I said goodbye to Toys r Us today. Very deliberately, I walked around the nearly empty store and cried silent tears. That wasn’t my plan when I walked in the doors. I was just looking for deals. But as soon as I got inside I was filled with emotions and memories. Exactly one year after Shah arrived in the US we found ourselves at Toys r Us registering for baby things. It was the first time a lot of things about having a baby became real for us and we were so excited. We later returned duplicate presents and bought Zoya’s bed and another time bought Christmas presents for all the nieces and nephews. He picked out each one with such care. Both at Christmas and for Zoya’s first birthday just weeks before he was killed, we took her to Toys r Us and pushed her around to see what grabbed her attention. For her birthday, they got there before I did and he said when she saw a particular elephant she got very excited so he already had that picked out for her gift.
There was something about the reality of him being in that space, in a space that I have such strong memories of him and few memories without him, that made me remember how real and present he was and what an empty place he has left in our lives.
I walked around and tried to internalize the connection. With every grief triggering change I tell myself that he will be no farther away after the change, and that I can preserve the memory even after the change.
I’ve done this over and over again as I’ve given things away. I had to stop and remember he would be no closer or further away when I gave away his wedding suit and the memories will stay the same with or without it. With things I could control I’ve waited to be at that point to make the change. I’ve waited til changing the thing would not weaken my memory. I got a new bedspread today, but I’ve not moved a thing of his from the shelf in our medicine cabinet and his shampoo is still in the shower. I’ll deal with those things when it is time.
You never know what will trigger grief. It is usually firsts, but not always. The first time at the grocery store I was a mess. Grocery shopping was kinda like a date for us. It was something fun we liked to do together. It no longer brings tears, even though none of the joy has returned. It’s now just a thing I do.
Everything was a trigger at first because everything was a first. His death and absence had to be introduced to each new thing. His laundry, the lawn mower, the spring flowers, pomegranates, his tea, his cup… it could all trigger grief.
As time passes the things that trigger tears become fewer and fewer and you miss them because it is those things that remind you how very real and wonderful he was.
Instead the sharp memories that trigger tears become replaced by a sad emptiness. Few things in my house trigger strong memories right now. It’s just emptiness and lack of happiness, not unlike my visits to the grocery store.
The problem is, while it’s okay not to be happy at the grocery store, but you want your home to be a happy place that is full of joy, not empty.
One thing I’ve realized recently is I’m generally good when I’m out and about, but at home the temptation to distract from the emptiness can be overwhelming. It’s hard to rebuild a full home when 1/3 of your family and 1/2 of yourself is gone. It can be easier to try to ignore it. If I’m binge watching TV my brain is in the same numb place it would be if he were beside me. No better and no worse.
Grief has so many stages and seasons. This is my season to put down the distractions, and let God heal and rebuild my life. It’s going to take triggering a lot more tears but I’m willing.
I’ll make changes as it is time. Honestly, if it were in my control I’d wait a little longer to let go of Toys r Us, and I might go by there one more time in the next 10 days to remember one more smile of anticipation.
I’ve become more and more aware of how many are grieving at different stages and in different ways. To all you who have reached out to encourage me, thank you. I don’t always have the energy to engage directly, but each comment means so much.