Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Both Sides Now

I once wrote about the dichotomy of grieving a child who sits before me and how complex it can be.  There are no two ways about how strange a concept it is. Any attempt to wrap my mind around it ends with all arrows pointing nowhere. Yes, that's how stark and startling this sort of guillotine type drop can feel. One girl - here, then gone...yet not.  

How does one mind comprehend? In one split second - one was lost, yet another gained? Yet, to some degree, there are also various shades of grey in between? In many ways, it gets easier with time, but maybe in some...it never will. Some facts will always remain. A life was lost. Every hope went poof and every carefully woven dream vanished into thin air, but so what. It happens every day, to so many. We were never promised a perfect life. We were given a life, and what we do with that life is our choice. And there lies the beauty.

The beauty of this life is we have choices, and so we choose, and we work vehemently as a family to siphon through and fill those deep, dark, voids to the very best of our ability. It's a process, and it takes time. Sometimes we slide, but that's okay, because somehow, someway - and through the grace of something or someone larger than us...we are always, and I mean always, moving forward!

One of my absolute favorite sayings is, 'there's beauty in the breakdown.' I fully believe this. So even when it appears as though you are moving backward, you are actually always moving forward! As all of  you know, I use writing as my greatest outlet, and in my writing I have had some serious breakdowns, but in those - I have made some of my best and biggest strides forward. To me, there's some true hidden beauty within the cracks, breaks and wreckage.

My friend in brain injury, Trina, left a comment after my previous Stuff and Nonsense post. I thought I was being clear about how even though we have accepted Aviana for who she is, we still grieve, but I guess clear as mud might have been a better way of putting it ; )  I wanted to clarifying my thoughts on the two, which will take longer than this one post. For now though...

For Trina, it has been 16 years since her daughter's accident and she said, "Sometimes I really wonder if I've ever reached that place with Audriana. Sometimes I think I must have, since life is so happy for me...but then there are other times when the accident memories and all that goes with her brain injury hits me like a freight train, and just takes me OUT completely. Luckily, those moments don't happen as often as they used to."

I have a lot more to say about the acceptance aspect of this journey, but I'd like to save it for another time. As for the grief part, as much as we have come to terms with loving Aviana for who she now is...to some degree, we will always grieve for the one we lost that day, and the one who will never be. We try hard to not spend much time in either of those two places - past and especially future, but sometimes - they have their way with you, whether you like it or not. Freight train, up-side the head, down moments, days? My question is...how could we not? Look at what we lost. Look at her now. I think we do an incredible job, considering.

So when grief calls, I answer. For the most part, I know what the phone call is all about. I now know these calls don't come as frequently or last as long, so I talk. I let it flow. I get it all out. Then, I can move forward...better, and until the next time, as I know there will always be a next time. And you know, I guess I'm okay with that.

I will always carry this dichotomy, this push-pull. A constant stir of conflicting emotions...this disunion will forever live within me. I used to fight it. I have finally given in, because as many times as I've asked for it to leave - it has not. So...I have accepted it as something I must learn to live with, to make peace with, and find a place for. 

What I'm going to say might sound strange to those who are not in our situation, or even who are - I don't know...it doesn't matter. This is how I feel. I tell you, this situation is tough, when you had a healthy child, and then your child was in an accident but didn't die, but is now like Aviana....

I've learned a few things - there's a fine line in loving and honoring the child you had before. In sometimes talking about the cute, sweet things she used to do. In having some pictures of her up around the house. In posting her pictures every once in a while. In writing a funny story about her. In keeping her memory alive, because she is gone. For those who have lived and are gone - those who remain, never want anyone to forget they were here, as they were so special!! And boy was she! 

I've also learned there's a fine line in not talking about her, or thinking of the old her, and to keep all those old pictures and videos stashed away as they only stab like daggers! And there you have it; push-pull, happy, sad, up, down, the constant conflict which rages on...at its finest. It can make you feel a little loopy if you let it, so it's best not to.

We've learned though how important it is to place our focus on our new girl. But if I'm being honest, that can be a challenge in itself, because the present reality isn't so rosy at times. But, we try to stay focused on the positives, or at least only pay attention to the negatives when we have to, like when they require something. Otherwise, it's best to ignore or numb them out. As time has passed it's gotten much easier. It's hard to believe sometimes, but we've had her 'like this' a lot longer than 'like that.'

Not too long ago, I looked around and realized our pictures were - for the most part - the old her. Not on purpose, just because we hadn't gotten around to changing them. They were also from way before Aviana arrived! Something suddenly needed to change, and fast!

I had no idea the amount of work (physically, mentally, and emotionally) this would involve. Thankfully it's all done.

It's amazing how much the energy of one house can change by merely painting some walls, and changing out some pictures!

Here's a snapshot of a few from around the house.




