Searching for grief blogs reveal most are about early grief. That is certainly when the emotions are the most raw and a grieving parent/grandparent/sibling is looking for hope that they can survive it. I thought I would write about what grief looks like at five years - down the grief timeline. At first, I never believed it was possible to live five years after Max was killed, much less find joy again. That is, indeed, what I am going to tell you about.
I remember feeling one moment of joy at 9 months and then it dissipated very quickly back into pain. Same around 15 months. The 2 year mark nearly did me in and the entire 2nd-3rd year I spent self-medicating and numbing myself to the pain. It worked. But I had a hell of a mess to clean up when I decided to stop and start making healthy choices again. I had to go into a rehab outpatient program and get off all the meds I was misusing and re-train my brain and heart to FEEL the pain. The only way *through* it is to actually *go through* it. It's a cruel reality. I had moments of joy throughout - Wesley graduating and starting college, getting married, Todd starting and excelling at a new job. And I had moments of ridiculous pain - losing my friend Kim to suicide and my friend Jeanie to a freak accident, both of which were close to my age, and then losing my Pappaw, one of my closest friends and relatives. All that grief piles up and I had to deal with each one on its own to sort through the feelings. I had an amazing counselor to help me.
And now - I just passed the 5 year mark. This year I engaged in immense self-care because Wesley, Todd, & I were all in different states on August 6. I was on a girlfriend trip with three girls who "get grief" and they were so kind to me the day of and the hangover day after. I thought I would be miserable, but truthfully, it was the best thing I could have done. This is the first year I didn't go to his grave. The first year I didn't lay in bed feeling sorry for myself. The first year that the anticipation of the date was worse than the date itself. Many of the grieving mothers I walk this road with also are passing the 5 year mark, so we lean on each other for support.
Most days I live happy & productive. Of course I always carry the knowledge that my oldest son is dead, but it isn't like a millstone in my stomach. It's just there. And when grief sets off an emotional reaction, it's more like a lightning bolt out of the blue. I ride through it to the other side, where I go back to being on even ground again.
I am still searching for a purpose and what I'm supposed to do with the rest of my life. When Max died, I lost my career as well as my son, and now, I have an empty nest. So I'm doing the cliche mid-life crisis I suppose. But I'm not in crisis. My hope is that if you are fresh to grieving, you will find peace and hope here that you can and will survive. All you have to do is find a way to keep breathing and take it one moment at a time. And your body, mind, and heart will cover that scar and you won't feel the pain as intensely as you do the first few years.