It’s been two years and four months since my son died.
Lately, I’ve been struggling with this dual reality my life has taken on. There was my life before and now my life after. The problem with after is before still intrudes. It’s still very much part of this new life; it’s the foundation, really.
Except we can’t focus on before and wish for what we can’t have, so our only option is to forge ahead, keep moving along this new path. Until four months ago, the second anniversary of my son’s death, that new path was shadowed by his ghost.
But now our new life is truly, entirely new. Everything we do, everything we experience from this point forward has never occurred before. He didn’t make it past this point. My daughter will be our first to finish seventh grade; first to start eighth grade. First to reach her fourteenth birthday. Every single day is a first, for the rest of her life.
One of the biggest struggles along this new path is the guilt. Because it’s true what “they” say: it does get easier. It gets easier because we think about it less. There’s really no choice; life charges on, whether we want to stay stagnant and drown in our memories or not. And eventually, we get caught up in life, and we think about those who are gone less and less. Even if we don’t want to let go.
Don’t be fooled into thinking they are ever very far away, though. They still regularly intrude on this new life, often in unexpected ways. Sometimes I see a toddler, going about his merry way, and he does something that reminds me of my son. The other day, in church, it was actually a little girl. She kept digging in her mom’s purse, pulling out small packages of fruit chews. Just like my son used to do.
Sometimes it’s a parent of one of his friends, posting something on Facebook about high school, driver’s training, homecoming, a first job; pretty much any step they take in life, that my son will never get to experience. The other day my husband and I had a conversation about high school graduation: when his friends graduate, will we go? Can we handle it? Do we want to put ourselves through that, what will be a day of celebration, happiness, joy, pride–for all those other parents?
We didn’t have the answers.
Sometimes it’s another death, someone’s parent or spouse. Very occasionally it’s the death of another child. Someone reaches out—another friend of theirs is suffering the same fate my family had, and they thought I might be able to help in some way.
Sometimes it’s simply life.
Did you know July is Bereaved Parents Awareness Month? I had no idea, and I’ve been part of that club for over two years now. I did a little research about it when I was thinking about writing this blog post. Just a little, though. Lord, it’s hard to read those stories. It’s a dual pain—I hate it for those other parents and I hate stirring up my own memories that are best left tucked away in the dark recesses of my mind, where they don’t make me cry. Not all the time, anyway.
But they are always still there, no matter what I do, where I go, what I think, what I wish. I can’t ever escape, not entirely. I can go for long bouts without thinking about them, but eventually they will surface, insist upon rearing their ugly, sad, depressing head. Which aren’t really ugly, sad, and depressing. Most of those memories are fun, wonderful, cheerful, sweet, any number of positive emotions.
Until I remember that this is all I have: memories. Old memories. Past memories. There will be no new ones.
And when that happens, all I really can do is cry. Seriously, there is no other cure. Having a wallowing in self-pity cry is the only way to shoo those memories back to where they belong, so I can continue on this journey called life.
I guess I don’t need to feel that guilt after all, do I?
Tami Lund writes depressing blog posts as an outlet for the pain of losing her child. She also writes romance because she craves a happy ending, more so now that she’s suffered the sort of pain she often puts her characters through. Her next release is Dragon His Heels: A Bad Alpha Dads Romance.