September 26, 2023

Good Grief

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.


  1. Kathleen, I COMPLETELY understand where you're coming from; these aren't just random ramblings, these are truly and deeply felt emotions and there's absolutely nothing wrong with feeling what you're feeling and being able to freely let it out.

    The changing of the seasons from Summer to Fall is always hard on me as well. Not only does that signal most likely another relapse with my illness, the past couple of years it's brought up the anniversary of my Angel's 'birth and death' if you will.

    This year it will be 2 years since that happened and I STILL haven't gotten over it and probably never will.

    I love the way you're looking towards the future and planning your October Thankfulness project; that will most definitely help you stay focused on the good rather than dwelling on the bad!

    As always lots of love and light to you and the boys (hubby included)!

  2. What a great idea to use the grief for a positive reinforcement.

  3. Our son stopped moving at term, and though he still had a heart beat, was born alive, and is a thriving 5 year old now, I am still triggered by the fear of that day at the most random times. We decided that, in thanks, we would donate to St Jude's every month until he turned 18. Every time we write that check, it is a reminder of what we have and what we could have lost.


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