Monday, August 13, 2012

Who Has Time for the Grief Monster?

Not me! He comes with fear, fatigue, anger, and a bunch of other things I just have no time for now.

School starts in one week. Ariana’s been in speech and language therapy for a month. She has another appointment tomorrow. Thankfully our insurance covers all but $20 of the $150 visit up to 75 visits per calendar year per person. This however is the one thing the county has said they would provide to what they call “parent-placed” students, which includes children who attend private school or are homeschooled. It would not only save me that $20/week, but also the schedule adjustments and travel as they would come to the school to work with her. They have not at this point gotten back to me about what would be required for her to receive those services. They have also not gotten back in touch with her school about it.

She’s been receiving help with Math from her 3rd grade teacher for a few weeks and will continue to through the school year. She has with a lot of reluctance worked at home twice a week. I have not yet figured out why she cooperates with all the people I pay, but gives me fits about doing work at home. I have no words for how exasperating it is trying to reinforce her work from therapy and tutoring and have her literally start crying when it is time to practice. I don’t do anything different. Heck, the speech therapist actually gives us the materials used to do at home. She cannot tell me why she does it. I believe it is to get out of it and I have to confess that too often it worked. Much of the time, after her fit, I had no desire to continue. But I also have to admit, I feel and have told her that though she is more than worth everything I am doing, it is time she recognizes all that is being done for her and shows me more cooperation. We had a deal when I made the decision she could stay at her private school, she would cooperate more and she has yet to hold up her end with me despite me adding (at the advice of the therapist) the opportunity to earn points and money for different things she wants.

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate her cooperating with her tutor and therapist and I have told her that I do. I have been in the therapist office waiting more than once and seen a therapist come out and tell the parent, “I couldn’t get him or her to do anything at all today.” It didn’t result in a free session. At least I know I’m not wasting money, but it really does hurt when I not only can’t get the same cooperation they get, but get a fit that rivals a 3 year-old tantrum. The other day I pulled out some math for practice and the plan was to do it together talking through the steps. I was going to do all of the writing. She threw the fit. I gave her the paper and pencil and told her if she didn’t want to work with me she was on her own. She profusely apologized. We ended up doing Dictionary practice instead.

She likes her speech and language therapist and loves her 3rd grade teacher dearly. Tomorrow she meets the reading intervention tutor that will (if she continues to feel like a good fit) work with her weekly through the school year. I settled on her because the material/method she uses seemed to cater to Ariana’s needs the most while also being the most cost effective not just for use at home, but for use of the resource teacher at her school. The original program we were looking at has more expensive materials and educator training is like $1,000 per person. It has been beyond difficult to find a tutor certified in it. I found one and it was too difficult to pin down the right schedule for both of us. It was much easier to agree on a day and time with this one and her location of choice works for us. We’ll meet at the location of our city’s local library closest to our home. We meet the Math tutor at the location closest to her home, but we love that library and there is toddler story time that Elijah and I attend that takes up an hour of the two hour time block Ariana is with the tutor. I use the other hour to select books to borrow.

I have had several meetings with her school’s administration. They will continue as Ariana’s needs continue to change and we try various interventions for a balance of helping her while not distracting from the overall learning environment. Just buying a dictionary has required so much research. It is on the supply list and they will be using them for class work. Her home dictionary is large and heavy, but we have been practicing on how to use it using her spelling book from last year. It’s been going well once we get past the initial difficulties and get started. The print is large enough for her to read it and it has a lot of words. She is however adamant that it won’t work on her desk. Trying to find a similar dictionary in paperback has been an exercise in frustration. And when I tried searching for a dictionary recommended for children with Dyslexia, the most recommended apparatus was a talking, electronic dictionary. Now it can be used with headphones, but I can just see it now when she pulls that thing out in class and everyone notices she is just typing in the word instead of flipping through pages like everyone else. The assistant principal though said the dictionary would stay at school, so I think we’re going to try taking in the one she has already and buying a second one for the house. I really don’t want her forget how to use it.

Then there is silent classwork time and homework where reading is involved. I found some common interventions while searching that I’m also working on getting approved for classroom use. One gadget is a reading pen that will read anything it touches. It is about the size of a marker or highlighter and actually includes a dictionary. It also works with headphones and if we choose ear buds would be less noticeable. I know it will benefit her. The caveat with all of this is along with finding the right way to incorporate it with little distraction to the other children is how to make sure that she doesn’t become too dependent on any of it. When I’m not there I don’t want her using the thing to read the whole passage to her instead of just getting help with words that give her difficulty. I will have to trust that as her reading improves, she’ll want her independence and this thing and anything else we use will be a stepping stone to that. Independence is one of the major things I’m after. What I know is that I cannot spend another year sitting next to her for 3 hours every night she has homework. I wish I’d had it sooner to use over the summer, but I just found it recently. Up until now I have been the reading pen.

I’m also evaluating writing intervention software. Her handwriting has improved over the summer. She is writing smaller and neater with practice. She used to have a signature that would rival most doctors. Getting thoughts on paper without speaking them first continues to be an challenge, so I’m looking at software that will assist her with that. Writing assignments required me interviewing her and taking notes. Then showing her and asking “is this what you want your paper to say?” Then having her copy it over in her own hand. I guess it appears I’m looking for stuff to take me out of the process a bit. I know the independence would serve her well. She’s 9 and I feel I should no longer have to be 2 feet away for her the entire time to get her assignments done. I have another child in the house who knows all too well how to recognize and take advantage of me being occupied with his sister.

