One of the things I’ve been forced to embrace in the wake of child loss is that there are very few questions, experiences or feelings that are simple anymore.
“How many children do you have?”
A common, get-to-know-you question lobbed across tables, down pews and in the check-out line at the grocery store. But for many bereaved parents, it can be a complex question that gets a different answer depending on who is asking and where we are.
I decided from the beginning that I would say, “four” in answer to that query.
But that doesn’t always get me off the hook. A follow-up of, “Oh, what do they do?” means that I have to make a decision: do I go down the line, including Dominic in any kind of detail or do I gloss over the fact that one of my children now lives in heaven?
I try to gauge whether or not the person is deeply interested or just being polite. No sense making them feel uncomfortable if they are really only making chitchat.
All of these calculations flash through my mind in an instant but they are distracting and draining.
“Want to go to a movie?”
First I have to look up the plot (something I never did before because I didn’t want to ruin it). I can’t be stuck in a dark theater in the middle of a row full of people with no way out if larger-than-life there will be anything that sends me back to Dominic’s accident.
Same standards for television shows or books-but it’s easier to turn those off or set them down.
Sitting in church can be excruciating.
A hymn or chorus, a Bible text, a random statement from the pulpit-any or all of those things can lead my thoughts down a path that takes me to a dark place where sorrow is overwhelming.
No matter how much I long to listen and participate, I find myself literally biting my tongue so that I don’t burst into loud sobs.
It doesn’t happen every Sunday, but I never know when it might.
Social media is an emotional minefield.
I confess that in the first days after Dominic left us, I had to limit the posts that showed up in my Facebook newsfeed. It was too difficult to see complaints about children growing up or graduating and how hard it was to “let them go”. I could not take whiny status updates that included having to wait in line for the new iPhone.
It’s easier now that my grief isn’t so raw but there are days…
Making a meal, I reach for his favorite ingredient or leave something out because “Dominic doesn’t like it that way” and then I remember he won’t be here to eat it.
Music can transport me to a moment of joy or pain with a single note.
Sometimes I walk in a store and smell coffee-he loved coffee-and I have to turn around and leave. Other times the fragrance draws my mind to sweet memories of shared Starbucks runs for a caffeine infusion.
If you ask me to do something next week or next month, I might say, “yes” and then find on that day I just. can’t. go.
I used to be a woman who lived by her calendar and commitments, but now I’m someone who never knows what a day will bring.
Learning to live with this changed me is an ongoing process and exhausting at times.
So much energy is used up negotiating what used to be simple things that there’s not enough left for pursuing new interests or delving deeper into old ones.
I’m trying to reach equilibrium.
I long for a time when simple things are simple again.
But I don’t think it will be today.