Two weeks ago we passed the two month mark since Eli’s passing. It feels like yesterday and forever ago all at once.
Christmas was magical. Thanks to very generous organizations and anonymous elves, we were able to customize their gifts to build their talents and sibling relationships. You know who you are and we are grateful beyond words. This was exactly what we needed as we began our transition to life without Eli. He had written us a Christmas card. His sweet, loving words are something I get to look forward to for now.
Have you seen Inside Out? It’s a Pixar film about a girl and her family who move to a new town across the country from the point of view of the emotions inside her head. One of the messages of the movie is that joy and sadness can coincide peacefully. The screenwriters of that film must know a little bit about grief.
My grieving didn’t start when Eli died. It didn’t start the day we found Eli’s right lung had collapsed and that he had weeks or 1-2 months to live. It didn’t start when, weeks after scans showed no evidence of disease, following a temporarily successful relapse treatment, his cancer was back with a vengeance. Grieving didn’t begin when the first relapse treatment stopped working. Grief wasn’t new when we learned for the first time that the cancer was back with no curative treatment options. I first started grieving for Eli when he was in room 26 in the emergency department over three years ago, Halloween week, when we were first introduced to the possibility of cancer.
Eli was inpatient on Halloween, following the biopsy which confirmed the cancer diagnosis. That day, all care providers at the hospital were dressed up in costumes. The team of doctors who made their rounds to Eli’s room that morning were dressed up as characters from Inside Out, including Joy & Sadness. These emotions have tinged every moment of the time I spent with Eli since that day. I grieved the future of a healthy, normal life that, if he lived, would be forever altered by the cancer treatments. I grieved the possibility of his dying. I grieved every step along the way.
Now, that grief and sadness is just a part of my life, beneath the surface, bubbling up from time to time, off and on, connected to memories, happy and sad. Before Eli’s death, I didn’t know what life would be like afterward. It’s both easier and harder than I guessed. It’s peaceful, gentle, and joyful, but gut wrenching, soul scorching, and pain ridden. When it comes down to it, though, life is what I make of it. I’m seeking to make new routines and find what works now.
Since November, our household has gone from ten people to seven. A daughter returned to college, a son went on a church mission, and Eli moved on to heaven. It’s a lot to get used to, but I’m moving forward with hope to the next chapter in my life.
Some of Eli’s siblings are finding that writing about their emotions and experiences help them through the grieving process. We will share some of what they have written with you in future posts.