I wrote this back in June before I started my blog. It’s a writing that I keep coming back to and felt the urging to share.
Just when I thought things were going ok and this grief thing was just looming over at the side, it came down on me like a ton of bricks this morning. Looking back at my week I can see now how it was getting closer and closer without me realizing it. My anger and frustration had been mounting over the last few days. I was short with everyone, even my sweet little one-year-old, snapping and raising my voice at the slightest infraction. My poor daughter kept asking, “Why are you so angry Mommy?” in her four-year-old innocence. Each of my kids was calling me out and my poor husband was walking on eggshells. I chalked it up to my “time of the month” and surging hormones and decided to wait for things to pass soon.
I felt the frustration mounting this morning. My oldest son was trying to pull me into his power struggle but I refused to bite. I thought once I got him out the door and onto the bus all would be well. Then my one-year-old, that dear, sweet, chubby-cheeked, curious boy pulled one of my houseplants right out of its pot. The floodgates opened and the ugly cry began. My daughter and son stood in disbelief that their mother was crying over a houseplant. And as I was crying it dawned on me, I really miss my dad.
I bought a couple of houseplants shortly after dad died. My dad loved growing plants of all varieties, inside and outside the house. When I was very little my parents had a huge garden in our backyard with corn and tomatoes and strawberries and all kinds of things. There was a houseplant in every room, ferns, violets, a ficus tree. Being immersed in his gardening growing up rubbed off on me. My indoor plants weren’t looking so good so after he passed I went out to buy some new ones so that I could feel close to him and remember him and maybe pass on this love to the next generation.
My new houseplant, that was really more than just a plant, let’s be honest, all of a sudden lay all over my kitchen floor, roots straggling out and soil everywhere. I don’t know why but in that moment I felt so out of control of my life. I remembered my dad, lying dead in his hospital bed. As I scooped up dirt, I thought, nothing is going to bring my dad back now. I can’t scoop his life back. Why didn’t he take better care of himself in this life and why did his life need to end this way?
I calmed myself down enough to usher the kids into the living room. My daughter went into action right away. She wanted to know how she could help. At four she already has such a caring and compassionate soul. Many will know the love of God because of my daughter. I asked her to watch her brother and then I went to work cleaning up.
As I scooped and swept I realized that grief was going to come hit me out of nowhere, at any moment and I couldn’t stop it. Everyone was warning me that it would and it was something that I needed to experience and learn. Instead of fighting it I let the tears continue to come. I didn’t want to hold them back any longer for fear of the scary, angry lady coming back again.
I’ve said through this process, that I’m realizing more and more will be the rest of my life, that I’m going to give myself the grace and patience and time to get through it. This was one of those times. I don’t want to hold anything back or hide it and now I know to better listen to my anger as a sign. I always heard that anger was a sign of grief, but I had just assumed that it meant anger towards the loved one or the way in which they died. Apparently, it comes and disguises itself as normal everyday aggression as well.
Another thing about this process is I don’t want to hide it from my kids. I decided in the days after dad’s death that I had a choice to make, to try and protect their childhood innocence and cry behind closed doors, or grieve right beside them, walking and explaining each step together. My choice years ago to stay at home with my kids was a choice to do life together, and grief is life. The most loving thing I could do for them was to share my grief because someday I’m going to die and how they see me grieve is going to shape the way they grieve.
When I was done cleaning up I walked into the living room where they were playing. Tears still welling in my eyes, I explained that I wasn’t crying over the plant, I was crying because I missed their Pappy. My daughter asked for clarification again, “Pappy will be in heaven forever now?”
“Yes sweetie, he will be, and I’ll get to see him again when I get to heaven but I sure do miss him a lot now.”
“Mommy, you don’t need to be sad, we love you.”
“I love you too, very much and you make me very happy. It’s okay for Mommy to be happy and sad at the same time.”
And then we hugged. A wonderful, strong, loving embrace. I wanted them to feel safe and secure. My dad always made me feel that way every time he hugged me. It’s one of the things I miss most about him right now. It’s another gift I can give my kids and pass along to the next generation. Even though my life is out of my control, there are still a few things I can grasp onto that will not waiver. And my houseplant, it’s sitting pretty, back in its spot on the window ledge, to bring peace, comfort, and beauty for another day.