Fake Plastic Hearts

I’m having a hard time. 
It’s that time of year.
I feel like a broken record. 
In some ways I write about it year over year.
But each year is different and I struggle in different ways. 

This is the year that Paul would have turned 33. He died three months before he would have turned 26. It’s been seven years, but even with the passing of time I feel the depth of the wound. Paul’s birthday is February 14th and that will forever eclipse Valentine’s Day in my mind. This is not a holiday of romance but of remembering, cherishing, and loving those who were close to me but have passed on. Year over year, I feel the list grows. 

I suppose that’s the price of living. The ever growing list of lost loved ones. I can only be grateful that I’ve had those ones to love. 

This year is the first year my best friend, Kimmie, is no longer here. That feeling still knocks the breath out of me when I want to turn around and share something new going on in my life only to realize she’s not there. Last year was the first year I was without Fischer, and even then I felt Kim was only tethered here by a string. I’m still struggling with that feeling of unfairness and anger, knowing fully well by now that it’s part of my process. I’m so tired of grief that comes days it’s easier to be angry at it.

Now I’m in a new town, with a new job, and learning to interact with new people daily. Some of them may find out about these stories of my past and these people that are wholly integrated into my being. But I don’t know if they’ll truly understand the level of grief that still rocks me and shakes my foundation, especially this time of year. 

I was in a meeting at work and they were casually talking about a position for a person that would be able to do rigging, sautering, technology, and act as a jack of all trades. One of the project managers laughed and said, “Great, we’re looking for a person that doesn’t exist.” While that garnered amusement and wry smiles from everyone at the table, including myself, I could also feel a piece of me split off. Paul could have done that. He was that kind of person. 

But he doesn’t exist. 

Just encountering that logical, undeniable phrase in my own head shattered pieces of me; I could feel the pieces of me flying off into outer space screaming in anger, grief, and injustice. I said nothing out loud about my brother. How would it have played any part in the discussion in any productive way? To everyone in the room it might have looked like I was normally taking notes, but internally I had cordoned off the irrational, emotional me beating herself bloody against a wall of my own making because my brother no longer existed.

In many ways, I’m still handling my grief in bite sized pieces and I don’t entirely have control when it decides to present itself. I realize that in itself is exhausting. But I also moved across the country, started a new job, and purchased a home after recently losing my best friend. All the while, I am faced with my dead brother’s birthday that everyone else unknowingly celebrates with fake plastic hearts. When I step back and look at it that way, it’s not entirely surprising that I’m tired, depressed and by the time Saturday morning rolls around my body is insisting maybe I should recover in bed. 

I’ll get through it. 
I don’t know if I’ll ever get over it. 
But I get through it, year over year. I will try to seize the life that I have with joy. 

I know that not everyone will understand.
In my day to day, I doubt that many people even know that this is a struggle I face. 
Every day is a choice to be happy and most days I succeed.

But there is a part of me that is a collected part of them (Paul, Susan, Kimmie, Fischer). If I don’t take the time needed to hold them and acknowledge them I will be overtaken by their insistence to be heard. There is a power in remembering, in mourning, and in honoring those who have come before but it also takes focus and energy.  

I should realize by now that I need to give myself that time and allow myself to spend that energy. Tucked away in a new room, in a new house, in a new town to work a new amazing job. Yet still acknowledge the people that no longer exist but who are all a permanent part of the life I have now. The life that I am more than happy to live because they no longer can. 

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