Chapter 5: Ups and Downs and Paralysis

For weeks after 9-11 I could not face the ordinary responsibilities that nagged and tore at me every day.  Dog and cat hair built up on the carpets.  Laundry piled up in baskets.  Dust settled, cobwebs formed, sticky stuff clung to the kitchen floor.  As one wise grieving mom put it, “don’t worry about it, the health inspector rarely ever visits a grief house.” In those first weeks bills went unpaid, grass grew, and the refrigerator emptied.  Let it be.  Do what you need to do for yourself.  Little by little you will begin to function.  Don’t rush it, don’t feel guilty, don’t worry about it.  Don’t feel obligated to respond to well-meaning friends and family who urge you to get up, get out, live again.  At some point you may be told it is time to move on, or you’ve shed enough tears, or your child is in a better place.  You feel dead, wish you were dead, and even pray to be dead.

When you venture out in public for the first time you may feel anxious and afraid. You may break down when you see children the age of your lost child. You may resent or even feel hate for happy, together, whole, families.  So many people and places and things may remind you of what you’ve lost.  It’s scary and sad and the loneliest feeling in the world.  You long to go back to “normal,” and you know in your heart that “normal” as you knew it is gone forever.

In the early days, there’s no relief from the neverending relentless pain in your heart.  I know you don’t believe it now, but it will get better as time passes and you will, inch by inch, return to the living.  You will do it at your own pace in your own time. Be kind and gentle with yourself.  Grief knows no schedule or timetable.

As sure as the sun comes up every day you will experience wild ups and downs. An “up” for me was a feeling of near euphoria when, for a moment, I truly believed my son was at peace and still with me.  A “down” was lying on the bathroom floor feeling as hopeless as a lost soul stranded in a leaky rowboat, alone on a black stormy sea. There was no hiding from it or getting around it. All that saved me was the tiny sliver of light that was the hope that the worst would pass.  It would pass, and then it would come back and pass again – many times.

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