As I sat in the ICU watching my daughter work to reclaim consciousness. I looked around at my setting. Here I am yet again sitting in an Intensive Care Unit. Same monitors, same oxygen setup, same pumps containing IV lines and other medicines with tubes running into my daughter. Although different hospitals, the ICU was roughly the same. Open rooms with nurses right there waiting to jump if something were to go wrong. No privacy and a multitude of other people in tough situations like we were. I sat there trying to gather my thoughts as I can't believe I'm living through another situation like this again.
So many similarities and yet such incredibly different outcomes. I could sit here and compare and contrast every little detail but the biggest differences were that the last time I sat in an ICU I watched a team of nurses and doctors fight for our first born daughters life and fail. This time as I sat there with my second born daughter, I didn't know how she would recover and what it looked like for her future but I knew that she would in fact recover and come home.
Experiences like this leave their mark on a person. You remember every detail and yet nothing at all, ultimately changing the course of your future and who you are as a person.
In 2003 our daughter Aspen was life flighted to Salt Lake City Burn Trauma ICU. The entire process of this was overwhelming and so scary. The moment I heard we were flying her to Salt Lake I knew that I would be on that plane with her. I had nothing on my but my wallet and it didn't matter. I knew my husband would get to Salt Lake, I just didn't know how, I just knew he would make it happen. My only request was for him to bring some extra clothes for me as we didn't know how long we would be there. Sure enough he showed up the next day, less than 12 hours from when we left Montana. He had a bag in his hand and tears in his eyes. To this day I know that man would do anything for us (His Family). After we were sure our girl was stable for the moment and we had a second to catch our breaths. I opened the bag to find that my husband had packed every piece of clothing I owned but no longer wore, along with these bright yellow Shell Toed Adidas shoes. In short, everything that I no longer wore and all things that did not match. I asked my sweet husband why he chose those shoes out of the 15 pairs of neutral ones that owned and his one response was "I thought they would cheer you up". Today I couldn't tell you anything specific about the clothes he brought but I can describe to you in great detail the Yellow Adidas shoes. See I still own these shoes. They have only been worn maybe 10 times. Half of that was in Salt Lake. They are a constant reminder that my husband in his own way, did his best to bring me sunshine on my darkest day. It wasn't his words, there was no magic to those. It was his willingness to be present with me in this moment that started our journey of grief off on the right foot. He didn't try to "fix" me, gave me no time limit to my grief and was always that shoulder I needed to lean on. He companioned me in my grief far better than any professional I could have gone to. He understood his silent presence was far more powerful than a million empty words.
Fast forward to three weeks ago when my second born daughter laid in an ICU bed, basically unconscious from going into Diabetic Ketoacidosis because she was an undiagnosed as a Type 1 Diabetic at the age of 12. We had no clue she was a diabetic until we walked into the ER asking for help because Mekka was breathing hard, talking but not making sense and wouldn't fully wake for us at 4:45am the morning of February 11th. We were transferred to another hospital with a pediatric ICU and there I sat. Waiting for the insulin to get into her body and the acid and carbon dioxide her body had created to leave it. This is the moment I had a chance to notice all the details of the ICU, right down to the hospital smell that has been a trigger since Salt Lake. It was in this moment I looked down and realized I had sunshine on my feet. This was a dark day but not the darkest I have experienced in my life. Mekka would recover and we would figure this out together as a family. Just then my husband made it to the hospital and walked into the peds ICU. A perfect dejavu as I sat bedside to our daughter while he took care of all other details before making it up there. My rock and shoulder, always there with me.
Feelings of grief can form in so many situations and circumstances. We as a society learn from a young age how to achieve and accumulate, but never what to do when we lose something. It doesn't have to be the loss of a person. In this moment we lost our expectations of what the future held for Mekka. When we contemplated her future, it never included and insulin pump being attached to her body or carrying a lunchbox full of diabetic supplies wherever we went. It didn't include her insecurities when asked to tell her life story or why we have to count carbs at every meal (or ask specific details of the food given to us) These are all situations of grief we now get to work through. Situations that seem like no big deal to some, greatly affect the hearts of others. Don't be quick to judge or try to fix someone's grieving heart. Being there / showing up and listening are far more effective tools. Grievers don't need to be fixed, they want to be heard. So bring some sunshine and be a shoulder.