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August Blog Challenge - Day 6

What is the hardest thing you've ever experienced?

How am I supposed to answer this one?
How do I choose?
What can I even say that I haven't already said?

Kyle's death. Kenny's diagnosis.  Dave's death.  Doug's death. And another that isn't mine to share.
There's a point, some kind of line...and once you cross it, there isn't any way to compare levels of pain any more.  Each of these are unfathomable.  Impossible to live through.  Recovery from these losses is unthinkable.

They have a common thread, though.

Loss of control.

Let's just say I don't deal with that shit very well.

These things, these events, they each mark a line in the sand.

Before.  |  After.

Each time, life as I knew it "before" ceased to exist.
Kicking and screaming, I was forced into the "after."

It matters not whether it happens all in a minute without warning, like Kyle and Doug.
Or whether it happens in small increments and you have time to "prepare," like Kenny and Dave.
Each time I found myself in an alien landscape,
with all that was familiar and safe
stripped away.
Laid bare, vulnerable.

Even I was not the same.
I remember standing in the bathroom,
looking at my own face in the mirror,
tracing the line of my jaw with my fingertips,
without any sense of recognition,
"Who are you?"
"Who are you now?"

The Michelle from "before"
was gone.
Five times I have had to recreate
who I am.

Because I was
not in control.
I couldn't change it.
No matter how hard I tried
or how much I loved.

When Kyle died,
we were at the mall.
He cried and went limp and still.
I checked to see if he was breathing.
If his heart was beating.
Adrenaline coursed through my body.
Was that my heartbeat or his?
I couldn't tell.
I lifted him.
No response.
Like a rag doll,
he lay bonelessly against my shoulder.
I unzipped his snowsuit.
Started chest compressions.
Started breathing for him.
All the while, my brain racing.
This isn't happening.
This can't be happening.
A willowy preteen girl took him from my arms
and continued CPR.
I watched.
Nothing to do.
Nothing I could do.
Frozen in that moment.
Completely numb.
Holding his pacifier in my hand.
My life before me,
spinning out of control.
The smell of cinnamon in the air.

The shock, the disbelief.
The guilt, the pain.
Like an avalanche.

With Kenny, it was different.
Autism crept in.
Sneaky, like a thief
that steals a little at a time
so you won't notice.
But still, you sense it.
Something's not right.
Little signs,
dismissed, excused, rationalized.
Not an avalanche,
but a steady build up,
snowflake after snowflake.

Sitting at UW Medical Center.
"You were right.  It's autism."
My brain screaming,
Feeling the shock, the numbness, the disbelief
wash over me again.
Out of my control.
"I take it back.  I take it back."
Willing the doctor to unsay the words.
Rewind.  Somebody press the rewind button.

The shock, the disbelief.
The guilt, the pain.
Like an avalanche.

The morning Dave died,
I knew it was coming.
I waited all night.
Kate leaped over me, waking me up,
rushing to Dave.
She said, "Is he breathing?"
My hand on his hot, hot chest.
A small flutter, a rise and fall,
and nothing.
Her eyes, looking at me,
Knowing I had to tell her.
Unable to control the impact on her, on the boys,
unable to protect them.
"No, babycakes.  He's not."
One moment of clarity.
Looking down the road,
seeing my children growing up
without their father.
Until numbness descended again,
protecting me from the after.
For a while.

The shock, the disbelief.
The guilt, the pain.
Like an avalanche.

And Doug.  (more)
Hearing that he had killed himself
at Kyle's grave,
I deliberately dove into the numbness.
Sought refuge.
Not again.
I can't do this again.
I can't do this again.
The whole world out of control,
nothing made sense.
And I felt nothing.
Numb to the core.
I went through the motions.
For more than a month.
Denying there was an after to come.
Trying to stay in the before.
Trying to control it.
Raging against the helplessness.
Rejecting the powerlessness.
Until the words of a song
crumbled my defenses.

Just let me hold you while you're falling apart

Just let me hold you so we both fall down

Fall on me

Tell me everything you want me to be

Forever with you, forever in me

Ever the same

And I took the step
over the line
into the after.

The shock, the disbelief.
The guilt, the pain.
Like an avalanche.

Crushed beneath the weight.
Five times.
Buried by an avalanche.
Five times.

The hardest thing I've ever had to do
was learn to keep living,
to stay alive.
To let healing happen.
To stop punishing myself
by opening the wounds,
making myself bleed,
just to feel something.
To let the scars form
and knit me back together.
To define myself through more
than my pain.

To keep breathing.
The hardest thing I ever had to do
was keep breathing.

(I have added a few links to this post for people who might not know the back stories of these losses. You'll see that the names are clickable.  And also the "while" in Dave's story is clickable and the "(more)."  "while" links to the blog post about when the numbness finally fully lifted and I realized he was never coming back, and "(more)" links to a post about the ugliness of grief.)



  1. ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

  2. Did you do find be hearts on purpose? Of course you did!

    1. Should say
      Did you do FIVE hearts on purpose?


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