Joy and grief couple each otherNo matter how much joy I feel, there is an undercurrent of sadness and longing for what could have been.  After my son died the world was different.  I was different.  My life is forever changed.  For a while I was unsure how I could go on without him.  Imagining my future without my son seemed impossible.  Paralyzed by sadness, I was afraid to live for fear that it would mean I moved on.

Related: Grief with a Heaping Side of Guilt

Life has a funny way of moving on.  Time keeps going.  It does not stop, even when your entire world has crumbled around you.  It took some time, lots of crying, countless hours in therapy, and creating a community of people who “got it”.  But I eventually began to heal.  I started to have more good moments than bad moments, which at first were coupled with guilt.

I went on to have a healthy son.  Then a healthy daughter, who looks just like her oldest brother.  Life got busy.  I continue to miss Parker and long to having him in my arms.  But to an outsider, it looks as if I have “moved on”.  Let me tell you this.  There is NO moving on.  You do not “get over” the death of a child.  Ever.

Instead, you learn to live with the pain. It becomes a part of you.  It fades over time, but remains close, like a best friend who has moved away.  The moment you are reunited, it’s like you never were apart.

That’s what the pain is like for me.  Four years later, I have many more good days than bad.  Then there is a day when the pain and the longing knocks me to my knees. Reminding me that I am will be living the rest of my life without a son.  My living children are missing their big brother.  Healing is possible, but it does not mean forgetting.

I think of him constantly.  All the time.  If you were to watch me, you would never know.  I look like any other mom, wife, friend, colleague, person going about their day.  Appearing “normal” to the naked eye.

I will let you in on a little secret.  Even in moments when I am laughing my hardest, there is a part of me that is sad.  There is a part of me that is thinking of my first child.  Wondering “what could have been”.

Every celebration, every joyous moment, every milestone, every time someone refers to my living son as “the oldest”, every card I sign, every holiday.  Every single thing reminds that my son is not here.

Related: Surviving the Holidays

I remember that he will never have a first day of school, he will never get to wrestle with his siblings, he will never get credit for being the oldest, nobody will ever notice that a name is missing on our holiday card.

It is a strange feeling to be able to live a happy, joyful life but at the exact same time feel a deep sadness.  There is a twinge in my soul when somebody refers to me as a Mom of two instead of three.  It takes my breath away.  There is a pause.  A split second where I think of him.  My heart flutters as I realize he will always be missing.  A part of me will always be missing and there is no amount of joyful moments will change that.