The Year In Grief (Part I); You would think a couple of years into living with the chronic pain of child loss that not much would change, that the learning curve would be waning down. That’s not the case. I am constantly observing new things about this life, about others and about continuing to live while grieving the loss of my son. Here are some thoughts from myself and others who walk this path with me;
God gives me the strength for this day.
There are days where I wander about directionless, lost in foggy disorientation. There are days when the pain keeps me down and sheltered from people and responsibilities. I account for my need to not be OK every single day in my work week and I am so grateful to be able to do that. Non-functional days are inevitable, but mostly I get up to a planned day, with a firm purpose and the energy to fulfill it. I thank God for this as I know it is not with my own strength that I do what I do everyday, but His strength that shows up in my weakness. Sometimes hunkering down and swimming in the grief is what takes the greatest strength and when I lean on Him the most.
People will overwhelm you with love and crush you with indifference.
It’s the most wonderful thing to get a text, a message or even a hand-written note from an unexpected person during a particularly difficult time. Always with a message of remembrance of our son, acknowledgment of the time of year and of course-love. Plain old acknowledgment truly is the simplest but most cherished of gestures-a kind word, a knowing smile and hug or simply saying “I pray for you still”. I’ve learned there are so many kind and enduring people in the world.
On the contrary, one of the widest rivers of pain that consistently courses through this community comes from the people who should know, who should care more, who should have the kind words, the spoken acknowledgment and the open arms of support,
but choose not to. Their lack of care adding another layer of weight to our burden.
Silence hurts. Indifference is crushing.
What makes it so sad is that we are all so easily soothed. It takes so few words and such little effort to show sympathy and support, yet many who should just don’t. This has not changed and this year I learned it likely won’t.
Joy and pain continue to co-exist.
In my previous life I was used to feeling joy or pain. Not both. Certainly not within the same experience. You either perceive of something as being happy or you think it’s sad. Those absolute rules don’t apply when your family is broken and your child is always,
“Why can’t you just be happy and try to enjoy this?” We DO feel happiness, but it is always, without exception, accompanied by an equal amount of sadness. Often bigger occasions are also accompanied by anxiety. Anxiety about the occasion- who will be there?, Will we be able to control our reaction?, Will there be a place to excape to?, Will someone ask me how many kids I have and how old they are? And the list goes on…
Consider a family wedding. What could be a more thoroughly joyous? Then consider posing for family portraits with one of your children missing. A beautiful family moment, filled with joy, yet simultaneously marred by loss. You can thrilled and excited, yet posing for a “family” photo takes every bit of strength to stand and smile because your arm is not around one of them and won’t be again. So many times I’ve wanted to scream, “NO! No more photos, this is NOT a family photo, there will NEVER be again.” But I smile wide and thank God for the treasure in my family that remains.
Imagine the vows. The beautiful couple in love and experiencing one of life’s most profound joys. I remember watching my niece at her wedding. I love her so and was so deeply happy for her. My tears were genuinely joyous and genuinely grievous all at once. I was crying through smiles with my love for her and crying through a pounding ache in my heart for my missing child. For my boy who will never have the chance to stand before the love of his life, giving himself in marriage. Never to be a groomsman at one of his brothers weddings.
No dance with my littlest boy.
Listening to other Mothers talk about their kids still hurts.
For the longest time I felt like a bad person over this because I love children. I love other people’s children and I love hearing about them. I loved my own child more than life itself and hearing about what the other kids are doing (what mine is not doing ) is still so damn hard. I know I’m not really a bad person, I just miss my son so terribly and when others talk about what their kids are doing, challenges and celebrations they are having, it is impossible not to think of what would’ve been. What should-be. And it hurts. Any mother in my shoes would feel the same. It’s with genuine interest I smile and ask questions, but it is always with that familiar pang in my gut.
When you lose a child you lose your present child, every milestone of their life and you lose your future child and everything they would’ve become.
Just like every day opens to an opportunity to continue to thrive despite this, every year brings opportunity for new lessons and insight. Grieving parents become unwittingly wise people. I hope you’ll subscribe to this blog and hear more about this year’s observations in Part II.
I’ve also learned that finding something good to come out of something bad, helps many of us on this journey. If my words help any person in any way, I hope they will be passed along to continue to do good work so our pain is never in vain.