Five years ago, I got the call that is every parent’s worst nightmare. Street racers had hit my son Davey after dropping off a friend. He died instantly.
He was only 25 and was beginning his life.
I went through those first few weeks wholly numb and in shock. In fact, I can’t remember much of it at all.
The one thing that will always be with me is when we went to the hospital morgue. I didn’t want to at first. I had no desire to see my baby in the aftermath of his accident.
In the end, I decided to go, and I will forever be haunted by that moment. He looked so beautiful and peaceful. Other than a small cut on his forehead, he looked perfectly normal.
Except he wasn’t and the “normal” in my life is forever changed.
The purpose of this article is not to relive those first awful months, but to tell the story of my survival.
For a long time, I had no desire to survive. I could not see how a world that had taken my son was worth surviving for.
Yes, I had a husband and a daughter and parents that were all there for me, but I wasn’t in a place that I could think about them.
I pushed them all away for a while. I couldn’t bear the thought that I could lose any of them too, so I retreated deep into myself.
There was one beacon of light that was trying to get through my fog, and that was my daughter. She had lost her brother and was just as devastated as I was. I had been so immersed in my pain that I hadn’t been there for her.
It finally occurred to me that I needed to save her, even if I had no desire to save myself.
I made sure I was there 24/7 for her. I cried with her. I raged with her and did whatever she needed.
Those first few months we couldn’t have a conversation about anything without crying. It was a long time before we kind of settled back into what was our new “normal.”
She and I both started grief counseling. I was seeing a therapist, and she was going to group counseling.
I was also started on a low dose of antidepressant. I will tell you; those things saved us.
It was a relief to find out the things I was feeling were ok. I was in so much pain that I was convinced I was losing my mind.
I wasn’t. I had suffered one of the worst things that can happen to a person, and my feelings were completely justified and normal.
After my numbness and shock wore off, I went through an angry period.
I had lost my son, and I was damn mad! I would mouth off at anyone. I didn’t care for a while that I was hurting the people that I loved.
My poor husband took the brunt of it. I would yell at him for ridiculous things. “YOU DIDN’T FOLD THE SOCKS CORRECTLY.”
Looking back, I am amazed he stood by me during that time.
What finally got through to me? Again, my daughter.
She kindly pointed out that I had never been that person, and Davey would be appalled at my behavior.
After the anger subsided, I had to learn to deal with my grief.
The therapist was so invaluable to me. She taught me how grief works, how it would come in these gigantic waves.
As time goes on, those waves come a little less frequently and are a bit less intense.
I eventually learned to ride those waves. I learned that after the wave had subsided, I could kind of tuck them back in and try to resume living.
What became very clear to me as time went on is that I wanted my son to be proud of his sister and me. He was always after me to try to discover my passions and to live life to the fullest.
I had always been a kind of “on the sidelines” type of person, and it used to drive him nuts.
Over time, I have tried to do just that. I continued with counseling for four years after Davey’s death, and while I have graduated from weekly sessions, I still occasionally see her when I need a tune-up.
I have learned so much about myself on this journey.
Losing my son has taught me that I have no tolerance for drama or bullshit in my life anymore. I have learned that it is the small things that matter. I have learned that we are all fighting battles and maybe, just maybe, we shouldn’t judge others.
I have learned that being kind to everyone makes my day a little better.
I have learned that I love to write. I wrote a book, Follow Your Bliss, that tells my story, and it’s been published. I want to reach out to others that are on this journey.
It took me a long time and a lot of work, but I have survived. I have had to accept that my life will never be the same. I have had to learn to live with a large chunk of my heart missing.
I still have those waves of grief at times.
Davey’s accident was in April, and every year when the month rolls around, it throws me into a tailspin. His birthday is another. It’s a time when I wonder about where his life would be now.
Would he be married and have a family? That’s a rough one for me as he wanted a family of his own in the worst way.
But then I have to tuck them back in again because to dwell on those things can destroy me.
I now have some control over my emotions – something else I learned in therapy. I ride the waves out and then put them away until the next trigger.
Is my life amazing? Of course not. Davey isn’t here with me. But I am living the best life that I can.
I am grateful that my husband and family stood by me in my darkest moments. I am grateful that we are all healthy. I am grateful for my beautiful new grandson.
But most of all, I am grateful that my children were given to me. In spite of what I have lost, I consider myself the luckiest person on the planet that Cari and I got to share 25 years with our Davey.
And I wouldn’t trade a second of that.