There is no timeframe for grieving. An often-misplaced advice is “You will get over it,” or “It’s time to move on”. Experts have said grief will last a from few years up to five years after the loss of a child. It’s been over 3 years since Luke passed away and I still miss him. I’m not sure about the other parents, but I can close my eyes and remember that night so vividly. I remember my wife coming home and just breaking down crying. My kids are sitting on the ground resting against the garage door. Most of my family came by that night, all of us stunned. I can’t remember the conversations but the look and the hurt on their faces I do remember. Disbelief and deep sadness.
The day my son passed I call Day 1. It’s the first day of a new life. Not an exciting new life, but a new life without my kiddo. It was a night full of hurt, anger, grief, and sadness. Those days stretched to weeks and months to the first year. Then the second year was much the same but the hurt had softened, and the third year has come and gone so fast I can’t pinpoint much of anything. Now it’s year three going into year four and I don’t know how I’m going to move on from here. Even at year three the holidays are a mess. I mean, one minute we are laughing and then one of us will get quiet and the rest follow. Sometimes we cry or we are just lost in our world of memories. That pall of our lost one still hangs over every holiday. It’s not just holidays in year three that had us in a “mood” but sometimes it would be a random week where one of us would just be off. What I’m saying is that each day or week is uncertain on how you can feel. On any given day I don’t know how my wife will be feeling, how the kids are coping, how I will be.
The logical part of me says that at some point I must take control of my direction. Some of the stuff is automatic. Pay the bills, save for retirement, plan a few weeks off. Those things are simple, but the hard ones are, what am I going to do with my life? Like I said, we do the automatic stuff well, but the rest is still a mystery. I think the mystery part is because when you lose a child everything that was certain is uncertain. Nothing that you can depend on is dependable, no rock is solid, or a sturdy surface is sturdy any longer. The trust in the normal world is gone. I suppose that there will be a time to trust something that may still fail me, but what can a person do? At some point we must allow ourselves to live, not really moving on from the child we lost, but kinda running in parallel of living with the memory of our lost child and living our life without the lost child growing up. It doesn’t make sense to most but it’s a double life we live. We still remember and love the person we lost but along that thought is that we are still on this earth, time still ticks, and there is a lot of living we will do. Do we live each day shut in bemoaning the one we lost or do we take our memories and loved one with us? I chose that path of taking my son with me. I’m still suffering through the loss but I’m doing stuff too. To outsiders it’s like living two different lives but to parents and siblings… you know what I mean.
So here I sit reflecting on the past three years and looking ahead to an uncertain future. I will have to say that though the pain is there it’s not as strong as it was before. But to be honest, I still can’t talk about him without my throat catching. Maybe that will subside after a while but I’m not sure that I want that to happen. Forgetting Luke is not an option, but we forget things, right? Maybe the day-to-day things about Luke I can’t remember, but his smile and laugh are locked in my brain. When I think about him those are my go-to memories. That infectious smile and his laugh. Spoiler alert, but my sister and my brother in law read this already and the comment that stuck with me from them is that we will never have new memories of our child and that really sucks (I paraphrased that last part).
Now the future. We must have a future, something to strive for. LovesFromLuke will always be my number one job, but is there more to life than the job? Jamie and I are getting more involved in the Church, and that has been good for us. Sometimes I get the odd thought that thinking about the future is a betrayal to my son because I do have to let go of the grief part to move forward with the living part. I wonder if I deserve to be able to move forward with my life. Luke would want us to move forward, he would want us to continue with our lives. I would suspect most kids would want their families to live out their lives; we still remember our lost ones but be at peace with ourselves. No matter how we lost our children I’m sure that if they were still here they would want us to continue with our lives.
Lastly, an old Pastor says that we all carrying an invisible backpack of our past with us all the time. That backpack is all the things we carry from the past. The good, the bad, and the lame. Jamie and I know we all are carrying a backpack of grief, loneliness, and hurt. It may be a light bag, or it may have the weight of an elephant. We do understand and most folks who read this understand too. It’s how we carry that weight and what we chose to put in that backpack. We put guilt in our backpack, false memories in our backpack. The “I should have done more” thoughts in our backpack. Those don’t matter any longer. (kinda harsh right?). What my little brain thinks is that in our child’s memory backpack we keep the good memories. We keep the thoughts of what might have been. We keep the GOOD in the backpack and the doubt and self-hate and BS we carrying with us on a day to day basis doesn’t belong in our kiddos memory backpack.
Stay strong peeps. Try carpe diem even if it scares you. It can be scary to allow yourself to be hurt, to live, to plan for a future. Maybe today you won’t Seize the Day but maybe tomorrow or the day after tomorrow you will be able to. This day maybe you Day 1, and my heart goes out to you, and you want to see if there is an end to the sorrow, or it’s your year 5 and you sometimes you still can’t breathe, don’t be hard on yourself. This walk you are on is a lifetime walk. Not a Day 1 or year 3 walk, a Lifetime walk. Keep the good in you backpack and toss out the bad, you don’t need that kind of negativity!
Peace and Love to all of you
With love, Pat and Jamie Santon