“It is awful when one’s great capacity to love betrays a person… Each day, you negotiate an unfamiliar dark while doing your best to guide your children back into the light.” (Beverly Lyles in an email dated May 14, 2010)
“There is so much pain and no place to put it.” These words echoed in my head in the hours and days after Jordan died. I felt that I’d never have a reprieve from the irrational pain of losing my son so suddenly and senselessly. Lately, I’m finding myself rooted to my grieving spot. I sit on the chaise by the window, watching the world keep going, wondering again when grief will hurt less. In year one I sat sometimes for hours looking out the window and wondering, “How did this happen?” Now my lack of energy and grieving heart have brought me back to my grieving spot, sitting and wondering about life without all of my children on this earth. I get my kids off to school and my energy is gone. I’m in year two of living as a bereaved mother. My mother heart hurts and continues to cry out in disbelief. I wish someone had told me about year two. There are expectations that the rough part of grief is over and that I will start to feel the effects of time soothing the sorrow. I’m in year two when friends and family expect that there are more good days than bad. My days have taken on a somewhat comforting routine. There are still many days where I can barely run errands without the weight of loss pulling me home.
The world is going on and outwardly I participate in it. Spring is here and it has brought more anger than renewal. I’ve watched the flowers bloom and the trees bud. I see the lilt in people’s walks that only spring can bring. I look at them and I want to scream. The world is moving on and I’m rooted in a place of pain. I want to cry out, “I’m still in pain”, “I still can’t sleep”, “I still have a dead son.” Time hasn’t eased my pain.
The wave of grief I’m in now was so insidious in its approach that I was caught off guard. I am having a hard time imagining it is ever going to subside. I’m not prepared for year two without my son on this earth. Year one provided cautions, advice and road markers to cushion the shock of birthdays, holidays, anniversaries and first vacations without Jordan. Year two has all those events coming around again and some are more painful this time than last. When does the advice and counsel I’ve been given that, “time will ease pain” kick in? I hurt and I am angry at the pain. It wasn’t enough that my son was ripped from this earth with no warning. I have to figure out how to keep going and keep my family going as well. Every time I ask, “how did this happen?” I know how ridiculous it sounds, and I know it’s a futile question. At those moments my anger turns inward. I tell myself, “You’re not helping yourself.” I am my harshest critic. Even as I criticize myself, I know I have to take care of myself so that I can care for my family. But here I sit staring out the window willing the pain of grief away, not sure how long I can endure this grief wave.
Grief brings on fatigue that threatens never to abate. Sleep provides little respite. I dreamed last week that I walked downstairs into our kitchen and Jordan was sitting at the table with his father and siblings. They were all laughing and talking. In my dream I stop at the base of the stairs and watch my family for a few minutes. I smile but even in the dream I know Jordan is dead. The rest of my family, however don’t know that he’s gone. I watch my family trying to decide if I should tell them the truth that Jordan is dead or join them in the fantasy and live as though Jordan is still alive. In my dream, I fret over the decision I have to make and wake up startled, right as I’m deciding that I could live with knowing Jordan is dead if I’m the only one who has to know. My sleeping hours and waking hours hold the same pain and conflicts.
Year two of grief has me focusing on what will become of my children whose childhoods are forever changed by loss. There are days when the cost seems too high to bear. I watch my children prepare for school on some days with a new type of fatigue that I know is the weariness brought on by grief. I’m tempted to keep them home. I want to find ways of protecting and fixing their pain. I want to say, “Let’s rest today. No school, no worrying about homework, just being together and resting.” I’m tempted but I stop myself. I can’t take away their pain or bear their sorrow for them. They all communicate with me well and let me know when they need a break. I can’t let my sorrow be the barometer for their day. I want them to do well and know their capacity for good work and greatness. I’m awed by their ability to get up every morning and face their days, sometimes with hope and sometimes strength alone. In the midst of so much sorrow they strive to do well and find comfort in their routines. Year two is teaching me that no matter how much I desire to, I can’t carry my children’s grief for them.
My rational self knows that I can’t put a timeframe on when grief will loosen its grip. Grief is another chronic condition that I am learning to manage. As much as I’ve told myself that there is no linear path to grief, my mind has tricked me more than once into thinking that the heart-stopping pain I felt in the moments and days after Jordan died were over for good. I somehow decided that grief would return but would have a lessening impact and strength each time. It’s not true. Inside of me are wails yet to be released, heartache still so heavy, and so many unshed tears for the loss of my son.
A part of me recognizes that our society puts time limits on grief. The “shoulds” of decorum dictate that I act better even if I don’t feel better. I promised myself that I wouldn’t feel judged by other’s expectations of my grieving process. I validated the promise by putting it in writing in my journal-“I won’t let anyone tell me how to grieve for my son.” When I wrote these words I didn’t realize that I would be one of my harshest critics. Time is relative and doesn’t dictate the depths of pain or the length of sorrow. When I feel that grief’s heaviness will never end, I remind myself to look to others who have been on this journey of loss longer than I. There words are even truer in year two of grief- I have to take my time and not be ashamed of expressing my sorrow. My son died. He held so much promise and gave me such joy. His place on this earth was not fulfilled. I’m left to grieve my loss and all that could have been because of him. I have to take my time:
- Time to be with friends and family who with few words from me, understand how my pain feels fresh
- Time to sob uncontrollably
- Time to lie in bed, with the covers drawn under my chin wishing for the “before” days
- Time to smell Jordan’s pillow and his hairbrush, committing to my genetic memory his scent
- Time to listen repeatedly to Jordan’s voicemail message and the songs he recorded. I don’t ever want to have to try too hard to recall what his voice sounds like.
When Jordan was born, motherhood taught me my full capacity for love. I never knew I could love someone so much. Jordan’s death is showing me that the pain of grieving for my child is equal in intensity. I’m still in the midst of the rage, pain, anguish and sorrow that are expected to quiet with time. I’m a mother who lost a precious son. I didn’t get to say goodbye. I don’t want to feel that I’m abnormal because my heartache feels fresh, even in year two. I’m mourning my son. I still need the compassion and generosity of spirit shown to me in the weeks after Jordan died. The world keeps going, I keep going; even so, I will never stop wanting my son back.