Some days, courage is needed to leave my house. When you’re grieving the loss of a child, minefields are everywhere. I never know if I’ll run into an acquaintance I haven’t seen since Jordan died who needs to express their condolences on a day when I am doing okay and am not prepared to help them mourn my child. Other times it is memory triggers- one of Jordan’s favorite songs being played in a store or listening to talk radio and hearing a discussion of a movie he and I watched together and loved. I was in a bookstore a few months ago and Marvin Gaye’s \”Trouble Man\” came through the sound system. I stopped in my tracks and stood there remembering the first time Jordan came to me after listening to that song. You would have thought he was the first in the world to hear it. That became his anthem as he worked hard senior year and plowed his way through AP classes and college applications. There I was in this store listening, remembering Jordan singing and trying to remember to breathe. On that day I consciously decided that this song represented joyful memories of my boy. I kept walking into the store determined that I could bear to listen to the song and replay Jordan’s antics as he mimicked Marvin Gaye. It was a wonderful memory and the store was providing the soundtrack.
Other occasions the shock of how an image or a sound will hurtle me into grief feels like a punch. The wind is knocked out of me and I stop and again have to remember to breathe. On one occasion a few months after Jordan died I was in a stationery store determined to get thank you notes. I had not written a single one and people had been so generous with food for our family, their cards detailing memories of Jordan and donations to Jordan’s fund that guilt was why I’d left my house. As an aside, my guilt on the matter of thank you notes has eased but not been erased. Thanks to the help of my friends, sister and Emily Post I cut myself some slack and hope people know how grateful our family is for all that is done for us. I’ve written five thank you notes so far and still am determined to give a proper thank you to all.
As I perused the shelves in a stationery store I had been in dozens of times I happened to look up and see a family tree poster for sale. Just looking at it made me back away. My family history which I researched going all the way back to my great, great, great -grandfather and reported on at my 50th annual family reunion that prior summer now mocked me. My family tree was broken. A branch, Jordan’s branch that should have multiplied and spread had been cut short. I can never imagine filling a family tree out again. When I come to Jordan’s branch I can’t write date of birth and date of death for my child, it is too unnatural. Looking at a poster of a family tree was the minefield for that day. That poster sent me stumbling to my car to sit and weep.
There is no way to be prepared for all of the things out in the world that will come my way. I’m learning to steel myself against possible minefields but at the same time trying not to harden myself against new experiences. I’m determined for me, and the example I am to my family to remember the joy I know the world still has to give. For that day however I knew I was done. I went home to my grieving place to sit and be still and simply feel what I was feeling.