When days become months and months become years it’s hard to explain to others how grief is both always present but not always in focus.
I’ve struggled to help those outside the loss community understand that the absolute weight of the burden is precisely the same as when it fell on me without warning that dark morning.
Dominic’s absence, if anything, has seeped into more places, changed more relationships and influences more choices than it did seven years ago when I was only just beginning to comprehend what a world without him would look like.
My hardest grief season begins in November and runs to the end of May. Thanksgiving through Dominic’s birthday on (or near) Memorial Day are days full of triggers, memories and stark reminders that one of us is missing.
If I could fall asleep November first and wake up in June I’d do it.
But I can’t so I have to employ all the tricks I’ve learned in the over eight years since Dominic ran ahead to heaven to survive those particularly challenging months.
Traumatic loss rewires your brain as well as your body.
So here I am, nearly eight years into the journey of sudden child loss and I’m reminded once again I am not the same “me” I once was.
Our newest grandbaby made an early entrance into the world this spring and I did Mama D duty with his big brother for nearly a month. It was a delight to be with my three year old grandson but it was also challenging for this aging/post trauma brain.
Trying to navigate (super simple) routes to and from the hospital, to and from preschool, and to and from the closest grocery store led to more than one U-turn and long way around. Sure I could use my phone’s GPS but I kept thinking I’ll finally remember next time.
I should know better by now…
I’m looking right at her.
I know her. In fact, I’ve known her for years. But please don’t ask me her name.
I have no idea.
It happens to all of us-meet someone in the store or at the Post Office and you just know you know them, but cannot-for the life of you-remember a name.
Chatting on, you search mental files desperately trying to make a connection you can hold onto. Five minutes after she walks away it pops up-oh, yes! That’s so-and-so from such-and-such.
Imagine if instead of searching mental files without success you can’t even find the file cabinet and start to wonder if one ever existed.
That’s what “grief brain” does to you.
Here are a few more examples of things that actually happened:
While I certainly had no real idea in the first hours or even weeks what losing a child entailed, I understood plainly that it meant I would not have Dominic to see, hold or talk to.
I wouldn’t be able to hug his neck or telephone him.
He wouldn’t be sitting at my table any more.
But the death of a child or other loved one has a ripple effect. It impacts parts of life you might not expect. As time went on, I was introduced to a whole list of losses commonly called “secondary losses”.