Tuesday, July 27, 2010


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.


LeMira said...


I really love this post. I know it's not an analogy, but I really appreciated your statement about boxing things up and moving on when you were ready and that you can revisit them anytime that you need to. This is exactly how I feel sometimes.

Lia - not Juno said...

I'm really proud of you - not only for putting the boxes away, I suppose, but for being comfortable in the timing in which you did it. I like reading your blog, because your life is sort of how I envision mine being, if I'm lucky. Unbearably hard at first, and filled with grief for a very very long time (if always), but manageable, with a light at the end.

Anyway, congratulations on a day well lived.

AubreyMo said...

I love this post and how you handled it and touched on what you meant in your post about grieving. Grief can't be rushed and it can't be determined by someone else as a set time that you should be "over it". And keeping stuff out that reminds you of a person you love? What's wrong with that? Yes. In the end it is "just STUFF". It's an inanimate object. But people need to understand it's not the thing we really care about, it's the memory behind it.

You may like this post. http://www.califmom.com/califmom/2010/07/comparing-pain-are-you-grieving-wrong.html

Anonymous said...

Hi Jill. Just wondering, I read that Roo is just a nickname, but did her adoptive parents keep the real name you gave to her, or did they change it?

Jill Elizabeth said...

They kept her name. I sort of insisted, but it was a name they really liked anyway so it all worked out well.

MarcyKay said...

I am so glad I stumbled across your blog =) I'm a birthmom too. Do you have your adoption story posted somewhere I can read? Or is just amongst the posts? I'll have to come back and read up.

You are so right about not being able to push the grieving process. It is something we all have to go through at our own pace. I am happy for you that you were able to box her things up. I still choke up when I come across my little Olivia's box of things, and it's been 3 years and its a very open adoption =)

April Morgan McCoy "Auntie April" said...

Great post. I remember when I finally put the last of Joseph's pictures away years later. What a day that was. Everybody in their own time. There is no set time. You are an amazing person!

Jen said...

I shouldn't read your blog at work. It always makes me cry! This reminds me a little of my placement day, when Wendy and Tyler came to pick up Isabelle, and I spent a long time just holding her and letting the (very awkward) conversation limp on... and my mom leaned over to my case worker and said "How long do we let this go?" And my case worker said immediately "As long as she needs." You can't rush these things. And that was just the very first step.