It’s hard to put into words what transpires as the dust settles and you try to find a new normal. Each morning when I wake up, the 17 years of normal we had before June are no longer here. Lots of people are asking how we are “settling in” to the new house. I know it’s just a phrase people use when you move, but everything in our life is very unsettled, whether we have moved or not. So, I don’t think “settling in” really accurately describes where we are or what we’re doing. Over the past couple of days, I’ve looked at the new house and all that comes with it as metaphor for what’s going on in our life.
Like any new home, the space is different. We have to plan out where every, little thing belongs, what to keep, and what to give away. We’ve bought furniture, sold and donated SO much, and it still feels like not everything has a proper place. Like this beautiful, new home, our headspace is definitely different. How we react to everyday situations. How we see ourselves. How we see others. How we feel about stories we hear in the news. What’s really worth our stress. Everything feels new and different.
In Noah’s Eulogy, the hubby said, “His death has fundamentally altered the course of the lives of those that loved him.” I don’t think any of us could have possibly imagined just how fundamentally changed we would be after losing our son. It’s like we’ve been given a chance to look at every aspect of our life and ourselves and make conscious decisions about how we want to live going forward. We have absolutely no idea what we’re doing, because it’s all new. Just like we can’t go back to our old house, we can’t have our old reactions back either, even if we wanted them. We’re just different. Right now, we are just concentrating on learning about ourselves, choosing carefully, and making good decisions for our future.
This home is significantly smaller than our last. Our needs have changed. We don’t need a giant house with an expansive yard and room for the boys to wrestle. We don’t need an office for me (because I almost always write from the couch anyway) or one for the hubby, since he rarely works from home. Like this smaller house, I’ve noticed that our “helping circle” is much smaller, too. That’s been a very hard adjustment for me personally. As many of you know, I like to help people. It brings me joy and makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Whether it’s military spouses, friends, coworkers, etc., my helping circle is usually pretty big.
It’s hard to admit when you aren’t the same and when you no longer have the mojo to be all things to all people. I’m learning through this process that I have to first help myself, and then my immediate family, our little circle of trust. Sometimes after the energy it takes the three of us to get through the day, there just isn’t anything left for anyone else. I feel guilty, like I need to be everything for everyone else. I tend to be the fixer, the caregiver, or the mentor. But right now, our small little circle is about all I can handle, and I know we have to focus on healing and learning to live in this new way. We remind each other every day that it’s okay to be in a smaller home and that it’s enough to just comfort each other until we are a little less broken.
This week, we turned over the keys to our last home with Noah. Gut wrenching is probably an understatement. That morning as I waited alone for the carpet cleaners, I had a long conversation with Noah as I sat on the floor of his empty room. It was more of a sob fest, really. But part of saying goodbye to him in that space was turning the page to this next chapter of our life. I’d like to think that he can hear me when I speak to him. This is what I asked:
- Remind each of us every day that we aren’t meant to be the same, that it’s okay to do things differently–to see things differently.
- Help us remember a new normal doesn’t have to be a sad normal all the time.
- Stay with us. Let us feel your presence in our life, everyday.
- Watch over your brother. Keep him safe and help him remember that you are with him, always.
- Help us make good decisions for our family.
I worried that when we moved, I wouldn’t feel Noah here with us. So much so, in fact, that we almost decided to stay in that giant house that was way to big for our family to begin with. But a night or two after we moved into the new house, I saw the most perfect sunset and I knew it was Noah, telling us he was here. The next morning, I woke up to an amazing sunrise outside our front door. He was here again. Like this home, this journey is ours—the Grainger Four—just like it always has been.
I miss him, every day. Gavin and the hubby miss him every day. There isn’t a single part of me that doesn’t wish I had a time machine that could change what happened and bring him back. But Noah is still very much a part of our family and everything we do. That will always be true, whether he is physically here or not.
This journey isn’t about turning back. It’s about moving forward. Most days, that’s incredibly painful, scary, new, and different. But we have to go through it because giving up just isn’t an option in this house.
So, how are we “settling in?” We will never settle. We will just keep finding ways to do amazing things for ourselves and for Noah, even if “amazing” for today is getting out of bed, going to school, or going to work. We’re just learning to live in this new, smaller space, one moment at a time.