It is hard to believe that 13 months ago today, I was starting my first day without my beloved son, Andy. We were rear-ended in our van, and Andy was killed instantly. My other son, Peter and I had concussions as well. Peter was hospitalized overnight, and our whole family stayed in his room. I don’t think we could bear to be apart at all. Kathryn and Peter slept on and off, especially Peter as he had to be medicated for a migraine. Eric and I barely slept, alternating between crying softly and wailing uncontrollably.
We both almost immediately thought of the same memory of a 7 year old Andy proudly showing me a picture he had drawn of the family. That picture had only four people in it and not the five that were actually in our family. I pointed this out to Andy wondering who he could have forgotten to draw. His reply haunted me at the time. ‘I’m not in the picture, Mom. I’m in heaven. I’m not going to grow up all the way.’
It felt like a punch to the gut. I immediately cried out to God, telling Him that this could not be true. It affected me so much because he seemed so sure and so calm when he said it. I think that I knew at that moment that it would happen. Of course, this is exactly what happened. My 14 year-old Andy, who had not quite started puberty, did not grow up all the way and will be forever 14.
That day and so many after that, I was numb, relying on so many others to do even the most routine things. I had to have my friends help write everything down because my mind was so foggy that I could not remember anything. I did not cook for weeks, and did not cook regularly for months. In those early days, I even had my best friend come help me do my hair. It felt as if life could never be better at all and would not even go on.
Of course, that is not true. Life did move on and the seasons changed. Ever so slowly I felt that I was getting just a bit better. Initially, people brought me all sorts of books on grief and child loss. In fact, we even got eight copies of the book, Lament for a Son, but I could read none of the books. I could not concentrate and reading about grief was about the last thing I wanted to do.
Eventually, though, I did start reading those books, and even decided that I would join the 21st Century and start listening to podcasts about grief. There are some very good podcasts about grief, but although I kept looking, I could not find one about grieving a child. I had my husband, a self-proclaimed podcast junkie, look as well, and there was nothing.
Suddenly, I felt that I was meant to start one. It seemed completely crazy as I am not technically savvy at all, but I knew that is what I was meant to do. I went along for the next couple of months fighting against this feeling because it seemed so crazy. It was a conversation with a friend though that finally convinced me. As well-meaning as she was, she kept saying that she was imagining what I felt like and what I would be able to do in the future. Initially, I almost believed her and felt destined to live a certain life, but then I realized that she couldn’t know what I felt like, no one could and that my future was not written.
I was, and am, continuing to improve bit by bit every day. I still love my Andy just as much as I did when he was alive. My love did not die with his death. However, it is so much better going through this grieving process together as a community of parental grievers. We can more easily understand each other and start to heal together. On one hand, we are not the same people who we were before the deaths of our children, but in other ways we are. We need to work together to show this to each other, as well as to others who care for us. This is what my podcast hopes to accomplish.