– I hate to be the one to tell you this, as you search for some normalcy in your new life as a bereaved parent – but sometimes it helps to know what lies ahead.
I remember being told that the second year is often harder than the first, and when year two rolled around, I was grateful for that knowledge because I thought I was either going insane or sinking into a bottomless pit.
Well, we are quickly approaching our third year, and dear one, it hasn’t gotten any easier.
It’s hard to explain the whole time is a linear idea – but it reminds me of my father-in-law, at age 90, saying he feels 40. Who you are inside stays the same – maybe older, maybe wiser, but always you.
With loss, it still feels like day one. Sure, the shock has worn off, but the disbelief hasn’t. It won’t.
You’ll stop breathing some days as the reality of it bears down on you again. He/She is gone.
You will find ways to cope, to live, to keep moving forward with your “new normal” – right, like any of this feels normal.
But you will be a shadow of yourself. Oftentimes a stranger in your own mind. I used to look at photos of John when he was doing well and when he was not.
I could instantly see it in his eyes – and now I see it in my own. In the mirror, in pictures, something is missing. The twinkle is gone, the light has dimmed, the smile less genuine.
At every holiday, you’ll be thinking about the past, the before. When everything was okay, and you and the Jones were living life to the full.
Now, the Jones’ are still living large, but you maybe don’t feel like leaving the house. Your calendar may become strangely blank.
Only the things you can tolerate or feel wholly obligated to do now are written in the squares.
Your social life becomes virtually non-existent.
Between your feelings of wanting to isolate and everyone else not knowing how to deal with you or who you have become, the outings are rare, the rest of life’s problems become the small things, and you frankly feel like a very large and very wet blanket.
Whatever you can do to find purpose, do it.
Because the nights become very long when you’re lying awake asking the questions and reliving the moments, spending your time replaying that last day or week and ruminating over the future you thought you would have but, now, will never be.
It’s exhausting. You’ll be tired for a very long time.
And that’s normal – your heart broke, and your soul died a bit that day.
Be kind to yourself and remember that there is no timeline.
I personally don’t believe there is healing from a wound this large either. Healing means your back to normal, healthy – in this case, what you will be aiming for is acceptance.
Understanding that this is the way it is now and your child will be forever 6 or 17 or 24 or 32, and part of you will remain there too.
Words become lifelines and stumbling blocks all at the same time.
You’ll hear some ridiculous statements being made, things you’ll never forget, but wish you could, and also, some of the most gracious and heartfelt comments and stories about your child that you will treasure until eternity.
Life will give you so much time to work through it, and then you’ll naturally find yourself joining along in the grand game of pretend.
They don’t bring it up, say his name, or ask anymore… and you go along with that, after a while.
Not because you like it, but because some time has passed and there isn’t really anything else you can do.
It’s not that you don’t want to talk about it, it’s just that life as we know it keeps happening and new, horrible things keep taking place, the next tragedy strikes, and you feel your child slipping into the “old news” category of life.
Except in this shadow life you live in.
Half here and half there, with them.
In your shadow life, they are always front and center. Always with you, hidden in your heart and fiercely protected.
You say their name, you write about your dreams of them, you pour over the photos and video, wishing you were making new ones, but you keep them alive.
You honor them.
You remember them.
You speak about them with your spouse, other children, or your dog, but you keep speaking.
It’s your new job.
No, dear one, time doesn’t move along normally for you anymore.
Nothing will be normal again.
You’ve joined the club know as THE BEREAVED, and only within its borders will you find the understanding and kindred spirits that know this new life and how it feels to live as a shadow in the life you used to have.