Seven months is a long time. A lot can happen in seven months.
In seven months, the seasons have changed twice. From summer to fall, and from fall to winter.
In seven months, we have seen epic finishes to professional sports seasons, including a seven game World Series between two drought teams, and the first super bowl to ever go into overtime.
In seven months, we have witnessed unprecedented division and unrest in our nation and world after a billionaire turned reality TV star was elected President of the United States of America.
In seven months, we have said goodbye to far too many celebrities, including Gene Wilder, Florence Henderson, Alan Thicke, Carrie Fisher, and Mary Tyler Moore.
In many ways, the past seven months have felt like seven lifetimes. The world has changed drastically in the past seven months, and our lives have both changed drastically and remained eerily the same.
Today, it has been seven months since our sweet Alexander was born into the arms of Jesus.
It’s hard to believe and envision that at seven months old, our sweet boy would be gaining more and more independence daily. He would likely be scooting or beginning to crawl around, sitting up unassisted, and be able to pick up and identify his favorite toys. Tiny tooth buds would be starting to emerge, making life difficult some days as he began teething. Many days, it’s hard to even fathom what our life would be like if our sweet boy were here with us.
On this seven month milestone, I am reflecting on the ways that grief has changed me, both good and bad over the past seven months. The reality is this: I will never “get over” the loss of my son. There will always be a part of me that is missing, living in heaven with my sweet baby boy. While I am slowly learning to adjust to a new “normal,” I am constantly aware of how different my life should be right now. I often find myself thinking, “If Alexander were here, …” Daily. Sometimes hourly. “If only my sweet son were here…”
Grief has made me both stronger and braver than I ever imagined I could be and weaker and more fearful than I’d care to admit. Sometimes strength and bravery looks like just waking up in the morning and putting both feet on the floor, facing another day as a parent who has lost a child. Sometimes it looks like publicly sharing about the grief of losing a child, and being vulnerable with both close friends and complete strangers. I get that. I have found an inner strength and bravery in the wake of grief that I never knew existed inside of me. At the same time, I find myself weak and fearful on a daily basis. I am terrified of losing other things and people that are important to me. I am scared for the future in more ways than I’d care to admit. Grief has brought into my life a juxtaposition of strength and weakness, of bravery and fear, that many days leaves me feeling like a walking contradiction.
The grief of losing a child is different than any other kind of grief in the human experience. And, if someone who hasn’t lost a child says they know what you are going through, they don’t. The harsh reality is this: grandparents are supposed to die before their grandkids, children are supposed to outlive their pets, and when you bring a pet into your family, you expect that it will at some point die. Those things are all part of the natural order. When a child dies, the natural order is broken. Losing a child is not just losing a person. It is losing every moment, milestone, and memory that you should be making with that person. When you lose a baby, you are also losing a five year old, and a ten year old, and a teenager learning how to drive, and a high school graduate, and a college graduate, and the adult son or daughter that they would have become. Child loss is a grief that will affect me for the rest of my life.
The physical effects of grief are beginning to wear on me. The past seven months have left me with more than emotional upheaval and the physical scars on my body of the C-section that brought Alexander into the world. A lack of motivation to cook and a lack of self-discipline have caused me to put on weight. Eating out and not exercising have brought me to a place of feeling lethargic, and those physical effects are starting to wear on me beyond just being tired and feeling fat. The emotional affects the physical, and then the physical affects the emotional. It’s a scary cycle to be caught in, but it’s something that I find myself battling daily now as I enter into this seventh month. I feel tired. I know I’m overweight and need to eat healthier and move more often, but I find it difficult to find the motivation.
Grief has both softened and sharpened some of the edges of my personality. I find myself feeling deeper compassion for those who are hurting than ever before. Because I have sat in the bottom of the pit of grief, I am no longer scared of being with others in their suffering and pain. At the same time, my bullshit tolerance has dropped tremendously. I am easily offended by stupid crap that people say (like comparing the death of a pet to losing a child), and I’m not afraid to push back when people say something that’s cliche or simply not true (a la “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.”). I lose patience easily and have a low tolerance for people not doing their job. And, while my bullshit meter has definitely become more sensitive, I am far more likely to look for a deeper “why” to people’s behavior than I ever was before. What is the real story? What hurt is this person experiencing? What battle is this person fighting?
So, on this seven month milestone of losing my sweet Alexander, it is true that there are good days. There are days where I laugh (hard) and play pranks and cause shenanigans. And, the reality is that those good days are coming in longer and longer strings. There are still terrible days where just getting out of bed seems impossible, but those bad days are becoming fewer and farther between.
Grief has changed me and continues to change me.
Alexander has changed me and continues to change me and teach me.
Oh, how I miss that boy. Today, on this seven month anniversary of his birth into Jesus’ arms, I am especially missing my boy and wishing he was here in my arms.
Alexander, my sweet son, you are loved.
You are loved.
You are loved.
You are loved.