Being an almost parent requires keeping your guard up. Everywhere you look is a trigger of some sort, a reminder of the things you wish for more than anything. If it isn’t some family – or every family – when you go out, it’s the commercials and billboards. I walk through my house without feeling like something is missing. I’ve been on an edge for a few weeks now after struggling to keep my guard up through Father’s Day. I call it the Father’s Day Hangover, and it’s been real life for a few years now. I was still close enough to Jonah’s passing last year that my gratitude and memories of our six hours were still fresh, even though his hole in my life was so large. This year, I’m learning of the evolution of grief.
I’ve long felt that the loneliest day for me would be Father’s Day. The celebration of a thing I feel so close to; a redefinition of success as I matured put under a spotlight. Even while I work my way out of this pit of grief, I’m learning every day that the things you expect rarely come in the way you anticipate. We had some things come up leading into that weekend that didn’t allow for me to reflect on and process what I was feeling. Making it through the weekend without breaking felt comforting in some way… maybe I thought I found a secret in dealing with it. Either way, I got comfortable in how I go about my days now. I let my guard down.
Becoming the man I want to be includes finding ways to identify myself as a dad to my boys and working to be the husband my wife deserves. The struggle is this, however – working through this kind of grief is trudging through the mud, knee deep in the memories you don’t get to make. It’s trying to talk to them through your heart and prayer because you can’t talk through the tears. It’s watching the world interact in joy and feeling like you only get to watch through a window, waiting for someone to open the door to let you out… and it never comes. The loneliest day comes when I let my guard down enough to get swallowed in the darkness. Most days I remember recognize a trigger coming and can posture for it – Shoulders back, steady mind, preparing to weather the storm. When I don’t, it takes weeks to find my way back.
I’m in the middle of a storm right now and I feel like I’m fighting with one hand tied behind my back. I have to remember that when I’m in this space, the locks are in the inside of the door. I locked it the moment I let Jonah’s loss creep in, and the very second I unlock it his life will fill my heart and brighten my world.
It’s never one step backwards when you’ve lost a child, it’s three or four. But remembering the time we had with him, preparing the nursery and finding whales in unexpected places brings me to a place I never could have found on my own. I just miss him, and that’s ok. He misses me too.