As James’s first birthday approaches, my heart is breaking all over again. It feels in some ways as if he just died. Everything is raw and agonizingly painful. I was at the library yesterday with the girls. They were building Legos, and I was watching. A little boy kept crawling over to me and smiling. I asked his mother how old he was. She said that he would turn one next week. My face crumpled. I felt it happen – that crumpling was physical. Tears started to leak out. She was far enough away (catching said crawler from escaping) that she didn’t see it. If she did see the tears, she pretended otherwise. I sat against the wall and let them fall quietly. It occurred to me that I should get up and go to the bathroom or somewhere else private. Then I decided that I didn’t care and just let them fall.
I would like this to be an encouraging post. I would like to talk about the lessons that my son taught me over the past year. Unfortunately, the grief is too deep right now. As many wonderful things as my love for James taught me, it has also taught me about the permanence and omnipresence of grief.
Grief is unlike any other emotion. It is love magnified a thousand times by absence. It is the strongest love that you can feel, and it has nowhere to go. The object of that love is no longer here. Grief is love that is lost and love that is searching. Grief is calling out into darkness, desperately hoping for an answer that will never come.
Grief must be felt to the fullest. Grief cannot be ignored. Grief cannot be buried. Grief cannot be silenced by going and doing and being. Grief must be seen and felt and touched. It must be turned over and over again by the mind, studied, examined, experienced, and at last perhaps, understood.
Those who haven’t suffered a devastating loss don’t understand this. They see grief as having a timeline. At X point, you will feel this. At Y point, you will feel better. At Z point, you will be over the loss.
Grief has no time table. Grief answers to no one – not even the griever. It comes when it will and it leaves when it will. It devastates without warning.
For the past few days, I’ve stayed at home as much as possible – insular. Anything on my calendar that I didn’t have to do, I didn’t. The only things that I have done are garden, talk to my daughters and husband, and fulfill obligations. I’ve also slept an inordinate amount. The point of leaving my job was to focus on my grieving, to start my healing process, to try to find a way back to the light. I’ve filled my time though – writing, speaking, volunteering, doing. Even though these things are all linked to James and all of them are because of him, they also detract from my journey with grief.
The only way to the other side of grief is through it. There’s no ignoring it. There’s no going around it or over it. You must go through the middle of the storm before you can come out on the other side.
Right now, I am drowning in the rain. I believe, somehow, that there must be a rainbow on the other side. There will be sun again. I see glimpses of it here and there. I see that glow in my daughters’ smiles. I feel it in the love that we shared with James, with the love that we still share with so many others because of him. I have hope even here in the blackness of my grief. Hope that one day, I can look back and know that we did all that we could for him, that we loved him with every inch of our souls, and that when he was tired, we listened and let him be free of his broken body.
Mommy loves you, James.