People tell me I’m strong. They even go as far as to say I’m the strongest person they know. They tell me I seem so put together. But I don’t show them everything. They don’t see my weak moments. People don’t see the times when I’m in bed at night, remembering how it felt to have Greg’s warm body beside me. And then my mind remembers that he is now cold and buried in the ground now. I cry almost every night when I am finally alone to remember. Sometimes I can’t sleep because the emotion is too strong.
People don’t see the times that I cry out in the car. The times I let myself show the intensity of what is inside of me. The rage, the sadness, all of it.
People don’t see that after all the trauma I have gone through in the last 6.5 years, I am actually weaker. I have grown in some ways as a result of my circumstances, but I am touchier and more sensitive. I have flashbacks that send me reeling. I still clearly see the horrendous moments after August’s birth. I see Greg’s body lying on the hospital bed, dead. I see my kids gathered around the casket. It is too much. I never know what will make these feelings and thoughts come up. I am weaker and stronger at the same time.
I’m scared of loss. I am hypervigilant with my kids. When Kayla goes driving, I hope I don’t have to plan her funeral. I still won’t let her drive on the freeway (though I know she actually does and doesn’t tell me). I have a kid with his driver’s permit, and he has driven a total of 20 minutes since May. I can’t do it. It causes me too much anxiety. When one of my kids screams out in pain, the worst case scenarios come to my mind. I have started planning my kid’s funeral at doctor’s appointments because my mind went that far. I worry about burial plots all the time. People don’t see that.
People don’t know that even though things were complicated with our relationship, that doesn’t mean I can just be grateful Greg died. It is a special kind of torture to have so much unfinished between us. I am not relieved he is gone, and I’m not happy about it. As the anger toward him subsides, I only see that it is covering intense sadness and heartache. People don’t see that. I don’t let them see the heartache.
People don’t see my kids’ sadness and grief. They don’t see all that my kids have dealt with and are dealing with. My kids have gone through more than a lot of adults have. They don’t even show me all of their pain. They will be dealing with their childhood for the rest of their lives, and that is difficult for me to swallow.
People don’t see that my cares and worries are so very different from theirs. I can’t comprehend having the same things occupy my mind now that once did. I have too much on my plate. I don’t have the capacity for all the extra things and the fluff that other parents get to enjoy. We just survive.
People only see what I show them. They only see the mask that covers the devastation, anxiety, anger, and grief. Sometimes the mask slips down in public, but usually not. I protect people from what is really there. The mask protects all of us from the reality of what I am carrying.