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.