I remember at Ben’s visitation at the funeral home occasionally looking up to the next person in line and feeling, through the haze, a jolt of recognition. “Oh, my God. Your son (daughter) died too!” With tears in their eyes, those men and women were barely able to whisper to me through their sobs, “I’m so sorry.” Looking back now, I realize that I had seen tears of sympathy from all who had come, but specifically tears of knowing from those who had also lost their children.
A few days after the funeral, I remember standing at my kitchen counter and writing on a 3” x 5” post-it note the names of those people. The list was 13 life stories long. I stuck that post-it note inside the door of one of my kitchen cabinets and would look at it often. I’d stand there and read that list and think, “They survived it. You can too.” Somehow, in those early months, I was given strength each time I looked at that list of 13 people.
But what does “surviving it” mean?
Before Ben died, I’m sure I was sympathetic to those friends or acquaintances. My heart would hurt for them whenever my life would interact with theirs and they would speak of their children. And then I’d go back to my life. I now realize how simplistic it was of me to think that just because I had seen those people “functioning” in their lives after the deaths of their children that they had survived. I didn’t know.
My tears of sympathy have now turned into tears of knowing for them. Like me, each of them could write volume after volume of an autobiography and the wild range of tumultuous emotions that continually zap us as we go throughout each day, creating more havoc in our already restless and exhausted minds, could never be adequately documented.
Now when I see those friends or acquaintances, I make this clear to them, often times without words:
I hear you. I feel your pain. I understand.
I see you for who you really are behind your facade.
I’ll cry tears of knowing with you.
How simplistic of me! As if a 3” x 5” post-it note could summarize the heartache of 13 people?
That is tragic that you knew that many people who had lost a child. Unlike now, at the time of Amy’s sudden passing, I did not know many who had suffered this tragic loss. My Mom was too shattered to speak of the loss of my brother and I too shattered and afraid to ask. One enlightened woman along with her daughter came to the viewing. All she said to me that summer night as I stood before her in a state of shock is “there are no words; you will never get over this.” Later, my mother said those exact same words. Where was the message of hope? Our continued existence is a statement of survival while our hearts and minds know the truth as shared with me in those early weeks by women who were 6 and 8 years on the other side of the loss of their child. Yes, Susan, I hear you. I feel your pain. I understand.
Thank you, Dee. You are so correct in saying our hearts know the truth in “you will never get over this.” As you know, I too struggle with balancing the outside me with the “knowing person” inside of me.