The depth of my pain cannot be witnessed or measured. It is beyond human comprehension. Even my own.
28 months later, I cannot write about what it is like to lose anyone’s child but my own. I also cannot write about where anyone is standing except where I find myself standing each day. To judge or compare my grief to others is pointless and inefficient as I continue to live and breathe losing my daughter Amy which will always be intimately personal for me.
Yet I find there are those among us whose egos seem to convince themselves that I can indeed choose to handle losing my child differently and should be rejoicing that the world keeps on turning without her. After all I am still here … Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
It would make sense to me if my DNA has now changed because that is indeed how differently I feel inside. One woman accused me of being “the same old Dee”. Oh how I wish I had that same old Dee’s spunk, vitality and resolve. Expectations need to be modified beginning with my own expectations of myself. Accepting and living with the reality of my daughter’s sudden death is all I can manage as it sinks in ever so slowly. Who I was is not whom I have become.
By now I am well aware we are not the only family to suffer tragedies. But seriously, do not try to convince me that losing a child is not in a league all of its own. I am so tired of adding the disclaimer that I respect other relationship losses because I do. Pain and loss of any loved one can never be diminished or trumped. But THIS is different.
Personally the shifts that the passage of time has offered me is to look up from my sorrow and notice who is still ever-present in my life now. There are old sturdy steadfast compassionate friends as well as new compassionate friends too. I remain grateful for all who have not been frightened away by whom I have become. It takes time to recognize that not everyone has the ability to stick around. Suddenly I realize they have lost their power to cause me additional pain and its best to allow the door to remain closed and stop allowing them to rent space in my shattered mind. To hang onto these broken relationships is like feeding a hungry wolf in my heart. I have probably written this before but the first time I read it, it left such a profound impression on me:
‘One evening an old Cherokee Indian told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, ‘My son, the battle is between two ‘wolves’ inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.’
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: ‘Which wolf wins?’
The old Cherokee simply replied, ‘The one you feed.’
Another ramification of the passage of time is it allows for the initial frustration and rejection over secondary losses to evolve into total indifference.
I confessed to my therapist that I feel guilty that I continue to be jealous of those who have their complete families. Her response surprised me as she calmly reminded me how that this type of jealousy is a normal reaction to not having my own complete family here with me. She advised me to let go of the guilt because this type of jealousy is natural and is not destructive. During the holiday season it becomes exceedingly difficult to be around intact families so I find myself wanting to avoid as many interactions as possible. Instead of talking me out of this, she viewed that as self-care.
Months after Amy’s sudden passing, another grieving Mom who was farther along reminded me that the reaction of those who walked away or who did not show up had nothing at all to do with the value of Amy’s life or the significance of losing her but was more a reflection of them. Now I find myself turning the tables and thinking my inability to be present in your lives at times, especially during the holidays, has nothing to do with the value of your family to me but more a reflection of whom I have become as I deal with my life without Amy.
When I show up, answer a phone call or make a decision, I am missing a large part of myself that died on August 4, 2013. There is no magic reset button or easy way to move forward in the same manner as I did before my personal hell began.
Self care … but what if my choice to care for my broken self results in disappointing someone else? Disappointment is nothing compared to devastation. I remember telling my kids from a page out of my own self-written mother manual that “can’t means won’t. Scratch that — maybe there are times when can’t does indeed mean can’t. Sorry kids, I definitely mislead you. Mom does not always know what’s best — especially for herself.
As we are standing on the ledge of the sink or swim holidays — my presence or ability to be who others want to show up is not possible. My ability to show up on any given day has changed. You will have to excuse me because I am still dazed and confused after losing my youngest child. Can’t does indeed mean can’t. That’s not a cop-out but rather a means to care for my battered and bruised heart, body and soul.
Always remembering Amy.