“I’m so sorry for your loss.”
This has been the phrase that has haunted me since Caleb died. At first, I didn’t like thinking of him as lost because my faith told me exactly where he was. His physical body was buried, but all he is and was lives on and waits for me with our Father in Heaven.
On more agitated days, I felt angry at the “your” part. It left me with a feeling that this vibrant, energetic, loving little boy no longer being physically here was only a loss to me, to my family. Why wasn’t it “our” loss? Why wasn’t it a collective loss for all humanity? For the world? Why couldn’t everyone feel that our future existence was left less bright without him in it?
Then, I just started to accept it for what it is, a sympathetic platitude when you don’t know what else to say. That has changed.
I hear and feel that phrase differently now. Yes, I still hear it. Every time I meet someone new or tell someone my son died, I hear it. Without fail. Now, I say thank you and quietly think to myself that I’m sorry for my loss, too.
I’m sorry, new person that I just met, that you’ll never know my Bub. I’m sorry you’ll never know who I was before he died. She was more carefree, less cynical, more trusting. I’m sorry that woman is gone, forever changed. I’m sorry who my family used to be is gone. I’m sorry I don’t laugh like I used to. I’m sorry I’m not good at small talk. I’m sorry when I see a little blonde haired boy walk by, my eyes well with tears as my words catch in my throat. I’m sorry you asked how many children I have and what there ages are and my answer created an awkward silence. I’m sorry I don’t go out much. Sometimes, I’m just too tired and the mask is too heavy to wear. Thanks for talking to me, though, for including me. It means so very much to simply be acknowledged, spoken to.
I’m not lost in the sense that I don’t know where I am or where to find the old me. I’m lost in that I don’t know how to join my two selves. I’ve experienced a loss of self. A deprivation of who I once was.
And I feel lost in the midst of my grief.
It’s why I haven’t written in so long. I haven’t had the words, or maybe the right words, to say. I’ve experienced a complete and total block in my thought process. As I’ve struggled to merge the everyday old me with the new, I’ve become lost. Caleb’s death created a canyon in my existence and I can’t find a way from one side to the other. I’m on the post death side and everything newly created and born here is thriving and helps me find purpose, peace, and joy while I feel everything I built and created on the other side slowly dies as I struggle to find my way to it. I can see it, remember it. I just can’t feel it and find my way to it.
My daily existence is on autopilot. It’s when his lack of physical presence is most apparent and feeling that is all consuming. My heart races, my face flushes red, my chest feels hot while my hands and feet run cold, my head starts to spin, and I flash the pictures of his life and death through my mind as tears run down my face. Sometimes, I ugly cry and I know it would scare my kids. It scares me. They see the composed tears, that’s important for us all, but they need to know they can count on me. That I’m strong enough to be here for them.
So, I can’t feel it when we’re gathered around the dinner table and he’s not there. I can’t feel it as I push a shopping cart with an empty child seat around the grocery store. I can’t feel it when we gather for family prayer with 7 instead of 8. I can’t feel it when the roll call to account for everyone in the car stops at 5. I can’t feel it when I snuggle with my littles for a story at bedtime.
I do feel it in the middle of the afternoon when I should be cleaning the kitchen, but go to bed instead. I do feel it when I pull into the driveway and sit in my big, empty van for an hour because I can’t go inside my big, empty house. I do feel it when I lay awake in bed at 2:30AM and can’t help but notice the space still left between my husband and I where he should be after waking up at 2:00. Then, I cry. I heave and sob and feel it all. But, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes, I just feel so tired. So alone and so tired and everything feels heavy, as if there were weights hanging from my neck and limbs. I suppose that’s why it’s called a profound loss.
So, thank you for acknowledging our loss. I’m sorry for it, too. Yet, I’d feel it all a thousand lives over, even knowing the outcome, just to be known as Caleb’s mom. That’s how I know I’ll figure it out. We all will.