At first, I lived by seconds and I heard every single one of them… tick… tick… tick… It was all I could do to put my feet down on the floor and move one foot in front of the other.
Then the seconds turned into minutes, which slowly turned into hours and days; and those first few days were unthinkable. Even now, remembering the things we had to do and the decisions we had to make turns my stomach. Nothing can really prepare you for the death and burial of your child. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t think straight and sometimes I just shook uncontrollably. I had no idea how to process what was happening. At times the tears fell silently; sometimes the sobs rocked my entire body. But the worst was when they wouldn’t come at all. I’d lie in bed in agony unable to move, the ache so incredibly deep that my heart felt like it was literally broken. If the tears came I might have at least had some relief.
People gave me hugs. People shared food. They said kind words and sent nice cards. It all felt like a strange dream. I politely smiled and somehow uttered the appropriate words of appreciation and thanks but my face felt like a mask. My body went through the motions but my mind and heart were somewhere else.
Tick… tick… tick… somehow, in some way, I had survived a week, a whole week, without my son. Then one week turned into two. Most of the people who had surrounded and supported us through those first few hours and days were now gone, gone back to their old worlds and routines. My husband was back at work and I was left alone to grapple with the reality of a brand new world without any familiar routines. I was supposed to be regaining some kind of normalcy, but how? Not only was my son gone but so was my job and my purpose. His medical needs had dictated every single second of the last eight and a half years of my life… tick… tick… tick…
I started with the simple things. I did laundry, washed dishes, cooked and cleaned. I moved food around on the plate but I still couldn’t eat. I felt physically sick. I still couldn’t sleep and I still couldn’t believe this had really happened. I felt like I was stuck in place with life flying by; people, cars and lights whizzing past me. I felt dizzy, disoriented and confused. Sounds were strangely distorted and laughter sounded like a foreign language. I tried in vain to get my bearings and plant my feet on the ground so maybe, just maybe, I wouldn’t be blown away.
Then… ONE MONTH… an anniversary? But this was not like any anniversary we had ever experienced. Aren’t anniversaries supposed to be happy and joyous occasions? I heard about other parents, whose child had been gone for one year… two years… five years! I wondered how in the world they were still able to function. I wondered if I’d still be breathing in another month and couldn’t fathom the idea of spending years without my son. I missed absolutely everything about him. I held onto his picture, clung to it really. I touched his face and sobbed from a place I didn’t even know existed. I clutched his things, trying to breath in his smell. Reliving every memory over and over, so afraid, terrified really, that I would forget something and lose even more. I held onto every word mentioned about him, trying to etch them into my mind, into my heart that had been broken into a million pieces.
I’d go through horrific times imagining how things might have been different, or could they have? The thoughts raced through my mind “What if I had done… what if they had done… or what if we hadn’t done… or they didn’t do… what could have been if…?” The agony of what might have been but would never be…
Tick… tick… tick… the days, weeks and months slowly slipped by and I began the process of building new routines for our new world. As I started to go places I would sometimes hear or smell things that would stop me dead in my tracks, triggering memories of the past. These memories were so intensely vivid it was like a movie playing in my mind and I clung to them, even when they were horrific, because these were now “my time” with my son. Short glimpses when I could hear his voice again, see him, interact with him, and sometimes even touch him. I began to beg for dreams just so I could spend time with him again. I started to seriously question if I’d gone completely mad. I was in the darkest of dark places and wondered if it was possible to emerge from this and be even remotely whole. I wondered if I even wanted to.
We each walk our own path and experience grief differently, but this is what the first few months were like for me after our son Connor died. These are some of the details that are often kept quiet and hidden, our ‘silent grief’, as if these feelings are somehow shameful and aberrant. I have found that when we keep the details in the dark we are left feeling even more alone, isolated, and often doubting our sanity. When, in all actuality, what we are feeling is completely typical. For me, it was important to realize that what I was experiencing was indeed, “grief”, and that it was OK to feel what I was feeling. As I allowed myself to embrace the feelings, taking the time to truly grieve my son, my healing process began.
I will never “get over” or “move on from” losing my son. These phrases are both pointless and hurtful. What I have found is that grief and the grieving process do change over time. The wounds are not as fresh anymore. They no longer bleed as easily, but the scars will always be there. Accepting this helps me. My love for Connor is deep, thus my grief over his death and the life that will never be, is also deep.
Eventually the seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks and months did turn into years… over six of them now since I buried my beautiful boy. As time continues to pass I have more and more bright, wonderful days. Six years later the good days far outnumber the challenging ones and most of my thoughts about Connor are wonderful memories of our times together. But when those hard times do come, and they most definitely do, I allow myself to feel the feelings and grieve deeply for him. I will always carry him in my heart, and he will forever be part of my life.
Wherever you are in your grief, know that you are not alone. Your journey will always be uniquely yours, but remember there are others walking this road too. Take the time to feel, to grieve, and to share your child and your story with others. Find what helps you and hold onto those you love in your life. Know that whatever you are feeling and thinking is part of grieving and in time the darkness will fade. Hold onto the hope that the sun will indeed rise again. You will have better and more beautiful days, taking your child with you. Keep walking the journey! Seconds, minutes, moments at a time.