Parallel universe

This post comes with a caveat. First, I wrote it Tuesday.  Second, I am not going to harm myself, despite how this post sounds. I repeat. I am not going to harm myself. I write how I feel – the good, the bad, the ugly. I’m writing it because I know that other loss parents feel these things, and they are so hard to voice. We feel ashamed or embarrassed for feeling these emotions, and we bottle them up inside. Shame has no place in grief – it’s hard enough as it is.

The other caveat is that unless you have lost a child – you have no idea what bereaved parents are suffering. You have no idea how messed up your emotions become and what stupid feelings or actions might happen as a result. My life has entered an alternate dimension. It’s like I’m in a boxcar, and my car left the train and went off onto a side railing. The “regular” track runs alongside me, so I can see everything, but I’m over here, separated, observing. I’m in an alternate but parallel universe where my child is dead. Life goes on. It must. But I am no longer in that normal life…where other people live. I’m here, on the side rail, trying to figure out how to live my life again. If you have a child, imagine, just for a moment, what it would feel like to never see them again. To never touch them again. To never hear their voice. Imagine having to get up, day after day, and realize that they’re gone.

Some days, I feel like I’m doing pretty well. Then, something happens, and I realize that this mild feeling of normalcy is just thin ice on top of which I skate. This morning, driving the kids to school, I was planning out my day. Drop the kids off, go to the local coffee shop, write for a while, work on radio station stuff. Then pick up kids, run a few errands, and go to the station for a bit to drop off supplies. Then go home, hang out for a couple of hours, make dinner, kids to bed.

All of a sudden, it struck me. This is life. My life.  I have to keep living it. Even when I don’t want to do so. Even when I want to lie down and never wake up – I have to keep going. I have to keep getting out of bed every morning. And lather, rinse, repeat.

My heart dropped in my chest. Today, I don’t really want to keep going. I want to lie down and close my eyes and sleep for at least a year. Maybe in a year, when I wake up, like a shorter term Rip Van Winkle, I’ll be all better. I can’t sleep enough.

There is no “all better.” There never will be. There are just the endless days ahead of me without my son.

I want to smash something. I want to smash my coffee cup against the hardwood floors. I want people to stop and stare and point, open-mouthed, at my destructiveness, at a public outburst the likes of which are rarely seen outside of viral media.

But I won’t. I’ll sit here. Sip my coffee. Write in my journal. Go on looking relatively normal, as if my life isn’t clouded by this overwhelming sorrow. The other day, as I was driving, I suddenly had a flashback to when he died. I knew he was going to die before it happened. We had opted to take him off  the ventilator. He wasn’t brain dead. He was very  much there with us. Before he died, he opened his eyes, looked at us, listened to our voices, tried to give us a smile.

How do you know that your child is going to die, hold him while it happens, and not completely lose your mind? I still don’t know how I did it – with as much anxiety as I have, as many panic attacks as I’ve suffered, how did I just sit there and let him die in my arms, with a relative amount of calm? Why wasn’t I screaming? Wailing? Tearing out my hair? Clawing my arms until my blood ran red?

As the feelings of his death washed over me again, I saw myself smashing my car into the bridge I was approaching. I imagined what would happen – the crumpled hood of my van, steam rising, the deployment of the airbag, my head snapping forward with a whiplash movement, blood slowly seeping into my eyes, clouding my vision. Heartbeat slowing, pulse weak, fading away. My vision graying, my spirit leaving my body, seeing it all from a distance, like a spectator of my own life.

It may sound terrible to think of something like this. It may sound like suicidal ideation. Maybe it is. It’s hard to say. I had no urge to actually do it. I’ve spoken to many loss mothers (even today) who’ve had the same kinds of visions – picking up a broken piece of glass from a dish, slitting the wrists, letting crimson blood soak into the floor, forming a mystical mandala there – agony written in ruby.

If you haven’t lost a child – you don’t know. You can’t possibly know what this agony feels like. I am separated from my baby. I can’t touch him. I can’t see him. I can’t hear him. I can’t smell him. I am completely apart from him. The crazy part? I haven’t broken. I have bent. I am so incredibly bent as to be unrecognizable to myself some days, but I am not broken.

Some days, I want to scream at people that I get a pass. I get a pass for at least a year. I can act as foolishly as I want to, and you can’t be mad at me or frustrated at me. Yes, I quit my job with no notice. Yes, I’ve flaked on appointments. Yes, my short-term memory is absolutely terrible right now, and I can barely keep up with my keys. Yes, my emotions are confused and mixed up.

Through it all, I’m somehow still going. I’m taking care of my girls. I’m cooking dinner. My house is clean. My children still get to school on time. I am still here. Doing it. Doing life. Still living here, in this parallel universe.



4 thoughts on “Parallel universe

  1. I have a pit in my stomach reading your amazing writing. I have 3 small kids (oldest is 3.5). I have had two extrordinarily vivid nightmares about one of them dying. A dream. Not real. Husband had to wake me as I was screaming and hyperventilating in my sleep. I was not right for a week. From a DREAM. Girl, you are not supposed to get over this. My former nanny lost her son 10 years ago. She has continued on her life, but she has not, and will not get over the loss of her son (she, like you, also had two older daughters). She describes it as becoming more tolerable over time-the pain is less acute, less ‘take your breath away’ and more like a dull throbbing that’s always there but like chronic pain you learn to live with it as your new normal. I have no inkling of what you are experiencing on a daily basis other than that abject terror I felt in my dream that I had lost a baby. Having that be reality is incomprehensible. I’m sorry if I’m saying the wrong things-you are right, those not in that terrible, terrible club do not understand. But you need to do whatever you need to do. Like any awful thing, someone once told me ‘the only way through the shit is through the shit.’ Can’t get around it, or over it, or under it. So while actually sleeping for a year may not be an option, mentally checking out from any part of life that isn’t actually necessary for your and your girl’s survival IS an option. Glad you quit your job and can focus just on SURVIVING. Lots of hugs to you.


  2. We lost our daughter just before Christmas last year. There is a complete disconnect between my heart and my brain. I still revisit that night desperately searching for answers, but to what avail? More than ever, I am forgetful and distracted, exhausted and angry. Yet, if my other children were not here, I feel I may not have the strength to move forward. That, I believe was by design. I am sorry for your loss and continuing heartache.


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