Shortly after my son’s death, I came across his bathrobe in a closet; hugging it to my chest, my nose detected his scent. For the next few days, I frequently held his bathrobe to my face to breathe in his smell and perpetuate the illusion of his presence. The scent eventually dissipated, but the journey had just begun.
I have approached many people to talk about their grief journey – especially parents who lost a child – hoping to learn something from them. What I ultimately learned is that even when the pain is similar, people grieve differently.
When your child dies, memories of that child are like rocks strewn across the path of your grief journey, and when you trip on them it may be quite painful, but they also often trigger your mental camera. As you recall past images and scenes, they are often pleasant to remember; yet when they pass, the feeling that remains is the emptiness caused by the absence of this child.
For some people this is reason enough not to remember, so they focus on the present. Yet one of the last things my best friend said to me before he died of cancer was: “Don’t forget me.”
Although his absence is painful to me, I choose to remember him. At various times I revisit memories of my friend, of my son – happy moments or sad ones – to stay connected to the loved ones who cannot be here, to honor those whose lives enriched mine.
Kent Koppelman 2012
Wrestling with the Angel