I had a chosen brother tell me a couple of weeks ago – half jokingly, for context – that I’m in my ‘own world 90% of the time’. At the time, it hurt a little. I’ve been working to keep my head above water and keep moving with the world around me, and had thought I was doing a decent job of it. What I wasn’t considering is that it didn’t mean I was paying attention. Taking each day as it comes while protecting myself and actively engaging with the people around me aren’t the same. If I’m being honest with myself he was right, though. I have been in my own little protective cocoon. In conversation with a couple of people afterwards the reactions were protective of me – ‘you’re allowed that space with what you’ve been through’ was the common theme. While I don’t disagree that I need some room to work through things, it misses the point. In holding on to my son and trying to actively engage in my own grieving process, I’ve alienated myself at times and stopped paying as much attention to the needs of the people around me who I care the most about. So if you’re out there reading this, I’m sorry.
To my friends who have seen me become a little more flaky and distant, I want you to know I’m still here. All of the resources tell you the world will feel different after losing a child but none of them say you’ll feel different in it as well. It feels like my legs have been crushed, having all of these dreams for Jonah and having to put them on a shelf next to his ashes. I’m learning to walk again, and I’m starting to get back out there and sit for a while… stay with me.
To my friends who have had little ones recently, I’m thankful for it and I’m happy for you. There is no ‘but’ here – I’m genuinely excited for you and I hope the things I have been through and other families like mine give you a different perspective. For some of us, the only crying we get to experience is our own and I’m so, so thankful that you haven’t joined this darkness with me. I want to apologize for times where have I come to visit or congratulate and end up talking about Jonah more than this fantastic journey you’re on. It simply revives the memory of his birth and the things we were prepared for. As much as it hurts to not have him with me, it helps to be able to talk about those times in a space of commonality. It makes me feel more like a normal parent.
To my friends who see me drift off when we’re visiting – I want you to know I’m still there next to you. Sometimes I catch a glimpse of my son in a bird flying by or the way the wind blows and I need a second to feel it. Other times I see a little boy walking by and wonder if Jonah would have looked like them one day or wonder what his voice would have sounded like. I know you are sympathetic to the things I’m working through, but I want to say this specifically – I apologize for not being fully present when I’m there with you and/or your family. I care about the people in my life more than that shows. I’m giving everything I have, it’s just not always the same amount from the start.
To my family – by birth or by choice – I could never tell you how thankful I am to have you in my life while we all deal with this. I’ve spent so much time focusing on working through this for myself and with Cassy that I don’t always reach out or ask how you’re doing with it. Sometimes I’m so caught up in trying to stay moving that I don’t see that you’re hurting too. Know that I love you, and that I’m here for you. I hurt, but hurting together is growing together and I want to walk this through with you. In no way have I meant to diminish your role in any of this, and I’m more thankful today than any other that we are bound together in his life. I love you, and Jonah knew you loved him too.
To my chosen brother who kicked this off – I’m sorry. The support you’ve given and the tears you cried silently for Jonah mean the world to me. The stability you gave on my hardest days kept me grounded and the grace you showed left me free to live the way I needed to in those moments. There is no greater give you could have given me. I may be in my own world most of the time, but I still need you in it.
To Cassy, who always tells me I have nothing to apologize for – I’m going to anyway. You’ve been so strong through this and held me up when I needed it that I can never tell you how much I appreciate you and your resilience. I’m giving you everything I have every day, because that’s the foundation we’ve built our marriage on – 100% of everything there is and never half of anything. I love you with my whole heart and will I fight for you until my last breath.
Lastly, for other parents who are reading this without their little one at their side… I’m here. Those disrupted moments are ones where we feel a little closer to them and I hope you feel them too. I won’t ever ask if you’re ok because we all know the answer. There is no coming back from this – there is simply learning to live with it. I understand the feeling that no one else truly knows what it’s like, but I have also experienced the opposite – we are a community that is larger than we would prefer but stronger than any one of us individually. If you want someone to talk/type with, if you need someone to talk about your child to, if your heart is bursting right now with grief and want to know there is someone else out there like you. You’re not alone and neither am I.
To my sweet Jonah, I’ll never be sorry for keeping your spirit alive. I’ll never stop watching for you and I’ll never avoid a chance to feel your presence. I miss you every moment of every day.