Before my son died, I knew very little about death or grief. In my mind, grief was like it was portrayed on tv–sudden and intense, but gone by the end of the funeral. This of course is not true.
This page is a compilation of my progression of thoughts about grief. You will see my thoughts are tentative in the beginning, and more developed today. If you asked me for a summary, I would say this: grief isn’t shameful, or limited, or merely a passage; it simply exists, in whatever form and space it needs.
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When a Type A personality grieves, at some point grief becomes her job. She finds old focus and determination. She reads books and attacks her grief with her previous energy.
Every person you meet is going through something. Maybe their spouse left them. Maybe they’re dying of cancer. Or maybe it’s “just” that they have a really bad cold and they’re out of sick leave and they had to come to work anyway and life really sucks today. It honestly doesn’t matter, because whatever it is, it’s real.
I fight against happiness. I think that if I let myself smile, I will lose sight of my grief. I will lose him. Again.
I used to think that grief was this sad time that followed the death of someone you loved. I never imagined it was really this new layer, this new identity. I never imagined the loss I was grieving would include the loss and rebirth of me.
Death has never been my friend. The necessity of her existence is no more comfort than my own. I don’t hate her, but I look at her the way she looks at Disease. We are all harbingers. We all bring Pain.
I’ve often said that those of us who have experienced tragedy live in a new layer of existence. It’s the thing that defines us now, that marks this transition to this separate world. And I almost said “different” there instead of “separate,” but this is another defining characteristic; because the only thing that is different is each of us. Because we are a world inside of a world, and we are the only ones who know.
I call it a nuclear bomb. It’s a conversation ender. You meet someone, you’re making good small talk, and then they ask about your family. I will never deny my son. He is a permanent part of me. And so it happens — I tell them, “Yes, I have a child. He died shortly before he was born.” And everything stops. It’s no longer a casual conversation.
Sometimes, I am still a b****. I’m sorry. You don’t deserve it. You don’t deserve any of my anger. You’re just there, sitting closest to me. You shouldn’t have to make any changes.
I am frustrated because of course this isn’t true. I can’t imagine the author has any real knowledge of grief. But these are the things that inform our cultural attitudes.
Sometimes, when I’m very still, I still feel you kicking.
I have often examined the symptoms of my grief. It still feels so weird to me. The simplest things now make me cry. I examine those tears under a microscope. I examine everything, all while I’m feeling it.
I know this isn’t universal, but there’s something that bothers me about this common sentiment of “keep going” or “don’t give up”.
I think one of the strangest things I’ve learned about grief is that it’s expressed in the most unusual ways. Beyond the big moments, easily understood, I’m finding it lives in the details.
I think somehow I felt like I would be healed now, like your birthday would be a healing event. Like I felt about that cruise. I will never be healed.
What I found most interesting in my interactions with all of them, was the amount of commonality in our experiences. In how much I could identify with experiences I had previously thought were just mine.
I get it, when people say that these photos are “gross”. Because I used to feel this same way. Because I used to think it was odd and strange. And you don’t know until you know, and that is a knowledge I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
We are all living in uncertainty. We are all scared. We are all doing the very best we can. And you have every right to your feelings, even if they seem silly.
Although I had a funeral for Adrian, I also wanted to do something special to celebrate his life on what would have been his first birthday. I wanted something not so much focused on grief, but more on his impact; a type of celebration. I had already decided to build this website, and so it seemed natural to have a party and document both its launch and my son’s short but beautiful life.