Good Grief

Things are slowly getting back to normal around here.  School has been out for over a week now, and we have already settled in to a nice routine of whatever activities we have scheduled (mostly the older kids), a little exercise (mostly me), and sometimes a swim in the neighborhood pool or a run through the sprinkler (Kid E insisted that we get one).  I’ve been moving along, day by day, trying not to let death be the first thing that comes to mind when I open my eyes.  And each day it does get a little better.  But I also don’t want to forget Braden and what he meant to our family.  It really is a fine line.  Right now I am a tightrope walker.

My mom mentioned to me last week when she came down for the memorial service that she was more worried about me than she was about Kid A.  I have struggled with depression since I was a teenager.  But this is different.  I was legitimately depressed when Braden was diagnosed.  Surely there were times when I ate and drank too much during the many months when he was being treated.  But when he died, it was like a switch flipped in me.  I reassured my mom that her fears were unfounded… I was talking about my feelings, I was reading a book about dealing with death, I was writing as my therapy, I was exercising every day, drinking and eating in healthy quantities, and overall managing a very healthy grieving process.  I am very sad, but I am working through the sadness.  But I guess you never stop worrying about your kids, so I get where my mom was coming from.

images

Kid A and Kid B did some grief counseling before school let out.  Kid A has a box of memories and mementos that she has been going through.  Kid B has been wearing the soccer jersey that Braden gave her.  We are encouraging everyone in our family to talk about their emotions, and to continue to talk about Braden.  Sheepdog has been more angry than sad, but that has always been his go-to move.  He took out some of that anger on his mountain bike yesterday, with my brother-in-law and one of his employees.  The point is, everyone grieves differently, and on their own schedule.  As long as you work through it, the grief is almost always good.

One day Kid E started crying and said, “I’m really going to miss Brandon!” but we reassured him that Uncle Brandon was just fine (aside from the damage that Sheepdog may have inflicted on him during the very emotional bike ride).  He was obviously still in the first stage of grief… shock and denial (and confusion).

Sheepdog and I were talking about it again last week.  We have obvious concern for Braden’s family, but also for each other and for our kids as well.  We wanted to make sure that everyone was getting the counseling that they needed and processing their emotions in healthy, constructive ways.  We spoke at length about how everyone is exhibiting their pain in their own unique way, and none of them is necessarily right or wrong.  We can only continue to watch out for signs and make sure that no one slips through the cracks without properly acknowledging and dealing with their sorrow.

And then Sheepdog pointed out that some people really benefit from grieving naked, and he felt that a little affirmation of life was in order.  I guess we really are going to be okay.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

How Did I Do Last Night?

Yawn.

Despite the fact that he is now four, we continue to deal with Kid E getting out of bed and wandering into our bedroom in the middle of the night.  He does not do this every night, but probably two or three nights a week he will come into our room when we are in the deepest of R.E.M.s and stand over one of us (usually me) without so much as a word like Snoopy’s vulture character, with only his piercing stares jarring me out of sleep in a fight or flight mode that can only be replicated at point-blank range or by the Blair Witch Project.

Oh, did I wake you?

He will then crawl into bed between us.  And by “between” I mean practically underneath me with his big, fat, hard skull jammed into my lower back.  The position is so awkward that it is actually Cirque du Soleil-worthy.  And it is not exactly conducive to me falling back to sleep, nor is the adrenaline surge caused by being suddenly woken up out of a dead sleep.  But he mumbles in his sweet baby boy voice that he woke up lonely and he wants to cuddle and how can you say no to that?  And then he gently strokes my cheek while simultaneously sucking his thumb and tells that he loves me.  I am such a sucker for the sweet-talking boys, so I let him stay.  When he falls back to sleep I will ever so gently carry him back to his own bed, tuck him in and then start the painstaking toss and turn dance that awaits my stupid forty-year-old body and mind.

Yawn.

But I have had it.  I do not like having my sleep interrupted.  And I have tried everything with this kid.  He says he’s lonely, so I give him stuffed friends to sleep with.  He says he needs something to drink, so I give him a small glass of water.  Inevitably he then says he needs to pee, so I take him to the bathroom.  I threaten, cajole, reason, plead.  I have used positive reinforcement and negative punishment.  I have been unrelenting in carrying him back without a word every single time he comes into my room, even when he does it fifty times in a single night.  I have occasionally let him crawl in without ever waking up.  Sometimes things work and sometimes they don’t.  And the absolute most annoying part is that Kid E claims that he remembers nothing about getting up in the middle of the night.

Maybe there’s something wrong with him.  Maybe he has some sleepwalking zombie disorder.  Maybe he’s just a stubborn little monkey.  I do not know, but he just might be the kid who breaks me.

Every single morning he comes into my room and with sleepy eyes and a gravelly voice, he asks, “How did I do last night?”

Giant yawn.  

I was awake for well over two hours in the middle of the night.

“You are killing me here, kid.  You don’t remember coming into my room at 2:30 in the morning?”

“Um, no.  What did I do?”

At this point, I believe that he has either decided that playing dumb will get him a lesser sentence, or he’s gambling that maybe I am so tired/ old that I’ll forget everything.  Either way, he is like a black-out drunk friend from college who needs a recap of all of the events from the previous evening.  It can get annoying.  He also has taken to defending his actions from the night before, sometimes creatively, but usually with very matter-of-fact explanations.

“Dude, you were awful last night.  You tried to get in bed with me and when I took you straight back to your room you insisted that you needed something to drink.”

He almost laughed in relief.  Then he looked me straight in the eye and said with complete conviction, “Mom, sometimes thirsty happens.”

I almost expected a “duh” to follow, but he is good at reading an audience and left it off this time.  And in my sleep-deprived haze his justification seemed completely legitimate.

Yawn.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…