Matt, We’ve hit the three year mark. Actually, it’s 3 years and 24 days. That’s how life is for me now. It’s become a count down to how long it’s been since your death. When my brain realizes how long it’s been I find myself breathless. Still shocky, still unsteady. Unlike public perception, times does not heal this wound.
January’s slap was extra harsh this year. Not only was I trying to survive the anniversary of your death, but Ray’s father was dying. I sat at his bedside on your anniversary holding his hand. I told him it was ok if he needed to go on your day. I asked him to give you a hug and tell you how much you are loved and missed. I sat watching the life leaving his body but my heart was thinking of you. I was thinking of what it must have been like for you. No family at your bedside. No one holding your hand telling you how much you were loved. How your life was well lived and there should be no regrets. You see Matt, that’s the hardest part for me. Knowing that as you were taking your last breaths I was a thousand miles away totally unaware that you were gone.
Grief enveloped our home. Me continuing to grieve you. Ray just beginning to grieve for his dad. I recognized that wave hitting Ray. Seeing his face change as reality hit his heart. Seeing him in pain filled me with shame. I wanted to comfort him. I wanted to be who I needed to be to support him through his loss. I was barely surviving falling into the abyss that threatened my mind. How could I not think of the three years since I heard your voice.
50 years separated your deaths. Your life cut short at 37. Rays dad living to be 87. You see Matt, all I could think of was how many years we never had. Your death was out of the natural order of how things are supposed to be. Ray was experiencing death as it is supposed to be. People grow old and then they die. We bury our parents. We don’t bury our children.
Planning a funeral sucks. The ritual is too painful. It becomes unbearable when wounds are reopened. Watching Ray was like watching the rerun of a bad movie. Memories of everything I crawled through being brought back to life. Obituaries. Pictures of happy times. Torture. Torture. Torture.
I found myself reliving those first days. The days when I survived one minute at a time. Those first days where baby steps were the best I could do. Dressing for this funeral brought back dressing for yours. I dreaded the funeral scene. I was shocked at how strong memories hit. Closing my eyes I relived every moment. Feelings I’d been able to suppress flooded my heart. The profound loss. The ugly reality of death. I was helpless to help anyone but myself. My mask broken beyond repair.
Rays father’s funeral remains a blur. Memories of hugs, smells and whispers. The cold January wind once again slapping my face with the ugly reality of loss. Bone chilling cold reminding my heart that three years ago to the day I said goodbye to you my beautiful boy.
Watching Ray I must admit I’m jealous. His life returning to normal. Back to work. Back to life. Oh how I wish my grief would allow my life to stabilize. To allow me to have a day when I don’t think of you. When I don’t think of what life could have been had you survived your addiction.
I understand our losses are different. My heart is still shattered by your death. It will always hold evidence of a deep, painful, unimaginable loss. It will always dream of the what if’s, the possibilities of having you here. Child loss is the most devastating grief known to man. It never leaves and strikes at the most unexpected times. Losing a child is losing yourself. The present and future are tainted with profound confusion and denial.
I’ve heard it said that grief is not a life sentence, it’s a life passage. I thought long and hard about that statement. I think about this every time my phone rings and I hear an unfamiliar voice asking for me. I hear the choking tears as another mother calls my name. Oh this grief of child loss is a life sentence. One with no stages or reprieve. One we must take in slowly. One we crawl through every day for the rest of our lives….