It was just over a year after Dominic's accident, and a friend forwarded an article about odd behaviors of those who were "stuck" in grief. Along with the forward was a little tag, "Reminds me of you."
It hurt my feelings.
And it was inappropriate.
Because not only had I not participated in any of the listed behaviors (most of which anyone would deem odd and some that were actually harmful) but as far as I could tell, I was doing pretty good, considering.
Considering I went to bed one night with four children alive and well and woke in the wee hours of the next day to the news that one was dead.
No warning. No good-byes.
In the months since that day I had gotten up each morning and taken care of necessary tasks. I was not abusing alcohol, drugs or food. I was still exercising when I could.
And I was engaged with my family -- working with them to put the pieces of our shattered lives and hearts back together again.
Yes, I cried.
No, I didn't like to be around crowds.
I stayed at home much more than before. I struggled with anxiety when anything out of the ordinary happened. I found small talk hard to follow and forgot things (still do). And I was not participating in many "extra" activities.
I slept with Dominic's pillows every night -- it was a way to touch what was left of him.
But I was functioning.
My friend's reaction to the fact that I was "still" grieving after a year is not all that unusual.
I speak to bereaved parents who are often made to feel by others as if they should "be over" the death of their child.
They are told to "move on."
Or, in faith circles, to "be happy he is in heaven."
Most mental health professionals agree that child loss is probably the most difficult loss anyone has to bear.
A simple Google search will turn up dozens of articles that support this understanding of a parent's heartache and lifelong struggle to embrace the pain of losing a child.
Yet most people are unaware of this fact.
So I'm here to tell you -- grieving mama, grieving dad --you are NOT crazy!
You are not overreacting to one of the most awful things that can happen to someone. Out of order death is devastating!
When asked about his son years after he had died, Gregory Peck replied, "I don't think of him every day; I think of him every hour of every day."
As I've written in a previous post, "Am I Normal?"
"No one thinks it strange that the ADDITION of a child is a life-long adjustment.
So, why, why, why is it strange that the SUBTRACTION of a child would also require accommodation for the rest of a mother's life?"
I understand that if you haven't walked this path, you can't REALLY know what it's like -- even if you try.
I don't want you to know this pain by experience.
It's awful and unrelenting.
What I do want you to know is I am NOT crazy for missing my son. I am NOT crazy for wishing I could turn back the clock.
I am NOT crazy because this devastating, paradigm shifting, unbelievably painful event still impacts my everyday life.
Please don't treat me like I am.
The best help a friend can offer is a listening ear -- no judgement -- and a hug that says, "I love you. And I'm sorry."