It’s been almost 9-1/2 years since my nephew Cameron died. My God! 9-1/2 years! Cameron celebrated his 5th birthday on a Saturday, became ill a few days later and died the next weekend! From innocence and happiness watching Cameron blow out 5 birthday candles to gut-wrenching sorrow for those of us who loved him…. within a week’s time. Sorrow, sorrow, sorrow….a lifetime of sorrow! My youngest brother Bill is Cameron’s dad. Bill, of course, was devastated when Cameron died. Shattered! Being a mom, I thought I understood. I could imagine myself in Bill’s shoes…so I sympathized and felt deep, deep compassion for Bill and his wife, Karen. Utter horror! I thought I understood but I didn’t know. I barely comprehended the depth of Bill’s pain until I found myself devastated and shattered when Ben died. Two siblings out of the 8 kids in my family dealt a shitty hand!! Bill’s son died. My son died. One 5 years old. One 27 years old. Our babies.
Bill and I have been talking a lot lately. He, of course, is one of the people I feel the most comfortable around because I don’t need to put on an act with him. “Now” there’s only a handful of people in my life with whom I feel I can be myself. Bill is one of them. Few words need to be spoken between us. It’s just there. Few words…..yet understanding. I am more comfortable revealing more of my sadness to Bill than I am to my husband or Nick or Gina. They are already sad, and I fear making them sadder by forcing them to see and feel my deep, deep sorrow on a 24/7 basis. They know my sorrow is deep but I don’t show them its magnitude on a regular basis. I, of course, don’t want to make Bill feel sadder than he is, and always will be, but he is one step removed from my immediate family, making it easier for me to spit my feelings at him.
Bill says he is now ready to start helping others who have had to face the horror of the death of their child. He and I plan on attending our first support group meeting together in mid-August. A brother/sister team. Old pain/new pain. Young child/young adult. Different stories yet the same. He’ll help. I’ll cry.
Yesterday, while talking about attending the meeting, Bill said to me, “I was worse than you are.” But he felt the need to clarify that statement by saying he was not referring to the depth of our grief–he was referring to how we handle our grief. Bill shut down, shut out. I shut down yet haven’t totally shut out. Cameron was Bill’s only child so he didn’t have other children to maintain for. I have two other kids so I can’t allow myself to shut the world out, to sink to where I would be if I didn’t have them. I hide behind my eyes. Bill is more transparent.
So, in dwelling on his words, it’s as simple as this. There is no way to measure one’s grief or sorrow or anguish or devastation or isolation. No way to measure our pain or sense of loss or count how many pieces we have become after being shattered. It’s kinda like going to the doctor’s office and the nurse asking you to measure your pain on a scale of 1 to 10. There’s a cuff to measure your blood pressure, but there is no device to measure your pain. We throw numbers to the nurse without basis, without thought to concrete comparison. Because there really is no way to measure. And grief is like that. There is no way to compare. No need to compare.
Being in this situation, my heart breaks for myself, my family, and every other soul I know who is climbing this mountain. There is no deeper depth than where we are….or have been. As I crawl along, I’m seeing that some function better than others. Some juggle joy with their sorrow. Others find a gift in the pain and inspire with that gift. Some seek light while others prefer the darkness. Crowd-seekers travel the same road as those that find comfort in being alone. And all of that is right. As it should be. As for me, I’m just now adjusting to the weight of my sorrow and learning to balance my pain on my shoulders so I don’t continue to fall on my scabbed knees. I’m learning, but this I do know…….There is no “deeper” to the depth of our despair and sorrow. It is there. It is endless. It is deep as far as we can see into the darkness. And we, the unfortunate who have lost our precious babies, carry our sorrow with us, ingrained deep within us, each day, every day. We may not feel comfortable allowing others to see our pain, or see our vulnerability….we have learned to hide our pieces, but that pain is a part of us and will always be….at least for me, until the day I die. A broken heart is a broken heart. The depth unfathomable, it cannot be measured. You hurt. I hurt. So many broken souls, missing our children and trying to find our peace, walk this earth. And my heart hurts for those I know that carry this immeasurable pain.
I continue to miss Ben with every bit of who I am.