You might think you know what my life has become. You might imagine some residual heartbreak on the edges of my days...but hey...I'm going on vacation. I'm posting fun pictures from my trip. I'm making jokes and witty comments on status updates. I'm spending time with friends. Things must be getting better. I'm back to my old self again, right? No.
My old self is dead.
I said goodbye to her when I said goodbye to my daughter. I will never be back to my old self because there is no "old self" anymore. Nothing remains of her. Nothing.
When Kenley died, everything I was imploded and then turned to dust. That dust scattered into the winds and is irrevocably gone. What remained was a hollowed shell, the insides charred and scarred, the outside blank and vacant. And so, I was left to rebuild. Everything. Everyone who has walked in these shoes knows that rebuilding yourself after the death of your child starts from the outside first. We learn to appear normal again.
We learn to smile, not just with our mouths, but with our eyes. That's what makes it believable. We learn to convey some sort of spark of life behind our eyes, even if its not really there. We learn to recreate realistic laughter. The kind that comes from the gut and not the throat. It involves more air and effort, but the results are worth it in the long run. We are conscious of where we put our hands...keep them away from the belly and keep them steady so that no one asks questions. We learn how to interact with people again. Make eye contact, keep them wide and bright. Turn up the corners of your mouth, just slightly, so your features look softened and relaxed. Try to make light physical contact if appropriate. Don't cringe when someone touches you uninvited. Turn toward and not away when in conversation. Ask questions about their life and respond in kind. (Remember...everyone means well. No matter what they say or what they do...everyone means well. )
Everything that used to be routine is now calculated and rehearsed. What would a non-grieving person do in this situation? How would they react? We think about it and then we do it. Carefully. Methodically. To the very best of our ability. We assess all situations before allowing ourselves to get fully involved - to make sure it won't be too much for us to handle. You can imagine the amount of effort it takes to live life like this. It's enormous.
Then, you might want to say to us, "Hey...you don't have to pretend. You can just act the way you feel. We will all understand." The fact that you think to say this shows that you, indeed, do not understand. We DO have to put on this mask. We DO have to work hard at showing the world that we aren't dying inside, when we are. If we allowed ourselves to act the way we feel, we would be coming apart at the seams. All the time. We force ourselves to look normal so we can feel normal - so we can have some sort of order to the chaos our insides have become.
So, yes, I am going out with friends. I am taking trips and standing behind causes. I talk. I smile. I hug. And it is all very, very hard work. I work hard at functioning just so I can continue to function. Every. Single. Day.