There are so many things to figure out when you are a bereaved parent. The biggest things are figuring out where you belong and how to get along in a world when your child is no longer a part of it. When I figure those things out, I will let you know. Don't hold your breath.
The smaller things are how to care for yourself and others while trying to figure out the big things. And they pop up all the time. You will meet new people who know nothing about your past who will ask: "How many children do you have?" This is not an unreasonable question. It's quite polite but it's charged with meaning when you are in my situation. How do you answer? Do you share everything or nothing or somewhere in between? For me, it varies; sometimes I tell people, sometimes I don't. It depends on many factors, who are they, how do I feel, how will this change the conversation (because I guarantee you it always does). You just have to do it in a way that works for the given situation.
Another thing I have learned is that I need a bit of alone time. Maggie is on my mind every minute of every day and I'm fine with that. But it can be difficult to keep up with conversations or activities when I'm with a group of people especially for an extended period of time. I need to just check out for a few minutes and not join every activity or outing and just "be" with my thoughts. I'm not sad - or any sadder than usual - but I need to step back. Generally I don't tell anyone when I'm doing that, it is easy enough to do without announcing it. Sometimes I have to and well meaning, but misdirected folk will push me, insisting it will "do me good." I am not concerned about these people and simply ignore them. It is a very personal journey and they don't get a say. Self care is just that, self care.
There is some caring for others as well. I also love to talk about Maggie and I realize that is not always easy for everyone else. I am a bit more sensitive to others in this area. I get that others don't know how to react or what they are supposed to say and I have no desire to make things harder for anyone. This is driven from selfishness, not altruism. Seeing someone uncomfortable talking about Maggie makes it harder for me. But when the conversation turns to her, I will not shy away from it. It's great when others welcome that or bring her up themselves.
And you have to be ready for the curve balls, for the things that just pop up our of nowhere and bring a wave of sadness with them. I had one last week when we ran out of q-tips. Q-tips! I always had a million of them in Maggie's bathroom becasue we needed them to clean her trach and g-tube sites. I would refill the ones upstairs from the stash I had for Maggie. The nurses would give me lists of things we needed so we never ran out. I would buy two giant costco boxes every couple of months. That stopped and it took all this time, 16 months for my stash to run dry. When it did, it made me incredibly sad.
Sometimes even the things you prepare for can be the curve ball. This week I took my father in law to the neurologist. She did some basic memory testing asking him, "How many grandchildren do you have?" Whoa! A variation on a theme. He answered without hesitation: "Seven." I felt my eyes fill with tears. The neurologist looked at me quizzically and asked if that was correct. I said yes, though one of his grandchildren, my daughter, had recently passed away. I was proud of my father in law for simply including Maggie without pause and I felt a little sorry for the neurologist who opened up a can of worms with a very standard question.
But mostly I just sat there and missed my girl.
And her q-tips