Subconscious — Leading up to the 3rd death anniversary — Part 1

The other day, I came across a Facebook memory of Bella, a quote that embodies her personality, “everyday is my favorite day but Saturday is my best best day.” It was from April 8, 2014. I explained that over the next month, any Facebook memory from 2014 captures the last month my daughter was alive. It is bittersweet and fucked up at the same time when you think of it like that.

Over the next couple of weeks, I am going to try to give you a picture of what the leading up to the anniversary of their deaths is like. I imagine this year will be slightly different on the conscious level, but the subconscious has its own ideas, as it usually does.

I am much more vocal then my daughter about the weight of this grief. She hasn’t been through the myriad of emotions that I have, mostly because she does not have the frontal lobe development in her brain that would allow that. Her personality is also one where she is guarded when it comes to how she feels about things like this. Talk about Minecraft or Sims, you won’t shut her up. Last night she had a lot of emotions. I told her she needed to pull up her grades to a B to earn this pair of shoes she wants. Yes, don’t berate me too much, I usually am one to say do well for the sake of doing well, but she has been having a tough time with this school year, and I wanted to dangle a carrot stick. She must have heard me incorrectly the first time I said this (she thought she had to get it up to a C), and of course stomped off in the dramatic way a tween does. I try my best to not take it personally, it is hard though. She came down about 45 minutes later and putzed here and there then sat on the couch and stared/glared at me. My breath caught for a moment, because for a second or two that look reminded me of the look that Jesse had given me as I said goodbye to him that fateful morning. It was only for a moment, but the memory came crashing in. I was squish hugging Maribella goodbye (because that was how she always hugged), saying thank you so much for playing Scrabble with me, that we would organize the clothes that I had gotten down from the attic later after I got home from work and pick out outfits for her and Raffi for their scheduled pictures that Saturday. He was standing on the landing of the the stairs, and looked at me much like Raffi was looking at me, as I said I love you, I’ll see you later. It was about 1020ish in the morning and was the last time I saw them alive. I shook that off as she looked at me. I said do you want to read, no, I already did. Hmm, do you want to talk, no. It’s almost time for bed, I am not tired. She then hid under the blanket. Finally at 930, I said, well, I am going to bed, let me get you some lavender oil to help you out. I grabbed her for a hug where she stiffly waited until I let go.

This morning, I was sluggish as my sleep has not been fabulous as of late. I rolled out of bed finally at 810, started water for my tea and called up to her. I heard a grunt. I said, come on Fi, lets go. She replied I don’t want to. I said tough, get moving. She came down holding tight to Stitch (from Lilo and Stitch). She asked if she could stay home from school today, that she was tired. I said no, you will be out for a while the beginning of next month for our trip, and sometimes you have to tough it out when you are feeling tired. I asked her if she was sad, she said no. A hmmm tumbled out of my mouth. Lilo and Stitch was Jesse’s favorite movie, therefore all of ours, because, well, it’s Lilo and Stitch, how could it not be ones favorite. The stuffed animal she was holding was his, a gift from the girls to him at some point along the way. I have not seen it in a while, and seeing it today, less than a month from the third anniversary of their death, caught my breath yet again. She asked if she could stay home with Stitch today and take a nap. I said no sweetie, but if you want, I can take care of him today for you. She perked up and ran off. She got him his blanket, some toys, and a little bag for him to rest in. One of the things kids do in grief is regress. I don’t see this in her often, but it was glaring me in the face in this moment. I said I would take good care of him and she headed off to school after a big hug.

I can’t imagine what it is like to be inside of her right now. The confusion, in her heart, plus all the emotions that come out in any way but directly from all of this. I know it will get worse when it becomes “real” in her brain, before it settles into the complexity that lives with me in any given moment. Right now, in her subconscious, she misses them and is sad, but doesn’t have the ability to put two and two together. I often am overwhelmed by the responsibility of trying to make sure she has all the support I can throw her way, even on days when I am exhausted, and all I want to do is stay in bed. I know that my subconscious is doing its own thing, which I will write about as time progresses this month. For now, I will await Raffi’s arrival from school, open arms, ready to tell her about Stitch’s day. As with most of us who have lost someone, we hold tightly on to those things that remind us of them, because when all we want to do is hold them, that is all we have left.

Taking care of Stitch today
Facebook memory fro April 11, 2014

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Stephanie Willard

Originally published at on April 11, 2017.