Every morning I drop my middle son off at TA, the high school where Gabe attended. This morning I was thinking about how different it feels even just seeing TA than it did 2 years ago. I will never forget the first time I had to sit at the light, leaving the elementary school after dropping off my youngest. I sat at the light and right in front of me, across the street, was the high school that my oldest child no longer attended. It was a punch in the gut every time I had to do that, or had to pass the school. I would see the school that my child no longer attended because he died. Every day as I went to work I had to pass the school, cry, and pull myself together before walking in to care for children.
Those early days (and weeks, and months, and really year and a half+) were brutal. They were brutal in a way that only those who have buried a child (or probably a spouse with a very untimely death) understand. In those early days (and weeks, and months, and still most days) there were tears every single day. But often with those tears came panic. A panic so horrible that it was hard to breathe. That panic was brought about by my heart slowly realizing that a part was missing and it wouldn’t ever return. The panic would come as I would remember, over and over, every detail of that horrible day. And wishing in my mind that I could change those memories and make them un-happen. That panic would happen in the shower, in bed at night, in the car, driving near the school. It would happen when I would hear a siren, or get passed by an ambulance, or often in church as I looked around and saw so many intact families. It happened at the dentist when I had to update the information in my boys charts- but only for 2 boys because only 2 were still living. It would happen in too many situations to name. A few times it happened at work but I was able to pull myself together. It’s a panic that most people around think needs to be fixed. That the sadness of grief needs help to get better- through medication and counseling. And no doubt those things have their place. But the reality of this kind of grief is that nothing will fix it. It needs to be lived and worked through.
Thankfully now I don’t tend to have those panicky moments. Definitely not the moments that literally take my breath away. There are still sad days. They are not as frequent but still very brutal. I don’t think those sad days will ever fully end. Today I am in a better place than I was 2 years ago, and that is progress. I am grieving at my own speed and I don’t really care about what anyone around me thinks. This is, after all, my journey. I’m so thankful for the friends who still walk with me (literally and figuratively) and haven’t put any pressure on me to get better. Those friends love me exactly where I am and for that I am eternally grateful.
The picture I placed above was given to me when I went to see a grief counselor within about 2 weeks of Gabe’s death. I think it captures the journey of a grieving parent perfectly. That is what it feels like. No other words are necessary.