Once I started sleeping at night I found that I was better able to face what I had to go through each day. I was still sad, I still missed Eddie, I was still lonely and angry, and I still didn't understand why this had happened. But at least I now had the energy I needed to make an effort to move forward with my life. The shock and numbness had worn off, and I knew I had to allow myself to feel the pain of my loss in order to get through it, but I was ready to begin the recovery process. ("There is no way to the other side of this storm but through it." - Raymond Mitsch & Lynne Brookside, Grieving the Loss of Someone You Love). I wanted to do something constructive with my grief rather than letting it destroy me. I gradually began to feel a desire to live again, even though I knew it was going to take time and energy to rebuild my life. I had to realize and accept that I wouldn't get through this rebuilding all at once. It was going to be a step by step process, one in which I had to pick up the pieces of my life one at a time and move on.
I said earlier that taking a leave of absence from work for the remainder of the school year after Eddie's death was one of the hardest things I had ever done. It was the right decision because I needed that time to cope with what happened and get myself together. But I realized that summer that I didn't want any more time off. For the first time in my teaching career, I actually wanted the summer to end so the next school year could begin. I needed a schedule, a routine, something to keep me busy and my mind occupied. I started going to the school during the summer gradually getting my room ready. Thankfully I had to change rooms because our grade level was moving into the new wing of the school. It made it easier not having to go back to the same room I had been in for so many years. I remember thinking one day when I was putting up a bulletin board that this was one place I had absolutely no memory of Eddie because he had never been in that room. This was a welcome change amid so many unwelcome, unwanted ones in my new life.
When it was time for preplanning to begin, my room was completely ready and so was I. I was anxious to get out of the house and be around people again. I was even looking forward to spending seven hours a day with 20+ nine and ten year olds! They didn't know it, but this class was going to benefit from what had happened in my life. Once school started I went in at 7:30 every morning and stayed until 5:00 or 6:00 every evening. I took work home with me at night and over the weekends. I planned extra activities for my students and bought things for them whenever I could. I poured all of my energy into making that year the best I had ever had as a teacher. As much as I felt like I had let my previous year's class down, I intended to give this class everything they needed and more. I guess in some ways I was trying to make up for leaving my students the year before. Those two classes will always be the two I remember the most ... one for being with me at the worst point of my life and the other for helping me recover from that point.
"Think of a painful feeling as being like a bonfire in a field. At first it is hot, unapproachable. Later it may still smolder. Even later, you can walk on the ground without pain, but you know there is an essence of the fire that still remains. Take your own time, but be sure to walk over the ground again. You must do so because whatever you run away from runs you." - Gay Hendricks, Learning to Love Yourself