it was HARD; I'm not sure I have the energy to get into it again...Maybe for right now I'll just go with the simple explanation offered in the obituary: strokes tore through her already compromised vascular system.
3. Leanne - God bless everyone who has Leanne's well being on their hearts. Her ability to cope has been the greatest of the emotional burdens I've carried during this journey. So far, she has amazed me. And while I am hesitant to offer an enlightened conclusive statement on the situation, I believe this magic that the extra chromosome possesses is illuminating this process for her and for everyone she comes into contact with. There have been too many fortuitous moments that awe us and she is always at the center of these gifts. More on that later.
Mama Hop encouraged me to write. She encouraged (at times annoyingly so) me to write more...she wanted me to find a career that utilized my writing skills. While finding a career is the last thing on my mind right now, I know that I can honor her legacy by writing. And right now, I can memorialize the altruistic spirit that defined her by writing about this journey - especially as it pertains to Leanne. You can find a lot of information out there about grief as it pertains to adults and even children...but helping an individual with Down syndrome work through the loss of a parent, that's uncharted territory. But as I tell Travis every day, "We're doing this. It's happening." The only way out of grief is through it and we're here, reporting for duty. And I will do my absolute best to help Leanne realize that she's safe, protected, and surrounded by love.
The last interaction I had with my mom before she became unresponsive was when I told her, "Mom, everyone is doing well. Leanne is adjusting to our family beautifully. The girls love school. We're handling it. We're going to be okay." She briefly opened her eyes, smiled, and said "Okay."