October of this year we will mark the two-year anniversary of our middle son’s death. He was 25 years old when he died. He had been out to visit us the Sunday afternoon before he was killed in a car accident the following Monday morning. I had hugged him, told him I loved him and watched him walk to his motorcycle to ride over to his older brother’s house, just like I had many times before, a mere 15 hours before I got the most shocking and painful news of my life. It has been 22 months since that horrific day, and I am still grieving.
Sometimes I feel pressure from people to “get over”, “move on”, or “accept” this grief caused by the loss of my son. I take on, or give in to this pressure because I am basically a “pleaser”; I like people to like me, and I want others to be happy. So I try to adjust who I am, how I act, or what my face looks like, to make others feel more comfortable. I understand that it is easier to be around someone who is happy, cheerful and peaceful. I am happy and peaceful, and sometimes even cheerful. I am also sorrowful, angry, frustrated and depressed sometimes. Because I am still grieving.
I have been offered advice several times lately by friends who think they are offering comfort. They say, “just do” such and such, or “the Lord always” this and that. And I listen intently, because I am a pleaser, not just of others, but of the Lord. My greatest desire is to be pleasing to God. When someone says those things, though, I hear, “there’s something wrong with you” or “you shouldn’t be where you are emotionally” or “you’ve grieved long enough”. I don’t recognize how I’m perceiving what they are saying until I am home and quiet and realize I feel like I’m just not good enough. For whom or what, I don’t know. That is just how I feel. But I don’t think there is anything wrong with me. I am still grieving.
Sometimes people compare themselves to others; we all do it. But losses are not, in my opinion, appropriate comparisons to make. I have five children, each of whom I adore. Each one is completely unique to themselves, and I adore each one for completely different reasons. I also adore my family as a whole. But we are each unique individuals who happen to share DNA. Our loss, the loss of my husband and I’s son, and my children’s brother, is felt by each one of us individually, and also as a whole, but the feeling of loss is unique to each one of us. I am my son’s only mother, my husband his only father, and we grieve as such. My children are as deeply grieved as my husband and I, but in a slightly different way. We all, my husband and I and our children, grieve the drastic, unwanted change this loss brought about in our family. But still, each one grieves the shared loss differently. We are all still grieving.
I hope I never again hear, “I know exactly how you feel”, because no one knows exactly how anyone feels about anything, but especially a loss. It is wearisome to hear others compare my loss to theirs. I know I am not the only one who has experienced loss. In fact, I am all too painfully aware of how many loving parents lose their children in the most horrific ways. Every loss is unique and every loss is significant to someone. It doesn’t help me to have someone explain their loss to me, especially when they’ve lost an older person who is closer to the natural time to die than 25 years old. I understand that others want me to know they understand my pain, or maybe they want to try to relate to where I am, or possibly they are trying to tell me that we all hurt and I should just get over this. I don’t know. But, I do know that it doesn’t help, because I am still grieving.
I have read about and talked to many other parents who have lost a beloved child, and this is completely normal for a mother, father or sibling to be going through and feeling 22 months after a sudden and tragic loss. It’s sad that this even has to be said. I wish our American society – this autonomous, proud, independent, just “pull yourself up by your boot straps” society – would examine our thoughts, beliefs, actions and reactions to, and support of, grieving people, and maybe be a bit less “helpful” and bit more compassionate and loving. Everyone is different, and everyone processes loss differently, and everyone is comforted by different things, so I almost feel like what I just said is a moot point. For me, though, being told “do this”, “don’t do that”, or “you need to…” or “you have to…” and other such nonsense, makes everything more difficult. It makes me even more reclusive than I naturally am. “I’m sorry”, “I love you”, “I’m praying for you”, and “hugs” are the only things I’ve heard in the past 22 months that actually help, because I am still grieving.
There’s this thing called complicated grief.
It is challenging.
But I am determined.
It is complicated.
And I am still grieving.