I am exhausted. I often feel like I am just running on fumes, caffeine, and anxiety. I know many moms and non-moms are feeling this way lately because there is a lot going on in the world—from attacks on reproductive rights to election stress and fatigue to an ongoing war in Ukraine, just to name a few. But, as I think about my exhaustion, in particular, I realize one thing: my grief is all-consuming and all-exhausting.
Because we brought home our rainbow in the middle of Covid, I have been blaming a lot of this feeling on being forced to quarantine and, therefore, never really getting a break. But, since our little guy is now fully vaccinated, we have been opening up more as individuals and as a family. And yet, the complete exhaustion persists. It was recently when I realized that the grief effect is what is taking the most out of me.
While all parents get to these points at some point, for loss parents like myself, that little friend that follows us wherever we go—grief—is not something I can fully take care of or get rid of.
For example, if I need to take a break from actively parenting, I have a partner and family around that can take over, and I can go for a walk, take a nap, or engage in some sort of self-care. If I need a break from work, I have flexibility and can say okay, right now, work is not happening and make up for it later. If I need a break from my partner, I can choose to go out with friends. If I just need time for myself, I can do that too.
But, in all those situations, the one thing that follows me and the thing I can never take a break from is the grief. It feels like there is always some annoying bird on my shoulder, reminding me that it is there, telling me that there is a missing part of our family, saying that your daughter died. Although I have tried many times to run away from that piece, to leave the grief at home so I can do something else, I cannot.
And to add fuel to the fire, the longer out we get from Colette’s death, the less she is just naturally talked about in our world.
We still talk about her as part of our family of four, but as time goes on, it becomes a lot more of an effort for others to still include her and talk about her within our family. That is isolating and exhausting, to feel like my partner and I (and hopefully LL Cool T as he grows up) are the only ones constantly including her in our own family, but also in the greater family and in the world. When you spend your days correcting the slightest little remark, saying things like yes, LL Cool T does have a sibling, and yes, I have been pregnant twice, and neither child is here right now or yes, us deciding to stop trying for kids was a good idea and one that we do not regret, even though we wish the outcome had been different before making that decision.
I understand why people have started mentioning her less and why it is easy to just focus on my living child. My toddler is amazing, he is adorable, he has a personality, and he is here, right there in front of you. So, there are stories to tell, subtle ways he can tell you what he is thinking and although I may be slightly biased, is the most gorgeous kid in the world. That’s fun, that’s easy to care about, and when I want you to include my dead daughter who we only have a handful of photos of, that is scary, that is triggering. I get it, I understand it, and yes, likely five years ago, I would have felt similarly.
That uncomfortable position is one that we all run from, but the problem is that when we have to confront that role every day, all day, until we die. It is hard to have the empathy for those who do not want to confront it. And it is exhausting to remind people constantly.
But, perhaps what is most exhausting of all is having to balance yourself and your emotions.
I am absolutely lucky and incredibly blessed that we brought a baby home. And yet, I also mourn my daughter. So, a day like Halloween splits me in two when I am looking at my son adorably protecting his costume, a little uncertain as to what trick or treating really is, and feeling like finally, we are here, we are doing a normal parental activity with our child, while at the very same time, grieving a daughter who would be four and a half, who would have opinions and things to say about her costume, who would be dragging our son around the neighborhood.
And all of that brings a level of exhaustion unlike anything else I have ever known. So, I guess the only solution is to do the muscle work to support my buddy grief, to sleep when I can, and to know that there is one aspect of my life I cannot take a break from. But, maybe that’s the only way to connect to Colette.