I realized with a start tonight that it has been almost four years since I lost my son. The days crawled by at first, one by miserable, horrible one. Then weeks, then months. And now years. I have learned many things in that time, mostly about how to keep on going.
Because in the end, what else can we do? I suppose there is the option to just lie down and quit. It was an attractive option at first, I'll admit. What reason was there to go on trying and striving? I found no meaning in my work, my home or my relationships. All would end eventually in pain, loss and sorrow, after all. I had had too many doses of all three in the past five years as first my mother, then my father, and then my son were all taken from me.
What I learned, though, is that we go on because there is really no other choice for those of us who can't take the easy way out. No matter how bad the pain, the dishes still need to be done, the laundry still needs to be folded, and others still need our love and attention. It is those others that are the crux of the matter, really. When we are needed and loved by others, can we turn into ourselves and our own sorrow and ignore their pain? Perhaps there are some who can, but for those who have cared for others all their lives, it's not a consideration.
And stories. Stories bring healing, comfort, and even joy. I have heard so many "Jon" stories--funny, outrageous, inspiring, touching, surprising but always welcome tales of things he did, things he shouldn't have done, people he helped, challenges he faced. He was not perfect; like all of us, he had his weaknesses and faults. But he lived, he shared, and he cared. That is what I have learned and taken comfort from in the stories.
As time has passed, I've found that I can talk of him easily and without imminent tears (most of the time, anyway). I have also come to understand and accept grief as a constant partner, waking and sleeping. It does not get better; it does not go away. I have become stronger over these past few years. I can continue to do, to plan, to laugh and enjoy even as the dark river of grief runs with a fast current beneath the surface. I can smile and say I am fine when asked how I am. I can joke and laugh and enjoy the changing of the seasons, while in my mind I am seeing his grave covered with fall leaves, or winter's snow or gentle spring green. In my heart I am wanting him to be here, to hear his laugh or feel his hug, even though I know it cannot be. But I can recall his little-boy face, his enjoyment of his pony, and his love for his family and in these memories find enough to keep going, to keep smiling, and to go on, one day, one week, one year at a time.
Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.