Over the past 12 weeks (is that right? I’m starting to lose count), I’ve had to learn that life goes on after the world stops. As I settle into my new routine of getting up at 5:30 and being at work all day, I’m learning how to grieve differently than I did throughout the summer. Grief now has to have a time and place. I can’t leave 22 eleven year olds unsupervised so I can go cry and I don’t want to make my colleagues feel uncomfortable. I’ve started to come up with different tactics for getting through the day.
The car is a great place to cry. This morning, before I left for work, there was an email that one of the women I was pregnant with delivered a baby girl this past Friday. I knew she was pregnant and due any day, but I wasn’t prepared for the email (how can you be?). It hit me hard. It made me physically ill. I was supposed to get to send work the “It’s a girl” email and I never got to do that. Instead, my baby news was shared with the crisis team and at an emergency staff meeting. It’s not fair. It sucks. So, I cried in my car and was able to pull myself together before walking into the building.
I’ve also learned that sitting at my desk and taking a deep breath is a great way to cope. Even with students in front of me and in the midst of a busy lesson, my mind goes to Maya. As soon as I have just 30 seconds, I take the opportunity to breathe, think of Maya, acknowledge the grief and go on with the lesson. So far, this has worked and I am proud that I am coming up with coping mechanisms.
The most important thing that I need is time alone. I have spent a lot of time reflecting on this. It takes so much mental energy and stamina to function, period. Add engaging with eager 6th graders and being “on” for 50 minutes at a time, often three times in a row and I am downright exhausted. Sometimes, I opt to eat lunch by myself. I am trying not to be anti-social, but I’m finding that I need to spend those 25 minutes a day thinking about Maya and feeling sad. I need a break from engaging.
Most people around me don’t want to bring up my loss. They think I’ve “moved on” or that bringing it up will upset me. They may also be uncomfortable talking about it themselves for fear they will say the wrong thing. I totally get it and I have no expectations of my colleagues. The fact of the matter is, it’s always on my mind. I try very hard not to bring up my loss at work. I don’t want to. It’s a tough subject to talk about and I don’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable. I need to think about it though and reflect throughout the day – so sometimes, I need to take the time to be alone with my thoughts.
I also need to decompress at the end of the day – as do most people. Sometimes, I cry in the car on the way home. If I didn’t get enough time to acknowledge my grief throughout the day, it bottles up and comes out on the way home. When I get home, I talk to my mom since I don’t need to hold back any of my grief from her. When I get off the phone, I often just sit, stare, and feel the sadness, anger, frustration, or whatever other emotion is present at the time.
Grief is not something you can get past. It’s something you have to go through. It’s ugly and unpredictable. It’s always present but can be louder or softer depending on the hour. By living through my grief and feeling it with every ounce of my soul, I am acknowledging Maya. She is with me every step of the way as I climb this mountain of grief and she is helping me through.