Reflecting upon 2013, I was hit with the realization of how far I have progressed in my grief work (and it is work) since September 2003. The nights of crying myself to sleep; the days of semi-functioning in a grey, misty fog of all-consuming sorrow; the lack of enjoyment in my everyday life, were smothering me to the point of utter exhaustion. I knew in my heart that Tyler would not want me to become a “professional griever.” He would not want me living with the fear that if I started to heal, that I would lose my memories of him and his crooked little smile; or worse yet, that I might dishonor his memory by displaying some happiness.
In reality, if I had chosen the path of drowning in my sorrow, then two lives would have been lost on the fateful day of his car accident. Keeping a memory alive versus allowing the memories to eat you alive is an important crossroad to breach. Those early days of merciless heartbreak were like pouring salt into an open wound, day after day; creating pain so intense that no balm could soothe…just to wake the next morning, tear open the scabs, and douse them with more salty brine.
I did not want to make friends with my grief. I wanted to celebrate the sixteen years that I had with Tyler. That was the conscious decision that saved my life.
As a grieving parent, I eventually came to realize that moving forward does not mean leaving behind the memories of my son. Moving forward is healing, and healing is another pathway along the circle of life. Healing brings with it multitudes of “what ifs” and “let’s make a deal bargaining” that I don’t believe will ever completely go away. But, perhaps by changing our attitude toward grief recovery, those “what ifs” can be transformed into “what abouts.” What about laughing at the silly times; what about telling stories of your child; what about learning to live again?
No amount of bargaining is going to bring my child back. I know this because I have flipped every bargaining chip I could think of into the air a million times and the outcome is still the same. My son is an angel doing the work of God and fulfilling his mission in the miracle of life. Do I wish he was still by my side to hug, kiss, tell jokes, fix his scrambled eggs, see him walk down the aisle with the love of his life, and one day, hold a child of his own? You bet I do! However, I must be satisfied with the daily signs he sends me. The signs I receive in the miraculous people and opportunities that he places in my path with whom to share his legacy.
As midnight approaches and 2014 arrives, I will be spending those precious moments at my son’s gravesite, sharing a sip of bubbly and reminding him that I am so proud of him and will love him forever. My heart tells me that he already knows.