It’s been 11 weeks, 2 days since Jackson died. In some ways it feels like it was just yesterday. Although I expected many emotions to linger and ebb and flow (sadness, anger, guilt, fear), I did not expect shock to still be here. I feel shocked that shock can still permeate my days when Jackson is so clearly gone. The seasons have changed, our furniture has changed, we have changed. And yet I still have to metaphorically shake my body and tell myself that Jackson is gone and he’s not coming back.
And still, in other ways, it feels like it’s been a lifetime. It’s been just short of three months but it feels like we’ve aged years.
I feel so ambivalent about the passage of time. I remember in the early days after Jackson died I just wanted more time behind me, more days to buffer and provide distance from the acute pain of that horrible, tragic day. I was desperately hoping that what people say about time and healing is true, that time heals, joy will come, pain will ease. And at the same time, I’m finding that as the days and weeks keep passing, I feel the added pain of having more time since the last time I held and kissed my sweet Jackson. I can hardly bear the thought of being any farther out in time than we already are. I cringe to imagine a day where I say “My son died X years ago.” I fear that his lovey will lose his scent. I fear I’ll forget how his skin felt, or how it felt to tousle his hair. I fear that – even though we have pictures and videos – I’ll forget the smaller more ‘insignificant’ moments – a cuddle in bed, his signature expressions, or the way he shrugged his shoulders – that are now anything but insignificant. I feel the urge to hoard every single memory, capture it, frame it, enshrine it.
Although the pain is still very much still with us and always will be, the days have overall become less difficult as we’ve learned to live and cope with pain. But it’s exhausting. Every morning I brace myself for what the day will bring, and every night I take stock of the pain I’ve endured, pat myself on the back for getting through it, and wash, rinse, repeat. Each day is an immense effort. On hard days, the thought that I have to endure my own life for another 50 years (“if I’m lucky”) is a hard one. I keep waiting for some ethics committee to barge into my life and decree that this is cruel and unfair. But nobody shows up because this is just part of life - and it is for so many people. We are forced to march, willfully, with the passage of time.
I also know it won’t feel this way, this intensely, forever. Nor has it felt this way exactly for the last 11-ish weeks. I am back at work, go out with friends, crack jokes, and smile for photos. I sit across from Bryan and sometimes even think “We’ve done this before – when it was just the two of us. We can do this again.” But we will never be the same. A fellow SUDC mother shared this C.S. Lewis quote with me and it resonates deeply: “There are moments, most unexpectedly, when something inside me tries to assure me that I don’t really mind so much, not so very much, after all. I was happy before I ever met H. One is ashamed to listen to this voice but it seems for a little to be making a good case. Then comes a sudden jab of red-hot memory and all this ‘commonsense’ vanishes like an ant in the mouth of a furnace.”
We keep hurting but we keep marching. Always carrying the pain – sometimes visibly and other times invisibly – wherever we go, whatever we do. Healing won’t be about eliminating the pain, but rather learning how to keep participating in life and building up coping and new experiences to continue scaffolding our lives. The pain won’t end but it will change and shift and move and we need to accept it as our companion for the long haul. A reminder of a wonderful boy, his incredible joy, and our breathtaking love.