Grief is one of the loneliest places in the world. When my son died, I felt every connection I had ever had was gone. I felt invisible even to myself. When I looked in the mirror, I was surprised to see my reflection staring back at me. I was surprised there was enough life in me to generate a reflection.
Somehow I thought my face would be gone, just like my identity. In one life altering moment, every thing I had ever known or thought I knew was either unrecognizable or gone. My son had died and left no forwarding address. It did not matter that I thought he was in heaven. I wanted him here with me.
Fourteen-year-old boys were supposed to be at home keeping life interesting and their parents on their toes, not somewhere without cell phones or e-mail. Not somewhere without the family that loves them and who wants so desperately to talk to them.
At first, I thought it must be some kind of cosmic joke or God having a really bad day. How else could I explain my son’s death? To myself? To anyone? Worse yet, how could I live with it if it was just a random act? If it was just, being in the wrong place at the wrong time? If I could not make sense of it, how could I live with it? But then how could any mother make sense of her child’s death?
I couldn’t, no matter how hard I tried. That made me angry. It was not fair that my child died. Not to me, not to his sister, not to the hundred or more other people who loved him, not to the family members yet to be born, who would not get to meet him. Somehow, even though I still would hate his dying, the unfairness of it just made it worse.
My son’s death felt like my life sentence, a burden I didn’t want to know how to bear. I just wanted my life back and my life meant my son here with me. My days became an attempt to live with the unlivable. Many days I didn’t know if I’d make it and many days I didn’t want to. Living had become too hard and too painful. No one knew who I was anymore. Neither did I. I no longer knew the person living in my skin. The face in the mirror looked like me but that is all I was, a face in a mirror.
I was learning a new kind of loneliness. The kind that comes when you don’t know how to find yourself. The kind that comes when you can’t tell someone what you need from them, because you do not know. The kind that you wear when you go to bed at night and can’t take off in the morning. It has become a part of you. Grief is feeling alone in your own skin.