What I’ve learned since Cameron died is that most people look to books to help them define life. I can’t tell you how many people sent books, suggested books, or referenced books. Not to offend any of those people, but I made a personal decision that I wasn’t going to read any books. At least not right now. I feel my grieving process is more authentic when I am not looking for a road map. I don’t want to compare my experience to what the book says or feel like I’m doing something wrong. I just want to experience my own journey. Whatever that is.
There are so many labels and defined stages attached to the grieving process. People have expectations for what they think you should be feeling. How you should express those feelings. The timeline for which those feelings should lessen or end. When you don’t match up to those expectations, they wonder if you are OK. Worse yet, without them realizing it they make you start to worry that you are doing something wrong.
If you’ve never lost a child, the ability to understand the impact is near impossible. Yes, it is every parent’s worst nightmare. You’ve likely thought about how it would feel. However, the real impact that is felt is not known or understood until you are walking the journey. It goes well beyond being sad because there is an empty seat at the dinner table. Seeing the things he left behind or his pictures on the wall. Not being able to hold him in your arms.
The idea that grief is a process you move through and eventually complete when you accept the situation is absurd. I have seen that in reactions I’ve had from people close to me that have lost children. Their wounds were ripped open again the day Cameron died! The pain they felt hearing the news, even when their loss was 30+ years ago, is the same pain I feel today. Emotions that you would think had been exhausted and moved past are reignited with such passion. Remember this! Most people don’t realize this impact. The loss of a child never heals.
For me, it has been 7-weeks. I have learned to hate the question, “How are you?” It’s a pretty standard question. However, I no longer know how to answer it. I don’t dare use the word “good”. Nothing is good. It just is. So my response is always the same, “I’m OK”. They can take that any way they like.
To the outside world, I’m basically back to normal. There, life goes on. Inside, I will never be the same again. When someone is around, I smile. I carry on as I did before…as best I can. On the surface, I’m fine. I can function through my day with no problem. Only grieving in moments that are necessary. In reality though, I won’t let you see my pain. It is something you won’t understand though you try to. It’s personal. Just mine.
Grief is unique to you. No one else out there will grieve the way you do. Everything you feel is OK and the timing that things happen is all personal. What you also should know is that while I am saying this, I still struggle (sometimes daily) with guilt. When I talk to someone and they start crying, I feel guilty that I am not crying. I know I shouldn’t feel that way. But emotions aren’t practical and I can’t just turn them off.
I’m going to share something that hopefully will not offend those close to us. But my initial reaction through every single step of this process has been to shut everyone else out. Even saying to my husband that I didn’t want anyone else at the hospital with us. I don’t mean to down play anyone else’s grief or pain, but Cameron was mine (ours). I didn’t want to share him with anyone else, especially his last hours. I have only wanted to hug everything that was him or a part of him to me and not let anyone else close to it. Be completely selfish. It is all mine.
To be honest, I still often feel that way. I even have some regrets that I didn’t follow through on this initial reaction. It was so important to me that everything be on our terms. However, I gave up control and backed down. Things that happened at the end of that night and in the first few days that I can never take back. Ripples that now affect me and will forever cause anger.
Many days I feel the effects of depression. The weight of sadness that he is gone. My inability to focus on things or complete tasks. My disinterest in things. I don’t consider myself depressed. It’s just how I feel sometimes. To me, it is justified and OK. Even through these moments we laugh, smile, and do what is necessary. I have many coping mechanisms. I ignore the fact he is gone and try to forget. I find any distraction, like TV. It’s simply survival mode sometimes.
Regardless of the emotions I feel (or don’t feel), I still always know he is gone. I’ve accepted that fact. There is nothing else I can do. That doesn’t mean my grieving process is done. It doesn’t mean I stop missing him or constantly thinking about him. It simply is what it is and I tell myself that everything I feel is normal…for me.
There are no stages or expectations of grief when you lose a child. There is just grief. There is no timeline. No right. No wrong. You learn to live with it in your own way. In your own time. There are no rules. Life in the rest of the world moves forward. Unfortunately, so does mine. My journey continues. There is no road map. No end to it.
My hope is that those going through it don’t focus so much on the process or the labels that exist. Don’t let the world’s expectations impact your grieving process. Know that whatever you are feeling is right for you in that moment. Your journey is personal to you. Deal with it the way you want.