I’m told, by people that think it is comforting, that I will see my departed son, Ethan again one day. And I guess there is some comfort in that. But it does nothing to erase the current loss or fill this strange emptiness. Nor does it let me see how his aborted life would have played out. And it doesn’t change the fact that his life ended early and badly. I have to remind myself that words of comfort, no matter how effective, are given from kindness. And that really does matter.
Grieving a child is strangely pervasive. It is this constant non sequitur. This random intrusive thought that comes in at odd moments and weaves its way into every daily activity, sometimes way into the background, and sometimes it all just hits me. And not only are there these brief moments when it all hits me… that my son is dead and will not be coming back in this life time but also that because of that my life will not be the same. Even when speaking with someone about some other subject, my mind drifts and I find myself wanting to ask that person if they have ever lost a child- if they know what this is like.
For a while, carrying some pain around may be noble. But after a period passes- it wears on everyone, and people must either assume I am just a downer to be around, or that I’m an asshole. Pushing people away, or not wanting to put in the effort to repair broken friendships comes with the territory, I guess. I have to deal with the fact that when these emotions affect relationships or work or life in general, that it is serious enough to confront… and know what to do or where to go or how to go about it isn’t obvious. It isn’t in the manual.
Grieving a child affects not only the present, but inevitably the future. I know I will carry some pain today. I know that in some measure these feeling will be with me. I know my future will not include new memories of my son’s life. And the kicker? It affects the past. Every memory from my son’s birth, to his first day in kindergarten, to high school band trips and vacations, to going off to college is now covered in sadness. (There was a brief moment while watching the animated movie Inside Out where Sadness is turning all the memory orbs she touches blue that resonates… I probably laughed a bit too loudly in the theater.)
So today, I will go to work. I don’t want to go to work. Today I will do many things. And I will forget things. And I will operate, not from a place of joy or confidence, or of stability… but from a place of doubt, of sadness, of a strange frustration of knowing that I can’t change the one thing I would want most. And I will find someway to frame things so that I can simulate confidence and fake joy and pretend to be stable and responsible. But inside, I know that everything, no matter how I arrange it, is still broken somehow… and that I am missing something essential.