My morning began slightly out-of-order today. I managed to pull myself out of bed around 6:00 AM to work out before work rather than after. I had not done this in quite some time because I had grown so fond of being able to sleep in. When I first transferred into the job that I am in now I worked out in the mornings. It didn’t last very long though. Eventually I liked being up later at night which meant I had to sleep longer. I never really enjoyed working out in the morning. I chose to do it before work for the sake of not taking up time in the evenings. For some reason my body is just not programmed to handle physical activity that early in the day. Every move is ten times harder. I didn’t quit even though I wanted to.
It has only been two full days of returning to work. Usually I have this high after I work out. Today when I finished I was not so high. I felt sad. I was sad kind of out of the blue. I thought about why I felt this way. There was a part of me that thought no matter how I looked at it, I would appreciate having a more structured life after losing Ava. It would keep me focused on other things and allow my mind a sort of rest from all the emotional pain I had been experiencing. I feel the exact opposite has been happening. I find myself missing Ava even more after this whole routine kicked in. I don’t think I want to have a life where I forget. The more routine I get, the more I start thinking about and doing things that don’t relate to Ava. I’m not sure I’m ready for that. Not that there’s a choice here.
I got ready like usual and told Leah I loved her and left for work. The whole drive there I was just thinking about Ava. If I am not focused on simply missing her, my mind will drift into the past and I will start having these flashbacks about everything that happened. I’m sure everyone can relate to reliving something unpleasant over and over again. I found myself back in the doctor’s office with Leah, going through the motions and then getting the awful news we were taking an ambulance ride. Part of this was triggered because I saw an ambulance with its lights and siren on my way to work. When I have memories that bring me pain, I can at times recall them so vividly. This was the case when I was going back in the past reliving the events that led to us losing Ava. This put me in a more fragile mood. I had moments where I kind of felt like crying and others where I was just plain irritable.
When I got to work I had a hard time just getting into the groove of things. It’s hard to just focus on work instantly when I have all these thoughts in my head. I read Leah’s post from the night before. I meant to read it but didn’t. After reading what she had written, I was reminded of how important she is to me and how touching it is to read something that she wrote about me that was from the heart and made me feel like a good man. There are times when I really need those things. Given her and my history, I don’t know that I ever could have imagined her writing what she wrote yesterday. After reading that post I asked myself when this all is supposed to get better, if it ever gets any easier or if her and I will be okay. I knew just based on the last two days that work was not going to be what I expected. It was going to be a challenge. I want so badly to know how long this will be before we reach the point where we are living with our loss rather than surviving it. I want to know if Leah and I can endure the hardship we are facing. It’s no secret that many marriages end because of losses just like ours. Couples just can’t handle the pain it causes. From what I have read, it is usually because each partner handles the entire grieving process differently and it causes a lot of friction. I don’t think that will happen with Leah and I but it doesn’t mean that I am not afraid of it. I can’t imagine my life without her, especially now. And I can say with certainty that I don’t want to give up and I don’t want to let Ava down in any way.
I thought about what this blog will mean and what will come of it. The blog was actually not my idea. Leah told me she wanted to do this when we were up north after Ava’s funeral. I thought it was a great idea but I didn’t know whether or not we would pursue it but here we are. I know we already said what our intentions were in Ava’s story. I was thinking about the blog because in this short time I have already asked myself if this will become this giant depressing place where we are always writing about our sadness and our pain. My intentions are to let whatever my emotions are be the driver of my writing. I do adamantly believe that there is hope and there is light at the end of the tunnel. I can’t imagine a life without hope. I know from this short amount of time since losing my previous Ava that there are a lot of people who suffer similar losses like ours. It’s hard to find a place where people talk about it in detail. I know how my memory works as well. I know that if I were to try to go back in time, say a year from now and try to write this there would be so much I would forget. I really want people to learn and understand our experience and also have a place where people like us can see they are not alone. I sincerely hope this blog evolves into a resource that shows the good and the bad, but most importantly the hope that has time goes on you can heal. But, only time will tell.
Two VPs (vice presidents) that work in my wing approached me today. The first of the two was fully aware of what had happened. Because this blog is all about how things really unfold, I actually saw him for the first time since being back a few minutes before he actually talked to me. I was heading to the bathroom facing a case of diarrhea. The timing could not have been more wrong but at the same time right. This VP is a very nice man and he is obviously very accomplished in my same career area. He was almost exiting the bathroom when I walked in and he said hello. I got the impression he may have wanted to say something, but once I made my (kind of quick) way to the first available stall, my assumption would be he decided that particular moment was not the time to talk. I was thankful for that. When he actually did stop and speak to me he was extremely kind and offered his condolences and support if I needed anything.
