Since my son Mike died, I’ve lost my car keys at least a hundred times! Slumping down and bursting into tears I decided to call it a day at 5:30 p.m. I was exhausted. I couldn’t think straight. I was frustrated because I lost my keys again only to find them sitting on a box in my garage. My life is messy because I seem to have lost the ability to organize even something as simple as what I should wear to work in the morning. As I walked to my bedroom with tears streaming down my face, I knew what was going on. I was so upset, so sad, and so broken. I wasn’t able to think straight because I only had one thing on my mind. My son died, and he died far, far too soon.
My chest hurt with every breath I took. Every time my heart beat, I cried louder, “Why? Why did he have to die so soon?”
A thousand whys swirled through my head. All of those things I wish you had said and didn’t. The countless times I said things and they came out all wrong. The many times I wish I had picked up the phone and called but used the excuse I was too busy or it was too late at night.
Our thoughts can be so hurtful.
My tears continued for several hours until my head pounded so bad that I knew I had to stop. A cold washcloth across my eyes, two Tylenol inside of me, comforting music playing, and I still couldn’t relax.
The grief was still there, and it was gripping me tight.
Why was my grief so bad this particular day? It wasn’t an anniversary date. I had slept okay the night before. I’ve misplaced my car keys plenty of times lately and I never was reduced to hours of tears. What happened?
And, then it hit me. The words said to me weren’t meant to be harsh, but they cut me to the core. And, the words filled me with so much fear that as I remembered them my entire body began to shake.
I had been sharing a meal with friends, when one of them said, “What’s that on your wrist? Is that a tattoo?”
“Yes. I got it on Mike’s birthday. I designed it myself. It has a heart, and……”
The man interrupted, “Is that a REAL tattoo? Like the kind that stays with you forever?”
“Yes. I wanted it right here where I can easily see it to remind me of Mike.”
“What is wrong with you? You’re too old for a tattoo! And, what are you going to do when another one of your kids dies? Get another tattoo?”
My face felt flush, and I had that awful feeling you get when your blood pressure gets too high. Words were rising from deep within my heart — not nice words. I wanted to lash out! What did he know? He’d never had a child die! How dare he criticize me for doing something that gave me a small bit of comfort!”
My temples were throbbing. I spoke no words. Instead I just looked down and finished my pie and said I had to excuse myself to go back to work.
The rest of the afternoon was a disaster. I couldn’t think. I wasn’t productive. I felt sick. And, every time I looked at the tattoo on my wrist I wanted to cry.
I don’t have a body of “ink”, but I did want something permanent to look at to remind me of my son who had his life end far, far too soon.
My friend’s untimely words were a good reminder to me that we need to be respectful, tolerant, and supportive of those who are grieving the loss of a child. What works for one, doesn’t always work for another. In my case, I did what was good for me — I wanted to see my son’s name every day from now until the moment I die. That was my choice.
Not one of us will ever grieve in the same way. How grief manifests itself will be different for each one, too.
And, let’s remember to be tolerant of those grieving who might seem to be living in a foggy state unable to focus and being very forgetful at times. That’s all part of grief. It’s scary to the one going through it. Pitch in. Help out. And, never make fun!
Yes, people in deep grief forget things. They misplace things. They can’t remember from one minute to the next. Their minds are foggy for a long time following the loss of their child. Why? Because they’ve been through a terrible trauma and now the grief from that trauma has engulfed them.
Parents, grandparents, siblings, and family members grieving the loss of a child need support. They need lots and lots of support to help them through the rough spots!
Today was a goof day for me. The sun was shining and I really believe that helps — at least that helps me. I still have my tattoo, and I always will.
And, guess what? I only misplaced my keys one time today! Yes, it was a very good day compared to some, and I am thankful.
*If you are experiencing forgetfulness, cloudiness of mind, and you feel like you’re living in a fog, then you will want to get the book Child Loss: The Heartbreak and the Hope. The words in this book will gently guide you through the most difficult parts of grief into a more gentle place of hope.
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