Part Three: life after loss

Preschool is out and I’m driving away from yet again with a 4 year old in a complete melt down because he doesn’t have time to put his belt on before we have to pull away from the pick up line.

My nerve endings are fried. My head hurts. I have no creative solutions for this. My fear of change is being complicated by the fact that my son is not understanding my need for my happy car comfort zone. See he has no idea one of my accusers is there picking up his daughter. Gods sense of humor or maybe divine intervention Either way David and his cousin are in the same preschool class and I had no clue I was about to be thwarted in to an awareness of beauty that would be born from this moment. However this moment deserves a look back in time to last summer because many times in my life history repeats it self and one more time the safety net is set before I know I’m falling.

A friend of mine used to say often “if you can’t identify the problem, you have no need for the solution”. Well I had no idea the panic attacks were a problem, in fact I was completely unaware that I was even having them, a short memory works well for many things. All the while they were getting worse.

One day I think I just ran out of justification in my tool box. I used it all up. I picked up the phone and called a friend. She is a therapist at an all womens treatment center, she knew how to talk me back to reality.  When she said to me, “often anxiety can come from unresolved feelings or perhaps our bodies store memories, did anything happen today that might be coming back?” I look at the calendar, the date was August 20th.

I said yeah something happened on this date, Danica died.

I couldn’t deny anymore that the pipeline of processing her loss was clogged. I knew it was time to dig deeper and look at when my process became damned up.

I found a therapist and she was perfect fit for me. I sat down with her and shared some of my journeling. We talked at length about the reason for pain and the connection between pain and growth. She introduced me to a process of living that I was out of practice with: the prcatice of living a life of vulnerability and living without the protection of emotional armor.

My armor became something that was so comfortable I didn’t even realize I had it on. It wasn’t until this season of self reflection did I begin to see that I was slowing killing my self from the inside. Cutting my self off from the connection of others and from God. I was so afraid of getting hurt again that I couldn’t see a way to take it off. But if I was to move forward as my God was asking me to, I needed to hang up the shield and the chest plate and take the risk.

I began to see how many things had stopped. I had stopped writing, stopped being creative, stopped being a creative parent and partner and I had stopped connecting. A lot of times I would beat my self up over this. I would get critical and harsh towards my self, yet I failed to realize that sometimes being under the protection of armor can give me the chance to regroup. The fight or flight instinct is inside for a reason. It became painfully obvious that like a relative that has over stayed there welcome, it was time to move on. With the help of therapy and step working I began to see the fatal situation I was in.

Upon completing a 5th step with my sponsor I got to see my part. The part where my rage and despair was cutting me off from being the Mom and wife I wanted to be. My part where I’m looking at someone else’s behavior and thinking I know what’s right. Truth is I hardly know what’s right for me most of the time. So I needed to get back on my side of the street and get my own house in order because the fact remains that the longer I continue to hold on to this toxic anger the more likely I am at one point to pick up the drink that awaits me.

I continue to dig and find tools I didn’t know I had and freedom begins to start. I begin to see how much I wanted to be loved by my family and how much I ignored the pain I felt inside. I didn’t see the problem. I didn’t see the constant division that was being created between them and me. I would hear the harmful and harsh words spoke about my husband in gossip. The critical words about my boys. My own father would say my kids were to much for him. The solution became clear, it was time to find some space from them. I needed to let go of this old idea that I was going to have the picture perfect family and the holiday table would be full of people who fought for each other and loved each other and stick by each other.

I began to grieve my loss. Not because anyone died. I began to grieve the agreement I made years before in the treatment center that I was going to be a great daughter and sister and I was going to have a dad and brothers that would love and respect me the way I strived to love and respect them.

The part that these kinds of ideas didn’t account for is “the other person factor” and the fact that they have minds of there own. My mental picture never changed with time. It never accounted for change, life experience or personal growth. I started to clearly see my problems: the armor was hindering me from moving on, these old ideas of family were just that …old and I was uncertain of what would happen if I stopped hanging on. When my problem begins to come in to focus I can now see my solution: the armors work was coming to an end, I needed to up date my idea of family and let go.

Therapy helped me with the armor. It gave me the tools to install the hook and hang up my security shield. The rest would move on in Gods time. Slowly one right choice or wrong choice at a time. I was not perfect at this. I made mistakes, still do. One thing remains though, I felt better.

I started going to meetings in a different area. I began to realize my motive to continue to go to the old meetings was i constantly wanted to prove to my self these family members were wrong and I was right but over time it started to feel like I was going to a bar and not drinking to keep my self strong, it just didn’t make sense for me.

Slowly one meeting at a time, I began feeling like me again. I began to feel creative and hopeful and helpful. Generosity was moving in my soul. Kindness and compassion was moving again. The damn was breaking and my soul was draining out this old stuck energy and the bomb that blew it to smithereens? Came in a package about 3 1/2 feet tall screaming from my back seat. Flash forward and I’m leaving the pick up line.

The reckoning began like two cowboys standing hands to their sides and guns in the holsters… waiting for the clock to strike high noon, I was either going to continue to the end and have a nervous break down or find a creative way to help my son.

I began to see that up until now I had been putting my needs in front of his. I didn’t want to get out of the car. I didn’t want to be any where near this family member. I would pray on my way to the school to stay in my body. I wasn’t sure I wouldn’t do something I regret but clearly gods reply was

“get out of the damn car kid…”

And I did. And all kind of remarkable things followed.

For my son the fast paced transition of the pick up line was to much to process and my stress level was not helping. I knew what I had to do and I didn’t want to. But it was the most instantaneous change ever! I wish it would happen like that in other areas too. The ride home was no longer filled with tears or screaming and that was just from me…let alone the shift in my son. The damn was broke wide open.

The sideways gifts started to happen. I smiled when I would see the picture of the first time Abram and I took the boys to see the spot we poured Danica’s ashes out and I felt her spirit with us standing between the boys smiling.

I would being to say the words with ease “we lost my daughter” instead of “we lost a baby”. Owning my story was unexpected and I had no idea I wasn’t doing it.

I began to think of Danica and how butterflies always reminded me of her. I was standing in a gift shop and saw butterfly earrings. My heart skipped a beat and a warm comfort filled my heart. I bought those earrings and wear them when I think of her. I share about her in meetings sometimes now. Her memory isn’t tainted with such pain and heart break. She is a part of my story.

A tradition we have done for years is we buy Christmas tree ornaments from every trip we go on. Abram and I spent 20 minuets searching for the perfect butterfly ornament for Danica. This was the first one we bought specifically for her to hang on the Christmas tree..

I had no idea that the betrayal of my heart had damned up the my loss of my daughter so much. I needed to move and break free from the armor that blocked me. Her life though short continues to contribute so much to me.

I had to let go of everything I think I know to make room for something knew. The comfort i hear often from god when I am pleading with him about not wanting to let go of something I know so well, even though the thing I’m squeezing to so tight is covered with thorns and I’m bleeding to death, in the quiet moments I hear his words like the wind in the trees

“baby, you do the work I set

in front of you,

I’ll worry about the outcome”.

One step at a time, one moment at a time, the Work gets done, fast or slow, it’s all happening in Gods time, the natural pace of the flow in the river.

When I try to hurry the river in my life I begin to drown, when I resist I tire and falter. When I relax and lay my head back, let my arms drift from my side and float to surface I see the heavens and I know that I’ll get there when I get there. Perhaps as I float down I’ll see Danica standing beside her bear waving as I go by.