Just 14 months ago, my life changed in a deeply fundamental and basic way. My world shattered. My youngest son took his own life. And since then everything is different. Life takes more effort. Work, relationships, communicating, praying, waking and sleeping, exercise, diet, recreation, … sitting and doing nothing… all take some kind of effort.
I always seem like I am treading carefully… trying not to break down or lash out… trying not to flake out or crumble… or to check out. To be upstanding and responsible, and kind and respectful… nice to children and animals and trying not to drag everyone around me down into some kind of slow and sad depression. Baby steps for my soul… the need to address this new reality, this new me in gentle and careful ways… and to be on guard for threats- internal or external… to this young and fragile being… that is a reality I never expected.
And I’d like to think the worst is now behind me. But wise people with some experience in this caution me that the second year can be worse.
In that moment everything changed in ways that I couldn’t imagine. I changed. And there is nothing I can do to go back to the way it was or go back to the way I was. The way I think, what I feel… my motivations, my desires… my heart and my soul- all wounded and scarred… and what life is like or about and what is important all fundamentally shifted.
And I sit here every morning with my cat and my cup of tea… and the rays of the early morning sun streaming in through that window… And really, I know I can’t go back to what was, or to who I was, but I am trying to get back to some sense of normal reality… to an ordinary world. And maybe that never ever happens.
My world is wrapped in grief and somewhere in the background, every experience is colored by sadness. My perspective is rooted in a shattered brokenness only a grieving parent can know… and it is always in my view… if the grief isn’t front and center, there always seems to be a thin covering… like a fine misting only I can see and a faint odor of loss that follows me that only I can smell. And certainly I can still laugh and have fun and enjoy life. But all this other stuff is never far.
There are triggers everywhere… memories of my son and constant reminders of his absence… and so every moment there is the reality of this permanent loss and the potential for the unexpected wave of pain or that sudden shift of energy when I feel it drain from my head down, or that momentary lapse where my mind goes somewhere far far away… and really… sometimes lashing out at someone or crying inappropriately… those may be the least of my worries.
And if I grow frustrated and angry because you can’t see it, and smell it, and feel it down deeply in your bones… well it is probably best that you leave me to that. Yeah… even well meaning people try to help with words about moving on. Even people that love me and want the old me back… sometimes they just don’t seem to understand. The statement that I am “just” angry… that is likely to make whomever said it the target of that anger. I wish I was “just” angry… or “just” anything. Then I could deal with it and “move on.” There is nothing “just” about parental loss like this. Perhaps if I was “just” angry, I could beat the shit out of someone until I felt better and that would fix it. But there is not “just.”… there is no fixing. And no amount of expression of anger, or no amount of tears will change this. You don’t have to live like this and for that I am glad.
Oh… please never question my faith. I have had to wrestle with God for 14 months. My faith has been tested. And to wake up praising Him and worshipping Him for His goodness and glory… think about that… it is no easy thing. I have clung through this to a God that is love, to a personal God that is always with me and that feels my loss and understands pain and grief and anger… a God that absorbs my abuse, and holds me while I weep. To believe in spite of perverse and pervasive pain, that God is good and to know that out of nothing more than basic survival necessity, that I need Him in a way few can understand means that I can’t really care at all about what your theology says I should be like, or what kind of religious shortfalls you think I have. I don’t anyone can ever understand the deepening of a faith that has been tested to the breaking point… and in my moment of deepest pain and darkest suffering… to discover that it was all I had left to hold onto.
I have a lot less patience. I haven’t found it in me recently to suffer the self righteous or endure the sanctimonious… or to return the sharp slap (even if unintentional) of words of personal attack with goodness. Lack of compassion, lack of concern… the lack of love for the least of these… I seem to have little stomach for. I can’t seem to allow mean-spiritedness and cruelty go without comment. And a lot of that appears to have taken a specific political turn…
I have found moving forward, taking one step or one day, or one moment… that taking time helps, painting helps, love helps. Accepting love from my friends and family is necessary. Food helps. Rest helps. Exercise helps… because this is still life and the human machine still needs to be cared for and maintained. And as much as I try not to damage relationships or my health in the short term… sometimes chocolate helps as well.
So it is a lot to deal with. Hang in there… (that is for you AND me.)