I encountered the second VP when I was in my cube getting my car keys for my dad. He was nice enough to come get my car, take it to Belle Tire and get my two tires put on the front for me. I tried to hand him my credit card to pay for the tires, but he didn’t allow me to do that. He said we had enough expenses coming. He told me to hang in there and gave me hug. I have an incredible father. Something not everyone can say. During the time I was trying to get my keys, the second VP stopped at my cube. I had talked to Leah about how I was feeling this morning which wasn’t so great as I explained. This VP had walked by me several times since my return. I was never really smiling and didn’t say anything except for “hey” or something like that. When he stopped at my cube he said, “Hey Ryan, I haven’t seen you smiling for a while are you doing okay? Do you need to talk?” I didn’t know what to say. There was a part of me that felt like losing it (not in a bad way). My emotions were really screwy. I said, “Maybe in a while, we will see.” He then replied back, “Well, anytime you need to just say so.” Now, I have no idea if this VP actually knew that I had lost my daughter. I assume he probably did but I didn’t know. The point being is I learned by that conversation that I was not ready to share my grief with people at work yet, if I wanted to avoid crying and getting very upset. To me there is a time and place and I don’t know if that’s the place yet. What I also learned was this man was a good man and I felt like I could trust him to talk if I needed to. This confirmed what I already said before and that is I am honored to work where I work because of these two executives that went out of their way to be compassionate towards me when they didn’t have to be and had plenty of things to do.
Leah’s morning wasn’t going much better than mine so we met at the cemetery on my lunch hour to see Ava. We both needed to be with her. Leah mentioned a couple of things about she had never felt this way before, that nothing could compare to it. I told her I understood. I explained that I thought we were just going through another one of the inevitable transitions we had to face during the grieving process and it was just a bit harder than we thought it would be. My returning to work was inevitable and neither one of us really knew what to expect. It’s been harder than we thought. Period. But I knew we could get through it together, or at least I believe we can. We both talked about how isolating this process is. I want to turn inward almost as a defense mechanism when I am at work. I feel so alone even with the kind people who do work there. For some reason, you cannot erase the isolation felt when you around people who both were not there when this all happened and also did not face something like this themselves. Isolation is dangerous. It can feed the darkest side of your personality. It can drown your hope, entertain your fears and give you a shovel to dig your hole even deeper. I fear isolation for both of us. I told Leah I am always there for her and if she really needed me, no matter what, I would be there for her, work or not. I know she would do the same.
After returning to work, between tasks I had a couple of things I had to do. First, I had to send a couple of documents to this foundation through which we were applying for financial assistance. We are not in a position where we are losing our home or anything like that right now. But the expenses are there that’s for sure. This foundation was going to help us with the cost of Ava’s headstone which was quite expensive. The two documents they needed were the invoice for the stone and Ava’s death certificate. Maybe it was emotional state today I don’t know but I didn’t even want to refer to this document as a death certificate. I avoided referring to it as that as much as I could. I have a strange discomfort with seeing anything that references Ava as being gone. I hate the word ‘dead.’ This was my Ava. My little girl. I just can’t talk about her using these words. I have no idea why. I don’t like reading her death certificate either. I just hate it. There’s a box where you indicate the age of a baby. You have a few choices. One of them is if the birthday is less than one year ago, indicate the baby’s age. For Ava, the box days had the number ‘2’ in it. God I hate this. The second thing I did was look at our claims summary on my insurance provider’s website. I have been monitoring what to expect but similar to what I had just said, under my insurance plan for coverage is “newborn Thompson” This was Ava. They didn’t use her name and she had two asterisks next to her name which indicated that she was no longer covered. I am just not ready to see these kinds of things. I want to see nothing that references my baby Ava being gone. It just turns my stomach inside out.
As the afternoon wore on I was finding myself able to focus a bit better which was very helpful for my state. From a career perspective, I get a lot of joy out of achieving things and getting things accomplished. I like being productive and knowing that I am doing something valuable to my employer. I wish it had everything to do with Ava, but for now I would have to settle with the fact that I was doing this to support Leah and I and that Ava wouldn’t have it any other way.
I have found myself wondering how long the feelings I am starting to experience will last. They are stronger since returning to work and that doesn’t leave me at ease. Returning to work was something that had to happen, I just hope that every day isn’t like this. But make no mistake, I wouldn’t get through my days without Leah or my picture of me holding Ava, the most precious thing on this planet.