Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Forty Months of Memories and Missing Leif

Today it has been forty months, three years and four months, since we found Leif dead in his apartment. In some ways we have healed. The deepest, raw grief has passed. We live our lives. We find enjoyment in our family, our travels, our friends and home. But there isn't a day that we don't talk of Leif. Every day there are reminders of him, and reminders that he is not with us.

Grief is like the tides. It subsides and then it rolls back in again. With all the trips we've taken since Leif's death, I've come to see a pattern. Coming home brings the realization that Leif is not here. Driving past the exit to go to his apartment on the way home from the airport or elsewhere in Tampa, walking into the room that was once his bedroom or the one that was his den, seeing all the things he helped put up on our walls, the German cabinet and my office furniture he helped put together, the phones he installed, the flag case, possessions that were once his; each of those brings a flood of memories, most of them happy, but the overall effect is overwhelming sadness that he isn't here. There are the inevitable tears, the questions why that come back to haunt us, the realization again what a hole his death has left in our lives.

Luckily, this depression doesn't last more than a few days. It seems remarkable to me that even forty months after his death we still feel it so deeply, that although we have managed to move forward in our lives, this tragedy continues to extract a toll and always will. I am thankful that family, work, and love get us past the hard times when the tide rushes in.

This time, we came back from a cruise where we went to Cozumel. The last time we were in Cozumel was in 1993 on an NCL cruise with Leif. He loved it so much! Of course we were flooded with memories even while on the cruise, and each day we were talking about how Leif would have loved it, what he was like on that long-ago cruise, how we wished he had been with us. That cruise was one of the highlights of his life, and I'm so glad we were able to give that to him then.

I was moping around when we returned and was so glad when we had company visit us, cousins with a darling four-month-old baby. The day of getting ready for them provided a focus on work and their afternoon visit was joyful and a wonderful distraction that lifted us out of the wash of the tide.

As I have written before, when we are depressed, we don't feel like doing any of the things that will help lift the depression, so it takes either a personal will to make oneself do them or something external that forces it. I've learned that allowing myself to be lethargic and mope is destructive, and I try to make myself get involved in something that needs to be done or a new project. That invariably helps. Sometimes I am not able to do that and I find myself sitting and playing endless rounds of computer games or compulsively checking email and Facebook to try to distract myself without expending any energy. That's another thing I've realized. If I find myself doing that for a couple of days, it's time to get up and make myself work. Work of ANY kind is the best therapy. Not only does it distract me from sadness, I feel better for having accomplished something, crossed something off my endless list of things that either need to be done or projects I want to do.

I love my home. I love that Leif is a part of it, forever. I am grateful he was my son. However, after forty months, I think I see the pattern of my days and I know that it is possible to be happy and sad at the same time. I know that I will continue to experience the tides of grief. And I know that love, my family and friends, and work are the antidote.
The first photo of Leif, Peter W. and me was taken on our 1993 NCL cruise. The second is of the Carnival Legend in the Caribbean in July 2011.

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