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Indescribable

A thing they don’t tell you before your child dies, because nobody who knows this would go around proclaiming it unprompted (except, apparently, me) and nobody who doesn’t face this situation would ever think to ask and probably nobody who does face this situation has the meta-awareness to go asking after the truth that they will all too soon have to inhabit, is that the pain of it does not consume you like nuclear fire and leave you a hollow, broken, still-burning shell of ash.

Not continuously, anyway.

It does do that sometimes, much more often in the beginning after the end, but that begins after a while to subside and the moments of overwhelming anguish slowly grow farther and farther apart.

After a while, you don’t even hurt continuously, let alone feel what seems like an endless torment.  There are periods of waking time, seconds or minutes or maybe even an hour or two, where you don’t actively remember your child is gone forever, when you aren’t focused on that ungraspable fact.  The intervals grow slowly, over time.  Because humans can get used to pretty much anything.

The grief remains indescribable, but the nature of its indescribability changes.  At first, it is so vast and deep and overwhelming that trying to grasp it is like trying to understand the true size of a galaxy.  Those are the moments of fire and ash, when an unexpected, vivid memory or sharp regret brings you to a sudden, blinded stop.

You try not to have them while driving.

Between those moments, the grief is still there, but different.  It’s not there in strength every microsecond of every day; it comes and goes.  There are times you can put it aside for a while, to concentrate on a demanding task or play with your surviving children or watch a brainless movie.  When you become aware of the grief again, it’s surreal and confusing.  It’s like trying to understand the true shape and texture of a six-dimensional whale.  Even if you could, there’s no way to describe it in words so that someone else can understand.

In those moments of greater awareness, the surreal nature of the grief makes the entire world, your entire being, feel wrong.  It warps you and everything you perceive.  A previously energetic and focused person can become listless and disoriented, or a fidgety, easily-distracted person can become still and quiet.  Anger comes flaring out in strange directions, over stranger reasons.

Recognizing this is difficult, and counteracting it is doubly so.  Recovering from it is a long process, the end of which I have not even glimpsed.  I can imagine it in some detail, I know which general direction to go to get there, but I cannot yet see it.  It is either too far away, or too obscured by the warping effects of the grief.  I don’t know which.  It could well be both.

But this is why I seem to check out, from time to time.  I’m not actually going through an internal hell of pain and torment when I do, which is what I suspect other people suspect.  Instead, I’m trying to come to some understanding of the extradimensional horror that always hovers nearby, sometimes right in front of me and other times just out of sight, hoping that if I can somehow comprehend it in its entirety, it will finally go away and allow me to be happy that she lived instead of sad that she died.

11 Responses»

    • #1
    • Comment
    • Mon 8 Sep 2014
    • 1532
    Becka11y wrote in to say...

    I am sure that losing a child is different than losing a spouse but I suspect the grief and emotions are similar. I’m a few month ahead of you in the grief journey but I understand these sentiments so well. Thank you for capturing and sharing them with the world.

    • #2
    • Comment
    • Mon 8 Sep 2014
    • 1606
    Brenda Malone wrote in to say...

    Time is the greatest of gifts.

    When my infant son died I had absolutely unimaginable, inconsolable and irrational grief. I anguished over who would comfort him when he cried, who would take care of him “up there”, and much more.

    After about a year, the grief turned to relief that he had not lived, with so many serious congenital defects. Only then did I realize the goodness and balancing in the universe, or whatever higher power one might or might not believe in.

    Have faith that time will ease your grief and allow your family to return to a semblance of normalcy, or as trite as this sounds, your “new normal.”

    • #3
    • Comment
    • Mon 8 Sep 2014
    • 1757
    Hick Crone wrote in to say...

    This part, “.. and allow me to be happy that she lived instead of sad that she died.” maybe could be altered to “…constantly sad that she died.” That is what I am hoping for you. Of course, you will always be sad Rebecca’s life was so short. Your words here make me believe you will make it to that time and place where the “happy” can one day be consistently stronger than the sad. One day, you will be able to look back at Rebecca’s time with you, especially before her illness, and see it as the happy time it was.

    • #4
    • Comment
    • Mon 8 Sep 2014
    • 1857
    Mark wrote in to say...

    Eric, I am sure you have heard this more than you care to. I just want to say again, thank you for giving us a glimpse of what your life and experience is like. As a deeply devout spiritual person I am very interested in your responses and writings as they make me “more” relatable. I do not pretend to fully understand. I have only lost my mother, that hurt enough. Again thank you!

    • #5
    • Comment
    • Mon 8 Sep 2014
    • 2046
    Bunny Reynolds wrote in to say...

