Grief and poopy pants go together like Bogart and Bacall. Ice cream and Cake. Cookies and Milk. Spaghetti and Meatballs. You just naturally think of one when the other is mentioned. That makes sense, right? Stay with me; let me explain.
I have been babysitting babies and toddlers since I was 11. Before I went to law school and started my legal career, I nannied. My sister has three daughters who I have watched grow up. I now have two boys of my own. I have witnessed a lot of potty training in all my years of being around babies and toddlers. As I have now (hopefully!) closed the chapter on potty training my boys, this “story” is even more relevant.
I have often said that grief can often become like a poopy diaper. Yes, you read that right. Grief can become much like a poopy diaper. One of the hardest parts about potty training a toddler is that the child is often really attached to their diaper (and what is in it). I will never forget the response of one of the boys I nannied for, when we started the whole potty training process: I was telling him that he was a big boy and asking why would he want to sit in a diaper full of stinky poop when we could clean him up and make him feel better? His response? “It’s warm; it’s NOT stinky; it’s MINE.” He was stuck in a place of thinking that his poopy diaper was as good as it was gonna get. It was HIS. It belonged to HIM. And even though it was stinky, it was warm and made him feel at home. It was familiar.
After years of working through my own grief and supporting those in groups struggling with theirs, I have seen that many people (myself included), preferred to sit in their own poopy pants, rather than see what other options are out there. Maybe because even though it was grief, it was familiar. It was what we knew. Maybe we identify with the grief. Maybe we forgot what it was like to NOT sit in poopy pants every day.
We often prefer to sit in our own poop, rather than face the unknown and unfamiliar, the scary because the poop IS familiar. It may be poop, but it is OUR poop. Sure it stinks, but it is OUR stink. We fear moving on from the poopy diaper – we fear cleaning up because it seems like something might get lost along the way. If we allow ourselves to release the deep burdens of grief, we fear that we are releasing our loved one. We fear forgetting our loved one. We fear we won’t remember the physical attributes, the sound of a voice, the feeling of a hand on our lower back. If we decide to finally throw the stinky diaper away, we fear our loved one will end up in the trash with it.
I am here to say that you will never forget your loved ones. They will always be with you. Someday, whether it is next week, or next month, or next year or 10 or 20 years from now, whatever YOUR process is, you will decide that you are sick and tired of sitting in a poopy diaper. You will know that you can throw the poopy diaper away without losing your love, your attachment and your connection to your loved one. You will basically be able to take the good to keep and throw the bad out. You won’t “get over” the loss, but you will learn to integrate it so that the grief (poopy pants) is not so all consuming all the time. You will find joy again. You will laugh again. You will honor the journey that was your loved one’s and is now yours. You will get up, and change out of those stinky pants, and see the world that your loved ones wanted you to continue enjoying. You will start the things you need to start. You will finish the things you need to finish. You will know that your loved ones wished for you more than just sitting in a stinky, hot mess of a poopy diaper every day. And, you will honor them by living the best life you can from the moment you decide to throw the poopy diaper out.
No one should ever continue to sit in their own shit unnecessarily. Not when there is living to do.
(Special thanks to Project Underblog, http://www.projectunderblog.com, for first running this piece on July 24, 2014. Looking for more mamalawmadingdong? Follow me on Facebook – https://m.facebook.com/mamalawmadingdong)