I’m pretty sure most everyone older than five has suffered a bump, bruise or sprain that left them tender for more than a few minutes.
And if you have, then you know the slightest brush up against that sore spot can elicit quite the reaction.
There’s an emotional correlate to physical bruising. And when someone hits that nerve it hurts. Really, really hurts!
It’s impossible to know where all those places are on another person’s body, much less their heart. So we often cause accidental pain to one another.
Many bereaved parents share some emotional bruises others might never see or think about. Lots of everyday interactions press hard against the tender places and make them hurt all the more.
I don’t expect family and friends to walk on eggshells around me, second-guessing everything they say or do. That would be awful for all of us!
But just in case you wonder, here are places my heart is tender:
- Talking about Dominic’s “legacy”. I am still not prepared to discuss my not yet 24 year old son in terms that should be reserved for someone who has lived a long life and left a better documented trail behind. I don’t want him to have a legacy. I wanted him to have a life.
- Ignoring his absence in family gatherings. Yes, we’ve added to our number since he left us. But it was never about absolute numbers! It was always about the faces around the table and shared laughter. HIS voice is unique. And I always hear the silent space where it should be no matter how loud and lively the celebration.
- Weddings and children among his friends. No, I’m not sad at all that these precious people are living life, expanding their families and doing all the things young folks SHOULD do. But even as I rejoice for every single exciting milestone I also mourn the fact that I will never have the same opportunity with Dominic.
- The smaller and smaller space Dominic occupies in daily life as time goes by. This is simply a function of human existence. Over six years of life have come and gone since he was here to make a memory, share a meal, comment on social media, be included in photographs. I can force the issue and bring him up in conversation or have someone hold a giant picture of him for family portraits but that is not. at. all. the. same.
- Unexpected and unanticipated grief triggers. I still gasp inside when I see a young man speeding by on a motorcycle. Mention of certain topics, plans, courses of study take me straight back to conversations I had with Dom about what he wanted to do when he finished law school. Sometimes it’s the smell of soap or shampoo or coffee or grilled chicken-all things I strongly associate with his last couple years on earth and his first apartment.
- Photographs of myself this side of child loss. Other people can say what they will but I see the toll grief has taken on my body, in my eyes and in the way my smile lies lopsided on my face. I want all the pictures I can get! I’ve learned too late that begging off because I’m not in the right clothes or don’t want to stop long enough to snap the photo is a mistake. But I’ve yet to line up for one where I didn’t feel Dom’s absence and wish he were there.
- Crowds and unfamiliar places. I can’t claim to ever have loved being smashed together with others unless it were family. I used to be able to tolerate it better though. I guess it’s my last ditch effort to carve out control in a world that feels out of control that I avoid large groups and unfamiliar places. I can feel my heart pound faster at even the thought of such a thing.
I know specific circumstances and life experience make each heart’s tender places a little different.
Mine may not be yours.
I don’t expect (really, truly, do not expect!) that everyone (or even anyone) around me might take note of my own.
But I am still tender. And I may well still react.
Bruises are bruises even when we try hard to cover them up or protect them.