Take your days…

Before Izzy left, I’d heard the phrase, “Throw yourself into your work.” Of course, I had, but it was in books and movies where the mom was a mess and the dad “threw himself into his work.” But I didn’t know that experience of flinging oneself into a project in order to keep your mind occupied and away from drowning in grief was really a thing.

When I write a novel, that phenomena is always in play to a certain extent anyway. I become focused on the world, the words, the characters… My brain is wholly occupied by the story. Now, in the After, writing isn’t only my career, it’s become a survival mechanism.

When someone you love dies, and especially if that someone is your 10-year-old daughter, the first order of business is survival. To put as many days between yourself and the loss, so that one day, you wake up from your shock and three months have gone by. (That’s how long the actual shock lasted; three months. I still went to book signings, went out in public, etc, because–I realize now–I was in a mild state of shock that where the underlying principle was KEEP GOING, NOTHING TO SEE HERE )

And survival is the order of the day. When Izzy first left I wanted to go with her. That morphed into “Well, this is fucking awful but thank god I’ll be dead soon.” Which became, “I’ll be dead soon, but in the meanwhile, I need to do something with this life to make her proud and make sure Talia’s life is beautiful.” That further morphed into “Make something of this life for Izzy, for Talia, and for yourself” (though on really bad days, the idea that I won’t be here without her forever is still a huge comfort.)

So if I were to tell someone who has newly been put into my position a piece of advice, it would be to get through the days. That’s it. That’s your entire job. And I would sincerely hope that there is a support system in place to allow you to do that. And if not, you can throw yourself into your work.

Writing a novel, or going to a book signing, or traveling is me throwing myself into my work. I am fully capable of signing books and smiling and having dinner and functioning like a ‘normal’ human being, (with the occasional bursts of sudden tears, like sudden squalls). But there is a catch. Without fail, the signing ends, the book is out, the trip is over, and every bit of the pain I wasn’t allowing my brain to dwell on, comes roaring back and there’s a crash. Usually a bad one, though they have improved over time. My mind is able to compartmentalize like a mofo, so that many people would have never have guessed, even in the early months, that I was a newly grieving mom.

That, as you can imagine, led me to endless months of me questioning myself as said mom. How can I be this okay? How can I travel? How can I write a book? Write a book? How can I get out of bed? What the fuck is wrong with me?

For MONTHS I struggled with this on a daily basis, and now I do when I’m in the throes of work. I question how, despite the compartmentalization, I’m this okay. It has taken me long months for the graces and serendipities of this experience, the signs from Izzy, the plan that is clearly in place, to sink in as being real and not just an amazing story of coincidences.

But moreover, I learned to take my days.

I learned that no matter how “okay” I feel, the bad shit is coming. It’s still there. Being in the throes of my work–and being legitimately excited about it; being authentically happy to talk to my readers is not the same thing as not caring that Izzy is gone. This seems like a simple concept, but when the chasm of loss is so deep and so wide as the loss of a child, it is very easy to question one’s sanity in every aspect.

There is covering up and not facing things, of course. That’s another tightrope to walk, and no, I have not watched a video of Izzy taken recently or close to when she passed in more than a year. So there’s that. But there is something to be said for surviving by any means necessary. When a thought that I’m “too okay” comes, especially during this last novel cycle, I remind myself to “take my days.” Take the good days and run. Have them. Be in them. Because the crash is coming. The grief is going nowhere. The ways in which to manage it, and growing the time between her death and now are the only variables.

And by taking my good days and not staining them with guilt, when the bad days come, I am a little stronger than I was before. I put a little more space between the agony of her departure and today. None of that closes the chasm, but adds another plank on the rickety bridge across it.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Courtney says:

    With every post you write, you make me stop and open my eyes a little more.
    You make me realize that each day is precious and to stop worrying over what we can’t control.

    Thank you for continuously sharing your thoughts and giving us advice on how to enjoy life on a daily basis.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. JR says:

      If it helps at all, then I’m so happy.

      Like

  2. Beware Of The Reader says:

    And Emma in all of this, Izzy would never have made you feel guilty to have some good days. She would have told you to “grab happy and run away with it” like Darlene said in your books. And when the days are bad days, also bask in it as grief is a complicated beast and you can’t have only bad days the same you can’t have only good days. You existed before Izzy and you exist after Izzy, even if I don’t like to talk about an “after” as to me, she is still present as her presence was so strong an luminous. Losing a child will never be in the “normal order” of life but when it happens, the only thing you can do is take one day at a time, honor them and live your life to make them proud.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. JR says:

      She definitely would roll her eyes at me feeling guilty lol. But sometimes the enormity of the loss is so huge that I can’t even understand it on a rational level. Like, I either dive in or I skirt around it. The middle ground is few and far between.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. brenda romconfan says:

    You are amazing and I understand how Izzy’s memory don’t just get hung in the closet with the black dress with the acceptable neck line. We are always here for you as you catch your breathe during the crash take care of yourself. Lots of love

    Like

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