    There’s another aspect that can come upon you. I felt it after my husband died. I was inconsolable, and then it got a little easier to cope. Then, unexpectedly, I started to feel guilty when I didn’t think of him and mourn him every minute of every day. Of course, that’s unrealistic. There’s certainly nothing to feel guilty about. It’s a normal part of healing that you can, from time to time, put the unspeakable grief out of your mind. But sometimes guilt happens anyway.

    This, too, shall pass, as they say. Not soon, and certainly not easily, but gradually the healing happened. Now when I think of Henry I can smile about the good times and be comfortable that we had each other for however long we had. It’s been 14 years, though. It wasn’t rapid, but it happened, eventually. Don’t be surprised if you experience guilt. Recognize it as part of the process. Advice offered for what it’s worth.

    • #6
    • Comment
    • Mon 8 Sep 2014
    • 2327
    jaime lurie wrote in to say...

    As always thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings, even if it might be difficult to describe to those who have not experienced such a loss. Maybe time will get you to where you are supposed to be and accept where she is, but in the meantime know that we think of your family daily whether it is being mad at something stupid, and obviously my problem is not that big, or whether I am irritated with the kids and I remember that I should cherish them. Your family has made us more patient and less selfish and we thank you for that. Hang in there guys and let us know if you need anything.

    • #7
    • Comment
    • Tue 9 Sep 2014
    • 2224
    Anna wrote in to say...

    Yes… and yes… and yes…I was telling the grief therapist today (ten days before it will be two years since we lost my brother and the hell began) that when at seven months from my brother’s death, I was just beginning to feel that life could continue around me, and then we lost my sister. Since then, I do my best to just be upright — but, no, actually, I try to help everyone else be upright, too. And there is no time to process, or even fully feel, the grief of my sister’s loss. Except that when I spend time with her children (or my brother’s children) I feel their absence so keenly, it is like plunging into the abyss as though it were yesterday.

    I am holding on to that memory of feeling like I could hold my brother’s loss — that someday I can get back to that space about both his and my sister’s loss.

    When I am ready, I hope that I will be able to look at all of this grief instead of busying myself with every day and breathing in and out.

    So, thank you, for giving words to this … I needed them.
    And, know that I continue to hold you and your family in my thoughts, wishing you sweet memories and solace and the strength to endure your pain.

    • #8
    • Comment
    • Mon 22 Sep 2014
    • 2020
    Daniel wrote in to say...

    We do not know each other and the only reason I came to this site is I needed the famous reset.css file you have blessed developers around the world with. I can’t imagine anything you are going through and will continue to. Losing anything can be difficult, let alone your own child.

    My wife and I plan to begin to have a family soon, I am learning and working hard to become a successful web developer so I can work from anywhere to spend as much time with my family as possible. I just wanted to give you a special thank you for your selflessness in providing everyone access to the file and the learning experience to real begin to think as a developer. That truly requires real love.

    I do not know if you have any other children or can/can’t have anymore, but as you have so bestowed upon the world of web development with an act of fruitfulness, be fruitful and multiply. Our prayers and blessings go out to your family Mr. and Mrs. Meyer.

    God Bless and again,

    Thank you.

    • #9
    • Comment
    • Tue 23 Sep 2014
    • 1124
    Andrea Rivera wrote in to say...

    Grief is always present, its like a hole in your heart that just aches, but somehow time makes it tolerable, and the spells of absolute horror and pain come less often, and then you go on and you live knowing the hole is still there not daring to go near it, the pain its still there but you learn to carry it everyday, and you live, and you love and you remember.

    Time does help a lot, and remembering the happy moments do turn from sadness to joy.
    You and your family are always in my thoughts, thank you for sharing this incredible personal thoughts it helps us understand and it helps us know we are not alone in our grief.

    • #10
    • Comment
    • Wed 24 Sep 2014
    • 1332
    Dan wrote in to say...

    The death of a loved one is like a stone dropped in a pond and the grief is as the waves emanating from the epicenter. The closer you are to the event, the stronger and more frequent the waves. But as you get further from it over time, the waves get weaker and farther apart. It’s been nearly 2 years since my baby girl died. When the waves hit now, I still live in that moment but it doesn’t knock me over like it used to. You won’t ever stop grieving. It really does become a part of you. But over time you gain strength from the waves, you’ll see that you can stand through them and you will be able to carry on.

    • #11
    • Comment
    • Sun 28 Dec 2014
    • 0605
    Richard Koworld wrote in to say...

    I wanted to say ‘thank you’ for sharing these thoughts. I write this to you from the sanctuary of a Ronald McDonald House in Southampton (UK). Our baby son is critically ill in the fabulous hospital here. Twice he has come as close to being gone as is possible without it being so. In amongst the tearing fear and grief is the nagging sense that my partner and I will never be able to function again. I have three other children and when the thought of our own oblivion covers me, as it often does, the alternative truth derived from reading words such as yours is a source of gigantic and sustaining comfort.

    Thank you for sharing them.
    Richard and Emily

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