I don’t know how to describe it when something clicks in a way that changes my perspective. If it happens slowly, I do not notice. The gradual evolving of my feelings and observations gently nudge me to think differently. Perhaps in hindsight I remember how I used to feel or think and realize that it is different now. Sometimes it happens abruptly. It is like someone has turned on a light in a corner of my mind where it used to be dark. It is like standing in front of a new mirror where the distortion is just slightly different and I wonder if that is how I really look.
I realize it can be a conscious effort, to learn something new – investigate something to find a way to understand it better or differently. My habit is to come with preconceived ideas. I won’t accuse everyone else concerning this, but I will assume that I am not the only one who has preconceived notions.
Death of a loved one, especially a child seems to be that kind of trigger. When talking with others who have lost a child it seems we all struggle with our new perspective.
We begin by not being able to believe the reality that our child is gone. I don’t know when or if that ever ends. It has not begun to diminish for me. There are other people who are gone now. My parents are gone, yet I understand that they are no longer here. I have a friend that died years ago after moving to another state. I do struggle with believing that she is gone. I don’t know if it is related to the age of the person but I suspect it is. Our perspective is challenged. You die when you are old not when young with the future before you, not when a child.
We, when we can bear it, begin to make a list of all the things that “will not” ever happen now. We use up time when we could be doing other things to think through all the things our child will never see, feel, do or produce. We mourn the future. We hoped to be a part of that. We expected to be able to enjoy celebrating the milestones in their life. That is gone now and we did not make an alternate plan. We grasp at things we think we could do, but it is half-hearted as we try to fill up the gap. Many parents must go back to work. Some throw themselves into their work trying to blunt their thoughts. It may keep things at bay for a while, but eventually when the wave recedes for a bit, it washes back in again full force. You may postpone the feelings, but they will come back at you.
The real life evidences – the objects and things that they owned, used, wore or played with can be difficult to deal with. We don’t want to part with them, but we feel like it may be crazy to keep them. My son did not have a wife or children. I cannot speak for those parents who now having lost their child have the spouse and grandchildren to grieve with. I cannot imagine how they feel. I have dealt some with my son’s good friends. They worry that they will “remind” me of him. They worry that they will make me feel sad. I respect the fact that they cannot stay where I am. I hope for them that they never experience this grief personally with their own child one day. Knowing that they still remember my son is a comfort. A part of him lives on in them in whatever way he influenced them for good.
Sadness is my constant companion. We have even learned to laugh together some. I guess that sounds crazy, but I accept the fact that life is sad with the potential for bright moments of joy. This perspective is very clear and real to me now. I understand now why most prayers in the Bible are pleas for strength to endure. That is all we can do – endure. Death cannot be undone. It is coming to everyone eventually.
I understand that people don’t want to be reminded of this every second of every day. There are times during the day when I don’t think about death. There are times when I don’t actively think about my son. So far in this journey there has not been a day when I have not thought about both my own death sometimes marveling over the fact that I am still here. The fact that anything still exists seems impossible in light of the death of my son. I have not come to grips with the change in that perspective.
We eventually begin to turn again to those who remain. I have a husband, daughter, sisters, nieces, nephews and my husbands family. They have lives that are continuing on in the normal paths that life takes. They deserve my attention too. Sometimes they participate in things or have events happen that you wish your child could have had. You try not to be jealous or resentful. You want to celebrate with them. You may have a voice in your head whispering “don’t they realize I can’t be happy for them, when my child will never . . .” It is difficult to tune that out at times.
We sometimes find ourselves wanting to lecture parents when they complain about their living child. We erroneously think that if our child were still living we would not complain about them or find fault. That could only be accomplished if they were magically brought back to life, if we were to get them back knowing they could be dead. If they were still living, I wouldn’t be writing this. I would be complaining about my son’s bad habits. Our insight and appreciation for our child and all the things we miss cannot be transposed on anyone else’s life with their child. It didn’t work for me. It can’t be done for them. Sometimes in those situations when I hear someone complaining about their precious child I have to think- I used to do that too- I hope they always have them to complain about.
I still complain and find fault with the people I love and who are still with me. Nothing has magically transformed me into some angelic creature without moods or attitudes.
My son was a man with talents and faults. He could be utterly annoying at times. I miss all aspects of him. I will not deify him or cast him in the role of some guardian angel. I miss the man, the person, the personality. If he had not died we would be wrestling with all sorts of issues right now. I won’t print my list of what he would be doing because that too is speculation. Except for one thing. He would be calling me today – reporting on his dogs – telling me his plans- telling me he loves me.
Love you too sweet pea.
My children are pretty much my reason for existing at this time. They take up the majority of my time and efforts. But like most other parents, I assume, I do not think they will be with me indefinitely. I don’t assume either of them will reach adulthood or venture every far into it. I don’t know when their bodies will begin to give up on them. They already seem to be in small ways that have crept in over the years, but as they get older I find myself thinking more and more, how much time do we have left. I have no answer to that one, no one does. But I can understand what you mean about life being sad and having moments of joy and why people older than me were always singing about getting to heaven and wanting it to all be over. I think I’d be just fine with that. I don’t know if that makes me depressed or just truthful. If I’m not worried about how long Hannah and Lucas may live, I’m worried about Faye being in the middle of it all and how it might be for her if she is left all alone with no brother or sister. I know that sounds morbid, but there’s a strange process of grief that one goes through with a child or friend or parent who is sick for a long time. I do want to be fully present with them so that I don’t regret anything should they die. And I feel guilty for having the normal parent/child moments of frustration and annoyance. Lucas has not been well, so I’ve been on alert lately looking for signs, fearful that I will see the end coming too soon and know. Even if my kids live for a long time, I grieve over the lives they will not lead. The possibilities that are/will be closed to them. The children they will not have, the grandchildren I selfishly will not get to spoil.
I hope this is not dumping on you when you are in your own pain. I just wanted to share with you how your writing means certain things to me even though I have my children with me now. I think about death a lot and have come to a level of comfort with it. Something I never thought I’d do. But it’s selfishly only comfort for myself, I would not have it for my children.
I miss you, Pam. Much love, Paige
I think about you more than I can say and hold back commenting when you post concerning Lucas because I don’t know what to say. I will tell you the best mental preparations get trampled in the dust when it comes to brutal reality. I tell you this because I have talked to so many parents who have dealt with childhood illness,as we did too 12 years ago. Every time our daughter has a doctor’s appointment I feel panic rise.
We wanted our children and we rejoiced in their birth.
I wish it were different for your family, but wishing does not make it so.
I think you are coping very well. I wish coping were not necessary. I admire the fact that you do treat all your children the same and give them opportunity to do what they are capable of doing.
Be kind to yourself too. You are of great value. I miss you too.
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