Grief brain is a thing

So, here I am, nearly five years since my firstborn son, the child who made me a mother, died of suicide at the young and tender age of 15. Can you believe that? 15. He was brilliant. One of my favorite things to do was just talk to him and see where the conversation went. He saw the world in a way that was completely unique. I think it had a lot to do with the way that he physically interacted with the world. He could look at the space around him and see the 3-D aspects of it; by that I mean he could build physical things in a space, say with Lego or other building materials, from his imagination and it always surprised me, and everyone else around him, how sophisticated they were. He could solve any puzzle you put in front of him faster than anyone I have ever known. His brain was truly Mensa material. He thought about the world’s problems and put a fresh spin on possible solutions. Everyone in his life could see his potential for truly powerful greatness.

Emotionally he was behind his peers. This is a very common issue for gifted children. Add to that parents who modeled absolutely, 100%, dysfunctional coping mechanisms and the tail-end of the popular notion that to receive mental healthcare puts you at a disadvantage (you know what I am talking about, right? the idea that if you have a mental health diagnosis you won’t be able to get into the school that you want, or get the job you want… the same reason that addicts are pressured into staying anonymous) and, well, the result was death. Shit. I will not be okay with what happened to Oscar for the rest of my life.

I have thought around what has happened to us from countless different directions. I have researched the science that we do have about suicidality, nutrition, gut-brain health, emotional development, the list goes on. I have also dug deep into my truth, the truth about the choices that I made that lead us on the path that we ended up on, my family: Nick, Oscar, Pierce and Vivian. There is a deep and oh-so-painful admission, an acknowledgement, that what happened to Oscar has more than a lot to do with me. The work that I have been doing since Oscar died has been a deep dive into all of it. Everything from how to cope on a daily with the death of a piece of your soul, to the dissection and ultimate understanding of my behaviors so that I don’t fuck it up like I have before, again.

All of this to say that this time of year doesn’t get any easier. Well, none of it really gets any easier, it just gets different. What I find curious about this time of year is how much closer my grief feels on a continuous basis. In the Spring and Summer I somehow feel more of a separation from it, a chance to grow away from it. To grow stronger in spite of it. And then this time of year hits and I get to test all of the hard work I have put in during the opposite half of the year.

One of the ways I know I am hurting and my grief is getting bigger than me is grief brain. It is a real thing, people. I don’ t notice details like I normally do. Things slip past me that would never usually do so. I have trouble remembering anything short term, so I write even more lists than usual. I also have a strong tendency to hyperfocus on not important things. And it all sort of spirals.

Last week, for the first time since this time last year, I legit couldn’t keep the tears in. Don’t get me wrong, I cry a lot. Most days of the week I have tears here and there when the pain momentarily overwhelms my ability to keep perspective on the here and now, but this was complete tsunami. And, of course, it happened at work… Luckily the schedule was light and I had already finished my case, so when I went to my charge nurse to find out if I could leave early and the tears started flowing, she said of course, and gave me a big hug. Then I was lucky to get hugs from everyone in the near-vicinity, which made the tears more, but by then I knew that they needed to overflow.

So, yeah, this path is utterly and horribly painful, beyond words painful. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I don’t want people to even try to imagine it.

I am doing my best to stay focused on my self-care. That day last week that I came home early because my grief was a monster I went for a run. That helped. I know running helps. I know blogging helps. I know journaling helps. I know reading my bible helps. I know praying helps. I know letting the tears come when they need to come helps. I know that giving myself grace helps.

I am trying to be gentle with myself. I have no idea what I am doing on deathday this year. The only thing I know for sure about the day is that I am starting it at 8 am with a therapy session with my amazing psychologist. Vivian keeps teasing me that I am treating deathday like a holiday. And, well, it is. It is a holy day to me. The day that I sang my son to the light. All of my kids have a birth song and I hope that Oscar is the only one that I write a death song for. It is a haunting, sweet, and lilting melody. And those first weeks after he died it is the only music I could tolerate. I could tolerate so little. Every stimulus was too much, and so I would hum his death song to myself. This year is special because it is the first year that deathday is on the same day of the week as it was the year he died.

And so it will be whatever it needs to be. That is my hope.

I love you, Oscar, and I miss you beyond words, beyond time, beyond death.

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