This was yet another post where I started writing the night before and then changed my mind. Someone will have to let me know if it’s alright that my thoughts seem to flow out of me like a jumbled up mess sometimes. I have a few things I wanted to talk about though, the first of which is where I am on Ava’s 1-month birthday.
Leah and I have had a few conversations about how everything has felt and I think we both can see now that my expression of emotion is different than hers. I am beyond grateful that both her and I have adopted as much patience with one another as possible because of that. We both have different triggers, different ways of expressing emotions once we have them and we have different needs as far as how to deal with those emotions. I still agree that some of it has to do with gender, but a lot of it is just because we really are two different people.
I remember a few times before Ava was born when Leah and I would be having a disagreement. The reason doesn’t matter. She used to tell me I was an emotionless person. That I just had this cold way of dealing with our problems. It used to make me mad, but looking back on it now I think it always had some truth. Looking back over the last few years I can see how I was pretty much numb to a lot of our problems. I also didn’t react to anything that I thought even normal people would. I couldn’t really be surprised, I never got excited about much… I really didn’t get bothered by anything. An exception to this is when Leah and I were consistently not getting along with one another. That became something that would create a lot of issues for me. Aside from that though, I really have wondered if there is something different about me. Even the people around me that I have worked with have often regarded me as an even-keeled sort of person.
I say this because I have been reading the book that I mentioned a while ago called Grieving Dads. In it there are references where a lot of men have felt complete devastation, sometimes for years, over the loss of their child or children. I am not saying that I am not devastated for the loss of Ava because I am. What seems to be different at least right now is that I don’t feel like I am handling it the same way the majority of these guys have. Some of them have completely lost their minds and have shown it in many different ways. One of the causes of that extreme grief was the fact they would delay their grief by either avoiding the grieving process as much as possible or because they were so worried about their wives they didn’t take the time to take care of themselves.
I get worried at times because there is no right way to grieve. There is no process that you go through where at the end you can say, “Yep, I’ve grieved and I’m done. I can move on now.” I don’t want to be one of those guys that has this delayed response to the loss of their child and ends up going off the deep end at some point in the future. This worry comes from the fact that even now, my emotions don’t show the same way they used to. I have my triggers that cause me to miss Ava and I can still have bad days. But even in just thirty days, I don’t feel like I have to cry about it nearly as much.
There are exceptions to this. If I start walking through the events where she was brought into this world, the time at the hospital, when we lost her, the burial and some instances after the funeral, I can get upset. I can also get upset if I look at certain pictures of her. Sometimes just a glance at a photo at the wrong time can upset me. What’s different now is that I seem to have this trigger that goes off in my head that tells me to either turn on my attitude of gratitude or simply stop doing what I am doing altogether, almost like it’s “wrong” that I am starting to get upset. My problem is I don’t know if that is okay. Should I just allow myself to go down the path as long as it goes until I reach some unknown point where I know I have addressed my feelings? Or is it okay that I say, I have felt this pain many times and I don’t want to feel it again, so I am going to either think about this a different way or I am just going to stop?
I think about this a lot. I think about it because there is guilt. I feel like I am not honoring Ava’s memory by handling difficult times this way. I feel like I should just allow my thoughts to focus on her if that’s where they go. I shouldn’t just consciously stop them once they start. There is also insecurity. I can think to myself, “There has to be something wrong with me if I am already crying less and developing these defense mechanisms for painful thoughts.” I don’t want to feel that way. I want to know if it’s okay. I don’t know if there is some primitive switch in my brain, developed from 80,000 years ago that is doing this. I have no idea if what I am saying makes any sense.
The other thing that is going on is I am getting more irritable and triggers are more evident. My thoughts are even different with how they flow through my mind depending on where I am. Leah and I were in St. Joseph this weekend at an antiques show. I actually enjoyed it, but I was also lost on so many occasions just watching all of these families. I would watch dads with their daughters or their sons. I would watch moms with their daughters or their sons. I would just look at them and wonder what it was like to be them. They had children they could take care of, teach things to, spend time with. I am jealous of those things, even it is only on the surface. I don’t really obsess about it but when I am out in public I am always watching for it. It gets old quickly.
When I was getting all my stuff for work around this morning I had to get my laptop from upstairs. Leah and I spend an hour or two every night in Ava’s room writing or reading and occasionally talking. I had left it there. I walked in and grabbed it from the sitting nook by the window. Sitting on the cushion was Ava’s 8×10 photo. I looked at it and just kissed my hand and touched her forehead. I said, “I love you” and started walking back downstairs. For just a few seconds I was telling myself how much this sucked with a picture of her face in my mind and then I wanted to cry, but didn’t. From that moment on I was pissed off. Not all the time, but I was definitely not in a good mood. This was probably worsened because I have to be courteous at work. And today was one heck of a busy day.
This all translates into anger with it is full-blown rage or just irritability. As I was writing this, I had to go downstairs and fold the mother f—ing laundry. Every time I got a shirt inside out that I couldn’t fix perfectly the first time I would get more and more pissed off. Then Leah has these stupid pieces of clothing that you need an engineering degree to untangle and understand. I hate the damn laundry in the first place and I hate even more I have to do it. High class problems, right? This is where the gratitude is supposed to kick in and it doesn’t work that way all the time.
I’m annoyed that my life has become this. That I have to sit here and write this in the first place. That I need to question my emotions. That even need to wonder if I am thinking about the daughter I no longer have the right way. I am tired already of how my life centers completely around the one person on this earth that I will never see again. I am sick of listening to people complain about crap that doesn’t even matter (just like I did above). I am tired of having to learn to live with Ava being gone. I’m tired of the fact that I have to figure all of this out while I have to work. I am tired of wondering about a lot of things. And above all else, I am beyond tired, past annoyed, past pissed off that Ava had to die. There’s no reason for it. God will never give me a good one.
Finally, it was important to me that I end this post with Ava’s one month birthday.
If you have the ability to look down from the Heavens and see me whenever you want or if you sometimes get to hear about how I am doing, I hope you understand that as I struggle through this that none of this is your fault. Losing you is the worst thing that has happened to me in my 30 years in this world. My anger and upset is not your fault. The truth is I am in a lot of pain, whether it’s showing the same way it used to or not. I’m tired of seeing other dads with their kids knowing that I am here all alone. I want to be angry more than I would like to admit. I am trying my hardest to find my way through this because I know from experience when tragedy strikes, it can swallow you whole if you aren’t careful.
You would be one month old today. You would still be in the NICU, but you would still be here. I can’t even begin to imagine how I would feel if I were writing this having created one entire month’s worth of memories with you. That is how unfair this world is. There is murder, terrorism and hatred all around me, yet for some reason, God felt it necessary to take the life of an innocent little girl. My little girl. As if there isn’t enough unnecessary death in this world. I’m sorry that this happened to you, and I wish that I had the power to change it but I know I can’t.
You are someone who came into my life and left all too quickly. I stop at your grave every day and pray to God that he get my messages to you. I hope you have received even just one of them. Your family loves you. I know they do. There are so many people who love you.
I hope you are safe, free of pain or suffering and I hope that I get to see you again someday. Even if it’s decades from now.
Happy One-Month Birthday Aveline.
With All My Love,