A few months after Jay died, people started asking me if things were better. If they were too nervous to ask me, they asked our friends. The answer I and everyone else gave was no. I hoped that after a year, things would be at least a little better. It’s now been 16 months, so I thought I owed an update to those asking.
I don’t often get that deep, terrifying sadness that I used to get. I’m not even sure I can describe that feeling. I think I’ve likened it before to dropping down an endless black hole. Like the feeling you would get in your chest if you’ve accidentally fallen off the Empire State Building. That moment when you know all is lost. That is the scariest feeling I’ve ever had. I only get that occasionally.
I can tell you that I don’t cry every single day. Most days, yes, but not everyday, and the crying is short. A few tears here and there when I’m thinking of him or smell his things. I never knew how much I would rely on my sense of smell when grieving, even though I never, ever smell him on anything anymore. But I keep smelling just in case.
Everytime I picture him in my mind, it’s not really him. It’s the memory of a picture or video I took of him. After the Sandy Hook shootings, one of the dads who lost a son said that everyday he feels further and further away from his son. Boy, he really nailed it. That is exactly it. Jay feels millions of miles away and I can’t even conjure an original memory of his face without trying really, really hard. I did it last night and cried. I miss him so much, and I hate that he’s been gone so long that his face, this face that we made and looked at every single day, is being erased from my mind.
I endlessly ask “Where are you?” That’s a question I started asking in the early days and I still find myself uttering that all the time.
“Where are you?”
“No, but where are you? How can I get to you?”
Maybe it’s a factor of the human condition: an endless need to keep going, to refuse that death is really final. Not necessarily heaven or hell, just somewhere, where the energy that was Jay is still something I can access. I’m not sure that ever goes away.
When I lie in bed at night during a particularly sad moment, I still tell myself to wake up. I still hope it’s all a dream. Because this would never happen in my real life. It just wouldn’t. And then I tell myself that I’m awake, because I know I am. I tell myself that this is real, forever. And sometimes that’s when the hopeless off-the-Empire-State feeling comes. The reality that life can indeed be this dark. And it is. And it’s my life.
I have joy and laughter every single day. My family is what saves me. Well, that and my sense of humor. If I didn’t give myself the laughs I don’t think I could make it. Having a sense of humor in your darkest hour will keep your head in the game.
I can’t say I look forward to the future. It’s still too scary. I just try to appreciate the moment I’m in. The future isn’t guaranteed. Before you give me credit for living for today, don’t. This carpe diem thing isn’t built from courage. It just comes out of being terrified of the unknown and a devastating fear of death. Mine, my kids, my family. I’m not sure that will ever go away, that loss of hope. That’s a tough one to deal with. In fact, losing hope is one of the hardest parts about this level of grief.
So, is this better? Yes, it is better. I know I just gave a litany of super depressing paragraphs, but if you’re asking me on a scale of 1-100, with 100 being the worst grief I have ever felt, I’m at least down to the 90’s, and that’s something. Where I’m at now is the place I think I’ll be for a good while.
It’s a slowly, yet constantly morphing state. There are setbacks and improvements. The grief of losing a child is like working on the Winchester Mystery House. New rooms develop, projects get finished and new ones begun, and no matter what you do the end result is just, well, not done.