Grief Journal: Happy 11th Birthday

The 17th would have been my son’s 11th birthday. This was one day after the six month “anniversary” of his death.

I had planned to write a post celebrating his life, because the post commemorating the fact that it had been six months since his death was full of grief and sadness. I found myself unable to write on his birthday because every time I thought about him, all I could think is what a waste his death was. Not just a waste of a human life, which is inherently precious, but a waste of all of the potential he had. 

11 years ago, when I gave birth to him on one of the snowiest days in years, this was not the future I imagined or wanted for him. 

I had a scheduled c-section, after six weeks of bed rest. In the recovery room, they laid him on my chest. He lifted his head, looked at me, then started scooting his way up so he could latch on to the nearest food source. His father and I marveled at how strong he was for a newborn, and laughed that this was a kid who clearly knew what he wanted. 

We fell in love, and vowed to always love him. To keep him safe. To help him grow into the amazing person he was meant to be. To be the best parents we could. 

We didn’t know what would happen. How could we? When you bring your child into the world, you never, ever in a million years think that you will watch him leave it. 

10 years was not ever, could never, be enough. I will never again tell my beautiful son “happy birthday.” How can that be ever be okay?

I miss you, darling boy.

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Grief Journal: Six Months

Six months.

Sounds like a long time, in some ways. In six months, my oldest son moved from 7th to 8th grade, grew four inches and is planning his high school classes. His sister became a first grader, and a fluent reader. When you’ve only been on this planet 14 and 7 years, respectively, six months really is a long time.

Not so when you’re older. Six months is just a drop in a bucket. Six months’ worth of tears is hardly enough time to drain away an ocean of grief. 

And yet, time pushes us relentlessly forward.

I don’t have a very good memory for people or places (just facts). My childhood is a distant blur. I’m not someone who goes searching for old acquaintances on Facebook because honestly, I don’t remember them—classmates, house mates, colleagues. I get requests on LinkedIn from people who quite clearly remember me and talk about what we worked on, and I have no clue. Even with friends and family, I usually remember the big, overarching stuff but not the details. 

One of my big fears is that I’m going to forget him. Not the idea of him, of course, but the real him. What he sounded like—his laugh, his voice. How his head cocked when you said something interesting (or stupid). The way his very presence raised the energy level in the room. How he could fold himself into impossible positions when involved in something—reading, watching a show, gaming. The loud, rising sound he made when mad or frustrated. The feel of him, all bones and angles and complete trust, when he cuddled. Those gorgeous eyes and incredible smile (with the teeth he hated to brush). What he looked like when he was happy, excited, mad, sad, frustrated… The connection we had.

We live in a digital age, so I have many pictures and even video of him. I know those will become part of my memory. I’m afraid they’ll become most of my memory. That I’ll stitch those static little slices of time into the reality in my heart that is my son, and lose what is real and true.

Six months later, and I’m holding on. 

Grief Journal: The Dark Lake

I took the last month off work; Monday is my first day back in five weeks.

It was a good time, from a work perspective, as it fell over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, when many offices are shut down for a few days, people take vacation, etc. Of course, it’s never an ideal time in a client-based business—someone always needs something—but I like to tell people, the phrase “marketing emergency” doesn’t really exist. I’m really grateful to my colleagues and clients for encouraging me to take this time and to be unplugged as much as possible.

And I needed it. I spent the entire first week crying, it seemed. Not that I hadn’t been crying before, but now it was all the time. Sometimes in wailing, sobbing jags that left me breathless and headachy; sometimes in quietly leaking tears for hours at a time. I gave myself permission to not hold it together during the hours when my kids were at school, and I definitely fell apart.

After that, we were off on our Christmas trip, and while I still cried every day, it was back to more manageable levels.

My therapist had suggested this time off because I was having such trouble functioning in daily life, especially work. I was unorganized, forgetful, impatient and of course, crying. Basically, I was drowning, not waving.

Most of my personal metaphors for grief are water-based. Right now, I think of my grief as the lake in “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.” In the book, the lake is underground, dark and foreboding. Harry and Dumbledore must cross the lake on a small boat to reach their goal, but the lake is full of undead, evil creatures. 

That’s where I am. My grief surrounds me, dark and disturbing, and it’s all I can see. I’m  bailing the lake by crying, but it disturbs the evil creatures living under the surface—guilt and anger and so much more.

I’m not sure five weeks is enough. I dread the thought of going back to work—especially as my very first day, I have to travel out of town. I’m trying to ease in by getting organized and caught up, but my brain is rebelling, refusing to focus or process information.

Yet, I must go back. I need to earn a living, and provide health insurance for my family, if only to pay for therapy. I need to at least start treading water.

I’ve always been the one to be strong, to do what needs to be done, to be the one everyone else can lean on. After my sister and mother died, that’s what I channeled my grief into. But I’m so tired. My lake of grief is so wide and so deep, and my little boat is worn and patched and starting to take on water.