I have come to realize that Fall brings months of heaviness for me. And I love Fall — it is my favorite season. The change in color, the big sweaters, the warm drinks all feed a homebody like me who wants nothing more than to curl up by the fire with a book.
But ever since losing Nelle in September of 2015, Fall now brings a lot of anticipation.
There is September 3rd, the day that we found out that she had died, and September 4th, the day that she was born. It was Labor Day weekend that year, so now that weekend always is held as "the weekend she died" no matter what days it covers. A few weeks later is Theo's birthday, and I always wrestle with the memories of 2015 when I had to celebrate one child while mourning another. October brings Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness month, culminating in the SHARE Walk to Remember in which I participate, and October 15th, more specifically Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Day. My birthday follows a few days later and now with each passing year I feel like I have aged more quickly than ever.
The beginning of November ushers in All Souls Day. Every year I have attended the Catholic mass for the holy day. I do not consider myself Catholic anymore, though I was raised that way, but there is something about that particular day. Everyone is gathered for the same reason: to honor the souls who have left the earth and to pray for them in the afterlife, and ask them to watch over us. Every year, a candle is given to everyone in attendance and I have my candles from 2015, with Nelle's name on it, and 2016 and 2017 with the names of both Nelle and Iris.
This year, Ger surprised me and told me that he wanted to go to the All Souls Day mass. Since a 7:30 start time meant that taking the kids was out of the question, it meant that he would go instead of me. I had to think about how I felt about that – that I would not be there, after having made a tradition of it for myself, but I wanted him to have the opportunity since he so rarely is forthcoming about anything related to the girls. I told him that my only requirement was to make sure he brought home the candle with their names on it.
Ger commented that we do not celebrate death in this country. We saw the movie Coco and how the Mexican culture honors their dead, and I acknowledged that yes, we do not celebrate the dead in this country the way that other cultures do. It's really a shame. I hoped that going to the mass for him could be seen as a celebration.
The evening arrived, and it was a day that Ger was on edge. I can tell when he is feeling a lot of anxiety and so as the time arrived when he needed to leave, I asked "Are you sure that you are going to be ok going – that it isn't going to be too much?" As a response to my question, he snapped. No longer wanted to go.
I looked at the clock, knowing that I could leave at that moment and still make it to the mass. Or I could stay with my husband and talk to him about what was bothering him. I weighed giving that evening to my daughters, or giving that evening to my marriage. I chose my marriage. I would have done the same even if it were an event involving my living children. Sometimes there are moments when the focus has to be on the two of us, and not our kids. And we had a good conversation - he is starting to recognize and acknowledge what makes him feel anxious and sets him on edge. I didn't regret that as a family we missed the celebration of All Souls this year.
Now moving into November, it feels like winter is descending. The days are crisper and the night hours are long. I head directly from the months of weight and anticipation into the whirlwind that is the holidays, when I hardly have time to catch my breath. This transition has been hard for me this year. There has been sickness circulating in our house, and currently I am impacted. I can feel the strain in my shoulders, the fever in my face, and the nausea in my stomach.
Of course I can attribute it to one of the kids bringing home a virus from school, but as I look back on the past several weeks I wonder... have I just worn myself out? It seems to always happen this time of year. Revisiting grief and going through that cycle of Fall bears down on me and I'm so tired.