  1. Frequency, intensity and duration. That's how my therapist describes grief and learning to live with it. There's no "getting through" it, it is always there and time does NOT heal but hopefully in time the frequency of the head on collisions with grief will lessen, the intensity of how strong they are will lessen and the duration of how long it lasts will lessen. Well, that's what he SAYS anyway :) I do believe it is true to some extent.


    Family pictures. Ugh!!!! I've realize the same thing. The only photos I change and update are the kids' school pictures, all the rest of them (and I have a lot) are frozen in time. The kids don't age, holidays don't progress and sissy is still in them. I just can't bring myself to put up a new "family photo" that doesn't include her. I've wondered if I will ever update them or if my family photos will somehow become covered in emotional cobwebs, unable to move forward, photographic proof of what our lives were BEFORE and never showcasing the AFTER.

    I don't know. If there does come a time for that I'm sure as hell not there yet.

    I can't begin to imagine how you live with the back and forth.I can't imagine how you do it.

    Other than you just DO.

    You are the strongest family I know. You are the kindest family I know. You are the smart assed family I know :) I love you all! (That was something Trina would say after she drank too much, "I love all of you!" so I think of her whenever I say some sort of version of it.)

    I love you.

    Plan a road trip up this way.

    No, wait, I'm craving In-N-Out, mom and I will do a roadtrip to you, haha.

    1. My mom and I both love what you wrote...so much!! So true!

      I completely understand what you are saying about your family photos. How can you ever REPLACE them, that would seem like you are erasing Sissy, and that would HURT too badly. It seems as though maybe you might someday be able to add some? I feel terrible in saying that, but just as a suggestion, but never replacing.

      Yes!! As you know so well....you just DO!! We - you and me - we just DO : )

      I would so love to hear Trina say, "I love you all!" For some reason I picture it Will Ferrell-ish? I LOVE YOU ALL! HA HA. With a glass raised. I LOVE YOU ALL. And then quieter with the glass down, head kind of down...I love you all....

      I love you. Thank you for all the sweet-ass compliments. Now get your butt out here and I will buy you all the In-N-Out you want : )

  2. I just wrote something about being "okay."

    I struggle with putting up any pictures of The old Christian. I almost feel like it disrespects what "is" and the Christian that is here with us now. I know that is sort of irrational but I used to feel like I wasn't properly accepting C.

    I love that song, "Beauty in the Breakdown." One if my early grieving songs.

  3. Grief, the great equalizer. It is no respecter of persons. Rich,poor, educated or a struggling third wold country, we all will experience it sometime in our life. Some much more than others. I don't even try to understand or figure out why or who has more than seems humanly possible. This is what I know to be true in my life. God is there he is aware and he will and does send angels to comfort . Grief for me is an ever changing process. Good, bad and a lot of times just plain ugly. It is amazing how much patience grief has taught me, with myself and most especially with the world around me. I'm learning to lean in, accepting the ebb and flow of the grief journey. How we live our journey is what defines us. At the end of our mortal lives begins our eternal journey. Life is hard, so so hard but it is also good, so so good. Worth it all, ABSOLUTLEY!

    1. I love your comments Donna. I just do. You are right. An ever changing process. Good, bad and a lot of times just plain ugly. I agree with you when you say to lean in and just accept the ebb and flow of the grief journey. I too have learned it is so much easier that way. I used to fight it and boy does that not work, because it slaps you back...at least twice as hard!! Grief!! How dare you ; )

      Thank you so much for being here. I learn so much from you, and always look forward to what you have to say!

  4. Thanks for trying to help us understand. What you write makes perfect sense, Jen. I too think you and Dave do an amazing job of balancing between the "old and the new". Your story is tragic...and yet triumphant, as you honor the person Aviana is now through your words and actions. She is still very much a person to be respected, loved, honored, and valued. I've always known that to be true about any human life. But reading your blog has really put a face to that fact. I'm sure you never dreamed nor wished yourselves to become a testimony to the value of every human life. But your family, your Aviana speaks that truth beautifully and courageously.
    Nancy in the Midwest

    1. I wish I knew you in real life Nancy. I know I would just love you. I know you have one of the kindest, gentlest souls. So many people look right past Aviana, or right through her...like she is nonexistent, a wallflower. I know it is not with any ill will, but out of forgetfulness or discomfort. Sadly, I often refer to her in my mind, and to close family and friends as The Invisible Child. I can tell that you have the great gift of SEEING people, all people.

      I hope you know I have always appreciated you. Thank you so very much for everything you say. I will never be able to really express how much your words mean to me...ever.

  5. I really enjoyed looking at your pictures. You did a great job! Love you!

  6. This dichotomy is something I've thought about since I met you. I think about it ...a...LOT! I think you manage your feelings far better than I would and because of this, you're an example to me and I'm sure a lot of other readers.

    I'm so glad I know you, but I think if this accident had never happened, I wouldn't. I wish I had known the old Avci, but I love this Avi beyond my ability to articulate. I just love you guys!


    1. Thank you Dixie...I always love when I can talk to you about all of this. You really help me to sort through, and get it all out. Thank you for being my sound board...