I'll start off by saying that this is a hard post to write. It's filled with memories that are difficult to think about, but have been on my mind lately.
It's nearly October, roughly one year since the nightmare that our family went through when my eldest was hospitalized for over two weeks with a staph infection.
Throughout the past year, I'd catch brief moments of grief, like finding a toy that reminds me of that time, or reading a book that I had read to Soren when he was sedated, or even seeing an episode of the Mickey Mouse Club, which always seemed to be on during those long days and nights spent at his bedside.
All year long, I felt that I hadn't fully processed the grief and what had happened. It's not that was avoiding it, but it was just maybe not convenient to let it all out. A car ride on the Interstate that goes past the hospital might elicit a few tears, but can I really sob while driving on a three-lane highway with two kids in the back seat? Or when discovering a bag of burn-related bandages and ointments in a closet when digging for wrapping paper to wrap a birthday present?
I just feel so sad lately, and wonder if the grief has finally, after all these months, caught up with me. There is something powerful about the change of seasons and its deep association with the events of last fall. I could hide in swimming pools and sandboxes all summer long, but now that those damned beautiful leaves are upon us, it triggers the memory of watching that small maple tree outside the hospital window change from green to red and then remain a bare silhouette of itself.
I pulled out a few autumn decorations this week and came across a little pumpkin plate I bought in the hospital gift shop, a souvenir of the last days of my son's illness, when we were all eager to come home. While it's a reminder of the good that came out of the experience (the amazing care and kindness of the doctors, nurses, therapists and staff, and oh yeah, that my son got better), it's still hard at this moment to not focus on the feelings of fear and helplessness that dominated our time in the hospital. The horror of those first days, the procedures done on him and how ill and not himself that he looked in that hospital bed are forever burned into my memory.
I imagine that this is what grieving is like when approaching the eve of those dreaded anniversaries, when the control one's emotions is relinquished by seasonal reminders of the event.
So this month is going to be a hard one for me. I'm considering a project, like an "October Thankfulness" project, where I do something every day, whether large or small, to thank someone in the world for what they do. I'd like to include a visit to the Pediatric ICU in that project, which I really have been eager to do with Soren, but I'm a little shy about invading such an important and often stressful (for the staff) place. "Hi, my formerly-ill son and I would like to say hi and bring you bagels. Oh, and I don't mind chatting while you perform a tracheotomy on an infant!"
But I do think it's important for closure for us to figure out a good time to visit. And Soren does seem eager to go back and see the hospital again. As far as we can tell, he has no bad memories of his illness. A lot of it was that he was intubated and sedated for most of it, but even at the tail-end of his hospitalization he was allowed to watch as much TV and drink as much juice as he wanted, and also got lots of gifts!
There is so much for me to be grateful for, and of course I am. I have a healthy, thriving son (two of them, actually). However, there's still a lot for me to digest here, and I'm hoping that upon reaching the other side of this grief, things will seem a lot better and I'll be stronger. Thanks for listening to my ramblings.