Sunday, June 1, 2014

Underwater

There are days when I feel like I am swimming against the current – working so hard to move forward, but not making any real progress. On those days, I can’t keep up with all of my responsibilities. I am exhausted, my body aching with effort. My head is just barely above water. Then Lucy says something funny or Will looks at me in that adoring way, and I manage to stay afloat.

But then there are days when I am totally overwhelmed and forget how to swim. The water rises, and I start to panic. I nag my husband too much. I get frustrated with the kids too easily. I’m pulled underwater. I yell for help, but the waves muffle the sound. I’m afraid that, this time, I will drown.

You see, I’ve come very close to drowning before.

Five years ago, I lost my firstborn son, Andy, to a terrible genetic disease called spinal muscular atrophy. After he died, I sunk into a deep depression - it took me a long time and a lot of hard work to resurface.
While I know I’ll never get over losing Andy, I really thought I had come to terms with what happened to him – and to us as a family. I thought I’d let go of the guilt. I thought I’d finally navigated my way through the misery to a better place.

I may have just been treading water.

On Mother’s Day this year, my husband took care of Lucy and Will so I could sleep in. It was a nice gesture, and I definitely needed the rest, but I couldn’t relax. I lay in bed, listening to them talking and laughing in the next room. Instead of getting up to join them, I pressed my face into my pillow and sobbed. Instead of focusing on all I have, I could only think of all I’ve lost.

I was pulled back into my memories of my first and only Mother’s Day with Andy. Back to my regrets. Back to the “would have beens” and “should have beens” that never will be. Back underwater.

And that’s where I’ve been since Mother’s Day – submerged in murky depths of my grief and struggling to find my way to the surface.

The pain keeps rushing over me in relentless waves. Despair blurs my vision and disorients me. I can’t catch my breath. And, as hard as I try to push the sorrow down into the background of my daily life or to use the excuse of “being busy” to rise above it, it is stronger than I am.

I know my husband, Lucy, and Will stand at the water’s edge, their arms stretched out to save me. I know that their love and laughter is my life preserver. That my gratitude for them will bring me to safety. That I will reach them once more.

But I also know that another wave is fast approaching.

I’ve been watching my Facebook newsfeed this week, filled with little kids in caps and gowns proudly smiling as they graduate to the next class. June 3 would have been Andy’s graduation ceremony from pre-kindergarten. I should be watching him walk across that little stage at his pre-school, with tears of joy in my eyes. He should be at the beginning of his life.

Instead, I’ll be crying at his grave, as I remember his last days. The fifth anniversary of his death is on June 4.

There is an ocean of tears between what is and what I wish there was. And, I am doing all I can to just keep swimming.

3 comments:

  1. Sometimes just accepting those days of deep sorrow is what gets us through. Feeling guilty about being sad when there is so much for which we are thankful is a waste. Of course you are sad. It is OK. If this sadness lasts too long then it might be time to seek professional help. Be it counseling or medicinal. And it is also OK to ask for help. No one fights all their battles alone.

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  2. I seriously believe that so many of us suffer from a lovely combination of anxiety and PTSD and it just sucks. It makes it hard to enjoy all we have. Once you know the worst can happen, It's hard to talk yourself out of that. And I feel "guilty" for not feeling great and thankful for everything I HAVE every day, knowing all that was lost. If I could give myself - and everyone - advice, it would be to give ourselves a break. When you're all successful doing that, let me know. ( - ; Until then, hang in there and, as always, know you're not alone.

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  3. Not much I can add to the above comments. Just know that I'll be thinking of you and mentally hugging you - as will a lot of other people. You are surrounded by love. Let that carry you through those rough days.

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