I've been writing daily as a way to put my grief to work. I get weekly writing prompts from author Megan Devine of Refuge in Grief. Today's was about the prickly concept of recovery. There are a few pieces of my writing in the "writing my grief" section of the website, if you'd like to read more.
Signs of Recovery
Rader William Ward, June 13, 2001-June 7, 2017
The first anniversary of Rader's death, soon followed by his 17th birthday, passed much as I imagined they would, and maybe not so much as others suggested. Grief is unpredictable, but I found I responded the way I expected to: I was not significantly more bereft than any other day; all days are at least tinged with sadness. What I was surprised by was how energized I felt in the days leading up to those bitter dates. There were two ongoing tasks in particular—one I chose for myself and one was thrust upon me—that kept my mind and body occupied, so there was little room for rumination.
First, I made up my mind in mid-May that I would start working daily on the Rader Ward Foundation website. I had begun work on it months ago, but at the time found it to be far enough outside my skill set that it provoked a lot of frustration, and I avoided it to avoid the feelings that working on it gave me. But when I decided in May I wanted to debut it on the June 7 anniversary of his death, and therefore I should open it up and do at least some small thing every day, it gave me a positive direction in which to concentrate the emotional energy that was building up in anticipation—or dread—of that day. And I discovered that when I worked on it every day, I understood what I was doing. I didn't have to try to remember how I accomplished something after a several-week gap of attending to it. The tools grew familiar with use. I learned the limitations of Squarespace and myself, and how to work around them. The site is still a work in progress, but I picked a state at which it would be "complete enough" to publicly announce, and worked steadily toward that state.
The second task came on like a flood, literally. We spent Memorial Day weekend at our mountain cabin. After a couple weeks of unusually intense rain (for an area that's already classified as a temperate rain forest), we were dismayed but not entirely surprised to find water coming into our kitchen at the foundation on Saturday night. My husband and I started soaking it up with towels, and as the rain stopped for the night, so did the water intrusion. Sunday's weather was nice, and we did what we could outside the home to clear drains and gutters and make sure incoming water was being directed away from the house. At that point, everything was OK even with a little rain coming down. But tropical storm Alberto was looming. So my husband and daughter returned home, as he had to go back to work Tuesday, and I stayed up in the mountains to handle whatever Alberto had in mind.
The storm was relentless. The ground was so saturated from the earlier rains, that once the storm arrived, the drains and gutters we had tended to were quickly overwhelmed. The water started coming into the house again in earnest, and by Wednesday night, I was barely keeping pace with it. As soon as I could get a load of towels through the dryer, I needed them again on the floor. I slept, fitfully, in between. Finally Thursday mid-morning the storm passed, and I was able to rest at last. Once I was awake again, in the light of day, it was clear the flooring was going to have to come up. So I set to work with my pry bars and contractor trash bags, and pulled up the old engineered hardwood that had been glued to the slab. Thankfully time or moisture or both had loosened the glue bond, and the work wasn't as hard as it could have been. But that and related clean-up work kept me busy in the mountains a week longer than I had planned to stay.
I returned home—to what passes now for my regular life—just four days before the anniversary. There was still more work to do on the website, and so having that goal kept me focused on accomplishing it, rather than on myself and my feelings, and my feelings *about* my feelings, and all the rest of that spiral it's so easy to get pulled into. Signs of recovery? I don't know about that. But in these weeks surrounding the one-year mark of Rader's death, I've created and I've demolished. And I'm proud of both.