Surviving

My uncle, who lost his 1 year old son in a tragic accident 11 years ago, came to James’s funeral. He hugged me before he left, and he told me “3 years.” I asked what he meant, and he said that for the first year, you think you will die. The second year, you think you might live. The third year, you know you will live.

The strange thing is, I know I will survive this. It will not break me. I know that there is a light somewhere, far, far up ahead. I can see it even now, glowing ever so faintly that I can’t even be totally sure that it’s there.

I always knew that James’s life would be shorter than mine. I knew from the moment that he was diagnosed. Maybe that anticipatory grief somehow made this part “easier.” As if I could describe what I am feeling now as easy in any way. It’s not. It’s terrible. It’s agonizing. Finding a small token of James somewhere can reduce me to harsh, racking sobs. I am fatigued despite many more hours of sleep than I was previously getting. Getting out of bed every day is a struggle.

But I know that one day, I will be okay. I will never be the same, but I will survive. Part of me died with James and was buried with him in that cold red clay. I understand that. The rest of me remains here, with my husband, my girls, the rest of my family.

I feel both dead and alive. I miss him so terribly sometimes that my spirit tries to flee my body – if only for a brief moment of respite. I can feel it – pulling, tugging, try to release this earthly body and go to James, wherever he is. But I cannot. And yet, I don’t want to leave. I love my girls, and one of my biggest fears (aside from losing a child) is leaving my children without a mother.

It’s hard to contain all these things within me. I thought grief would be different. I thought that I would pull my hair, scream, cry, sleep all day every day for the first weeks. Then I thought I would slowly start to pick myself up, go on with life. And then one day, I’d laugh.

It hasn’t been that way. Every day, I go through all of the stages of grief – anger, denial, bargaining, acceptance, guilt, numbness, intense mourning. I laughed today at a movie. I also cried when I found a small hand toy that I picked to help James with his coordination.

Grief isn’t a straight line. It’s not even a line at all. It’s a scramble of emotions that leaves you whiplashed and confused. Am I doing this right? Is it ok to laugh at something funny? Will I survive this complete and utter breakdown? Will I see the world in color again?

Every day, more questions, no answers. One day farther from the last time I held that chubby baby boy in my arms. One day farther since I saw his eyes, smelled his hair, rubbed his head, touched his pouty little lips.

Part of me has died, but most of me is still here. Most of me will continue to go on and look for the beauty and joy in the world around me. Most of me will reach out to others that are hurting or struggling. But a small part of me will never leave that tiny plot in the backyard. Part of me will sleep there forever with my darling boy. Good night, sweet prince. As always, Mommy loves you so.

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3 thoughts on “Surviving

  1. Today we brought out nearly 1.5 yet old to the park for the first time. He played and slid down the slide and loved it. Then my husband said “Hi” to another mom, I saw it was the mom who hosted the birthing class that we attended for our first son. Our first son died at 2 days old. I watched her almost 3 yr old play, and thought about how my Charlie would be 3 this April. Our babies were in the womb at the same time during that birthing class, we were excited at the same time to welcome them. One made it, mine didn’t. I believe what your friend said about the first, second, third year. At first you are sure you won’t make it. I had no fear of death, as I thought either I would be back with Charlie or I’d be nothing. Now I don’t want to die as I don’t want to leave Walter without his momma (you are the opposite, you had kids previous to your loss). I’m so so sorry. No words can soothe you. But you are not alone. Jesus holds both my Charlie and your James. It will get easier to hold the pain. I promise.

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  2. For the first time since my beautiful Supergirl Aïda’s gone, I can find another mother feeling the same and hurting the same way. Everything you said Catherine is part of my journey and my emotions. I am lost and I do not know I could say it better. Thank you and I love you. Mia ❤

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  3. I’m a friend of Jim’s aunt, LaRue Ashe. I was caregiver for my husband for 5 years who had bone cancer and I know what exhaustion is. He’s been gone 6 years now and I still think of him daily but it doesn’t hurt as much any more. You will begin to feel rested in about six months. Hang in there.
    Libby Gundelfinger, Plano, TX..

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