Even in the very first hours after the news, my brain began instructing my heart, “Now, try to be brave. Try not to disappoint people. Try to say the right thing, do the right thing and be the example you should be.”
Whatever that meant.
As I made phone calls and received concerned friends and family members I was so aware that they would take a cue from me-how much can I say, how hard can I cry, should I hug or stand back, should I talk about him or be silent lest it make the tears fall harder?
And here-almost nine years later-I still feel like I need to lead the way in conversations and social encounters.
If I don’t mention Dominic, no one else does and that disappoints me.
If I do mention Dominic, the response is often sympathy or rushing to another topic.
Which is also disappointing.
If I smile, then I’m “so much better’.
If I tear up, then I’m “not over it yet”.
The entire time I’m in the company of others (besides my family and a couple close friends) I am editing myself. Everything I say or don’t say is filtered through a grid based on how others may receive it.
No off the cuff responses here.
Past experience has taught me that what most folks want from the bereaved (after the first few months or maybe a year) is evidence that they are “moving on”, “healing”, “trusting Jesus”, “getting better” or “finding the silver lining”.
Part of me would like to participate in this ruse because it’s so much easier than trying to push, pull or drag them into the reality that bereaved parents face.
But another part of me wants to rip the blinders off and let them see that this is a lifelong journey that is bumpy, hard and doesn’t look like victory.
It looks like perseverance.
Sometimes I laugh. Sometimes I cry. Some days are good. Some days are awful.
I’m stronger than I was but I’m not “better”.
I’m able to greet most days but I still struggle some mornings to get out of bed.
I enjoy my family and friends but I miss my son.
And sometimes, just sometimes, I wish I could be only me.
Not a “me” curated for public consumption.
But just me.