I feel stumped lately. I cannot bring myself to talk about or write about my journey through this awful grieving the loss of one of my children. I feel like I should be further along the path of grieving. I constantly compare myself to others, hoping I’m not some kind of weird-o that for some unexplained reason can’t even grieve correctly.
Then I slap myself – not literally – and talk with my wise-beyond-his-years husband (actually, his years are getting up there!), and I begin to settle down and just “go with it” again.
I read a lot, which can be both helpful and hurtful in any situation in life, but it seems especially so when one is constantly hurting and looking for ways to relieve the pain. I recently read a blog post by another grieving mom who is just a few months farther down the road of grieving the loss of a young adult son than I am, and I was greatly encouraged by her words. She often writes about the very things I’m thinking, feeling and hoping to write about myself. And such was the case recently regarding how this feels after, for her, a little over 3 years.
As we approach the 3rd anniversary of our middle son’s death at the age of 25, we (my husband and I) find ourselves more anxious, more unsettled, and crying more than usual. Since that dreadful day in October almost 3 years ago, Puff’s tissues are a staple on our shopping list, but even more so when holidays and anniversaries are near. And, this one seems to be producing even more tears than the last 2, and it makes me wonder “why?” quite often.
Why, after almost 3 years of living without one of our children is it even harder than it was in the first few months, and again in the second year? Why is the pain just as heavy? Why is the ache lingering so? Why do I still ask “why”?
No matter how long I ponder that one “why” question – why did my son have to die? – I will never have an answer, so that one is immediately set aside in my mind.
But the other questions have been mulling over and over in my mind lately, and I’ve been sifting through the thoughts searching for some sense of an answer to them. Even as I’ve begun to return to some normal activities and feel energy returning to my mind and body in the last few weeks, I still carry this heaviness and ache that never goes away. It is with me everywhere I go, in my lying down to sleep, in my rising in the mornings, and throughout normal everyday tasks; always accompanying me, even when I am not aware of it until I lie down to sleep.
I have begun to realize that this is the “norm” for a bereaved parent. I’ve read books and blogs and on-line support group posts, attended meetings for bereaved parents, and sought out personal one-on-one counseling, and have seen the same thing over and over and over again. This is a sadness that seems to seep into our bones. It doesn’t work itself out and we return to our previous (as in, before our children died) selves. It works itself inward, always staying with us, no matter where life takes us.
My husband and I have taken 2 vacations since our son left us almost 3 years ago. The first trip was about a year and a half after he had died, and immediately after we had finally finished up the legal business we had to take care of after his death. It was soon enough after the tragedy that I think we both thought we would be able to drive away from the feelings and find some sense of normalcy on our road trip to California. No such luck. It doesn’t work that way. Even knowing this, though, I think we still hoped to find a place where the pain didn’t accompany us.
We were a little more prepared for the lack of relief from the pain on our second vacation taken just last month, and I think we have begun to realize there is not really an end to this. There is no “moving through the stages of grief” and coming out on the other side feeling like we’ve reached a “new normal” where everything begins to feel bearable again. I don’t think that happens; not in the way I thought it would, anyway.
We have come to understand that we have a new constant companion. I used to call this companion my “grief monster”. Now I see it more as a flu-bug that I thought I would someday get over; that it would work its way out of my body and I would begin to feel “well” again. That is not the case, though. Instead, it works its way into everything inside me. Not only do I constantly feel the weight of the sorrow inside me, I also see everything through it. A little bit of color has returned to the world for me, but it is still dull with the pain of knowing this loss, and the fear of having it happen again to another one of my children. Everything is tainted with it. Nothing is as it used to be.
That raw, stinging pain I had for the first year-and-a-half or so has certainly lessened to a dull ache that I am sometimes not even aware of. And the throbbing I felt in my chest and my throat have ceased. But the ache of never seeing a son I love with all my being has only intensified. I will say it again, because I don’t know a better way to describe what the pain of losing a beloved child feels like almost 3 years after the tragedy –
It seeped into my bones.
It has forever changed who I am, how I feel about everything, and I how I see everything – the world, heaven, relationships, myself, God, everything.
I know God is good and I trust Him still.
I miss my son terribly, but I know he is in good hands.
And I know I will see him again.
As Elevation Worship says so succinctly in the last line of their song O Come to the Altar –
“I will bear my cross as I wait for my crown.”
“‘Must Jesus bear the cross alone, and all the world go free? No, there’s a cross for everyone, and there’s a cross for me.’ The consecrated cross I’ll bear till death shall set me free; and then go home my crown to wear, for there’s a crown for me.” Thomas Shepherd (1655-1739)