If you are one that needs the silver lining, or the big positive spin at the end, this post is not for you. Really. If you’re offended by a little profanity, click the “X” and skip this one.
“So, how was your Thanksgiving…really?”
Year #1 Thanksgiving. As most could only imagine, it was unimaginable. Like nothing I ever thought I could survive. The waves of drowning grief were riding in like a raging storm- punishing and relentless. We were still coping hour to hour. Simply existing was agony.
I hosted Thanksgiving. We cooked, we ate, we drank, we did. I ducked out more than once to escape to my closet or out in the driveway to breathe through ‘a moment’, pull it together and head back in. We may have laughed some-we probably did. No one spoke his name, though. All day. It was agitating me more and more as the day went on. I was taking offense, feeling mamma-bear protective over him and getting seriously angry. He was your brother! Grandson! Nephew! Can NOfuckingBODY say his name but me??
Getting all the food on the table, I could feel it. The tightening in my chest, the sickness in my heart. For everyone’s sake, I was trying to make it seem like a ‘normal’ Thanksgiving as much as I could. As the Mom, it seems like that is on us 100%. Like it or not.
We finally sat down at the table and I could feel my breathing becoming more labored. My hands were shaking with emotion and the pain in my gut was as bad as it had ever been. My God, I feel like I’m splitting at the seams. I need him here, I need him back!
But he was missing- gone from us. His space at the table was empty, yet silently shrieking.
How can absence be so cruelly deafening??
We were sitting down for Thanksgiving dinner and my baby was not there. I could see that beautiful face eagerly awaiting to dig into dinner.
But He’s Gone. The voice said.
My husband somehow got through Grace. He stopped several times to compose himself, his voice cracking and tears spilling from his eyes. I was so proud of him to bow his head and lead our family in a prayer of thanks, of all things. That was a huge step to get through. A brave step of faith. However, hearing his words and his voice struggling so terribly to say those words- it was too much for me. It was too much to hold, my emotions were bubbling violently beneath the surface. I had two verbal streams going on in my head, his Thanksgiving grace and my own angry rant to God.
Yeah THANKS! Thanks for protecting my son, thanks for standing by that psalm I’ve prayed to you and believed since I was like 8 years old and scared of the dark. You know the one-
“If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent.”
Or how about this one, God? “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you…“
How many times did I thank you for that PROMISE?? You’re a LIAR!
Then without skipping a syllable, my mind was back and I was gushing thanks for my living children, for my husband, for not dying in my bed from grief like I thought I might,
like I secretly wished I would.
Oh Jesus, thank you for that. Thank you, thank you! Grief brain. Its nuts.
Then someone said, “please pass the potatoes”.
Just like that.
Like normal. Like any other year.
‘Pass the potatoes ‘ and something in me snapped.
Pass the potatoes?? I thought. Pass the fucking potatoes?? How can we just pass the fucking potatoes when our child is dead? Why are we all even sitting here like “normal”?? What the FUCK is wrong with us?? He’s GONE! You won’t say his name, like he never existed but you want to eat the fucking potatoes?? I ran from the table.
I am the peace-keeper, SO not prone to drama, but my entire being was fracturing on the spot at the dinner table, in front of everyone-in front of my kids. The sobs escaping my throat were hideous. I ran for the bedroom as the grief was exploding from my body. My poor husband, already red-eyed and shaky followed right behind me.
We sat on the edge of our bed for quite some time. Sobbing together. This is just the beginning, I thought to myself, The beginning. How in God’s name are we going to keep doing this?
I can’t. I don’t want to do this. I can’t do this. Don’t make me do this.
Please don’t. I just want him back. Please just give him back to me.
We made it back to a cold plate of Thanksgiving food, minus the potatoes which hadn’t come our way yet.
And no, nobody said his name.
This year was our third Thanksgiving without him. Some things were different, like where and who we were with and that was all wonderful. I know we were exactly where we were supposed to be. Aiden’s name was spoken, his life remembered by one of his first and longest friends. Some things felt “softer” that day, but through the rest of the weekend-mostly not.
I’ve learned that in our home I will likely be the one to bring him to the table. I will be the one to get the candles out and have everyone light one for him. I will be the one to pull us into the uncomfortable for the sake of his honor. I’ve learned I’m still his fiercest advocate and protector. Even after death. I’m more than OK with that, I believe it’s in a Mother’s DNA to do just that, to continue mothering, even after.
This year we mostly managed until the boys left to go back to college and then we didn’t. Well, I didn’t. After waving goodbye and watching the beat up old Honda with both of my remaining children in it disappear down the road, I laid down on the couch in front of the Christmas tree. My heart was hurting and the tree was such a comfort last year, I expected the same this year. Why wouldn’t I? My eyes caught one of his home-made ornaments. His little face with a construction paper and cotton-ball Santa hat on.
And that was it. It happened again.
The tightening, squeezing and pulling downward. The sickness. The descent into that dark, hell-hole where Satan himself administers the pain a grieving body experiences. I was back into that place where I no longer think I can keep going, where I don’t want to keep going, where the pain wins.
I can’t. I don’t want to. Don’t make me do this any more. I’m so tired. Please don’t. Please…
I learned another lesson this year. There is no expecting anything with this. No recipe. No congruency. No “safe” time. Never expect anything within this experience of child loss.
The piles of holiday bins the boys carried down for me because I expected to want to decorate are strewn about my house now. I can’t. It’s not in me today. Maybe not this year. I can’t see anything through this darkness right now. The agony in my body and mind today feels like I lost him yesterday.
Why do others get to tuck all of their children into bed this holiday? Who do the others get to Christmas shop for all of their kids again this year and I don’t?
So how was your Thanksgiving….really?
Grieving child loss can be an extremely lonely experience, like no one else could possibly understand this. If you know anyone who has lost a child please share this blog. It’s purpose is to help others know they are not alone in their pain. Some days it’s right to share the hope and gratefulness, but sharing the darkness and emotional chaos is authentic, and equally important in validating others survival. Thank you for stopping in today.