Some winter mornings, bleary eyed after a night battling insomnia, I dress in the dark. I struggle with the buttons, willing my blouse closed over the snug matching camisole. I cruise through my morning routine on autopilot, throwing my hair into a ponytail and brushing my teeth with eyes closed. It’s not glamorous, but I fake normalcy pretty well. At least I think I do. I stand in line at Starbucks for my morning coffee, waiting for the sweet nectar that will force my eyes open for the day at last.
One such a morning, I heard a voice behind me.
“Um, miss.” I spun around, very slowly.
“Your blouse. It’s on inside out,” the slightly mortified patron explained quietly. To my embarrassment, I noticed they were right. I thanked them and changed my shirt around in the car and headed off to work.
That’s what parenting through grief has been like in the past three weeks. Autopilot, bleary eyes, faking it. Forcing smiles, acting normal, going through the motions. We had a family crisis unfolding and it was really, really hard. Managing my own feelings while being responsible for the most important person in my whole world was really tough. I thought, despite how excruciating it was, that I had it all together.
The crisis culminated in one of the worst evenings of my adult life, with a phone call I never want to receive. I was grieving heavily and in all the confusion, I missed a scheduled appointment that was really important to me. I was so tired and struggling to hold everything together. I sat on the patio in the fading sunlight, watching my little boy playing happily inside through the window. He had no idea that I had to tell him something awful. I didn’t want to have to say the words out loud. My heart was breaking,
I had the missed appointment to deal with and I still had to talk to my son. I was inexplicably starving. I realized my blouse was inside out… metaphorically, anyways. I gave in and asked my son’s dad to bring us dinner and we talked to our son as a family: a weird little family that spans two postal codes. He took my crestfallen little person back to his place to give us both space to breathe and process.
The night’s events were much more difficult than being slightly humiliated in line at Starbucks. It wasn’t just a matter of spinning around a blouse in the privacy of my car. Parenting in darkness is so much harder than dressing in the dark. A wardrobe malfunction you can fix yourself. Being a sad mom means sometimes you have to ask for help and there’s nothing embarrassing about doing so.