August 29, 2003

// March 26th, 2010 // From the forthcoming book "Losing Steve: One Mother's Journey Through Grief"

Is there an end to Grief? Does mourning ever truly cease? God has promised to turn my sorrow to joy. That promise is solid, but I am not privy to His timetable. My grief seems to be mounting, not abating. Since my birthday my saddness follows me everywhere like a dark cloud that should block all light, yet I can still see that the summer sun shines, though the light does not penetrate my soul. Though I function and go about my daily business seeming fine this burden I always carry feels heavier with each passing hour.

Last night I realized that the time of mourning is a time of stockpiling memories. They come unbidden to me at first, but once one tickles my mind I begin to search them out and organize them into chronological order. I can only go so far in a sitting before my mind is overwhelmed. As I sat there last night I tried to start with my first sight of my newborn son. My Steve, my own five pound-five ounce creation. At first my memories seemed like snapshots of time but as I patiently concentrated on one after another they began to flow more like an old, often spliced home movie. But even these are moments in time and not an even flowing of the years. It’s like big chunks of his life are missing from my mind’s photo album.

I remember that I wanted to nurse him and though I was unconvinced Steve’s biological “father’s” argument that breast milk was “too impure to cross state lines”(really, he actually used those words!) it was my “duty” to comply. (And did I tell you I was quite naive at the time?) So after Steve was born I was given a shot to dry me up. It didn’t work. Four days later my milk came in. I secretly tried to nurse him but I didn’t know what I was doing. Besides, he was already used to the ease of sucking from the bottle and he refused my breast. I never tried again. Sometimes I wonder if breastfeeding would have made any difference in his life. Probably not. Bottle feeding him did not diminish my love for him one iota.
Like any first time Mom, I made so many mistakes with Steve but he had such a forgiving heart. More than once he told Dave (not his biological father, but his “real” dad) and me that he couldn’t have asked for better parents. What an honor.

Yet at times in these past 5 weeks, 2 days I am eaten alive with “should haves”. I should have tried to help him wash his hands more those last few days, but I didn’t want to treat him like a child. I should have offered to feed him. It never occurred to me…or did I try? I have a vague recollection of holding his protein shake for him. Did I tip it to his mouth? Did he lose his appetite because he was too weak to grasp his fork? Did he see his food there and really want it but was physically unable to reach it and go through the motions? I don’t think so. I know his appetite was gone before he came home from the hospital.
I should have talked to him more, asked him more questions, asked him to tell me about what he was feeling. But in the end I let him lead the way and he seemed not to want to talk about it. I sat with him outside, the warm summer breeze sometimes all that moved betweem us. We were just together, often in a comfortable silence, and at the time that seemed to be enough. But now I long for more to remember.
I should have taken more pictures. I say I don’t want to remember how he looked when he was so sick but I cherish the few pictures we have from the last few months of his life. Each of these “should-haves” are inconsequential bits that don’t matter in the greater scheme of things and I really need to let them go before they crowd out the real issue ~ I miss my son.

My grief and mourning have turned into depression. Not the black hole of depression that I went through when I was in my twenties as a young mother in a new town, overwhelmed and hormonally challenged. Now I am numb.

Sometimes I feel “normal” as I go about my day and move among people, but I am joyless, passionless. My breath has been crushed out of me. My arms and legs are heavy whether I am moving or sitting. I plod through the day merely going through the motions. When I have to leave the safe confines of my own home I wear a happy, relaxed face that doesn’t match my heart. I have learned to look people in the eye and lie to the inevitable question, “How are you?” “Fine” or “As well as can be expected” is my reply. But I want to shout “I AM NOT FINE! A PIECE OF ME IS GONE. I AM INCOMPLETE AND WILL BE UNTIL MY DYING DAY!” But that’s not what they want to hear. They don’t really want to know the extent of my inner suffering. How could they possibly respond to the raw truth?

I know that over time I will grow accustomed to this hole in my being and I will again laugh with gusto someday (soon?).

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