Have you ever had a nightmare that makes you want to wake up…that literally makes you think in the dream…”Please wake up…I hope this is just a dream”? The kind of dream where someone is chasing you with harmful intentions and there is no way out. Or a dream where you are in a situation that will ultimately lead to death if some miracle doesn’t happen….or a dream that something has happened to a very close loved one? Welcome to my world for the last 7 months. Seven months ago, my world became a living nightmare when I learned that my son had passed away around 6 am on Tuesday, February 10, 2016. I didn’t even find out until 5:30 pm that day…almost 12 hours later. All during that day, I had been working as I normally do..carrying on with my normal duties while my son lay dead in his barracks. That haunts me somewhat. Even though I could have done absolutely nothing, there’s something about the nature of a mother to want to know just in case you could have done something. All day long, while I was consumed with trivial tasks, my son lie on his bed….not breathing…the life gone from his body. That has been my nightmare for the last 7 months. I didn’t get to say goodbye…..I didn’t get to tell him that I loved him. I still wake up, oftentimes, wishing this was just all one bad dream.
A few weeks ago, I dreamed that I had received a call that Aaron was still alive and that he was last seen getting on a plane. I was ecstatic in the dream….but then I woke up and the nightmare became even more real and there was no mistaking that the nightmare was not my dream, but my reality. A few days later, I dreamed that I was at work and had been talking to someone about Aaron and how he had died. Suddenly, he walked in the room in military gear…his back pack on…and headed straight for me. He never spoke, but I was so excited to see him and I introduced him to the person I had been talking to as…”This is my son, the one we were talking about….we thought he was dead.” I guess that means that I haven’t truly come to acceptance even after 7 months. How do you accept that your first born will no longer walk into your house and say, “Hey mom.”? Obviously, I don’t know how, because I still haven’t truly accepted it. I’m finding that the 6th and 7th month have been very difficult. Almost as if I’m going through the extreme pain I felt in the beginning. Whoever started the facade that grief comes in stages must not have had a true understanding of grief itself. I know that the model for the stages for grief was borrowed from the author who wrote about the stages of dying. And, it has been stated for some time that the stages of grief are not linear, but that people often experience them out of order and often times bounce back and forth between the stages. With my experience, what I can say…is that there are no definitive stages other than shock in the beginning and denial. Beyond that, grief has been one big messy bundle of emotions that follow no formal visual or no linear progression of stages. The feelings one experiences are truly a roller coaster of feelings that range from utter despair, to anger, rage, agitation, shame, guilt, confusion and the inability to focus…and sometimes it’s a mixture of all of those emotions at one time. It makes you feel, at times, that you are going crazy. It makes you feel as if you have no control, because in reality you do have no control. Control is hard for me, I want to control situations if there is any way that I can. In this situation…I have no control over when or where I will experience these roller coaster of emotions. I may be alone in my home, but I also might be in the middle of the store or at work with people all around me…trying to hide my mental and emotional turmoil. I also want to be able to put a timeline on this pain, because it is the worst pain I have ever felt in my life. But…there is no timeline, there is no control…there is only the lunacy of living the day to day madness of the erratic nature of grief itself.
I’ve heard so many words of what others think are comforting…”It gets better….It gets easier….Time heals….God needed an angel….He’s in a better place…He wouldn’t want you to be sad.” All of those are said with good intentions and I know that others think they are, but when the loss is so close, none of these help fill the hole that Aaron left in my heart. Do I find comfort that he is in a better place and that he is no longer fighting and struggling with his vices…OF COURSE it brings me comfort. But that comfort does not take away the MISS I have for him. And nothing will ever fill that void in my heart that only holds only Aaron’s shape. No one will ever be able to fill that hole….nor would I want anyone else to be able to fill it. He was a special person and deserves to hold that place in my heart forever….and he will forever hold that place heart in my heart.
So I guess you can see that I’m struggling….I’m feeling the messiness of grief just as strong as in the beginning. But….just when I needed it most, I received a message tonight from one of Aaron’s friends. We just became friends on Facebook the other day and tonight was the night he chose to message me. Here’s a little of what he said:
“I just wanted to say I’m very sorry about Aaron. He was a sweet kid. I first met him in 2010. We were friends right off the bat. I was scared and didn’t know anyone but Aaron became my friend almost instantly. He made a lasting impression on me and even on my mother…and my mom commented to me about what a nice boy Aaron was. Aaron and I kept in contact through the years and he still helped me years later…He was there for me in a very hard time, talking to me about how to get through even though he was thousands of miles away in Japan. Aaron was there for me and was the type of friend to me that is hard to come by now days. I just wanted to let you know that he was a great friend and his spirit will live on forever in all of our hearts. And I will never forget what a good person he was. Aaron knew that you loved him with all your heart. Stay strong and vigilant and keep up the courage you have. Aaron would be proud of you.”
What a welcome message this was….to the sender, Sam, I am forever grateful of your timing. One of the things we moms always worry about after a child has passed away is that others will forget their child. Sam reminded me that he will never forget Aaron and that Aaron’s spirit will live on forever in each of us. But I thank Sam for taking the boldness to let me know how much Aaron meant to him and how sorry he was for our family. Thank you, Sam, for reminding me that even though I feel that hole in my heart…Aaron is still there and in all of us. Thank you for reminding me that Aaron knew that I loved him…Thank you not being afraid to mention his name. Thank you for not being afraid to reach out to me and to talk to me about what a good person he was….that to me is priceless.
If you know someone that has lost a loved one, don’t be afraid to reach out to them. Don’t be afraid to mention their loved one’s name…..Don’t be afraid to ask about their loved one….even though we might cry…that’s nothing new, most of us cry each day anyway. It means so much for others to ask about and to listen to us talk about our deceased loved one. We are on a journey of learning to live without them and sometimes we just need to voice to someone…anyone that will listen…something about our child, brother, sister, mother, or father. Sometimes we just need to tell someone about their beautiful smile or their contagious laugh. Sometimes we just need to talk about the time they folded wet towels and put them away so that the chore would be completed and they could go skating. Sometimes we just need to talk about their struggles and our struggles with them. Sometimes we just need to feel that others are still willing to listen to our sadness even if it is months or years later….
So….thank you again, Sam for reaching out to me. Thank you, Aaron for having caring spirit that is still ministering to people even in your death. Please reach out to anyone you know that is suffering the loss of a loved one…child, brother, sister, mother, father, husband, wife….etc. You may never know how meaningful your willingness to step out of your fear and comfort zone will comfort those who are mourning…even if it is months or years later.