Last week, Brad and I left for six days and went to Palm Springs. We had fun-ish. We laughed. Halfheartedly. We attended a spectacular wedding, ate good food and kept ourselves busy the majority of time.
The kids were supposed to be on this trip. We were to play my attendance by ear since there was no need to make haste. We knew the long game and end goal was worth the wait.
So, we went on this, vacation of sorts. We truly did have a good time watching friends get married and I enjoyed having a chance to meet people outside of memorials, remembrances and the like.
But I got to tell you…just between us…I felt like a crappy replacement. I pretended though. We both did. For a bit anyway. We pretended through six days of warm weather, laughs, smiles, jokes, good food and camaraderie. We pretended the kids just couldn’t make it this time around. We pretended they were back home finishing up school.
For six days, I denied the beautiful departed while the bright desert sun cast their shadows everywhere we went.
The outdoor game room stood untouched. The water hoop was set up then taken down. Cannonballs were replaced by adults politely stepping into the pool. Shopping and browsing with Brad instead of Maddy was lackluster at best. The urge to go into the local toy store was superseded by the desire to deny grief to show itself because by golly we were going to have some mandatory fun, goddammit.
I denied myself the opportunity to grieve and in doing so, denied that their presence was even missing.
For six days, we avoided smelling the fart in the car.
Last night, we arrived home. Last night, we exhaled.
We lay there in the quiet, held hands and cried.
Denial is an interesting shape shifter. Denial allows us to put down the cauldron of grief we carry over our head (or fold up and put in our pocket) and replaces it with this temporary sense of relief. Denying the kids died only gave a chance for my soul to breathe, but for a moment. It needed to get up and stretch and move under the weight of it all.
Before March 4th, I taught denial in my stages of grief community program. Secretly though, I couldn’t understand how one could deny loss. I was so high and mighty about it, too. I mean, how DARE someone deny their loved ones life?
I would pontificate the importance of honoring and sharing and talking about their loved one; the need to pay homage to their contribution to community and the lives of those still here. So dogmatic. smh. It’s a bitter pill I’ve been humbly swallowing this week.
Now, I see denial for what it is and what it can be for us.
Denial allowed me to pace myself in moving forward with Brad. Denial is allowing me to compartmentalize, to support him where and when he needs it most. Denial has actually allowed me to feel like I am moving forward for myself. When we got home from our sort of vacation, denial allowed me to pick up my grief with a bit more stability.
Am I denying the kids existed by denying they died?
Society tells us denial is simple ignorance or maybe, denial simply means we are lying to ourselves.
So in that sense, I suppose I am.
Grief tells us there is a quiet grace in denial which allows us to gather strength to move on in life as we honor those we have lost.
So in this sense, I know I am not…