by Christine Dudek
It is almost one year since my most favorite boy in the entire world left us with a giant hole in our lives.
I am still here and surviving somehow. What I might write? What will I share about my life? Joe and my girls – Kayleigh and Julia (Jules)– are living though the same emotional brutality as I am; but I won’t speak to their pain or their grief or their hearts. That’s theirs to tell if and when they choose.
Some days I feel a little bit devoid of anything. I think it is self-protection against the constant emotional beatings. It is a respite to occasionally feel nothing. This must have been what I was sitting in when Anne Moss asked me if I would like to write something because I couldn’t tap into anything that felt real. I felt like I might decline to write because I had nothing to say. I worried briefly for myself because I always have something to say – I am a know-it-all pain in the ass.
Then I was sitting on a plane on my way home from company meetings and decided to watch The Fault in Our Stars. On a side note, I really must remember to not play a tear jerker while sitting two inches from a stranger and carrying no tissues. Anyway, some reall-ness came back to me during one of the early scenes in the movie when Hazel Grace, the main character, says this:
“I believe we have a choice in this world, about how to tell sad stories. On the one hand, you can sugar coat it, the way they do in movies and romance novels where beautiful people learn beautiful lessons and nothing is too messed up that can’t be fixed with an apology and a Peter Gabriel song. I like that way as much as the next girl, believe me. It’s just not the truth. This is the truth. Sorry.”
The truth is that this life I live after the train is way too messed up to ever be fixed. The only ‘fix’ would be a do over where my Tyler James outlives me. So I won’t sugarcoat the truth.
Buckle up buttercups ‘cause this ain’t no romance novel.
I was crazy and spun out of control for a little while after Tyler’s suicide. I felt like I was drowning in the deepest pain I have ever felt. It was never ending – there in sleep, and there when I woke.
I don’t think I am on the other side of it. I just feel like I am not drowning any more. I guess I can tread water. And, in the ‘coming back to life’ part of this un-welcomed journey, I notice how it is that the world relates to me.
My most favorite people are the ones who still talk to me like I am a person.
I have a friend, who early on in my grief, would talk to me about her life. I loved it and I love her for it because it made me feel like I was still human and it brought just the slightest bit of normalcy to my life. It also gave me silent to permission to be real since that’s what she was being.
Some people avoid even looking at me. These are the people for whom I have no time or space in my life. I am sure that sounds terribly harsh but I honestly don’t care. This is me. I am a mess at times. Sometimes the memory of my Tyler James brings me a smile and sometimes it crushes me and I cry. There is no way of knowing which one will happen.
Remember, this is no movie. I refuse to wrap up my grief into some snippet of a beautiful lesson suitable for all viewing audiences. I hear the Hallmark Channel carries those types of things.
I am not for everyone. If you want a lesson. That’s about all I got.
My grief is too real and too intense for some people and the wild unpredictability of my pendulum-like emotions can swing rapidly. I don’t need to be navigated like a land mine. I am comfortable with where I am and with whatever comes.
I also laugh when things are funny. I don’t need to be studied from afar like an experiment. I feel the eyes of the curious. Speak to me, please. I still follow football. I have a career. I have dogs that make me crazy and daughters that make me crazier. I have a 20 year marriage that is also not a romance novel. I can hold a conversation like a person. I am still in here trying desperately to cling to the land of the living while remembering the dead son I wish not to be forgotten.
I can’t promise that my son will not come up in conversation. I am not trying to burden anyone. But his life and his death are as much a part of me and my life’s story as is any other experience I have ever had. I gave birth to him. His life and death are intricately woven into who I am.
Grief is ugly. Grieving a child is just a damn nightmarish mess. If I spill all over you I won’t apologize. I guess my circle of people is getting smaller. I like the real ones. The ones who find humor in things and aren’t afraid to laugh in front of me. The ones who don’t need to say anything if I experience an emotion. It will pass.
I found myself very early on in this process, feeling for everyone around me. Worrying for everyone around me. That is an unfair burden for a grieving parent to carry. Trust me, we are burdened enough already. So I let it go. If something touched a nerve, I would apologize for my feelings like I had no rightful entitlement to them. Or I would navigate conversations and situations carefully so as not to put anyone else in the path of my messy spillage.
A bit of calmness is descending upon my soul and that’s because I am starting to feel comfortable with who I am in this world. I wear new skin now. I carry a different heart; but I am still here.
I will never get over the death of my son. I have to carry it in a way that lets me keep living. There is no beautiful lesson. There is only that.