A year of learning

One year later.  One year in.  One year down.  However it is phrased, it has been one year since my lovie had any life in his brain.  It is one day shy of the day his heart stopped beating as he saved the lives of others.  So, I’ve come to this.

Here is a snippet of the lessons I’ve learned, truths I’ve more deeply accepted, and what I want others to know because of the death of my son.

  1. I would still lay down my life to save his.  I would walk through fire, ice, glass, you name it, to feel his breath on my neck one more time…to feel his head warm on my check.
  2. When your child dies you face a fork in the road of life.  One path is well lit with hope, love, happy memories, a desire to do good, a will to find purpose in life, and is freaking hard to take.  The other path is clouded with the darkness of despair, sadness, anger, guilt, frustration, and an ache that transcends anything you thought yourself capable of enduring.  Both paths will be traveled and both have their place.  You just need to decide which will be the home that occupies most of your time.  If light is the choice, be ready for one hell of a fight, but the comfort and hope that can be found on that path is worth the fight.
  3. The death of a child changes not just the parents and immediate family, but anyone who loved the child.  Parents hold their children a little longer, children realize the horrible truth that life is no guarantee, and guilt becomes a bigger obstacle to overcome.
  4. Grief due to child death is, in fact, a lonely journey.  However, it is not lonely because of a lack of love, prayers, or support.  It is lonely because it is a journey the majority do not travel and so few talk about.  It is lonely because no two deaths are alike, all go against the natural order of things, and both of these produce a feeling of isolation.  It is only through discussion and concerted effort by the grieving and and the support system to be present that the loneliness can be eased.  Grief illiteracy will end when the illiterate put forth effort to learn and the literate open up.
  5. The grieving cannot be relied upon to convey their needs.  The fog is too dense, the pain is too deep, and the ache to debilitating.  So many of us use all of our strength and focus just functioning out of necessity.  Persistence is key.
  6. There is always something for someone to do.  A hug, a meal, a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, a note to say you care, acknowledgment on any day (not just the “anniversary” of something), or just saying the child’s name.  All are something and all mean so much.
  7. Time does not heal all wounds.  Rather, time allows for adaptation and change.  Much like the arrival of a child changes a person, the departure of one does as well.  A new identity is formed, a new person is left where one blissfully ignorant to the pains of child death once stood.  We need time to learn to navigate life with newly unsteady feet.
  8. Great comfort can be found in the midst of grief, even in the darkest of times.  Much of this love and comfort will be blessings bestowed by the hands of others.
  9. Guilt weighs heavily on bereaved parents.  It is our job to protect our children, raise them well, and die before them.  No matter the circumstances under which our child has died, we will and do blame ourselves from time to time.  There will always be the “what ifs” that will roam through our minds as our hearts ache for the child we love.
  10. Finally, we are so much more than our mortal bodies.  I learned this the moment I saw my Bub with tubes and wires all over his body, eyes and tongue swollen, bite guard in to protect his tongue from his seizure-like clenching, lying oh so still as monitors beeped around him.  I was punched in the chest. Over the next few days, that punch turned into a hole in my heart as I came to terms with the fact that I would never see his eyes looking up at me, hear his voice call for me, or have his breath on my cheek again in this life.  Yet, my heart and soul told me he was still a part of me.  He is still with me.  He is still with us all.  He is a verb.  He is not merely a body.  He is alive in us all.  Every child who has died too soon is alive in the heart and soul of those who love them.  They are looking down on us, rooting for us.  I look forward to the day when my outstretched arms will hold my Bubba again.  I know my heart will be made whole someday and I hope you know that, too.

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-Jenelle

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