As I enter the summer season, a new and unfamiliar feeling teems within my soul…deep within my heart…leaving me feeling particularly unsettled. I’m not sure how to explain this new feeling as it is something I have never experienced before. It’s almost as if I have entered a phase of restlessness. This restlessness isn’t present every day, but it is often nearby just waiting for its moment of glory. When I feel this sense of restlessness, nothing that I seem to do or plan fills the void I feel so deep within. I try to read a book, but that doesn’t settle my nervous energy…I try to watch TV…which does absolutely nothing to subdue the need to just do something. I try to go online and shop…but I can’t find anything that satisfies. And so, I’m left fumbling with this restless anxiety and what to do to help it subside. So far, nothing has worked. I just muddle through it…and I eventually make it through the uneasiness of the moment. It’s just something you make yourself do…but it is excruciating, because at the root of the restlessness is the grief for Aaron.
So, how do I explain this to those of you who don’t know what I’m feeling? How do I explain this to those of you that do understand and need to relate to someone? I’ve worked hard over the last year and a half to try my to best explain my feelings so that all could in some way relate, but this new feeling is something I am struggling to bring to life. Over the last few weeks, this new sense has left me feeling almost as if I am detached from myself, from my life, and from my world. It feels very strange. I’m not sure if this is a self-induced detachment or if it’s a subconscious thing that’s designed to protect myself from the upcoming milestones. Nonetheless, that’s where I am.
Grief…I never thought much about it until it hit my immediate family. I mean, I knew that my friends and family members have experienced their own grief within their immediate families, but I could never empathize, because I didn’t understand it. And, you will never understand the full magnitude of grief until it hits your immediate family. Working through this kind of grief has been a difficult process….and I’m not done…it’s a process that I will work through all the days of my life. There’s no book to guide you through the phases unique to each individual….there is nothing…you just have to go through it…nothing more and nothing less. There is no shortcut around the hurt and the pain….you must journey straight through the dark wilderness of losing a loved one. Sometimes, you feel as if you’ve found your way out…but then the grief turns the corner and hits you head on….and you’re back to where you started for a little while. It is an emotionally and physically draining process. I feel that it relates very much to having a loved one lost in addiction. As you travel the journey of living with someone that has an addiction, you go through major highs and lows throughout their recovery and the relapses. You have those times when they are doing so well…they’re going to their meetings and they are making the right choices. And then it happens, before you know it, the rug is jerked out from under your feet and the process of recovery starts all over again. I experienced that rollercoaster of emotions so many times during the years that Aaron struggled with his addiction. It is path of highs and lows, of valleys and mountaintops, and of hope and despair. And those highs and lows come in waves, just as grief does. See…I’ve been grieving for well over 10 years….but now I am grieving my son’s death and not his battle with addiction. So, it’s only the circumstances of my grief that has changed….but the new grief is beyond the hardest to bare. I’ve heard many say that the loss of a child is a life sentence…and I agree. It is a sentence that you must learn to live with every day.
This life sentence is something that I also must learn to maneuver my way through. And that, is an extremely difficult task. Despite this difficulty, I have to decide how am I going to continue to live in this world not only without my son, but with the rest of the family that I have here with me. And that’s hard….but I know that Aaron would want to see all of us happy. I once heard a story where a woman said that she lost her mother the day that she lost her brother. That statement was profound to me. While the loss of a child is the hardest thing you will ever experience, we also have to remember the ones that are still here with us. I don’t want my daughter to lose me also, so I must find my way through the wilderness of grief for her and for the others in my life.
I’ve heard so many people say, “I admire your strength.”, or “You are such a strong woman.” Strength is something that I feel has left my body, but I understand how people see strength in the fact that we continue to get up and join the world each day. However, I feel that I do that out of necessity…not out of strength. Maybe it’s perception…those looking from the outside in see it as strength. I, looking from the inside out, see myself as weak, because of the feelings I have inside. Those who have lost a significant loved one just learn to wear a mask that hides those feelings, giving the impression of strength. With this mask, I have learned that I can continue on with my day and can join the world. When I come home though, the mask comes off and I am physically and emotionally depleted.
I’ve learned many things over the past two years, one of which is that I will never get over the pain that I feel. I have just come to understand that I am learning to live with it. Over time, we learn to live with the pain and learn how to cope with it, but those waves still hit, no matter how much time has passed.
So, I am slowly working my way back into the world, but it just takes time.