Speaking of Elijah, not long ago a company came to do speech evaluations at the daycare. I was not a bit surprised when Elijah’s paper said he needed additional evaluations and treatment. Um…no. He talks. He just didn’t talk to her and once I found out it was a lady, I had a feeling he likely flirted with her. He tends to whisper to strangers and while some of his consonant sound like other consonant sounds he’s 2. He can count to 12, knows his shapes, can sing songs, knows some Spanish words and knows enough words and how to put them together to charm us or to attempt to order us around. He’s discovered the learning portion about Sea Animals on Ariana’s Leapster toy made for ages 4 and up. It has a study mode where the information is presented and a quiz mode, which consists of questions like “which animal is a clown fish?”, but also questions like “Which animal is a carnivore or only eats meat”. He is up to 80% in quiz mode when he chooses to take 10 questions, most of which he will get right the first time. I feel like he will be fine if we keep him engaged. I’m way more concerned about getting him out of diapers, which he seems to care less about now than he did a few months ago.

Advocating and accommodating the special needs my daughter has and seeing to the development of my toddler son is taxing with grief. Having all of this on my shoulders sometimes makes me feel like I’m all alone. But I see it all at the therapist office and have pushed the grief monster away and stayed grounded so far. I see women I envy with large diamonds on their left hands who are stay at home parents there to get minor speech problems corrected in a 2 year-old while reading and going the week’s lesson with their 6 year-old checking out saying “daddy is bringing him next week.” I see women I cry for and couldn’t think to trade places with who are in for a life-time of therapy visits and may never be able to release their child to the world. But I sense acceptance in them and for the most part, I feel peace when I hear them talk about the multitude of challenges they face.

That got me thinking. What of my progress? Where’s my development? How’s my vision for our future? Am I any more settled into single life now than I was at the start of the year. I was very hopeful at that time of conquering the pain, fear, loneliness, anger and everything else in the mixed bag of widowhood. I’m last on the priority list now, just like I was when Thomas was alive, but my vision of our future was new. It was a new version birthed out of necessity after the man with the plan went (as I tell my son) “bye-bye to be with Jesus”. It has continued to be an up and down journey. It has continued to have periods of setbacks and the ride continues to rival the biggest roller coasters with twists, turns, climbs and drops. My determination is higher. I remain hopeful. My career is progressing despite the fact that I really don’t want it to now. I have maintained that my children required more of me than I was willing to give to a job and anything that interfered with that including the next level on my career path, I wasn’t up for it. I managed a good year-end review so new tasks have come my way along with the instructions, “Let us know when you are ready to move up.” Nice, but YIKES!

Flanking my computer’s monitor are pictures of my children. My daughter is on the left and my son is on the right side; their smiles often pushing me through the rough days. When I think of moving up, a lot of things come to mind. It starts from the big questions like how would I handle it if I had to travel? All the way to the fact I don’t have room in the budget for the wardrobe I’d need at the next level. I have tutors, therapists, diapers, private school and daycare. I have a mortgage, a vehicle, utilities, all types of insurance and food. I have to face it. My life as a caregiver and life as a widow has done more than pushed me to the bottom of the priority list. It has me rewriting my entire life. It has me reinventing myself to both stand the winds of change and keep the original plans Thomas and I made together. I’m far too young to let go of my dreams, but I’m fighting to even keep them in sight on the back burner. I rarely talk about them. I rarely admit they still exist to anyone but God. Ask anyone close to me what my dreams are and they’d struggle to tell you. Some might be able to tell you what they hope I’ll do, but the list of things I am willing to allow myself to openly admit I desire for myself is limited.

What is it? Am I now afraid to want anything more than for my family to be okay? Am I afraid something else will happen to smash my dreams against the wall? Am I just afraid of failure? The common denominator is fear. It’s a component of grief. Most widows experience it. I deal with it more than I like to admit. So far I have operated with courage, which I realize isn’t the total absence of fear, but the willingness to go ahead despite it.

So, who has time for the grief monster? He brings fear, anger, fatigue, anger and other things like financial difficulties. So far God has granted courage, an ability to rest some and push some and revealed areas where I can sacrifice. I can sacrifice about anything. I’ve learned how to rest a little better. I still get angry, but how I handle it has changed. Now, I want acceptance and release. I have accepted that I did the best I could when Thomas was here however misguided some of my actions and decisions might have been. I have accepted that Thomas did the best he could while he was here however misguided some of his actions and decisions might have been. I have accepted that what happened does not determine my worth or his. I have declared with everything in me it will not be determining the worth of my children.  I have accepted he won’t be back and there are conversations we won’t have and that the answers to the many questions that invade my thinking really don’t matter now. So I want to be released from the memories that hinder my self-confidence. I need the confidence to accept there’s still a plan for us and along with the ability to confess it, which I have done for a while, but also the ability to release myself to pursue it.

That’s my prayer for myself. I imagine God is waiting for that same cooperation from me that I want from Ariana. I need myself whole for us to have the life I began to see for us when I allowed my vision of the future to change encompassing Thomas’ absence. I have time to address the grief monster, but no time to accommodate him. Compounding the tragedy by keeping my head down and having that cloud hang over my children and me forever is not an option.

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