Obsessed

Thursday, June 26, 2014

I am OBSESSED with Downton Abbey.  And not just because I love the name of the show (insert winky face ;)).  I started watching it on the plane to Israel (I think they had the first three episodes) and then came home desperate to see what was going to happen next.

I couldn't find it on Netflix, even though I know that it was streaming there at one point.  I know this because Ted and I had watched the first episode months before and hadn't been able to get into it (something that sounds completely ludicrous to me now).  I figured out that I could watch really fuzzy episodes on youtube - the pirated kind where I think someone records their tv screen with their phone and then posts it.  Those episodes were impossible to find and almost more impossible to watch.

I was about to give up streaming them until I figured out that I could watch them with my Amazon Prime account!  Praise the lord!  I watched the first three seasons back to back during any free moment I could find, only to get to Season Four and find out that Amazon wasn't streaming that one.  And if you know what happens at the end of Season three - you KNOW why I needed to get my hands on Season four immediately!

So I finally sat down at the computer and reorganized our Netflix DVD queue and threw all of the upcoming episodes, in order, up to the top (something Ted is extremely pleased about, I am sure).

I know you might be wondering why I am telling you all this because why the heck do I think you care about my latest television obsession? (Although, not that having no reason at all to tell you about my tv addiction has ever stopped me before).  But, here is the thing: a lot of people die on Downton Abbey.  In fact, the most important, loved and pivotal characters die - young and tragically.  Two of the main characters on the show are, by Season Four, bereaved mothers (and I think there are enough characters that I am not being a "spoiler" by telling you this).  And, while I think there are imperfections with their depiction of the grieving process - I'd say that it gets much closer than most anything else I've seen.  And the writing!  They way these characters express my thoughts!  It's (dare I say) Magical.  I recognize and relate to the anger, the jealousy, the complete paralysis, and the inability to look past one's own grief.  I am more consumed with those stories than I am with the love stories (and those are pretty good too).  I think about them all of the time - wondering how the writers are going to write the next stage of grief - praying that they won't let any of the grievers move on too quickly - hoping that they will recognize all of the right triggers that would set off someone who was really in grief.  It will never be perfect, because it is still fiction, but they do a pretty good job.

It seems that still, after almost three years without Max, I am searching for connections with the ways other people deal with death and grief - it's even good enough for me when the most authenticity I can find is in fictional characters.  The "problems" of non aggrieved characters fall flat for me.  In fact, it's hard to believe, but I haven't chosen a romantic comedy in ages.  It's not that I won't watch anything else, you know I will....but I definitely prefer content that includes deep grief, post traumatic stress and complete upheaval.

A few brilliant Downton Abbey quotes that really sum it up for me and have left me in puddles of my own tears:

"You see, when your only child dies, then you're not a mother anymore. You're not anything really. And that's what I'm trying to get used to."

"“…but you see I have this feeling that when I laugh or read a book or hum a tune, that it means that I’ve forgotten him, just for a moment and it’s that, that I cannot bear.”

"When one loses a child, is it really ever over?"

"I’m not unhappy. I’m just not quite ready to be happy."

"You are being tested. And you know what they say, my darling -- being tested only makes you stronger."

"This tragedy will either make or break your marriage. Hold each other tight and never take one another for granted."
 



Garbage Day

Friday, June 20, 2014

If you have (or have had) a little boy, you might know where I am going with this.....

The little boys at Maxie's daycare loved garbage day.  They could hear the truck coming from a block away....the low growl of the machine humming along the road....the day's best entertainment only minutes away.  They would all run to the window anxiously anticipating the excitement about to come.  And THEN - the garbage truck would pull up to the house and they'd all go wild!  They'd wave and cheer, and when they were lucky (otherwise known as almost every trash day), the garbage man would wave back.

I loved watching them on garbage day.  I loved getting a peek into the boyish joy that would one day be my Maxie's too.  He'd definitely get caught up in the excitement of it all. It was impossible not to.  Even this 37 (at the time) year old woman did!

My Mo loves trucks.  He loves tractors and excavators and U-hauls....and he really loves garbage trucks.  There is a familiar and sad feeling that comes over me when we hear that garbage truck grumbling down our street and then the "beep, beep, beep" of it backing into place.  In our house, we have to stop everything to either rush to the window or run outside (which really depends on whether I have put on a bra yet).  Then Mo points and points and babbles like crazy, so full of excitement.  And when the garbage truck finally disappears around the corner, Mo says "Bye, Bye" as loud as he can while waving his little hands in the air.  I love it....and it breaks my heart.

All the reminders - there is really no end - they are everywhere.  I wish I'd seen that little boy of mine run to the window with his daycare buddies.  Even more, I wish I could see him doing it with his little brother today.



