This pain is real; the struggle is real; the guilt, regret, sorrow and anger are real. The joy is real, too. The happiness, pleasure and love so deep it makes me cry, are also real. I have to remind myself of these facts sometimes. In part, because the extreme spectrum of emotions on a daily basis make me feel crazy, but also in part because of the ridiculous things people say that cause me to put unrealistic expectations on myself.
I was recently reminded, by a caring friend, that I have four other children and four grandchildren that I need to be thankful for. I’m so beyond thankful for all my children, grandchildren, and my precious husband. Does anyone really believe I need to be reminded to be thankful for them?
I’ve also recently been told that my son (in heaven) would not like how I am feeling. I don’t even know what to say to this. Maybe I should ask, “Is this really an appropriate thing to say to a grieving mother?”. This messed with my head for days!
Over the past 18 months, I’ve been told that I need to,”get a hobby”, “get a job”, “stop perseverating” “keep busy”, “just don’t think about it”, “be thankful for what you still have”, “toss it (my grief???) in the trash can”, and, my personal favorite (NOT) “but you had FIVE kids”, like I shouldn’t be missing the one, because I still have four. Again, I don’t know what to say in response to these statements. I suppose there could be a grain of truth in each phrase. But, why say it? Do we really need to fill the silence with ignorant and ridiculous suggestions about someone else’s grief?
It’s been suggested to me recently that people are getting tired of my grief. I am getting tired of the grief, so I’m sure others are, too. But, isn’t grief a normal and natural part of experiencing loss? And, don’t we all, at some point and to some degree, experience loss? Why do we feel the need to deny, or “fix”, a significant part of our human experience?
I frequently ask myself, “do I have a choice in the matter of grieving?”. I often think that I do, then I am proven wrong…….again and again and again. I woke up happy this morning, and I was so thankful. The three days previous were angry, deeply sorrowful days, and I tried to fight those feelings to the point of exhaustion. I have, more than once, asked my patient and loving husband if he thinks I’m over-reacting or wallowing. He assures me I am not; he is experiencing similar feelings. I had to bury my son eighteen months ago. My son. Not my grandparent, or parent, aunt or uncle, but my son. A person I brought into this world. Someone who looked a lot like my husband and I. He sounded a little like my husband. And, I had to bury him. But, even if it had been a grandparent, parent, aunt or uncle, I would still be grieving. Every loss produces grief. I’m not trying to compare or justify. I simply want to be allowed to grieve in the way I need to grieve, and for the duration that feels “right” to me. From what I’ve been told by our counselor, and read in books written by experts on death and grieving, there is no set of rules regarding grief – how to do it, or how long it takes. It is a unique experience for each person. And, as much as we would like to ignore it or deny it, every person will grieve at some point in their lives, and will want to be allowed to grieve in their own personal way.
I had absolutely no time to prepare for this loss. Maybe if I had, I wouldn’t just be coming out of this state of shock. I’ve only recently decided I believe that it really happened. Of course, there was really no denying it, because he hasn’t called or been to see us for 18 months, and that wasn’t his way. He called, texted, or came out at least once a week. Our loss was sudden, unexpected and tragic. He had been over for a very pleasant visit the afternoon before his accident. I’ve always asked my boys to text me when they got safely home, since they are crazy motorcycle riders, and he had. I remember lying in bed, reading his text that he was home, thanking the Lord for getting him home safely, and going to sleep just like I had many, many nights before that. Eight hours later, my world changed………forever.
It has been eighteen months, and I feel sometimes like I should be better by now. Then I remember the words of a grief counselor we visited with shortly after our son passed away. He and his wife also lost a young adult son. He said his wife, on the 5th anniversary of their son’s passing, decided that she wanted to continue living. That totally freaks me out, but also encourages me to just keep on keeping on. I try to live my life everyday of my life. God only gives us this moment in time. I can’t retrace my steps and change anything in the past. I can’t see into the future and change anything that might be going to happen. I have right now; and right now I choose to live, and love, and carry on, no matter what anyone else says or does. And, I choose to forgive myself for being the person I’m griping about in this post! I’ve said stupid and possibly hurtful things to grieving people in the past. I hope they were able to walk away with mercy in their hearts for me and forgive me, as I try always to forgive those who have tried to help, but have offered unhelpful advice. The truth is, nothing helps. It is comforting to be hugged, loved and supported through this, but nothing makes it better. Nothing can take away the pain caused by losing our son. Before we lost our son I hated this statement, but now I feel like this – It is what it is. Nothing can change it, and there is no going back to un-do it. It is what it is.
The same grief counselor I mentioned above, told us that he believes there are three appropriate things to say and do when encountering a grieving person, and an easy way to remember them is to call them the “3 H’s” – Say hello, give a hug and hush it up! I like that! I would add, say you’re praying for us. That means more to me than almost anything else, because I know that God hears our prayers, and He understands and comforts like no other.
“Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o-er wrought heart and bids it break.” Shakespeare – MacBeth
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-5