Delayed wedding grief

It took me nearly a year and a half to be able to watch any show that featured a wedding, bachelor party, bachelorette (side note: it took over two years to watch TV shows with fights, brain injuries or hospitals. We watched a lot of Top Chef  and Masterchef for a long time). It was only through working at a spa where I treated brides and honeymooners regularly that I got to the point I didn’t want to throw up while fake smiling through wedding chat. Clients of mine have heard many a lie about my wedding, as I try to forget completely about the summer we were married. But I made it, by our two year anniversary I could almost be happy for people getting married and not completely consumed with bitterness and anger at what we missed out on.

And then we started counting down to my brother in law’s wedding.

I thought in the past we had dealt with grief of our lost wedding and life, turns out I was lying. In the past I had noticed grief and then stuffed my mind full of tasks, next steps, food, people, until I couldn’t notice the grief anymore. And I was pretty okay with that routine, it stung, but then I hid from it and it got better.

And then their wedding was less than two months away.

The grief that rocked our house was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. Panic attacks, crying jags so severe I ended up vomiting, a desperate love of my bed like never before. While Jason and I have both lost friends and grandparents somehow we’ve never been forced to confront grief like this.

In trying to celebrate their love and wedding, we were reminded of how horrible that time was for us, and how hard our life has been since.

Now, if you’ve seen our wedding photos you know it was a gorgeous day and a beautiful wedding. I hesitate to share this blog post at all, so many people did go out of their way to give us a gorgeous day. Everything went off without a hitch. People showed up, rings and vows were exchanged, the food was amazing – not a drop of rain on our parade. Unless you were part of our little twosome. Jason was just 3 weeks into life with a TBI when we were married. The swelling had barely gone down from the beating he took. I was exhausted and scared, and more fixated on our honeymoon appointment at the neurosurgeon’s office than on our actual day. Jason doesn’t remember our wedding at all. I only remember reminding myself to smile and play nice and “act like a bride”.

Some will read this and think, every bride is too preoccupied to notice their wedding. And I will tell you, with as much confidence as I can muster having never had a wedding without TBI, it is not the same. We deserved to grieve for the memories we didn’t make that day, and for starting our marriage off without a second of true joy.

And we’re back…

A funny thing happened this summer. We were trying to settle into a routine. We celebrated Jason’s second “Life Day” based on a recommendation from a friend who knew we were struggling with what the anniversary of the attack will mean to us. We celebrated our second anniversary. Disability insurance started talking about paying for more rehab for Jason. My sister in law moved in and took some of the pressure off of me around the house, and with keeping Jason on task. We saw friends and joined a church, and realized in two years our story went from “no friends that can put up with the pain of TBI” to “blessed with amazing friends that stick it out and don’t get awkward in the hard parts”. I have slowly given up my “perfectionist” coping mechanism over the last 2 years, because there is literally no way to keep things perfect when your husband is accidentally flooding the kitchen every few months.We had a family wedding to look forward to and our dogs, our babies really, were missing.  And all of a sudden in September I woke up and didn’t really know how to keep moving forward.

I couldn’t remember what I did with my life other than work and care for Jason. I looked around our house and saw the meals he prepares and the cleaning he does and very little showing I am involved in our life. I wanted to pick up the phone and ask someone to talk me out of this weird mood, but there are very few people that knew me then and now, and I didn’t even know how to start explaining that I had no idea who I was anymore. How do you lose yourself by 27? For the first time in a long time I was picturing the attack, the hurt in our life and crying. My rehearsed versions of our story were dotted with tears and deep breaths that hadn’t been part of the script during the last two years. I could no longer shrug it off when someone replied with “That’s so terrible”….instead I would reply “Yes, it is.” and then try not to feel revealed, embarrassed and awkward. It is not in my nature to admit things are hard. At least it wasn’t when I knew who I was.

We started seeing a marriage counselor, I changed some priorities in my life, we’re working at figuring out how to get through this season. I’ll be detailing some of the awesome, emotional breakdown in the next few posts but I wanted to give everyone a heads up that these won’t be the typical TBI posts, they certainly aren’t like anything I planned to write when we started the blog. We wanted to focus on sharing info on treatments, what TBI looks like in reality, how long it can really effect your life, and now apparently it’s all about the break down of a caregiver.

I was sent this blog post by a cousin, and I nearly wept while jumping for joy. I’m so grateful to the author of this post for giving me a language to use when talking to others, and for making me feel normal. Please take a minute to read about coming out of a caregiver coma.