Will the Pain Ever Go Away?
The only way to describe my emotional state when my son died was raw. Shocked and devastated were my primary emotions. It felt surreal and strange. I looked around in wonder that the world was still spinning on it’s axis. How could that be? Didn’t it know that my son was no longer?
The days were a blur. At times, I had to stop and just sit there and repeat over and over in my head “He’s dead, he’s gone” just to try and absorb it. It felt so surreal. I was here, why wasn’t my son? I didn’t know how I could live in a world that he no longer existed in.
After the funeral, I met with a fellow bereaved mother. She told me I would never be the same again when I asked her every grieving mother’s question. The thought turned my blood to ice. I couldn’t keep going through life in this kind of pain, could I? Surely it would get better?
I joined some Facebook groups for grieving parents and read their posts. Some were “new” parents, some had lost their child many, many years ago. They all sounded like they were in so much pain. I had to unjoin many of them. I was having a hard-enough time handling my own emotions, never mind immersing myself in other’s.
For the first couple of years, I buried myself in my work. I was an elected official and it was easy to work constantly; there was always another event to attend, a phone call to answer. When it was time for another election, I knew I couldn’t run again. Part of me knew I hadn’t been handling things well.
As the months and then years went by, I realized the pain was changing. It was becoming less jagged, less raw. I would still have moments of feeling like this couldn’t be happening, that he couldn’t be gone but that happened less frequently. And I still cried, and I still missed my boy terribly. The anniversary of his death would leave me exhausted and emotionally spent for weeks. Visiting his grave would overwhelm me with pain.
Then one day, not too long ago, I realized that I could mark time passing by remembering how I was feeling when something happened. I began to find the answer to every grieving mother’s question of whether I would ever be okay again. As I looked back, memories of events shortly after his death were covered by a shroud of raw pain. More recent events felt different. They felt more settled, less piercing. I also noticed that I was beginning to remember the good memories. When he first died, because he suffered from mental illness and because he died by suicide, all I could remember was the darkness. The sadness. But lately I remember his smile, his joking demeanour, his intellect and his love.
Healing Snuck Up On Me
It was a shock to realize that at some point, I had done some healing. I can’t pinpoint when it happened, it was so gradual. But as the years marched on, the jagged edges of my grief were polished smoother.
I will always miss my son. I will always cry for him. There is a hole in our family that will always exist. There is no forgetting or replacing him. As a mother who has lost a child, there will always be an undercurrent of sadness in my life. But I have learned that I can laugh again. I can joke and love and live.
So for those of you who are the beginning of your grieving journey, know that it will get better. Be kind and take care of yourself. See a counsellor, psychologist or therapist to make sure you are processing things okay. Deal with the trauma, don’t ignore it. Every grieving mother’s question is whether she will be okay; you will.
Talk about your child, tell stories and laugh. Celebrate the life you were given, even if it was for way too short a time.
Carla Howatt is the mother of three adult children. She is an author of several books including Bearing Witness: One Mother’s Online Journey After Suicide. She is also a communications professional and former politician with a penchant for chocolate and port.