The first year
Shock. Numbness. Tears. I couldn’t figure out how I was going to live through this. But I made a bet with myself to move forward with my life. If I give up, who carries Charles’ legacy? Who fights for change?
It was frustrating how no one mentioned my child’s name for fear of “reminding” me. Like that’s something I could forget. Did any of us ever think that when we were on the other side? The side that was before our child died?
Probably. Maybe. Hard to remember.
It sort of made me feel like no one wanted to talk about it because it would interrupt their own beautiful lives to bring up the ugliness of our loss. Intellectually, I don’t think that was it. But it sometimes felt like it. It really was that people didn’t know what to say.
The first year was all about getting out of bed and functioning. Productivity sucked. Everyone else looked like they were moving in fast motion while I was in slow motion. I felt sluggish and unmotivated. Heavy and sad. I wondered if I’d ever be happy again.
The coulda, woulda shouldas still weighed. Working my way through that was agonizing.
I did learn to move forward. I did laugh that first year. I kept telling myself the pain had to get less intense. It did. I learned to accept the loss but was still in disbelief that it happened.
I mourned the loss of innocence of toddlers and tantrums. I mourned the loss of the light that lit the flame of fun, my son Charles.
I figured out I needed to let people know what I wanted. What we wanted. That we wanted to talk about him. I needed, sometimes, to introduce the topic to clear the elephant out of the room.
This blog helped. It helped me cope. It helped others understand what we wanted. And then others started sharing posts, and their friends and relatives started to understand what they wanted based on what they shared.
I agonized over the hopes and dreams I had for my child that would never be. I had to face his room right away because we had sold our house right before he died.
That first year is like hitting a stone wall at full speed. You look at everything through a different lens–before the death and after the death.
I dreaded the first Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, birthday, holidays, New Year’s, and the death anniversary. Even my own birthday. Everything is first and i didn’t know what to expect. I found that I suffered more before the event than day of. With the exception of my first Mother’s Day.
That first year I ached for someone to just tell me what it would be like. I had expected there to be some magic that happened after year one. It did not.
The second year
My second year was not anything like I imagined.
For me, the new calendar year brought ambivalence. Relief. Emotional healing. I no longer had the numbness and shock to cushion the grief and it was full-on grief. The second year for me, however, was not as hard. But by no means easy.
Grief is healing. And I learned the balance of grieving and living. I overdid both in an epic way. And I didn’t plan enough. Again, in an epic way.
My social life had evaporated so I decided to be proactive and be the one to have events.
I was glad the first year was over. I was sad the first year was over.
Because it seemed like more distance between me and Charles. I found myself struggling with the wish to move forward, knowing that it meant leaving my loved one behind. I worried, and still worry, his memory will fade. Why can’t I remember everything?
By this time, I’ve learned to balance two extreme emotions at once.–a life event that brings both joy and sorrow at the same time. I’ve learned to be OK with that. Find the joy. Allow myself to experience the pain. I also learned that getting outside my own head had helped me more than anything. That’s really what mattered.
I sold a business and followed my heart. Like Charles said, “Mom, did you follow your passion?”
I adopted some of Charles’ traits which means I’m learning to carry him in my heart because it’s what I have even if it was not my choice.
I realized I had adapted to knowing that I would not always know. I became more adventurous, more accepting, bolder, more vulnerable and happy with that.
I lived emotionally naked. And while I am still grieving that loss, I feel comfortable in my skin.