I made a silent reappearance in Nashville on a Thursday night. I think like, seven people knew I was coming home from Africa and they were threatened with their life to remain silent. I will never forget riding the escalator down to baggage claim and seeing Dustin sitting in one of the rocking chairs waiting for me. I looked and felt like hell. I hadn’t slept in four days. I had spent the majority of those last four days crying. I had met JT, thought he was going to come live with me forever, and said bye to him forever all in a matter of eleven days. I felt heavy, weighted down. I had experienced every emotion under the sun in the most intense way. I felt sick. Like, physically ill. All dramatics aside, there were times I thought I really might just die. I remember walking into a hug from Dustin as he said, “Well, I thought this would have been different.” True that, sir. So different.
I came home and didn’t know what to do. How do you process something like this? How do you grieve but not get trapped there? What does grief even look like? How do you find a way to move in your grief? How do you grieve and still live? How do you reconcile this in your heart? How long is too long? What does it look like to move? I felt stuck, amost paralyzed. Scared to be in this place and scared to move from it. I didn’t know what to do other than simply commit to being present. Present in the hurt, anger, sadness, confusion, loneliness, shame, and fear. Present in my own natural timeline of grief. Dustin said a lot those first few weeks, “It’s going to be okay.” To which I always replied, “I know, but it’s not okay today.” I committed to being present in that place. The place of knowing it’s not always going to feel like this, but it feels like this today. A mindset of this too shall pass, be present.
I hid in my house for four days. Like, literally didn’t leave for 96 hours.
It took me five days to feel ready to start telling people what happened.
It took me seven days to be okay with putting something on Facebook so that all the other people would know.
It took me twelve days to go back to work. I’ve been back at work for almost two months and I’m still not fully okay with being back.
It took me two weeks to unpack my suitcase. I really thought they were going to call and tell me to come back. It took me fourteen days to accept that wasn’t going to happen.
It took me a month to want to hang out with friends. There are still days where I just cannot do it, though.
For six whole weeks the doors of JT’s room were shut. It took me six weeks to feel ready to go in there. To unpack a suitcase, put away clothes, and rearrange a room all meant for him.
It took me seven weeks to get the car seats, bike, basketball goal, and other big toys that seemed to just stare at the empty hole in my heart out of my house.
I’ve been home for almost two months. I’ve circled in and out of hurt, anger, sadness, confusion, loneliness, shame, and fear. Sometimes I’ve stayed in those feelings longer than others. Some days I feel them more intensely than other days. They are all there a lot of the days, if not all of them in some capacity. There’s still heartache. There’s still so much sadness. There’s a part of me that thinks I might grieve in some way forever. I still have to fake it some days. But there’s also laughter again in our house. I’m starting to feel waves of happiness. There are not as many tears.
Moving on is hard. There’s an element of joy and an element of such sadness in it- in accepting something as is, in being willing to shut a door, in actually walking forward, in starting to look past it and into the future. It’s hard. It’s healthy. It’s weird. It’s good. It’s sad. I know I’m moving. I can feel it. I can see it. And in the midst of it all, I know this to be true: This too shall pass. Be present.