Monday, July 16, 2012

traveling mercies

A comment from RyAnne on my last post got me to thinking.  She asked: "do you feel like it is harder to travel after losing Charlotte?"

Right after Charlotte died going anywhere, even just the grocery store, was difficult.  For five months - maybe longer - I thought we would die if we got into a car, so anytime J went somewhere I wanted to go with him.  If he was going to die I wanted to die too.  When Charlotte died any semblance of control over life was wrested from my hands.  Life felt so unbalanced and unpredictable.  It seemed like death was around every corner.

I've never been good at traveling.  I've never enjoyed leaving what I consider my comfortable space.  That's just who I am.  I've always wanted to be someone who likes traveling, but I don't.  I love the idea of going abroad, but the thought of getting on a plane and doing it makes me feel sick.  I spent three weeks traveling through England, Ireland and Wales when I was a junior in college.  It was a university sponsored trip, everything was out of my hands, all decisions were made and that is the only way I was able to do it.

I don't feel overwhelmed with anxiety when I get in a car now.  Counseling and learning how to handle my anxiety has helped with that.  I drive often, which is something I was reluctant to do after Charlotte died.  I no longer hesitate before taking the freeway or opt for a quieter, slower route.

But I would still prefer staying home.  Life is ordered here.  I know what to expect.  My ability to handle the unexpected has changed immensely since Charlotte died.  I've never handled change well, but now I can't cope with it at all.  If you want to see me in complete meltdown mode tell me we're doing something and then change the plans at the last minute.  And that makes traveling difficult because plans change all the time when on the go.  Heck, some even see spontaneity as an imperative part of travel.

I'm sure everyone who has experienced grief can name something about themselves that has changed irrevocably.  Loss alters and reshapes a person.  It can't be avoided.

Having Bennett is forcing me to do more.  I don't want him to miss out on things because I would rather stay home where I feel comfortable.  Early next year it looks like we will be going to Hawaii.

image from here

I'm equal parts excited and terrified. J has never flown with me before, but we have traveled and he knows how crazy I get when we go by car.  I want this experience for us so I'll start a list months before we leave, obsess over what to take and how to pack and breathe deeply through every airport and flight.  I don't want fear and anxiety to render me completely immobile.

So yes, traveling is difficult for me.  Honestly, life is difficult for me since Charlotte died, but as time passes what once seemed impossible becomes manageable once more.  I'll never be who I once was, but I'm slowly accepting my new self, and even learning to love her - quirks and all.


  1. I hope you have a wonderful trip when you go, and that you find it more relaxing and restful than you now imagine it could be. :) We when to Hawaii when the babe was about 8 months old and had a wonderful time. Let me know if you need any travel tips!

  2. I agree with the fact that we change so much after our babies die. We went on a cruise a few months after Noah died, and I felt sick knowing I was "leaving him". In fact, I worried that a fire might happen to our house and I put some of his things into our firesafe (and took out things to make room for his stuff). The thought of losing those few tangible things of his made me fearful. I hope you are able to enjoy Hawaii. If it's anything like our trips to the Caribbean, you will love it!!

  3. I've traveled a lot, even while pregnant with Bear and I also find it difficult now. I've lost my ability to roll with the punches. I think in almost everything in life, not just traveling.

    We flew once at the beginning of this pregnancy to meet my parents in California, but I knew even before we went that once we got home, we were staying within driving distance until this baby is born. I haven't been able/willing to go home to Oregon (my favorite place in the whole world) since Christmas 2010. I had a trip planned last summer with Bear and I wasn't about to go without him. We are hoping to go this winter to introduce Bear's brother to the family.
    There is really something about the comforts of your own house that is comforting, despite the grief or maybe even more so.

  4. I studied abroad in France an entire semester in college (less than 6 years ago) and always enjoyed being spontaneous…. until I lost John Michael. I actually bungee jumped in Normandy! I was so free and loved it. That seems unimaginable now. I’m so grounded, literally, but what I’m trying to say is that I’m incapable of being who I was before I lost him so I know where you’re coming from. Now everything is so much more serious, life-threatening, death ensuing, dramatic, and just simply a pain in the butt!

  5. I think that once life has shaken you, it's completely natural to want to go into risk-limitation mode. Hawaii looks amazing and I think your plan of doing things over time is a good one. My husband has an aversion to travel that goes back to when he was growing up with a dad who had Parkinson's and any kind of movement outside the house was fraught with stress. He's having to fight it hard to take our wee one out and about - so far it's me leading the way, and I'm not the most adventurous soul - but, like you and B, he doesn't want his son to miss out. It's tough!

  6. Thank you so much for writing this. Since our daughter Eve died, I have felt the same way about car trips, even short ones to the store or whatever. I wouldn't let my husband go anywhere without me, except work, and it took some time to work up to that. Even now, I have to choose to let him go somewhere on his own -- 8 months out from Eve's death, I still feel the precariousness of life so acutely. Like you said, if my husband's going to die in a car wreck, I want to die with him. So I let him go places on his own now, to practice being normal and not anxiety-driven, but I still don't want to. It sucks. :(


thank you!


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