I can’t sleep. This is the part of grief that nobody talks about or knows how to explain. It’s the stuff you’re not prepared for and wouldn’t even know how or when to prepare for it if you were. It’s nearly midnight on a Friday night, the kids are tucked in their beds in each of the rooms. Well in all honesty, Hudson is sleeping in Izzy’s room tonight because he was watching a Youtube show earlier about monsters and now he’s convinced they’re real and going to come into his room in the middle of the night – so Izzy begrudgingly allowed him to sleep in her room tonight. In any case, the kids are all asleep, my dog Chance is even asleep next to me, but I’m laying here wide awake, knowing I have a full day ahead of me tomorrow – that the kids will be awake in about six hours ready to go - and I should be sleeping, but I can’t.
Instead I’m laying here thinking about the day I had to pick up Brian’s ashes from the funeral home, and I’m feeling sorry for myself. Absolutely nothing triggered this memory, I’ve just been having an off day today, and as I lay here trying to fall asleep, this is the memory that comes to mind for some reason. WHY GRIEF, WHY!?
I don’t want to be alone with these thoughts, so I’m sharing them with you.
I remember walking into the office and being escorted to this dark room in the back of the building. Nate, the Navy casualty officer who had been assigned to help me get through these early weeks had picked me up that morning, and was now walking dutifully next to me, walking in the room and seeing the brass urn on the table for the first time as I did. Brian J. Bugge engraved into the side, U.S. Navy, June 26, 1982 to May 20, 2018 engraved across the front with a navy emblem on top of it. That was it, the final vision of my husband, my partner in life - and now in death - the father of my two kids at home, and the one currently in my stomach.
I remember the lady saying “Honey whenever you’re ready, we also filled these small urns that you requested. I’ve put them in this bag for you, you can take a look whenever you’re ready.” But I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready for any of this. I wasn’t prepared for this. I didn’t want to think that this was Brian inside of those urns. What was I thinking buying urns for my young children? A ceramic artifact full of human remains, the last of their dad. How would I explain to them what cremation is? We were still grasping with the fact that dad couldn’t come home for dinner. I know at the time I was thinking I wanted them to have a piece of him to take with them wherever they went in life and I would give it to them later, when it seemed appropriate, but seeing these tiny little urns and knowing that that was it, that’s all they would ever get up there dad, was a whole new understanding of pain and emotions.
I don’t know why am laying here on this random February night unable to sleep, with these visions in my head. But this is grief. I don’t want to be sad, I don’t want to think of the Brian I love being cremated, I don’t want to think of myself six months pregnant in the office throwing up into a wastepaper basket because I was so sick at the thought that this was the last bit I would get up my husband. I don’t wanna believe that any of this is real. It’s been 2 1/2 years and I’m still find myself questioning if this is really real. Wishing that it wasn’t. I put on a brave face, I know that I’m strong, I know that I’ve gone through the unthinkable, and the unimaginable, but as I lay here tonight in bed, unable to sleep, I’m wishing that it was the unthinkable and the unimaginable for me too. Because the imaginable and the thinkable are just too hard to deal with sometimes. Sometimes you don’t want to believe that this is the reality.
I went on a weekend trip to the coast recently with some friends who I’ve known since I was about six years old. The age of my oldest child right now. We haven’t spent time together in probably 15 years, and truth be told I was a little bit nervous. I don’t really get social anxiety, but the reality is it’s been so long since we have all spend time together, we don’t really have a lot in common except that we grew up together and we have memories from our childhood together. We met up at a beach house at the coast, and after getting settled in, I was talking to a couple of the girls, making jokes and telling them that I was a tiny bit nervous for the weekend. One of my friends looked back at me and said, “Oh that’s a relief!” She said, “You always appear to be so cool calm and collected, I didn’t think you ever got nervous!” It was such a compliment, and I know it was meant to be one, but it was also a reality check for me. You see, I don’t have it all together. I don’t know what I’m doing anymore than anybody else does. I’m making all of this up as I go along. I’m trying to find ways to make myself happy, to make my kids happy, to make our family happy and successful, educated and confident in all the things that were incredibly important to Brian and I, and now that are just important to me. I don’t have all the answers, I don’t have all the confidence. I’m a single mom of three very young children trying to do what’s best, just like everybody else is. And some days that’s really scary. Some days I feel the pressure and the weight of all that I alone am responsible for, and it can be debilitating. It can be overwhelming. It can be frustrating, and it can definitely be sad. I know I have SO much to be thankful for, so much to be grateful for, I’m not in this alone, I have incredible and unparalleled support and encouragement from those closest to me, and that is not lost on me, but you know what? Sometimes I just need to take a minute to feel sorry for myself, and that needs to be ok. We all need to be able to do that, as long as we can at the same time recognize this feeling will pass. And that’s what I need to do right now.
So I just want to humble myself a little and recognize that in a public way. While I might have a smile on my face and might show you pictures from these incredibly beautiful and adventurous trips with my kids around the world, there are still days where I lay here in the middle of the night questioning if I’m doing it right, questioning what I’m doing and how I should be doing it, and what I’m going to be doing next? And it’s scary.
But I also know I don’t have to have the answers to all of those questions. At least not tonight. Tonight I need to sleep, so that when the kids come charging in here at 6 o’clock in the morning I can cuddle with them and tickle them and make sure that they don’t feel the weight of any of this, and that all they have to do is get ready for whatever adventure lies ahead tomorrow.