There is a quote that says, “The bereaved mother. She has experienced the unimaginable and yet she is still able to walk.” When I see it, I question the definition of strength. There is this notion that because we can get out of bed every day, we are strong. The ability to do the necessities life has demanded means we are living. People look on with amazement and say, “Wow, I don’t know how you do it. There is no way I could do that!”
It almost feels like a slap in the face.
My mind hears things like, “You aren’t doing it right.” Or, “You didn’t love your son as much as I love my child because my world would be devastated.” I know in my mind that isn’t the intent. Yet, I am unable to process any compliment related to strength. To me, grief and strength do not go hand in hand.
It has been 1 year, 1 month, and 24 days since my son died. Even on day 1, I got out of bed. Necessity, habit, and responsibility motivated me to put my feet on the floor and walk one foot in front of the other. Do you know what I thought about? I thought about the numerous times I told Cameron, “There are always things in life we don’t want to do. You have to do those first before you can do what you want to do. That is life.”
My words came back to haunt me. Talk about things you don’t want to do!
Responsibility, not strength took over.
On the inside I was kicking and screaming to stop. The 2-year old me threw an all out tantrum. It raged for 9-months. Every day I carried the weight of a Cameron on my shoulders. When I moved, I could feel myself being pulled down. It was exhausting! I had no strength. Endurance kicked in allowing me to do bare minimum.
What I soon realized was I started having days that were easier. Then a couple of days in a row. After some time, the huge cloud that I was living under seemed to separate and move away. Cameron’s physical weight lifted. I was getting my second wind. From that moment forward, it has been about understanding how to balance my grief with life.
Through trial and error I have learned about my grief. It is different for everyone. I have various coping mechanisms. Things I do that allow me to live. Ways I am able to manage my grief so it doesn’t spill over into everything.
Grief gets messy.
There are so many expectations placed on a bereaved mother (perceived and real). The number of things that happen through the course of the day that remind me of my son are astounding! The deep feelings of sadness and loss are stifling. If I am not careful, I lose my breath and swirl in the abyss of hatred for what my life has become. This is what I manage. I can’t afford to swirl. It makes living harder. Emotions intensify and spill into other things. It gets ugly.
So I have built a wall. This wall exists to protect my heart. It protects the trauma I suffered and the memory of him that I refuse to give up. I can breathe when this wall is up. It isn’t strength, it is necessity. It is learned behavior. Compartmentalization has allowed me the ability to keep walking and putting one foot in front of the other. It is how I manage to appear strong.
Through trial and error I have learned how and when to peek over that wall. These are the moments I dip my toe in and feel it all. Everything happens on my terms now. There is no opportunity to swirl so I am safe until I am ready to disengage again. I am in control of the sad part of my grief.
Grief still rules.
Don’t get me wrong. There are still times grief spills over. Some days are more emotional than others as I feel the grief swell up over the top of the wall. I believe this is normal.
Others may see my wall as unhealthy. I don’t care. Grief is unique to every person. I have learned that only I can determine what is right or wrong as I walk this path. The same goes for you. Don’t let anyone tell you it has to be done a certain way. It is simply not true.
Whatever it is that motivates you to keep going. Keep doing that! I know Cameron wants me to continue living. So I do. No strength involved. Only a sense of responsibility to his memory and necessity to myself and family.