grieving mother


I find myself returning here most nights, wandering into this midnight haze, body worn but mind in overdrive. Suspended midway between the day that’s trying to furrow itself into my memory and my inability to let go so that I might slip through that narrow tunnel into the void where sleep promises freedom from my grief.


As I learn to live again through the everyday-ishness that at most times seems incompatible with my reality as a mother whose son has died, I find myself longing for the end of each day when the clatter and chatter is over and I am alone. It’s getting easier to balance the joy and the sorrow in that outside world since it’s been three and a half years since my world collapsed, so I do laugh and I do smile and I do genuinely feel “good” at times. But there remains a darkness in me.

As foreboding as it may be, I long to wander into the midnight haze at the end of each day and drop the cloak which I’ve wrapped myself in, drop the shield I’ve used to protect myself from the world which I so often feel disconnected from. It’s in that midnight haze where I search for the woman I now am. It’s there where I can peer into the dead zone that lies beyond my eyes and become re-acquainted with me, the grieving mother.

Immersed in the midnight haze, I allow myself to breathe in the magnitude of my loss and listen to the silent, yet oh so mournful wails, which emanate from my bones, my bones now long steeped in sorrow. And it’s there, in that place of suspension, where there is no need to still the thoughts, no need to appear normal. It’s there that I can allow the horror to slap me upside the face, to beat into me the truth that this is who I now am, a mother who will never, ever, again see or touch or hear her son on this side of the realm.

The midnight haze. Suspended between two worlds. Free to be. Free to feel the real me, as I pray for the liquidity to slip through that narrow tunnel, to slip into the void where sleep promises freedom. To escape from my grief until I awaken and enter a new day.

I come to me in the midnight haze…because I cannot forget who I am.


I stood in line at the deli counter last night waiting for my take-out order. As I watched the woman boxing up the chicken, my mind raced. What do I still need to do to get ready? If I do this and that tonight and bake pies after work tomorrow, I should be able to pull off our small Christmas Eve dinner, then wrap presents and bake the sugar cookies that my husband wants and then start the prep for Christmas Day dinner and then go to sleep and wake up Christmas morning. Just like the old days when the kids were young…

It’s our third Christmas without Ben. After doing the bare minimum the last two years and getting away with keeping it simple, I wondered why I was putting myself under so much pressure this year to create at least a small semblance of normalcy for our family. Was I purposely trying to keep busy to keep from going “there” again this year? No, I really want to make things better for Nick and Gina and Ben’s boys and everyone else. That’s why I’m putting so much stress on myself, I thought, and then I heard the words, “I’ll be home for Christmas.”  Oh, no! That dreaded Christmas song again, being piped throughout the store.

I was instantly taken back to my teenage years and the memories that song evokes EVERY time I hear it. I don’t remember all of the details of the day it became etched into my brain as a sad, sad song, but I do remember my mother had been listening to a local radio station. A woman had called into the station after hearing that particular song. She was sobbing hysterically. A loved one (I don’t remember the relationship) had died and she was devastated and distraught. The lyrics “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” had sent this woman into the deepest, darkest pit of her grief. The drama played out over the airwaves as the radio broadcaster talked this woman into not ending her own life. We listened intently for what was, or at least seemed to be, a few hours as the station kept this woman on the air to prevent her from harming herself. I remember that by begging her for more and more information they eventually figured out who she was and had sent help for her. There has never been a time in the 40+ years since then, that I haven’t heard that song and been taken back to that day when I intently listened to the sorrowful cries of that woman who had been left behind when her loved one had died. Cries that I now fully understand.

As I listened to the song while standing at the deli counter, I remembered that woman’s sorrow and was sucker punched by my own sorrow. I wanted to put my hands over my ears to protect my heart. I seriously wanted to cover my ears and run out of the store screaming, “My son is dead! He’ll never be home for Christmas! I can’t stand here, waiting on my chicken like a normal person, cuz I’m going crazy hearing this song during the ‘happiest time of the year’! Forget the chicken!”

“Merry Christmas!” The woman smiled as she handed me my order. “Merry Christmas to you too,” I sincerely replied.

I offer my deepest sympathy and love and compassion to every mother, father, brother, sister, son, daughter, husband, wife–anyone who is missing their loved one from the deepest, darkest pit of their grief this Christmas! My fervent wish is that some day we’ll all be home for Christmas—together! And until then, for those who are “home” with me now, I’ll do what I can to make it a “know that you are deeply loved by me” Christmas.