I think it's safe to say that 1 out of every 10 thoughts is not about my son. 

I have been to many funerals in my life; my father passed away when I was 18. That was hard. Since then I have experienced all manner of loss – but I have never known a sorrow such as this. And as much as I would love to take one, there are no shortcuts. 

I once wrote in my journal: “I’m not sure which is heavier: all the granite on earth … or grief.” I can say with confidence that it isn't granite. 

Our hospice nurse, who is no stranger to loss, encouraged us to allow grief to take its course – all the way to rock bottom – and from there we could begin to rebuild our lives. I don’t know where “rock bottom” is or what it feels like. I only know that I’m still falling down the rabbit hole of grief. I’m not spiraling out of control, but I can tell the bottom is still a great distance below. And sometimes, when I least expect it, it is difficult to keep my breath. 

The day Mitchell’s headstone arrived was surreal; I remember taking my wife to see it that evening where we learned a new definition for sober. I remember how hard it was to breathe that day – my chest and lungs exhausted from weeping. Every time I entered the cemetery tears would invariably flow. Like a teething baby, the front of my shirt would be drenched with tears. 

I can go to the cemetery now without crying – at least not the entire time. 

This summer has been a blessing for me, personally. With my kids at various summer camps, etc. circumstances were such that I could spend many evenings by my son – even if only for a moment. I knew he wasn't there -- but I so wanted him to be. And while I sat by my son’s remains, I was able to reflect and sort out many thoughts and feelings and write about them. The cemetery became something of a second home to me. The grass a warm carpet and the atmosphere, comforting walls of serenity. When I look back on my summer months trying to process my own grief, I have good memories. Healing memories.

Things are changing now. As fall inches toward winter each day the grass seems to grip the cold and hold it like a grudge … a whisper of colder air to come. And, for a season, I will miss those warm evenings by my son.

When I leave the cemetery I invariably look through my rear-view mirror to see my son’s headstone before I drive away. In like manner, I have found myself looking through the rear-view mirror of my own life. I look back not to dwell on hard things and sadness but to learn from my own experiences and hopefully become equipped to make better decisions in the future. 

I have heard it said so many times before that “no parent should bury their child” … but that kind of reflection does nothing for me, or anyone. Life shows us in painful abundance that hard things happen … and sometimes we must bury our children. I would give anything to have my baby back – but I cannot. And wishing won’t make it so. So, rather than focusing on what “shouldn't happen” or the apparent unfairness of it all, I find myself looking through the rear-view mirror and then to the future … trying to learn from this incredible hardship. 

As I tumble down the rabbit hole of grief I anxiously await rock bottom. And on my way to that unfamiliar place I am healing a little and hopefully that healing will give me the strength to break my fall and lessen the impact.