Like a bull loose in a china shop, after a child dies everything gets trashed and broken and life is chaos. It takes a long time to get everything back in order, and even when things are mostly put back together, nothing is in exactly the same place. Some valuable things are broken, gone for good. Others are repaired nicely. Others are repaired but will never be quite like they were.
But what you learn over time is that the bull never leaves the china shop. It stands by the door, making you think it might go away. But it doesn’t. It stands there quietly through holidays, birthdays, vacations, and quiet moments at home. You’re always aware of its presence, even if it’s just standing there quietly. You come to realize that it’s never going to leave, and you just need to learn to live life with a bull in the corner. It lingers.
Every so often, it breaks things again. But not as often, and not as much. It settles down over time. Sometimes after it’s been a while since the last time it reared its head, you get anxious that it’s going to come out again. Sometimes it’s hard to behave normally because you fear the chaos again. Sometimes you know it’s coming. Sometimes you turn around and it’s in your face when you least expect it. You wish the bull would just go away, but it doesn’t.
After 2 years without Kevin, that’s how it feels to me. The chaos has subsided and life has continued in new and exciting ways. We have Ava, who is nearing her first birthday. As a family, we’ve experienced new things and grown in new ways. But the grief of losing Kevin is always with us, and we’re always aware of it and its effect on our life. Grief lingers.
Dawn and I were talking recently about how for a while after Kevin died, we could imagine things going back to normal if he were to suddenly be alive again. But now, it doesn’t feel that way. Life has changed enough that it’s harder to recognize the life before. Harder to relate to it. It’s hard to imagine him suddenly being back with us, because things are so different. I’m still very sad that the life with Kevin is gone and only a memory. That’s it’s become so distant already.
But our new life has Ava, and she has brought us so much joy. Now as she nears her first birthday, we see so many things in her that remind us of Kevin. Some of her habits, her looks, her little attitude. She is her own person, but there are glimmers of Kevin in there. When she does something that reminds me of him, it’s like a little flashback memory, and it brings a smile to my face. I also find myself saying some of the same things to her that I did to Kevin, or dancing with her, or playing with her in the same way. Sometimes my mind jumps back to the days when I was doing this with Kevin, and it all seems so familiar again. Sometimes I kind of catch myself by surprise by saying a phrase that I used to associate with him, and it feels weird to say it again.
I still find myself having quick flashes of memories from the day he died, and they still have a big effect on me. Like my stomach sinks and I have the feeling of dread that I did that day. I think back to the moment of telling Emily that her brother had died, and how heartbreaking that was. How the day itself was a nightmare, the days that followed were a blur, and the weeks that followed were numb. Music is always tied closely to memories for me, and there are a lot of songs that are either hard for me to listen to or that bring me back to that time. Hearing the first three notes of "Ordinary Miracle" is enough to put a lump in my throat. Other songs make me think of the days and weeks after he died. But I also have songs that make me remember some of the best times with him, and also the days when we were first in the hospital. I listen to them once in a while, because they bring him back to me in one way or another, and at least make it feel real again.
Life continues to go on day by day in a pretty normal way. But sometimes the memories are a bit stronger, or days come up that put the focus back on life with Kevin or the time around when he died. Those moments are when the feelings and emotions come back strongly and it all becomes real again. Grief lingers, and will for a long time to come.
We still think of Kevin daily and talk about him often. He’s still a part of our family, and we still love and miss the little guy so much.