A few days ago I posted this thing about grieving, and how it's a process, and it takes time, and it takes longer for some people than for others. I think that when I posted it a lot of people probably thought I was having a hard time, or that I was having a bad day, or that I missed Roo. The latter is true - I always miss her. But if I'm honest, I'm really pretty much okay most of the time. My biggest obstacle, the thing that I couldn't seem to get past in the grieving process, was Roo's stuff.
A few months after placement I spent hours washing and folding and putting away all of my Roo things. I got these plastic storage boxes at Target and I filled and labeled each box carefully - bedding, toys, Onesies and sleepers, clothes. Everything was neatly sorted and stacked and packed and when I latched the last box, I was immensely proud of myself. I stacked the boxes in the corner of my room where Roo's crib once was and considered it a job well done.
I likewise disassembled and packed up the port-a-crib and the swing, and boxed the diaper pail. And they, too, were tucked into a corner, ready for storage. It was hard, taking things apart with none of the hope and excitement I'd had when I put them together. But I made myself do it, and I did it, and I was proud of the strength I'd had to box up these reminders of Roo.
But the boxes sat there, and sat there, and sat there, collecting dust and filling a space I wasn't ready to have empty yet. I couldn't see through the boxes, but I knew what was in them, and it gave me a measure of comfort to know that all of my Roo things were still there with me, in my room. They were a reminder that there used to be a baby here - my baby. And I simply wasn't ready to let that go yet.
Last Monday, the 19th, I decided I was as ready as I was going to get. I moved a few stray boxes in the garage and cleared out the space where my dad's workbench used to be, the designated spot for all of my baby things. The crib, bubble-wrapped and carefully sealed up, was already against the wall. One by one I lugged the purple plastic boxes down the stairs, through the kitchen and the laundry room and into the garage. I hefted the cardboard boxes that held the swing, pail, and port-a-crib, too. It took a little shuffling and shifting but I got everything just so in the garage, with the crib mattress on top of the stacks of boxes. And then I stopped and stared for a moment. It was as though the nine weeks I had with Roo were packed away, too. Every reminder I had of her was boxed up, labeled, and stacked.
I went back upstairs to my room, my now completely Roo-less room. The room felt very empty. I thought I'd feel empty, too.
I didn't. Much to my surprise, I did not feel empty.
I cried, of course, because that's how I usually handle things. But I didn't feel empty. I felt kind of sad, wistful, nostalgic ... but not empty. The house was finally clear. I say finally because I know that people who came to visit were wondering what my problem was when they saw the disassembled crib parts stacked against the living room wall. Because I know my mother wondered if I was going to keep the plastic boxes in my room forever - her suggestions that I move them became less gentle suggestion and more baffled recommendation as time passed.
But the point I was making when I blathered about grief is this: I boxed things up when I was good and ready. Not before, to please others, but when I felt like I could finally let go. Some would argue that the length of time I let these things bog me down was/is ridiculous, incomprehensible, and unhealthy. I'm not even going to say how long it took before my mother and I got that crib out of the living room, wrapped and boxed up. But it got done, and it was hard, but it felt good.
A few days ago, I missed Roo, but I really felt okay about it, about missing her. It was the first time that has ever happened to me - a pretty big step in my book. I feel like getting things put away helped me get there. But the point I want to make, that I wanted to make before, is, I was ready.
You can't push the grieving process, even if it compromises the design aesthetic of your living room or takes up space in your bedroom or the hallway. You've got to let it happen more organically. It's okay for things to take time!
The reminders of Roo may be out of sight, but I realized when I stood in my room that day that those aren't all I have of her. Every room in the house reminds me of her because she was here. And if the house were to disappear, I'd still have her in my heart. So my Roo things are boxed away. If I need to revisit them, I can open a box.
And if I need more, I've only got to close my eyes and remember.