The grief attacks seem like a sort of panic attack. The feeling is sudden, the thoughts flood in, my son is dead. He is really gone. I will not see, hear or touch him again in this world. It is overwhelming. Almost 6 months of his absence has passed.
The pattern of our life has not really changed. We get up and let the dogs out, I fix coffee, my husband prepares for work. I see him off for his day and the things that have always been routine are routine. My daughter calls on her way to work. I let my bird out and give her a new cardboard box to destroy.
This is where things start to fall apart. I have been writing as much as possible for the past six months and sometimes the worlds are hard to find. Sometimes they pitch me into such a bleak place, I refuse to write because I have been feeling “okay” (whatever that is). Sometimes I have to write because the words have been spinning around in my head all night.
I woke up the other night having a panic attack. It is a very scary thing – out of control – covered in sweat and feeling like I was going to pass out. The grief attacks make me light headed, disoriented and physically contracted. My mind is fighting the truth because it is too hard to bear. The finality, the emptiness, the void.
I get told, “he will always live in your heart ” and that is true, both my children and my husband have their icons that I can tap in my heart and see and hear them, but I’ve got to tell you – it is just not enough. It’s simply not enough.
I know why people consult spiritualists and mediums. We want some word that says “don’t worry, I am fine.” But I don’t believe that is possible. Some have written that they wish there was a phone line to heaven. I would try and crawl through the wire, I am afraid.
I am an enabler. It’s a good thing that my husband or children are not alcoholics – I would have made them a comfortable nest. I have my self worth locked up somehow in helping my family members be what they want to be. It was so much fun to fling open doors to possibilities and see them rush through. Death has slammed a door in my face and I am so frustrated and out of focus.
I know there are others who could use encouragement. I know there are things I could teach. I know that there are plenty of places to volunteer and make a difference. I know, I know, and I have ventured out – surprising even myself at what I am willing to attempt to do.
Maybe it has helped. I don’t know. Does it matter if the motive is really to help myself?
I come to dread the attacks of grief. They are as acute in some way as if the event has just happened all over again. Sharp and stabbing, waves of nausea and lightheadedness, sickening and brutal. They pass, sometimes quickly and I move on dreading the next attack.
The other’s who have traveled on this path longer than I say that “things get better.” But they cannot tell you how, or when. It seems to be as nebulous as trying to explain the depth and pain of our grief. It may and will happen eventually to greater or lesser degrees. Isn’t that reassuring?
There is only one absolute. My son is absolutely gone. The man is gone. There are records of him having been, there are people living now because he lived, but he is gone.
What is strange is that I know that one day I will be gone too. Everyone of us will be gone. I don’t know what kind of marks we are leaving on the world, if any. There are so few who do leave a mark and if they do, I am not sure how accurate our evidence is of them, how well preserved or kept intact. I know this, I don’t want anyone to have to grieve because of me. It is a horrible place.
Emotions are untidy things, and I understand that it is bad to allow them rule your life. I grew up with a mother that thought emotions were indicators, superstitiously, of what was real in the world. Emotions are fickle, mercurial and easily influenced by sight, smell and sound – triggered easily and fleeting as the moment. I recognize that there are things that trigger me, that have no effect on my daughter and husband. The problem comes when we are all firing off from the variety of triggers like lights on a pin-ball machine – emotionally ringing up the points that add up to – when it is over – nothing.
I’m not as angry at God anymore. It’s not His fault. I do fault myself, for not being a better student, a more receptive vessel. I believed things man said, I bought into the path of least resistance. It has proved more painful that fighting and speaking up. The grief flashes sometimes include the empty teachings of men I have heard through the years. I am so glad God is bigger than that.
I have had some light days too. They come with a price. There seems to be a need for self punishment for feeling better, and maybe it is in contrast to the good feelings that the grief attacks seem so huge. There is still so much to process and the filter gets clogged.
Early on I read books, Lament for a Son, Good Grief, Gone But Not Forgotten . Some of them have been maimed because I ripped pages out that made me angry. I can’t remember what they said now. I go to a chat room now and then within the Compassionatefriends.org. We stumble around each other a lot there. I hear my own thoughts and feelings echoed and it does seem to help. I hate it that that is where I have had to go to meet these wonderful people that I would have much preferred to meet in another way.
I have a wonderful daughter who now newly married is making a life with a hard-working man. I have a loving generous husband. I have a church family, an art family , sisters, sister-in-laws, brother-in-laws, nephews and nieces. I am so blessed, truly and deeply. I have had the most wonderful son anyone can imagine, perfect for me in every way and I miss him. That’s just how it is. Maybe the grief attacks are so violent because grief has it’s work cut out for it, in light of the amazing love I have had and have. Maybe one day, eventually, I will figure it out in greater and lesser degrees. Maybe-maybe not.