The longer I move through the mountains and valleys associated with child loss, the more I understand how different not only my life is, but how different my inner being is from the one it used to be. And….it’s even easier to see how different I am from the old you….my friends and family that have been able to move on from the devastating loss that my immediate family has experienced. The loss of my son, as I have shared before, has drastically changed the “me” that I used to be.
The old me was carefree and always looking for good in life. I had experienced losses before, but with those….I could look at it differently than I have been able to with the loss of Aaron. With those losses, I could understand that they were no longer suffering or hurting…that their loss, as hard as it may have been….followed the natural order of life. So, I could pick myself up pretty quickly and as others say, “move on”. Because, isn’t that the ultimate goal…to move on??? In some losses, yes…we do move on and we do learn to find our way back to the old self still within us….almost as if the light has been left on so that we can find our way back to ourselves. With the loss of a child…the light that used to shine inside of us doesn’t come back on to help us find our way back to the “old” us. For some time, it seems like there’s no light on at all within us. Because…the”old” us died the day we learned of our child’s passing, thus snuffing out the “old” light of ourselves. So, we are left wandering in the dark…deep,within our souls, desperately searching for the normal that used to be…only to find that it is to never be again.
I’ve said it before, and I know you’ve heard others say it too, but losing a child, changes the person you always knew yourself to be. Of course, the first life altering change I felt is the enduring sadness that invades our hearts….day in and day out. Despite what you may see on the outside….inside, we are living with a pain that isn’t comparable to anything else in this world. It is by far the worst pain I have ever faced in my life. We may put on a good front…we may even seem like our old selves at times, but don’t let us fool you…that enduring pain and sadness is still inside…just as strong as it ever was. Can you imagine how hard it is to carry on as if nothing happened….when inside, our pain never leaves? I know that we all put on masks at some point in our life…we act like everything is ok when it isn’t. But this kind of mask is heavier than any I have ever worn…it’s the hardest mask to hold in place. Acting as if I am happy when I feel so completely opposite on the inside is extremely taxing. As a matter of fact, wearing the mask of child loss is by far, not only the hardest mask I’ve ever worn, but the most exhausting one I’ve ever worn.
Another life altering change for me has been the lack of motivation to just do the normal things that life requires of you as an individual. I can wake up in the morning with the best intentions of getting some things accomplished…cleaning my house, going to the grocery store, or just doing some shopping like I used to do. The thing that’s different now….I can hardly stand to be in public. I mean…sometimes, I have great intentions of going out and getting errands run, but once I get out in public…out and about and around people living their normal lives and hearing their trivial complaints…I grow weary and all I want to do is to get home as quickly as I can. I know that sounds absolutely crazy, but I just can’t deal all of that stimuli…all of the triggers….”My son is turning 24 tomorrow.”, “Did you hear about so and so’s daughter????”, “I like the way these dishes look.” I just don’t have room inside of me for the small talk…for the gossip about whose kids are doing what….I mean today, it was looking at school shoes for my grandkids that triggered a self-preservation mode that brought me home in a matter of twenty minutes. Looking for those shoes triggered memories of looking for school shoes for Aaron and Taylor. I mean something so simple becomes a huge reminder prompting deep emotional feelings of heartache.
Something else that has changed for me is the desire to want to be involved in social gatherings. I know that I’ve mentioned this before, but a year and a half later…I’m still finding that to be a true statement. I can make plans that sound fabulous at the time, but when it comes down to it, I just can’t make myself partake in most of what I plan. I often find myself dreading the event the closer it gets…each day closer to the event, I begin to think of reasons why I can’t go….and I usually back out. I know that sounds horrible, but it’s the absolute truth. At times, I’ve told people, “I’ll try my best to make it….but no promises”, and that seems to work pretty well. But the more time passes, I think people begin to feel like I should be getting back into the swing of things….getting back out there in the midst of “life”. What do I have to say to that? “Unless you’ve walked in my shoes…unless you have walked my journey of laying your child to rest in a graveyard, you have no idea how it feels to be in the midst of those whose world has never stopped….who don’t understand the pain I feel deep within…in the midst of those who still have all of their children. It’s something that sets the new me and the old you apart. Although you may have known me before, you don’t know me now….and that’s hard not only for me, but for you as well.
So, while I look like I’m doing so well….remember that I’m really not. Deep within, I still wake up each and every day with the reality that my Aaron is never coming through my door and saying, “Hey mom!”. Remember that while I may be laughing, I still carry within me the realization that my child did die. While I laugh and smile….my thoughts are most of the time not where your thoughts are….
I am the new me and you are the old you….It’s going to take some reacquainting to get to know each other again. It may be awkward at times…and it may be hard for you to hear my sadness again and again…but that’s the only way that we will get to know each other again. As I read in an article last week….get to know me, because I’m not who I once was.
Thank you to those of you that have worked to get to know me again…I know it’s hard, and I so appreciate your patience with a mother grieving the loss of her son. I hope that you never understand my grief…I only hope you can walk beside me in mine.
Get to know the new me with the old you….