Updated: Aug 13, 2019
[Author's note: This was the first blog I wrote while in the early phase of grief, back in early 2015. I re-post it here for the reader who has also lost a child, or for anyone interested in the grieving process]
By Theresa Anthony, author, My 13th Station
My nightly dog walks had changed. Over the many years I’d taken these walks with a succession of dogs over time, those 20 minutes always included prayer and reflection time. Geographically, they now took place about 3 miles away from the usual trek around my old neighborhood. More than the change in venue was the marked difference in timbre in the words I spoke to God. My words tonight were agitated and bitter. I prayed fervently for an out of control truck to veer off the road and take me out, to obliterate not only my body, but, more importantly, to relieve me of so many painful memories.
Displaced, that’s how I felt. Planted in an unfamiliar section of town where I was to live out my ragged grief alone, but for my dogs. I tell myself I don’t miss the family home, where 23 years were spent etching out my purpose, my identity as an adult raising children. I force myself periodically to recall the reasons for selling it a few months ago. To me, it was a tomb, a crypt. In it I lost my beloved son to suicide, and my loving partner to leukemia in the space of only nine months.
Tonight while walking I pictured me in that house, standing inside my dark closet and screaming at the top of my lungs, “What happened to my son? What happened to my baby boy?” I see myself sitting on the top stair in a stupor, sobbing as the coroner removed my beloved mate from the hospice bed that sat perpendicular to our bed in the master bedroom. My men, both gone.
I sold the house in two weeks, much faster than I anticipate knowing I had to disclose both deaths. But I was grateful, as I knew instinctively that if I stayed in that house I would die, too. I knew I would sit in the dark corner of my bedroom in the middle of the night begging for death to somehow swallow me up whole. Death would save me from having to endure the daylight hours with the loop in my mind replaying the horrors that I had witnessed in that brief span of time.
With superhuman resolve I went through the motions of selling my furniture, donating many of my belongings, sifting through the boxes and boxes of memorabilia of each child, all while doing my darnedest to appear I was okay to the outside world. Kind friends offered to help me pack up the house, but this was a task so gut-wrenchingly emotional, so personal, that I preferred to tackle it alone. In all, it took about 3 solid weeks to purge, edit, and reduce my life to what would fit into a much smaller place—a place I didn’t even have yet
In addition to the tubs and tubs of memories that I could not bear to part with, I created two special boxes, each containing the most cherished mementos of each of my guys. I planned to keep these two boxes in my new closet so they would be accessible to me, right there at my fingertips should I need to breathe in the scent of their clothes or re-read their cards or touch the little gifts they had given me. If my house caught fire, these would be the first things I would grab. I sealed them tightly, not only for protection, but because I knew deep down it would be a very long time before I could bear to get that close to their contents again.
So now here I am, planted in a new part of town attempting to grow and sprout new branches—green with signs of new life and possibility. That’s the plan, anyway. I try valiantly on a daily basis to choose to live my broken life, to continue to rebuild my sagging, wounded spirit. Some days I succeed and surprise myself with the promising signs of tentative joy. Other days, like today, I just want to curl up and die.
God didn’t send an out of control truck crashing into me tonight, no matter how sincere my prayer. Grief has to be endured, not escaped. Some of us get hit harder than others with a ferocity that almost feels punitive. I lay in the dark tonight and wonder about that –why my life has been punctuated with grief and loss. I honestly don’t know anyone else in my circle of family, friends, and acquaintances that have suffered such tragedies, but I know such grief-mates do exist out there. It is a small and dreaded club that I am in.
You know that old saw, “God never gives us more than we can handle,” right? He must believe I am built like a brick house! So, I will continue to build my life back up, brick by brick, per God’s very optimistic blueprint for my existence, and seek new purpose and renewed joy along the way. It sure beats being run over by a truck, and, after all, my doggies need me.