Shortly after our loss, my husband and I attended a support group (Compassionate Friends). It was the first and last time we would go together.
What shocked us, and turned my husband away from finding hope there, was hearing story after story of loss, but realizing they were years into their grief. Decades.
We couldn’t imagine suffering from this loss for another day, let alone year after year. It was too painful to face that reality.
On the way home, in our stunned silence, I thought back to Austin’s funeral. Most of it is a blur, having survived that time on the sheer power of prayer and peace that only comes from God. But I recall my husband asking another child loss couple, as they came through to hug us if it ever got any easier.
They just looked at us with tear-filled eyes and hugged us harder.
I could think back to others I knew who had lost a child, and how that pain was always just below the surface. How the mention of their child’s name instantly misted their eyes, forced a crackle in their voice, or a shift in their emotions. It was clear very early in our grief that you never fully recover from a loss this great.
You don’t move on in child loss, you just learn how to move forward without them.
2018 Will Be the Start of a Decade Since the Loss of Our 14-Year-Old Son.
With nearly ten years of experience as a child loss mom, I can see our growth, progress, and healing. For us, the most difficult year was our second. In the first, we spent most of it numb. But I also know in watching the three of us learn to grieve, that none of us followed the same path or timeline. And just when you begin to feel grounded, something pulls you off your feet again. It’s a continual process, but I believe you do get stronger each day.
Sometimes, especially around his birthday or the anniversary of his death, it seems like some expect us not to pause and remember him. Nobody has ever outright said anything but I read through their comments or lack of them. As if they are thinking, “When are they going to get over this?”
The truth is, I will never get over the loss, this piece of me that is absent. Losing Austin changed me, shifted our hopes and plans. Altered our happily ever after.
My child is gone. Yet, our love doesn’t die. Perhaps, losing them intensifies that love even more.
I’m at a place where I can find joy without guilt. Where I am not afraid of the future. Or dwell on what I could have done differently in the past. But I will never stop missing my son. I will never not wonder what he might be doing at this stage, what his life might have been. My heart continues to beat, but there will forever be a hole.
And I won’t apologize for that.