I almost cried in the grocery store today. It wouldn’t be the first time, but this time it took me off guard. I wasn’t even thinking of anything sad. I wasn’t imagining if Ginny was with me. I was just shopping, and it hit me. Suddenly my mind was taken back to my living room late February 2019; suddenly my heart churned. Why? I looked around. I realized I was walking past the fresh flowers. Ahhh that explains it. The smell of fresh flowers triggered that feeling. We had 9 fresh flower bouquets around our living room the days following Ginny’s death. The bouquets were given to us from friends and family all over the country who care for us and Ginny. Now the smell of fresh flowers can instantly bring me back to that time. It’s not a bad thing. I like having such emotional reminders; it makes me feel closer to Ginny.
There are lots of things like that. In the early days, everything reminded me of Ginny and our loss. But now I get reminders throughout the day (like when I see the 9 empty vases on top of our refrigerator). Only a few are powerful enough to bring me to tears or bring me back to moments of pregnancy or early grief.
When I hear the album Father of the Bride by Vampire Weekend, I am brought back to summer 2019. I remember listening while reading books about grief, driving to volunteer at Family House, or walking to the library to write my blog. I love that album, and it will always remind me of the summer of grief. My heart aches a little every time I hear it.
One of the strongest reminders I’ve had came a couple days after Chet was born. I knew it was coming, still nothing could have prepared me for it. It was when my breastmilk came in, the sharp tingle of milk letting down – the painful pressure of being engorged. When my milk came in after Ginny was born, it was like a bitter slap in the face. I wanted so badly to feed her, but she wasn’t there. Each let down was a cruel reminder that my baby died and that I couldn’t mother her. I worked hard to stop the milk from continuing to come. I took Sudafed. I wore tight bras. I put cabbage leaves in my bra (it’s a thing). I applied cold compresses. Eventually the milk dried up, and then I was sad to feel it go. That felt like the last proof of my motherhood. When Chet was born, I knew I wanted to breastfeed him. I didn’t realize how much the feeling of milk letting down would trigger emotions from when Ginny died. It hurt. It took me right back to that week of brokenness. Thankfully I couldn’t dwell there long because this time I did have a baby to feed. The relief while he nursed was physical and emotional.
A couple weeks ago Daniel took care of Chet on a Saturday morning and told me to go to my favorite coffee shop to pick up a chai latte for myself. I obliged. It had been since before COVID that I had my favorite chai at my favorite coffee shop. As soon as the taste hit my tongue, I was flooded with memories. On at least 5 different occasions, friends had met me here to talk one-on-one about Ginny. Those sweet friends listened to every minute detail of my sad story. They weren’t afraid to talk about her. They cried with me, sat with me in the mud of mourning, shared their own stories, and made me feel a lot less alone. I’m so grateful for each of them. When I got home, Daniel asked how the chai was, and I replied, “It tastes like grief.” He looked confused and said sorry. I smiled, “No it’s a good thing.”
With so few memories with Ginny, I’m grateful for anything that can bring up the emotions when I was closest to her. I hope these feelings don’t fade.