As cliché as it is: grief really comes in waves. Big, medium, and small. But it’s like there’s this other side of the waves of grief’s water that people don’t talk about: the incessant. There’s this heavier, incessant, unending ((sometimes)) small constant in grief that never lets up.
The big grief is the stuff everyone sees or knows exists. The wailing in the car: screaming that mom can’t be dead, this isn’t real, and crouching in the fetal position until Aaron pulled me out of it: telling me mom was actually dead. I’ve experienced walking downstairs – turning a corner – and knowing something was really, really quiet. Really, really wrong. And that Aaron was really, really gone forever. …Again. Dead.
I’ve experienced making decisions I never thought I’d have to make. Decisions about the bodies of my mom and my husband. Decisions about what happens to their organs, listening to what shape their bodies are in, if I can refer to markings on their body so the mortuary “can make sure they have the right one“, etc. Just another dead person and another list of death decisions to be made. Conversations we all face in our lifetime. Conversations I’ve just had to face sooner than most. In really shitty ways.
Then there are decisions about what services, memorials, or rituals would honor their desires and lives best: even when it disappointed the living. It was hard walking the line of what I know would honor Aaron and mom the most, versus what the living wanted to see from me. And now I’ve experienced making life-altering medical decisions as a party of one for my daughter way too many times.
These were all those big grief moments. The big decisions. The big stuff.
…And then there are the small things. The small decisions. The small moments. That small, incessant wave of grief that never goes away.
Today, I sit across the room as I stare at my daughter who currently has a swollen eye. From what? I don’t really know. Possibly an allergic reaction to something? Possibly poked herself in the eyeball? I gave her some Benadryl and am waiting it out. …And, in waiting, incessant grief immediately kicks in. I wish mom was here to tell me what to do. She’s the one I trust, I don’t care for another opinion. I wish Aaron was here to snuggle Sloan: the softest, kindest snuggler out of the two of us. I grieve and think these things constantly: even when I have no choice but to wipe away the tears and give Sloan Benadryl through her gtube to see how we do.
Laying next to Sloan is my dog of thirteen years: our OG kid, Jude. Jude was a rescue dog: he came to us rescued from a puppy mill. He was basically skin and bones with several common diseases. Pretty TMI, but his body was covered in so much dog shit from the puppy mill his eyes were dried completely shut.
Aaron and I adopted Jude from a rescue shelter in the middle of a Petco parking lot late one night. As we drove away (at 19 years old, barely able to buy a Little Caesars pizza to last the week) we realized we made a grave mistake. Jude was a bit more than we bargained for in a dog, and we couldn’t afford to take care of him. But we still took it on. …And we did it. Jude has had emergency back surgeries, eye surgeries, and a long list of weird dog-life experiences. He’s also one of the most loved dogs ever, tbh.
Today I look at Jude and he has stitches all over his body from old-dog-man-mole-removals. He has a cone on his head, he’s lost a lot of weight in a short amount of time, and he has a red, bloody nose from a biopsy yesterday for what seems to be a cancerous growth.
I wish Aaron could be here with Jude today. And I know Jude feels the same.
This unexpected change in Jude has surfaced a lot of those incessant moments of grief.
There are so many incessant moments of grief in everything I do. Moments where those who have also experienced devastating, life-altering loss would nod and say “yep, me too” – because they know the unending narration of grief that exists. Your life, and mind, are never the same.
On the outside, I look and seem fine. On the inside, there’s a constant narration of why I’m not.
The feeling of grief itself isn’t ever small. But the incessant grief I experience now is different than the grief of those early days, weeks, and months.
It’s a constant, ever-present, dull hum that sits in the back of my mind. I smile, carry on your average conversation, crack a joke, wear normal clothes, functionally discuss future plans, watch housewives, order Jimmy John’s, cry on Marco Polo with my besties, etc.
All while that ever-present, dull hum of incessant grief is always there.
Going by myself to plan Jude’s care brings up grief. It’s a constant reminder of the small, quiet moments with Aaron and Jude. Or the big, obnoxious moments with Aaron and Jude. Those moments nobody else will share but us. The moments Aaron should still be here to share with me.
There’s grief in Sloan’s joyful moments. And, with that joy, comes the pain in grief. It really hurts when they sit – joy AND pain – together. I wish I could just celebrate Sloan being two and starting to experience life, but I don’t get that option as much anymore. As Sloan starts to experience life, I am reminded of how much life we’ve lost. Life that would be here supporting us and cheering us on. It’s all too quiet to only feel joy.
There are those moments where I’m at the gym and I think I see Aaron running – but it’s just a random dude. And then I can’t focus and the incessant grief kicks up. I really wish Aaron was drumming next to me on a treadmill so I could be mortified that he actually doesn’t care what the cool gym fitness people think of him. I’d like to have that moment just one last time.
There’s a moment where I’m driving through Ogden and I think I see mom in her white floater car: only to find it’s a small family piled in the car and driving at a normal speed. No coexist or planet fitness bumper stickers in sight: the official markings of mom’s car. This family doesn’t look peaceful or lost in thought like mom, and now I wonder if mom is still aimlessly driving: lost in thought somewhere. I suddenly realize I forgot I was driving for a solid ten minutes as I became lost in thought – or that incessant grief – too.
The small moments of grief are everywhere: endless and constant. I wish I could get a break.
….But if I did, what would it mean for the memories? I wouldn’t trade living a carefree, grief-less life if it came with forgetting what my life once was and the love that carried me then. I will always choose living with the incessant, small, constant voice of grief – joy AND pain – if it means I get to carry mom and Aaron with me too.
So…I guess the small, incessant grief is just really confusing. There’s no point to this? It just….Exists.
And, this post – now existing as aimlessly as mom’s driving – exemplifies that confusion. It exemplifies how everything we face after lost love – whether it be a dead mom, husband, baby, dad, etc – becomes confusing. And grief becomes an incessant, small voice in your head that never quite lets up. There’s no break from grief when you’ve experienced catastrophic loss.
Learning to live with the small, incessant grief is hard. A skill we have no choice but to learn. It takes work. I haven’t come close to learning yet, but I’m trying. And for those who are years ahead of me, who have guided me, or who are on their own journey of learning: I’m here with you too.
Not an expert by any means. But I’m unwillingly and involuntarily here right alongside you.
<3 – Kari