One thing I discovered through this first year of grief – I hate packing. It’s not something I could have anticipated being a trigger.

I have a very Type A personality. I must be organized. Things need to follow a routine or it throws me completely off. Maybe that’s why packing to leave home is such a trigger for me?

Our bedrooms are all upstairs in one hallway. I normally pack Lucas, our older son, first and for whatever reason we move packed bags into the spare bedroom to all be together, while being out of the way of everything else going on. Every time I walk out of the spare bedroom, it hits me. I’m staring straight into Toby’s room. His empty crib in the doorway. I get anxious. I don’t want to leave home. It’s the only place Toby knew. It was the place he spent the most time with us. What if he can’t find us? What if he is upset that we left him? I get overwhelmed. More often than not I end up crying. I sit or stand in the middle of the hallway with empty hands and continually question God.

Another emotion I experience is denial. I’m packing for everyone and thinking of how many days we’ll be away; what will the weather be like; what will we be doing and I have caught myself a number of times getting caught up in the rush and literally thinking “What do I need to pack for Toby? What will he wear?” In the midst of walking from room to room in this rush, I’m hit with the realization of the trick my mind is playing on me.

What is a matter with you? That’s what goes through my mind. Why on earth would you even think that? It’s been 6, 8, 10, 12 months. Why can my mind not succumb to the realization that Toby’s not here anymore? That he is gone, forever?

Throughout the summer we were away a lot. Usual summer traveling. It was also the most traumatic time since Toby’s death because it overlapped the twelve weeks of his life that we were all together as a family.

Many have said to me, when I express my anxiety of leaving home:

He’s not there in the house.

Toby is always with you. 

He’s wherever you are.

You are not leaving him behind. 

Ok. Maybe that is how you see it. Maybe that is what you believe. To many of those statements I’ve simply smiled and walked away.

To a mother who has lost her son, with no explanation as to why he died, there lies guilt that will forever be inside my heart. Even though I know, realistically, I could not have saved him.

Yes, Toby is always with me – and my husband and his brother. But to me, there are times when he may be helping God with something or playing in Heaven’s nursery and what if he comes back, not knowing we have left, and our house is empty?

Every time I leave our house, whether it be for work, or a trip to the grocery store, or a visit to the park, or going away for days, there is guilt. There is heartache. There is anger. There is despair. We are always missing someone. Toby. There is always one less car seat, one less snack or drink, one less packed bag.

This was an unexpected grief trigger and one I don’t know that I’ll ever get used to.


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    Katie Stern

    Katie Stern

    Katie’s son, Toby, died on August 24, 2016 in his sleep from SIDS. She and her husband, Dan, are working to establish The Little Fox | Toby’s Foundation to spread joy to children and families in their region, while educating others on a journey of a grieving parent. Katie lives in Pittsburgh with her husband, their two-year old son Lucas, and their two boxers – Murray & Theo.

    September 12, 2017
    September 12, 2017

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    2 Comments

    1. Reply

      Amy

      September 12, 2017

      I felt that way the first time leaving home after losing my son. He is cremated and I seriously considered bringing his ashes with us because the thought of leaving them at home gave me so much anxiety and heartache. Nothing about this journey is easy.

      • Katie Stern
        Reply

        Katie Stern

        September 12, 2017

        That’s my feeling all the time. I always take something of Toby’s with us when we go away, like his fox, and I always visit the cemetery prior to leaving. Call me crazy, but I need that time and connection to feel less anxious.

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