At first, following anything with more than two steps was impossible.
The grief would surround me and literally take me to the floor where I would try to escape it. Like I could squeeze out of its way or hide from it. The emotional pain was so intense, it hurt physically.
I was not a great driver. I came way too close to having a major accident or causing one. Very close. I did back into a post in a parking lot.
I got lost going to the drug store and had to use the GPS for every single destination no matter how many times I’d been there.
I yelled at the windshield, cried in the floor of the shower, curled up on the floor in despair.
I walked into walls. I broke out in hives. I got hot flashes. I lost a lot of hair and weight.
I look back at a video of a presentation I gave a few months later, and my face looks weathered and hollowed out. The loss etched on my face.
My muscles ached, my head hurt, my mouth was often dry as a bone no matter how much water I drank.
I was angry at the world, myself, God, heroin and then no one in particular.
I was stunned, shocked and in disbelief.
I would get ready to text Charles and then realize he was no longer alive even wanting to call him to ask him was he really dead.
I had bizarre dreams about Charles and finding peace in sleep was often challenging.
I didn’t care about much of anything. I didn’t have the capacity. I watched some of his old videos and his most recent ones. I rocked back and forth holding his backpack, I buried my face in his clothing trying to smell his scent, I lived in fear of losing something he owned. I sent pieces of clothing to people who loved him. Friends who wanted a piece of Charles to remember him by.
People gave me suggestions to follow up on things, gave me names that didn’t stick, and otherwise talked to me like I actually could take in the information they were offering. I couldn’t.
I read every card I got, I saved all of them in a shopping bag.
I couldn’t listen to any music in the car the first nine months. I couldn’t drive anywhere without crying.
But I got through those early days and weeks.
I searched for support, I asked for help, I wrote, I posted pictures of Charles on social media, I didn’t apologize for my grief. I answered the question, how many children did I have by sharing that Charles died by suicide.
I didn’t try to avoid the grief. Sometimes I put it on hold to make it through a meeting but even I wanted to cry at the grocery, I did.
I had trouble remembering anything, trouble concentrating, I struggled with what I wanted to do going forward.
We moved out of our house that had sold before he died, beebopped from one airbnb to another and then moved into our new renovated home ten weeks after we moved away from the home where Charles and Richard grew up.
I faced the first holidays, first birthday, first mother’s day, first death anniversary.
I met with other moms who’d lost a child. I sat amazed at how normal these moms looked. I went to support groups, talked about Charles, cried on the shoulders of my friends, listened to others tell their stories of addiction or mental illness, accepted invitations to do things and went to a lot of them allowing myself an out if I was emotionally spent.
Then one morning I realized I’d made it several hours without crying. That gave me hope. And little by little I came back to life. Part time at first.
I got to the point where grief was no longer my enemy but my friend, my connection to the one I loved.
And that journey continues. That healing continues. Until the day I die. Which can wait. Because I have a lot to accomplish.