Understanding

Thursday, June 19, 2014

In the almost three years since we lost Maxie, a lot of people in our lives have lost a lot of people.  People have lost grandparents, parents, siblings, friends, and there have even been a few children lost over these past years.  Loss is something that none of us can escape, even if we believe that bad things only happen to "other people".  The fact is - some day your parents will die.  You may be lucky enough to never suffer a tragic loss, like we have....i.e: maybe you are lucky enough to only lose people who have lived long and full lives.....but it still might feel tragic to you.  Your mother, your father, your grandparent might be the closest person you have on earth.  Even if they die at 100 years old, it might feel tragic.

Over and over again, people reach out to me and say "you are the only one who understands what this feels like".  They are talking about grief - and sadly, I am actually NOT the only one who understands - but grief has a way of making you feel like you are alone, in a world of wildly happy and superficial people who don't have a care in the world.  I know that I often feel like the Abby that my non-grieving friends see is an entirely different person that the grieving ones do.  I have a split personality and each side has only pieces of authenticity.  I am neither entirely one nor the other but I cannot seem to exist as both at the same time.  I am constantly choosing sides.

People tell me,  "I didn't understand what you were talking about until I experienced it myself" - meaning - they didn't understand that the pain is so excruciating that it feels impossible to escape, to distract oneself, to imagine any kind of a future at all without the person you've lost.  And when I hear this, it is almost never in the context of losing a child. Grief is grief  - it is a kind of universal pain.  Still - losing a child?  Take that grief that you finally understand and multiply it by 1000 or 1,000,000.  There can be nothing worse.  I am still convinced.  Not to belittle anyone's grief - just to say that losing a child has to be the most unnatural thing I could ever imagine....and I've imagined a lot of worst case scenarios in my life.  Well before losing Max, losing a child was always the worst one I could think of.

I guess what I am saying is this - before you judge, before you think to yourself "I would do this better than she is doing it", before you nod your head in knowing that you are the lucky one - think about this - one day you might be reaching out to me to say, "I never understood until now".

Fresh

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

I've been playing around with the look of my blog, something I wish I had done AGES ago (like, when I still wrote every day).  I created the blog using a basic blogger template.  It was boring and I never liked it.  I wanted my blog to be a place where visitors could really feel Maxie's spirit shining.  I feel like I managed to do that somewhat, even with the boring background.  What I really wanted was a slideshow at the top, so I am excited about that and still working on it.  It is still a little basic, but designing blog sites really isn't my thing.  I hope you like the new look of Missing Maxie.  I feel like it breathes a little bit of fresh air into our account of his life and our lives without him.

The best reaction

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Early last week, Ted told me that he had "the best reaction to telling someone about Max" so far.  Ted's been at a new jobsite in Silverlake lately and a neighbor has been coming by daily, while strolling his 18 month old, to check on the progress of the house Ted is working on.  Ted told him that our son, Mo, is just a few months older than the neighbor's baby and the neighbor has asked a few times whether Mo is our only child.  Ted had been doing his best to avoid the question but felt he couldn't really push it off any longer.  He finally told the neighbor about our sweet Max last week.  The man cried.  And these tears made Ted feel really, really good.

Ted is a real "man's man"....whatever that means (even though you know EXACTLY what that means).  I've only seen him cry a few times.  I know he has cried oceans of tears for Maxie, but they have happened in hiding - at the cemetery, in the bathroom or in his car.  He is warm and loving and someone that people like to confide in - but I wouldn't say he is super comfortable with emotion....so I am definitely not suggesting that people start crying their hearts out to Ted from now on to make him feel good.  But, that spontaneous eruption of emotion from a (mostly) stranger upon hearing of our loss was meaningful to him.  It made him feel good to have someone acknowledge the pain and devastation of losing our baby boy.

I am the vocal one.  I am the one who paints the picture of life without our baby.  I am the one who couldn't stop crying for months.  But, Ted's life has been turned upside down too.  He may not cry or beg for acknowledgement or try to explain to anyone what "this" is like - but sometimes, just the look in his eyes says more than any words ever could.

Ted is the most incredible father a child could ask for.  His life revolves around these boys.  His relationships with Max and Mo were/are so special and unique.  I don't need to say it - but Father's Day is bittersweet.  Ted became a father the day our Max was born - and though it may not look like it on the surface, he is a father of TWO.  He carries Maxie in his heart so profoundly - I see it every day.  I hope Max does too.  If he is with us somehow, there is no way he could miss it.

Happy Father's Day to the best father I know.  I know this road is challenging.  I couldn't feel luckier than to be walking it with you.

XOXO - Love you Teddy!


Portland weekend away

Monday, June 9, 2014

I don't think you'll be surprised when I tell you that I spent the weekend at an Afterlife Conference in Portland.  The organizers of this conference were different that the ones who organized the last one I went to, but the basic premise was the same:  hundreds of grievers gathered together wondering where their loved ones have gone.  My mom and I flew up because we were ready to attend another one of these things, but also because my Auntie Alison and Uncle Danny live in Portland (and we love them and their city) and it was a good excuse to visit.  All I can say is that I feel lighter than I have in years (mostly due to one session in particular - but I will get there in a moment).

