May is Here and I’m not ready for it.
This week is a really tough one for me.
On Wednesday, May 5 my sweet nephew Declan will celebrate his second heavenly birthday.
Friday, May 7 is the second anniversary of the STEM shooting.
I don’t often use the word shooting. When referring to it, I usually say something like, “the STEM thing,” or “May 7,” or “the STEM incident.” I do this for a couple of reasons. One, I don’t want that word to be a trigger for someone I’m talking to or someone else who’s within earshot. Second, it’s easier for myself not to say the word. Because when I hear the word “shooting,” it IS a trigger for me and brings up lots of emotions. It’s almost like I can avoid the feelings I’ve boxed up if I don’t say that word. Even typing the word is hard.
But the truth is, as much as I try to avoid saying it, I want to talk about it. I want people to ask me about it. I want people to remember Kendrick, just as I want everyone to remember Declan. I want people to acknowledge the significance of these days instead of just avoiding it. This is how we grieve and heal and remember.
I have learned to give myself permission to continue to grieve the loss of so many things. Last year these anniversaries were hard, but I restricted myself to not allowing those feelings to surface until the week began. That was my plan for this year too.
Well, this year my body had other plans. I woke up on Saturday morning to the start of a beautiful, warm, sunny day. But I was so upset, emotional and agitated. I couldn’t quite figure out why. Was it because May had finally showed up? Was it because I was in a lot of pain? Was it because my daughter was having another tough day?
The obvious answer was that I am looking into filing a lawsuit with the company responsible for the medicine that caused my pulmonary embolism. Starting to relive that trauma in detail has brought up a lot of memories and emotions.
I know the odds of me surviving that were against me. It’s easy to throw out numbers and statistics about just how lucky I am to be alive. But sometimes, those numbers and stats hit me a little deeper, way deep in my gut. And when I physically realize just how close I came to dying, a whirlwind of emotions come with it. One out of 3 people die. And the fact I didn’t go to the hospital until after all this happened means I really should not be sitting here typing at my computer today. This also leads to a lot of survivor’s guilt. Why do I keep ending up in the minuscule percentage of people who survive a P.E., or survive a massive hemorrhage, or survive losing over 50% of their blood, or make it though a delivery gone wrong, or come out the other side of depression? Any one of those things could have easily been the end of my story. But for some reason, it wasn’t. I wish I knew why I’m still walking the earth and what exactly God wants me to do with the next chapter. Because right now, I have no idea. I just know I’m alive and I’m not entirely sure why.
But my emotions seemed more intense than just about the P.E.
There was something else.
I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
There were so many feelings going through my body that my mind literally couldn’t focus on anything. I felt an intense need to go do something, but there was nothing to do. I didn’t know what was going on. I only knew that I was way out of sorts.
I decided to treat my family to a mid-morning Starbucks treat (read- I needed to leave the house and go do something). As I was driving, it hit me. I realized why I was so much more emotional than normal.
I was reliving in detail 3 of the biggest traumas in my life all AT THE SAME TIME. It made total sense why I wasn’t able to handle everything bubbling up. It’s because it was all coming at me too fast to contain.
Every emotion was firing on all cylinders at 100% capacity and it was impossible for my mind to deal with one thing at a time. So instead of fighting it, I let myself accept what I was feeling. All of it. I couldn’t address each thing, and that was ok. I just let it overflow like I had just opened shaken soda bottle, and didn’t worry about the mess it was making.
Instead of starting my plan to grieve she losses on Monday, this year it was Saturday morning. Maybe next year it will be 2 weeks before. Or maybe it’ll be a month. I don’t know, but it doesn’t really matter. I am learning grief is not on a set timetable, not matter how much I try to make it. It’s different for each person and each set of circumstances. And it’s unpredictable. And it’s hard. But it is what it is.
So let yourself breathe.
Let yourself feel.
Let your mind think and remember.
Let yourself just be.
You can do a lot to contain it, but it’s also good to listen to your body when the container is full and you need to let a little (or a lot) out.
If you need me this week, I’ll either be deep in thought or walking around with tears streaming down my cheeks, or sobbing into a pillow. And it’s ok. It’s ok to face it. It’s ok to talk to me. And it’s ok to ask me about it.
So many wonderful people in my life check on me this week and ask if there’s anything they can do.
They answer is yes-
Do an act of kindness.
Help someone else in memory of Kendrick and Declan.
It doesn’t have to be a big, flashy thing. Let someone in your lane. Pick up the tab for the person behind you in the drive through. Make a donation to an organization important to you or someone you love. Send a note to someone you haven’t talked to in a long time. Pick up a piece of trash in your neighborhood.
If you know someone who is struggling, reach out to them. Maybe they have lost a loved one, are going through a tough medical diagnosis, are having a hard time with world events, or anything else. Just reach out to them. Because chances are, even though they are struggling, they really want someone to ask them about it and give them permission to share their thoughts and feelings. And I guarantee if they are in the stages of grief where they simply can’t bare to talk about anything, they will let you know as well. But it will mean so much that you even asked.
So as always-
Be kind to others.
Do something nice for someone else.
Be a good human.
Because kindness is the only thing that’s going to make this world better.