There isn’t a day that goes by I don’t think of Mitch a thousand times. On my commute to-and-from work I drive with him in my mind. Sometimes I imagine him sitting next to me in my car, like he used to, when he would have a father/son day at work. I want to reach out my hand toward that empty chair and hold his – but he is not there. Nor will he ever be. For he has gone from this place and my heart is changed because of it.
I used to cry all day. In the beginning, while I was at work and when meetings were over, I would often go outside and salt the earth with my tears. Sometimes I could hardly breathe. Save this blog, I kept my sorrow to myself – hiding my broken heart behind a soft smile and a warm handshake.
At night, I would look at my pillow with a measure of fear … for that space between sleep and wake terrified me. It was during that transition to-and-from sleep I would experience the loss of Mitch all over again. Sometimes that unfiltered grief was so raw, it would startle me to the point I couldn’t go back to sleep. For that reason, I was afraid of the night.
I think it’s safe to say I have been to hell and back. What matters, I suppose, is that I’m back. I am grateful to say I am no longer in hell, though grief will sometimes sweep me back to hell from time-to-time.
Not a day goes by Natalie and I don’t talk about our little boy. We remember his goodness and the lessons he taught us. We think back on his sense of humor and his tender soul; and when we talk about Mitch, we often do it with warm hearts and a feeling of gratitude.
Each day is met with memories and a tender longing for our son. That is what children do to parents … they become the better parts of us and if they are taken away, we spend the remainder of our days in search of that which was lost.
I often hear people reference others as being “stuck in grief.” It is a label sometimes carelessly handed out by those who often know very little of grief themselves. Yet, I have thought a great deal about what that means – at least to me. When I think of the word stuck, I think of something that is immovable. When it comes to the loss of a child, grief is a chronic, life-long condition. Grief isn’t something you experience, like the flu, and move on. Grief alters every part of you. You become a spiritual amputee and you must learn to live without a once vital part of your heart and soul.
So, in a manner of speaking, I suppose I am stuck WITH grief – but that doesn’t mean I am stuck IN grief. I cannot restore the loss of my son any more than an amputee can regenerate a missing limb. But I can learn and adapt to my new reality and grow – and therein lies the difference, I believe. To be stuck WITH grief is to carry our sorrows as we move forward in life. It is to have our backs made stronger as we climb to new heights, while we shoulder the weight of sorrow. To be stuck IN grief is to be tethered, as though we were chained to a boulder … circling our pain again, and again, and again.
I am not circling, I am climbing - and when I write of grief, I speak of that which I’m carrying … not that which I’m circling.
Mitch was the better part of me. A million times over, he was everything I could ever hope to be. Not a day goes by I don’t fall to my knees and thank Heaven for giving Mitch to me. Because of him, I see things differently. I am a different me.