It was the day of his memorial. It sounds funny, but I remember it clearly because it’s the only day our house was full. Some of our family had started to trickle in so the sound of conversation hummed around me. I stood at my kitchen sink absentmindedly rinsing some dishes when my oldest daughter came bursting through the kitchen chasing a cousin. I looked up and smiled.
In my next breath I said, “Where’s…”. As my eyes lifted I met his bedroom door, my voice caught in my throat. The sentence finished only in my head, “Cameron at?”. It stunned me.
Where’s Cameron at?! How natural it still felt to say those words. I really had forgot! For a brief moment it was as if none of this was happening. Had anyone heard me? Did I really just say that out loud? Oh how I wish he was still in that bedroom or would come walking into the room.
This moment haunts me. It’s one I will never forget. The shock of forgetting so early in our grief journey. It jolted me. One of the few times I’ve been able to capture how my life felt before. Mundane things I would give anything to have back.
In my mind I try to recreate moments like this. Make myself believe he is just at school or in the other room. Sometimes for a moment I can feel it. Remember what it was like before. Then it quickly slips away. While I work hard to trick my mind into making these moments happen, I find it strange that I also have to constantly remind myself it happened.
The death of a child, especially your oldest child, can make you feel as if years of your life have been erased. Invalidated. Like it never happened. Cameron was 7. My girls were 4 years and 6 months. When people look at my family, they will only ever see 2 girls. It always feels like my first 3 years of motherhood never existed.
One thing I’ve learned about my grief is I’m so good at masking it I start to believe my own mask. It’s as bad as forgetting. I don’t forget. Not really. Yet, something will happen, something will be said and I will have a grief reaction. I get angry or feel guilty about how much it affects me and I have to remind myself I suffered a trauma. It happened. My son died. That’s a big deal!
His death has affected me deeply. It should. He made me a mother. He set the stage for how our family operates. Our entire foundation was built around him. He was my first everything. My oldest daughter is quickly approaching his final firsts. Soon she will take over that role of leading the pack. I can’t stop to let that sink in too far or I may fall apart. I wish I could make it stop, but time has a cruel way of marching on.
If I could freeze it all right now, I would. In this phase of our family I can still see him in his exact role. As it should be. Soon my girls will pass his grade, his age, and begin to reach milestones he never did. I fear those moments. There will be so many it feels overwhelming. So for now, I stand at my kitchen sink and focus. If I try hard enough, I can find a small moment where I forget and breathe him in.
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