If you'll recall (or read, or re-read), the last time I attended one of these things, what was MOST important to me was to figure out how to connect to Maxie.  I suppose that was important to me this time as well, but I felt no anxiety or anticipation about that part.  What I really wanted to do was have a safe space to grieve and connect to other people like me.  So we skipped a lot of the really "Woo woo" stuff (a term that was used by conference organizers as well) and tried to get in as much of the practical stuff as possible (but let's face it - it was all a little "woo woo").

Highlights of the conference included a Peruvian Grieving Ceremony, led by a shaman and attended by a couple hundred people.  It was powerful, sacred, cathartic and incredibly moving - all things that are not easy to accomplish in a hotel special events/conference space (you can go to www.livinganddyingconsciouslyproject.org to download a script and materials list to hold your own grieving ceremony - I am planning on doing another one myself).  Other highlights included getting to hear Dr. Raymond Moody (responsible for coining the term "Near Death Experience") and Dr. Eben Alexander (a neurosurgeon who wrote about his own Near Death Experience in his New York Times bestseller book, Proof of Heaven).  But the most powerful presentation of the weekend, and that I've heard in the last three years, was by Tom Zuba called "A New Way to Do Grief - a New Way to Do Life".   I left this session feeling a tangible change in my soul.

Tom's young daughter died in 1990, his wife died in 1999, and his teenage son died in 2005.  He spoke about the importance of grief and creating an appropriate space to grieve.  He compared the old way to do grief, which included keeping busy, moving on, and not crying, to the NEW way to do grief - which is to allow oneself to feel their feelings. "Feeling feelings isn't the problem.  It is the solution.", he said.  He also suggested being open to signs from our loved ones - to recognize and thank them when they happen, instead of listening to our rational brains, which just explain them away.  I have had many signs.  I always explain them away.

There were profound statements from the audience in attendance that really touched me as well.  One woman stood up to talk about how nobody cried when her son died, not even his grandparents.  They explained that they didn't want to cry in front of her and her husband because they worried that they would make them more sad....."as if that was possible", she said.  She quoted a book she had read called "Lament for a son", which said "Your tears are a salve to my wound.  Your silence is the salt."  That quote struck me deeply - how I wish that the people who loved Maxie most would have felt comfortable enough to express their own broken hearts to me.  When people cried with her, she knew that they cared.  Another woman said that when her child died, she asked herself over and over and over again the same question - would she be "better or bitter?".  I have asked myself the same question a million times.  I think there is no way to escape a certain period of bitterness.  Mine lasted almost two years and still pops up from time to time.....but I choose now to be better.  I hope Maxie's death makes me a better person - it is the only way I can imagine that his death could bring any positivity in my world.  I can't change that he died - I can only change who I am because of it.  Tom believes that we need to teach people about grief because it affects everyone in one way or another at some point.  I also can't remember how he said it, but for the first time, even though a million other people have said it before him, it sunk in: We cannot change the outcome of any situation in our lives - we can hope and pray and work for certain outcomes - but that won't guarantee a thing.  The best we can do is to accept that each piece of our story is meant to teach us something and add some value to our lives.  Of course, we'd all trade the lessons to have our children back - but that isn't an option.  The very best we can hope for is to grow from their loss.  We have to learn to love the life we have now.  Ted is going to kill me - because he says this to me all of the time - but sometimes it takes the right setting for something to sink in.

Like the last conference we attended - there were a LOT of bereaved parents.  Being responsible for the happiness and well-being of the person you love the most and then losing that child - it kind of makes sense that we'd be the most desperate to know where our loved ones have gone.  The fact that our lives had revolved around these people and then they died - far before their time - it is just impossible to wrap our brains around.  I guess when you have something so impossible happen in your life, it feels like every other impossible thing is a little more possible......like all of the "woo woo" stuff.

Visiting Portland is always a treat.  What a cool city!  It was especially beautiful this past weekend.  Everything was in bloom, the grass and trees were green, the sky was clear and the temperature was just perfect.  We skipped a few sessions to go shopping and explore the neighborhoods close to my aunt and uncle's house.  Especially exciting was getting stuck in traffic late on Saturday night as we were driving home from the conference because thousands of naked people on Bicycles were clogging up all of the roads!  Oh so very Portland!  My aunt sent me this link about the ride this morning: Crazy Naked Portlanders.  So very awesome.  It was dark out by the time we ran into them so all we really saw were flashes of white thighs and side boobs - it wasn't all that shocking!

I continue to work hard diving into my grief - exploring the unconventional and looking for ways to move forward.  I owe it to myself and to the ones I love that are still here on earth.  I think it has been my willingness to feel my feelings and to keep on seeking that has brought me to a happier and more content phase of my journey.  If there was the smallest chance on earth that I could feel my baby again for even a second, I would take that chance.  Nothing - not even death - can keep us apart.

I love you Maxie XOXOXO  Forever and ever and ever.




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