I sat down two nights ago, feeling the need to write, but not knowing where to start. Nothing came to me..no epiphany of words came…only an emptiness of thought and being. The longer I travel this lonesome road of life as I now know it, the more I understand the fragility of life, joy, and reality. If I only knew then what I know now, I would have done so many things differently. But isn’t that the nature of hindsight? We seem to only see things clearly once we’re looking through the rear view mirror. Small as that rear view mirror may be, it casts glaringly large images of what has been and what could have possibly been. And most of those images that we focus on, often evoke pain and regret. It’s those images that seem to play out the most in the video that rolls through that small, yet sizable mirror.
The thing about my rear view mirror is that it holds not only the grief of Aaron’s passing, but it also holds the grief of what I did and didn’t do, the grief of what I should have done, and the grief of what will never be. I know that we all experience regret of the should haves and would haves in all aspects of life, but when you add to that the grief of losing a child, those should haves and would haves become a black hole of regret, sadness, and loneliness. It becomes a pit of quicksand that continues to pull you under…no matter how hard you strive to find that lifesaving branch and no matter how hard you stretch and pull on that branch….it seems the harder you pull, the more the pit sucks you back into the darkness, the coldness, and the solitude. It’s a lonely existence that most don’t understand. While it has been over a year since Aaron’s passing, my longing for his physical presence, his smile, and his laughter is just as fresh as it was when I first heard the news. And while time has allowed me to better cope with the raging emotions, they are still there….ever present in a sea of enormous swells that ebb and flow on a daily basis. Coping…I’m not sure that’s the right word, because what it really feels like is a prison of grief. I feel like I’m trapped in a world of grieving for my son, his life, his passing, and his memory….while the world keeps spinning. And even though the world keeps spinning, here I am…trapped between the past and the future…trying my hardest to continue on with this journey.
I’m trying my hardest to find a purpose….but some days the bars that hold the emotions inside are unyielding. There’s no give in these bars….they’re rigid, cold, and unrelenting. And they seem to grow even more rigid as more time passes. Why? Because we live in a world of positivity…a world where all seems to work out for the majority of those around you…a world where those who voice their less than positive feelings are deemed as “downers”. So, it’s easier to separate yourself from those who seem to be “down” or depressed. And while I “get” that…I live in the other world now. I now live in a world where I have to work to find happiness…I have to work to see the joy…I have to work to see the beauty around me. And that work is simply exhausting.
Do I have plenty to be thankful for…YES! Of course I do…don’t we all? I just have to work harder than many people do to choose to be thankful and to choose to find the joy. And somedays, it just isn’t possible for me to do that. As hard as I try, somedays, those bars close in on me and hold me in my cell of grief. And that rear view mirror only exacerbates that imprisonment. Yet, when I look back on the words that others shared about my son, I find a sense of joy of the impact he made. Here’s just a few:
“You were hands down the most fearless person in the world. You had the best heart and had an absolutely contagious laugh. If I was ever down, I’d look at you, and somehow, you’d be smiling. It never failed.”
“You were such a beautiful soul, kind and hilarious. Always without judgment and without hesitation were willing to help me in some of my darkest days.”
“You were more than a friend. You were a brother to me.”
“We never really hung out that much, but I remember a couple of years ago, I was going through a really rough time, and you called me from the airport to help me through it.”
I saved these and many others on my phone so that I could remind myself of how Aaron made such a profound effect on others in his short life on this earth. Reading these brings a smile to my face and joy to my heart not only to remember his beautiful life, but it also reminds me of his sister, and it reminds me of how much they are alike. They both have an empathy for others that brings me unspeakable joy. So while my grief holds me prisoner sometimes…and while the rear view mirror tends to hold me in that prison…sometimes it does quite the opposite.
The words that others spoke of him make that rear view mirror a happy place to look. They make it a comforting place to look and to see those memorable moments and to bask in the joy of the time I had Aaron in my life. And it’s in those moments that I can be positive and can experience happiness. But…remember….grieving parents can’t always be the picture of positivity…sometimes we can, but there are many times we can’t. Remember that we are struggling on a day to day basis with what used to be and what will never be. Remember that while all of your children are still with you and your families are continuing to make memories with your family in tact…we grieving parents do not have that luxury. We must learn to balance grieving for the child we lost while continuing to be happy in the moment for what we still have. And this is something that we must learn…we don’t automatically know how to do it. We learn to do it over time…
So, if you know a grieving parent…no matter how long it’s been since they lost their child…Just give them a hug every once in a while…for no reason. Just let them know that you are thinking of them and their pain. You don’t even have to say anything…just letting that grieving parent know that you care for how they feel even if you can’t imagine their pain means the world to them.
To my fellow grieving parents….I’m so sorry for the loss of your beautiful son or daughter. My heart aches for every parent that walks in my shoes. God bless you, your family, and your broken heart. Try to find some memories that you can purposely put in your rearview mirror that can make it not such a difficult place to look sometimes…
God bless you all.
And to my son Aaron…I love and miss you with all of my heart.