“How are you?”
People ask me this question, hesitating, unsure if maybe they should just avoid the topic. Unsure if they want to know the truth.
I know people mean well, but how do I answer?
I am a mother who has lost her child. I am a mother who will never see her son on this Earth, again. I am a mother who witnessed a silent killer snatch her baby’s childhood and future away in moments.
I am only six months into this grief journey, but in many ways, it feels like an eternity. I knew this grief journey would be emotionally exhausting, that the sadness would weigh on me, that my heart would ache. I even expected physical exhaustion; how can I go to sleep, when every morning, I must wake to the realization that there are still only two children when there should be 3?
Yet, the most difficult part is the MENTAL exhaustion. My brain is a concrete block, and even the most simple decisions feel impossible. I am exhausted from the effort it takes to process the permanence and unfairness of this loss. Grief demands every ounce of my energy.
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My 3-year-old son, Levi, died tragically and without any preparation or goodbye. One minute he was wearing khaki shorts and sitting on a couch in a room filled with people, and in the next, I found him at the bottom of the pool.
Over and over, I remember this new reality. There are occasionally moments when I almost forget about Levi’s death. Sometimes, I am preoccupied with my daughters, or my mind just wanders. But, the price I pay for these fleeting seconds is steep, because then I must remember. It is physical, as if I am losing oxygen myself.
It comes back in a flash, like when a character in a movie sees his life flash before his eyes. It’s a split second reel of images: looking over the balcony and seeing Levi / sprinting down the stairs / our friends around him, desperate to save him / the helicopter / the hospital / telling our daughters. Except for the flashing scenes end, and unlike the character in the movie, I am still alive, but my son is not.
I am physically carrying my broken heart. Grief is heavier than I imagined; all of my concentration is required to hold onto these shattered pieces. I cannot let go, because now my every heartbeat is in conjunction with this grief, intertwined forever as long as I draw breath. Only in losing one can I ever lose the other.
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This burden of grief, this actual broken heart, is heavy, cumbersome, painful, constant. There is never a reprieve from this pain; yet, somehow, I am constantly startled that this is MY story. Every time, every minute, Levi’s death is new.
How am I doing? I truly appreciate the kindness from others and readily acknowledge the courage it takes to ask me this question. I wish I had a better answer. I am still breathing. I am determined to live a purposeful life for my daughters. I am fighting every day for Levi’s legacy not to be one of despair and anger.
But, no amount of choosing the good will give Levi a childhood. I have moments of hope and comfort, but woven into my every moment is an ache for my son.
Grief is a relentless, ruthless cycle of remembering.
Nicole is a mother of two daughters and one son: Lily (age 9), Reese (age 5), Levi (forever age 3). In June 2018, her precious Levi slipped out of a room filled with people and drowned while on vacation. Nicole is an advocate for water safety and is determined to spread the real truth about drowning. Find her on Facebook and Instagram.