Rage. Helplessness. Nothingness. Heartsick.
Updated: Dec 1, 2020
It isn’t a funk that you slip into and know you'll slip out of, is it? It’s your life now, without your child. Your child is dead. If you rage at that, often it comes out sideways, as a snide remark to a family member or a cold retort to a work colleague. Because no matter how mad you are, you can’t set things right. That’s what makes you maddest ... and the saddest. Realizing that helplessness, you may feel hopeless. Some of us even become clinically depressed (which needs medical attention). Or you may experience a sense of nothingness. Striving for nothingness is something we do with a glass or three of wine and a sedative. But that rabbit hole is a deep one and it doesn’t bring restoration or salvation with it, either.
The hard truth is that nothing restores our heart to its normal function except time, and time does not bring healing so much as it brings adaptation. We no longer openly bleed in public. We put on our work clothes and go back to work, or we pick up a trowel and return to the garden, we re-join a bookclub or take up jogging. But the wound goes with us back to the office or into the plant store. It never leaves us. It is only less visible.
And then, one day, it actually begins to fade a bit. It usually doesn’t happen before the first year of missed Christmas traditions or absent chairs at birthday dinners. But later it somehow becomes possible to laugh again at a dumb joke or to have a conversation without silently picking at our scar tissue or scab.
We bake a roast without crying because it was John’s favorite meal, or we see a girl about Emily’s age — the age she would be now — without making that mental comparison. We don’t go on without our children as if they never existed but we do go on without them physically beside us. Our precious children are not abandoned. We bring them forward with us in memory, but we no longer spend all day remembering because if we did, it would drive us insane. And your mind’s biologically wired to restore you to sanity.
This moving on is healthy. You may not believe in this beacon of light — being able to re-establish a meaningful life without your child — but those of us on the other side of time are beckoning. It is possible. We learn to live as a legacy to our children rather than expecting them to be our legacy. It’s sad. It’s tragic. It’s unfair. It stinks to high heaven. But it’s inescapable after your child’s death, and the state of grace you seek is attainable. With time. Meanwhile, we are here to walk alongside you.