It surprised me when I felt anxious after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.
Not that the doorbell startled me, or that passing the place of the accident was hard nor that hearing motorcycles made my skin crawl.
But that every single day for many, many months anxiety crept up my backbone and made a knot in my neck.
It surprised me that I felt like I was literally going to explode. I would walk and walk and walk just to push the negative energy out of my body.
I was also surprised by what seemed to be random triggers-smells, sights, foods, voices, places-that could send me into a tailspin of rapid heartbeat, hurried breathing, sweaty palms and a feeling of abject terror.
I didn’t know it then, but my experience is common.
It shouldn’t be surprising, really.
We all operate in the world as if it is predictable, as if it follows rules. It’s how we stay sane.
If our minds perceived that most of what we experience has at least a small element of the random, we would sit frozen, terrified to move.
Who can live in a world where you never know what to expect?
When Dominic left this life suddenly, unexpectedly and without warning, my sense of safety and order was violated.
The illusion of control was stripped away. The grid through which I viewed the world was ripped to shreds. What I thought I knew about how things worked was proven unreliable.
Truth is, I never really had all that much control, but burying Dominic made that undeniably obvious.
This brutal disruption in worldview created a kind of internal panic.
I wasn’t conciously aware of it at the time because I was overwhelmed with sorrow and the pain of loss. But my mind was trying to wrap itself around a new understanding of how the world works.
I needed to learn to live in a world where I couldn’t predict outcomes, I couldn’t guarantee safety (even if I did everything “right”) and I couldn’t REALLY plan for tomorrow because tomorrow might very well never come.
I had to figure out how to get out of bed instead of cower under the covers. To get in the car instead of stay at home. To continue to love the people God gave me even though they may be taken any time.
Anxiety is an outward expression of the inward reality of this disruptive process. My body was screaming what my mind was silently sorting out.
As I have worked on incorporating my experience of losing a child into my worldview, the anxiety has decreased.
I don’t expect to ever live free of anxiety again-how can I when I know by experience what most people only imagine?
But I’m learning ways to deal with it when it rears its ugly head.
And I’m learning that every time I triumph over it, I’m stronger and better able to do it the next time.