Let's Talk Honestly About Grief
And just like that….the grief strikes as strong as it was the day you died. The wave is 100 foot tall with no end in sight…an all consuming, enormous wave ready to devour my inner self. That’s what it’s like. You never know when the waves are going to strike and you never know how long they will last. They deplete you of all energy, of all feeling, and of any type cognition or ability to think.
As I write this, the 4th of July is around the corner, and those of us that have suffered the loss of our child are hurting. Holidays seem to bring a pain unique to themselves. Holidays are special days set aside to share with family and friends. They are days that we, too, had and continue to set aside for sharing with those closest to us. These days, now however, take on a new meaning for us. The joy of the day is shadowed in the sorrow of our loss….that our son or daughter will no longer be with us on any holiday…and on this July 4th, those of us whom have lost a child, will be trying to figure out how to celebrate without that child here. I can’t even put the pain into words…I don’t know the words to convey the pain that is felt in the heart of a mother when she loses a child. I will say that it’s unlike any other I have ever felt in my life. I’ll try to bring it to life a little for you to give you some type of idea how it feels.
One of he first things I noticed in dealing with the loss of my son, Aaron, was that I had a physical pain in the center of my chest. It wasn’t a heart attack, sharp kind of pain. It was a dull pain that radiated from the center of my chest and sharpened when I took in a breath. That pain stayed with me constantly for at least the first 2 months. When I tried to explain it to someone, she said, “It’s like your heart is broken.” YES! That’s exactly what I would imagine a broken heart feeling like. That pain has lessened over the last couple of months, but it still comes and goes, especially if find myself in the midst of one of those 1o0 foot waves of grief.
The second thing I noticed was that it was hard to breathe….literally. WhenI first found out that Aaron had passed, it was like the wind was knocked completely out of me…I was speechless and in a state of shock and unable to catch a deep breath. As time went on, shortness of breath became common. One night, I was actually awakened with my breath so short that it scared me. I felt like I had a weight sitting on my chest and my breathing was so shallow that I couldn’t get in a deep breath…I actually considered going to the ER that night, but never did.
The next thing that became utterly apparent was that I couldn’t function or think well. My ability to work through simple tasks and to answer simple questions became very difficult, because I couldn’t focus. I was and still am living in that fog all the time. That fog, hindered my ability to to do many things, but the one thing that it did and continues to do is it isolates me to a certain degree. It’s hard for me to place myself in situations where there are many people, because then I have to make conversation, and as simple as that sounds, right now, it completely overwhelms me. Sometimes the thought of having to talk is a very intimidating experience, so it makes me shy away from immersing myself in those situations. The fog is beginning to lightly lift at this time, but it’s still there, lingering around to keep me at bay.
Anger was one of the strongest emotions that I had to deal with in this process of grief and pain. Honesty about this part of my grief is scary, because it’s taboo to talk about these often experienced emotions. I always thought I was so good at being honest, but in this process, I began to question that, because this loss has done things to me that I never dreamed possible. I had heard of people being angry with God in this type of loss, and I used to always wonder how they could be angry with Him. I mean, I used to think things like, “Don’t they know that God works all things together for their good? Don’t they know that He sees the future and that His plans are best?” If only I had known how irrational that thinking was….but I had yet to experience that kind of heart wrenching loss that I had seen others suffer through. Now, I am walking a mile in their shoes, and I know how easy it is to question why, to be angry and to have the foundation of my faith shaken. That’s being real and honest….no sugar coating. And I never, ever thought that I would, in essence, allow something shake my faith that way. Even though I haven’t been faithful in my acceptance of His will, He has been by my side to gently remind me of His presence. He’s also been there to remind that even though I don’t understand and may not agree with His plan, that He knew and knows what’s best. So, as the loving God that He is, He’s helping me to work through that anger and come to acceptance that His will was fulfilled…maybe not how I wanted to to be fulfilled, but no doubt, perfected in His plan. Things still aren’t where I want them to be in my spiritual life, because I find it hard to pray at times. I’ve come further than where I was in the beginning, but there are still many days that I don’t even know how to pray or what to say….but I’m getting there. God will bring me through this, I have no doubt, even though it may take quite some time.
One of the things I have learned in this process is that experience is sometimes a ruthless, harsh teacher that crushes your heart and your spirit. This type of blow, leaves you at the lowest point in your life.
Physically, mentally, and spiritually you are left bankrupt…void of life yourself, but you still have a beating heart and a fully functional body of systems in tact. Despite that life, my body often still feels lifeless…more so in the beginning, but still now, I often feel lifeless although I am very much a live.
If only Aaron could know how much he is missed and how many holes he left in the hearts of those who loved him so dearly. But, I know that where he is, he doesn’t have the same thoughts we have and that he is experiencing a happiness that we can’t even fathom. While I know this, the selfish side of me still misses him here on earth.
So…what’s the good in all this sadness?? I will never find good in Aaron’s passing, but I feel like that Aaron has taught me so much in his short life. But even more, I feel that he is is continuing to teach me in his death. I am learning that God had His plan, even though it wasn’t the plan I had played out, it was the most perfect plan for Aaron. How?….I don’t know…I can’t answer that and I’m not sure that I will ever be able to answer it. I’m learning to let my faith accept that it was the best plan. I feel like Aaron has taught me to love tie dye, because, I am now consumed in making tie dye shirts. I wear them proudly now, thinking of him each time I wear them, despite the sometimes strange looks I receive. I am learning to be OK with those looks and I think that is something of which Aaron would be proud.
Thank you, Aaron for continuing to teach me from above….
This post is dedicated to my son Aaron, but also to my friend Sherry who lost her son on this holiday. I am thinking of you and praying for, as always, Sherry.