I first shared this post in 2016 when I deeply resented anyone trying to tell me there would eventually be a “new normal” to this long road of sorrow and missing.
Since then I would say that I can concede there is a kind of “normal” that eventually takes over a life-even a life shattered by loss.
No matter how tempting it might be to climb under the covers and hide away in my room, biding time until it’s MY time, I can’t.
And little by little, the ordinary (and extraordinary) habits, pressures and circumstances of walking in the world require more and more of my attention forcing me to sequester Dominic’s absence to a part (instead of the whole) of my waking existence.
But I will tell you today-over eight years later-that there is STILL absolutely, positively NOTHING “normal” about my beautiful boy being here one moment and gone the next.
Something you hear early on in this grief journey is that one day you will find a “new normal”.
I hate that phrase.
Because while I have certainly developed new routines,new ways of dealing with life, new methods for quelling the tears and the longing and the sorrow and the pain-it is NOT normal.
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”.
In the years since I started sharing in this space I’ve had many challenges in addition to the ongoing burden of missing Dominic.
Our family has gained members, lost members, my health has declined, my husband has retired and all my earthbound children have experienced lots of important and sometimes uncomfortable or unwelcome life changes.
For some reason the past two and a half years have been more difficult to navigate in certain ways since the first two years after Dominic’s death. In fact, the past six months have been particularly hard but I can’t put my finger on exactly why.
Maybe it’s fatigue-emotional, psychological, spiritual, relational-or maybe it’s what marathoners know as “the wall”. That place when you’re fully committed to running the race but suddenly wondering what the heck you’ve gotten yourself into.
I don’t run marathons (just look at me and you’ll know that!) but I do tend to push through pain and discouragement and what others consider unbeatable odds to reach whatever goal I’ve set for myself. I haven’t been able to employ the usual pep talks or psychological tricks or external cues to do that of late.
I’m spending too much time thinking about what I need to get done and not enough time doing it.
I’ve got tons of half-written blog posts in my draft folder and too few finished ones lined up to publish.
I remember feeling a bit like this when I graduated from college three months pregnant with my daughter. One giant task was accomplished but one, largely unknown, task was staring me in the face.
That summer is a blur.
I know I did some practical and predictable things to get ready for Fiona’s arrival but I’m not sure I really had much of a plan.
I’ve been walking the road of child loss for more than eight years now. I’m committed to sharing the journey with whomever it might help. I have a basic daily routine that at least includes finding old posts to re-share if not carving out time to create new ones.
The other hours of my day are spent talking or messaging with family and friends, moderating an online bereaved parent community, trying to keep my house relatively clean (no white gloves allowed!), walking two miles each morning, doing research, cooking meals and handling five or six (typically) other random and/or pressing issues along with caring for our menagerie of pets and livestock.
And while my life is good, I’m definitely experiencing dissonance between what I thought it would be like at 58 and what it actually IS.
I thought I’d be writing books or making quilts or teaching craft or cooking classes in my local church.
I absolutely, positively didn’t think my story would include child loss! I couldn’t have imagined that fused bones in my hands and wrists would keep me from doing so many of the things I love to do.
I’m not complaining (well, I’d complain to anyone who’d listen about Dominic not being here) but I am just being honest.
I know the saying, “Grieve the life you thought you’d have and then move on with the life you actually have and be grateful for it”.
Trust me, I have and I am.
I am so, so grateful for each day’s beauty, blessings and the grace and strength to appreciate them.
I am beyond grateful for a loving family, my precious grandsons, the gift of modern medicine and compassionate companionship of friends who help make my burdens easier to carry!
I do wake every morning thankful for the breath in my body and the promise that this body is not the only one I’ll ever have.
I look forward to the final and complete redemption of every pain, every tear, every sad and awful thing, and the restoration of all that has been stolen.
This life continues to be one I didn’t choose but one I choose to make as joy-filled and as productive as possible.