The Pain of Loss
I found a post on Instagram yesterday that said "I want my home to be a safe haven, a place where we can connect and feel loved. I want it to be comfortable and beautiful, a place where rest is valued."
Four and a half years ago, David and I came to Michigan with 11 month old Bina and our two dogs. I thought I was returning to a safe haven, a place where we could connect with and feel loved by the family we moved to be near. I imagined summers up at my dad's lake house with the dogs enjoying the best Michigan has to offer, comfort and beauty and rest. I thought. I imagined. I was wrong. We bought our home here thinking it may be our forever home. It wasn't. We settled on four bedrooms thinking we may have three kids. We won't. We chose the square footage we chose thinking we would use it all. We don't.
As our time in Michigan draws to a close, I find myself grieving anew. Grieving the loss of all we have built here. The home we have made ours, the community we cherish. And also grieving the living. A concept I have become familiar with since last December. Grieving those who are still alive, but dead to me. There is just so much loss I never dreamed of when we first arrived on Mother's Day 2016. In this post I am not going to turn around and balance the losses with the gains. I am solely honoring the losses. If it feels heavy, it should. I am holding space for the weight, the pain of loss.
Since we made the decision to leave in late July, I have been working my ass off preparing our home to list and to sell. I have battled insomnia, neglected to eat, been short tempered. Turns out it is stressful as hell to buy and sell and move across the country in the midst of a pandemic with two small people and two dogs. Selling on Facebook Marketplace, packing and staging. These things kept me busy, my mind occupied, and wore me down. Since we listed our house on August 6, we have been under contract twice. Our first buyers withdrew, we were back under contract two days later with a better offer, and we are now cruising to close with our second buyers. Over the weeks we have decided what to bring with us, what to sell, and what to donate.
On Friday a friend of mine came to haul away our play structure. Juniper is about the age Bina was when we found it secondhand and moved it to our backyard. We ended up not using our backyard as much as we anticipated. When we did, that play structure was well loved. Recently Juniper took to climbing the ladder and flying down the slide going feet first on her belly. Up and down and up and down she would go. Seeing the vacant spot in our backyard where that play structure used to stand is heartbreaking for me. Pieces of our lives moving on, leaving patches of dead grass where they used to be anchored. A reminder of what I thought would be, but isn't.
On Thursday morning I met with four other moms and their kiddos from the Wild and Free group that I started with a friend over the summer. We have been doing a book club remotely and this was our first in person meeting. We gathered at Heritage Park in Farmington and enjoyed the trails for kids behind the nature center. I absolutely loved it. I mourned that I would not be continuing with this group. For the first time since we decided to move, I had a twinge of: are we making the right decision? Grief. Loss.
On Wednesday night my Friday Morning Mamas group threw me a surprise farewell party. One of the moms hosted at her house and we ate at picnic tables in her backyard and talked and laughed and enjoyed each other's company. Then we moved farther into her yard for a bonfire. This group started a year and a half ago with just two of us and has grown to 13. I love this group. It is the mama community I wanted, 13 mamas with different experiences and different ways of doing things, all coming together sharing in this motherhood journey. We honor and support each other, loving and serving and holding space. Laughs and tears, joys and sorrows. There is room for all of it. The mamas made me a photo book of photos from our group meetings and pooled together to give me a $200 gift card to Amazon. I am so proud of this group and so honored to have been a part of it through the last year and a half and through the struggle of motherhood during a pandemic. Several of the moms expressed they don't know what they would have done without it. I feel the same. And I grieve the loss of this group, that I won't be able to be in person for our Friday meet ups or for mamas nights anymore. That I won't be able to see all the babes continue to grow, or hug their mamas. I grieve this loss.
Yesterday our sweet neighbors two doors down watched our girls for five hours while David and I furiously packed and packed and packed some more. I expected Juniper to last one hour and then need a nap, or at least to nurse. One hour passed. Then two. Three. Four. Five. Our neighbors sent me and David photos and videos of our littles having fun with their littles. Their home is the place my two girls feel most comfortable outside of our home. They shared how Bina talked up a storm, and Juni only cried a tiny bit once when she banged her face on a window frame. When David and I came to pick up the girls, they were happily playing. These same neighbors are hosting a neighbor farewell family dinner in their backyard late this afternoon. We love them and cherish their friendship. We have been so fortunate to have so many kind and loving neighbors, and three young families we have grown close with during our time here. We will miss them terribly. I thought we would be watching our children grow together, but we will not. At least not in person. I grieve this loss.
As the temperature cools off and the leaves begin to turn, I am reminded of winter to come. There were three straight days of cool temperatures and constant cloud cover this week. Since last December and then the shutdown because of COVID in March and April, I have approached this coming winter with dread. I couldn't see us here this fall. I started to be able to with the formation of the Wild and Free group and our plans for outdoor meetings for this kids to play and explore. But no longer. The season that was my favorite, fall, now just gives me anxiety anticipating the cold and being shut up in my house for months on end. I grieve that what once brought me joy now signals impending death. The pain of loss.
It's strange to feel like my home state represents death to me. The death of the life I thought would be, but isn't. Something I honestly started grappling with even in our first weeks here. The juxtaposition of the life we experienced with our friends, our neighbors, our community. So alive and full of kindness, love, and support. I grieve the loss of this beautiful life we were building here that couldn't exist separate from the family we moved here for, separate from the grieving of the living. As long as we are here, both realities exist. And so we have chosen to leave. To grieve all of it. We lose both the healthy and the toxic.
This loss is complex, layered, complicated. I don't want to process it. I don't want to feel it. I just want to fast forward six months and be settled into our new home back in Austin with the community we built there. I have been grieving hard for the last nine months. I am ready to be done. No more grief, no more loss. But that is not how it works. And as much as I don't want to process or feel, I know I must if I want to pursue emotional health for myself and for my children. So I am doing the hard work and army crawling through these hours, days, weeks, months. I am holding space for all of my feelings. I am honoring myself. It is hard. It is messy. And that is okay. The pain of loss is real and I am allowing myself to feel it.