I am the first to admit that grieving the loss of my baby girl and living with the pain of not having my baby here to mother is my new reality. This is my life and I have to live it. Like any tragedy, we as humans must find a way to survive. There is no end to this grief. It will be my constant companion, growing louder and softer throughout different stages of my life. However, like anyone forced to survive, I have come up with strategies, methods, and mechanisms to help me live on each day and continue to find joy wherever I can.
One strategy is escapism – ways to escape reality for just a little while. Almost immediately after Maya was born and died, we started planning trips. It was a way to escape, and a way to survive. First New Hampshire, then New York City, and then Disney. Yup! Hackie and I went to Disney World two months after Maya was born and died. Were we crazy for going to the one place where there are the most babies and young children concentrated in one spot? Some may think so. However, we love Disney and being in Disney World is the ultimate escape from reality. Everyone there faded into the background, and Hackie and I played. We laughed, we had fun, we escaped.
Every day when I go to work I am escaping. I love my new job. I love my students. I love the school that I work at. My work is my reprieve. It is the place where I can stay busy and focus on being the best teacher I can possibly be. It is the place where I can interact with colleagues who know what happened to Maya, and treat me just the same as they always have. It is the place where I can stand in front of students who don’t know my past and be whoever I want to be. It is a place where I can escape.
When I was really little, I loved to read. Then, in my middle school/high school years, I didn’t really like to read. College was the worst. When reading was no longer required, I found my love for it all over again. It took me about a month after Maya was born and died to be able to focus and concentrate long enough to be able to read a book. The first book I read had been recommended to me by a nurse at the hospital – When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold Kushner. This book had a huge affect on my grieving process. It helped me understand my own tragedy. It helped me gain clarity on the difference between religion and spirituality. It helped me understand humanity. It helped me begin to heal. And, surprisingly, it helped me escape.
After successfully reading that first book, I decided that I was now at a place where I could focus and concentrate long enough to really enjoy a good book. A colleague had sent me a novel along with a sympathy card. The story was wonderful and really allowed me to escape into another world. I realized that I had found a new survival method – escapism through literature.
I have an advantage in that I like all different types of literature – fiction, memoirs, young-adult novels, etc. Scholastic had a big warehouse sale back in December for teachers. I went by myself and had the best time picking out new books for my classroom library. I got an amazing deal and I mostly picked books that I want to read too. I came home from that sale in the best mood – I had escaped to shop for books, and the thought of escaping while reading those books made me so happy.
I have set a goal to read 50 books in 2013 – that’s about one a week. I’m thinking about adding a page here on my blog of books I have read so I can keep track. Once I’ve started a book, I have no problem sitting down and reading (as long as it’s good). There are times though when I procrastinate starting a new book. My strategy for avoiding this problem this year is to always have the next book ready to go. That way, I’m always looking forward to the next book on the pile. Currently, I’m in the second book of a young-adult trilogy. After I finish the trilogy, I plan to move to a book my mom got for me written by an advice columnist.
Sometimes I think of my grief as a person – my constant companion. Sometimes she’s loud and sometimes she’s quiet. Sometimes, she jumps out and surprises me out of nowhere. Sometimes, the times when I’m missing Maya the most, she’s comforting. And sometimes, I need to hide from her. Sometimes, I just need a break. Whether it be on a trip, at work, or lost in a good book, occasionally escaping my grief is a necessary means of survival.