In reading about parents who’ve lost a child, one idea keeps coming up: “It’s nothing something you ever get over, it’s just something you learn to live with.”
I understand that. No matter how much time passes, I cannot and will not ever be “over” the loss of my son.
The way the phrase is most often used, “get over it” means to dismiss what happened, to put it in the past, that it no longer matters much. Someone loses a game or fails a test, we say, “Get over it; focus on the next one.” Someone’s feelings get hurt because someone else did something mean, we say, “Get over it; you can’t change them.”
I suppose in the context of learning from mistakes, rather than being defined by them, “get over it” has some value. But I will never “get over” my son’s death.
Like most people, my life (as the Doctor would say) is a pile of good things and bad things. So many good, positive amazing experiences have come my way. And some really horrible, awful things have happened to me, outside of my control and caused by other people or circumstances. Deep, fundamental betrayals. Sexual assault. Multiple miscarriages. Health problems. I was in the room when my sister was taken off life support and died. I slept on a hospital chair for a week while my mom came to understand that she was dying and would not see the next month. All the sad and bad things that can make up a life.
Each of these experiences has changed me in fundamental ways. I move through this world shaped by the scars on my soul, and the pieces missing from my heart.
Losing Charlie has broken me. I’m like a glass vase dropped from a great height, shattered into tiny pieces. Putting those jagged edges back together so I can hold water again is a process and a long one. Would you expect that vase to “get over it”? To be and act the same?
When people say “get over it,” what they really mean is “I’m over it; your emotions are making me uncomfortable.” Or, “I’m over it, so you should be, too, because my perspective is the one that matters.” Or, “Get over it, other people have had worse things happen and they’re fine.” (As if pain were a contest that one can win.) Or, “Get over it; you still have two children.” (As if I can’t mourn and mother at the same time.)
I’m not, and never will be, over my son’s death. It is too deep a wound. All I can do is take my battered soul and shattered heart and figure out how to keep moving through this world—how to live with the unbearable.