Why My Son’s Death Liberated Me #2
for a short while...
Dear Lovely You,
in my first letter I mentioned how liberated I felt after the death of my son. To clarify, I wasn’t happy that he had died. It was totally devastating and I never thought I would go through anything like that. What mother does? If you do ever think about losing a child, generally the thought gets stuffed away pretty sharply. It’s literally unthinkable.
Loss doesn’t have to define us
I remember one of my first thoughts after it happened was I don’t want people to think of me as that woman who lost a child. But I was that woman.
For the first few days I couldn’t stop crying. Every kind word, every letter or card or bunch of flowers started me off again. Four days later I was furious. I wanted to kill the driver who caused his death. On that day the fire that exploded through me was a pure powerhouse. I felt invincible. And no one was telling me how I should feel or behave.
But I also knew that it didn’t matter what ever I did it would never change the very thing I wanted to change.
I wanted my son back. It didn’t matter that I had all these skills and knowledge. They didn’t help in the raw aftermath of sudden death. In fact, it made me even more furious that I should be REASONABLE when all I wanted to do was scream, ‘NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!’
Trying to carry on as normal when normal has left the building
The other thing was I still had young children to take care of. Just seven and nine, they had asked to go back to school after a few days of watching me crumble. I then started to edit myself, only allowing myself to cry when they weren’t around, as much as I could, stopping myself from bawling loudly, snot dripping from my face with the tears. What a mess! And how frightening that was for them to witness.
I cried myself to sleep for months. I woke in the middle of the night crying. There were a few blissful moments each morning before I remembered and then the saltiness would stick my eyes and dry my lips again. I would stifle my sobs and creep downstairs so I didn’t disturb anyone. I would curl up on the floor as far away from my family as possible so they wouldn’t hear and more importantly so they wouldn’t worry. I was still looking after everyone else.
Although my son's death was of course deeply sad there were magical moments too.
I loved how we found ourselves surrounded by a community that we didn’t even know existed. I loved how death connected people.
I loved the process of putting together a service in his honour. The three hundred or so people who attended the funeral don’t know how much that meant to us. I imagined I was suspended by a net over a cauldron and all these people were at the edges holding onto the net so I wouldn’t fall deep into the darkness. And I loved that I found I could write and speak from the heart. I was proud to read his eulogy.
As I began to speak at his funeral, I saw my son climbing the pillars within the Abbey. Telling me he was alright. That he was a monkey. Trying to make me smile.
I talked to him a lot because I knew he wasn’t in the fucking box! That was just the overcoat he wore here on earth.
Perception is everything
Now before you start thinking I’m a crazy woman let me explain what I believe was going on. I was simply trying to comfort myself.
To feel connected to him helped. To feel disconnected was unbearable.
It was a no brainer. I imagined I was having conversations with him and for the most part he was reassuring me. Life on the other side is all good it seems. Others, maybe you even, may see this as a spiritual event and believe that I was indeed able to communicate with my dead son. I am happy either way. :o)
Totally Accepted by Myself and Others Because of Losing a Child
During those first weeks I loved that I was completely accepted as I was.
I loved that there were many hugs and words of appreciation. I loved the stories his friends and brother told me about him. I loved how death united people and I was in awe of the power of love.
And shouldn't life always be like that?
Shouldn’t we all be living in community?
Having each other’s backs?
Helping out when the going gets tough?
Accepting the ups and downs?
Accepting each other?
Celebrating life’s joys and honouring life’s sorrows together?
But the pressure of life gets in the way of healthy grieving
But sadly it isn’t. In our pressure cooker of a society we are pushed into getting back to ‘normal’ far too quickly and don’t give grief the grace of time it deserves or our bodies and minds the space to unravel and then be put back together again.
Instead we are taught to ignore our feelings and get on.
All that unresolved emotion that should be flowing through and out gets pressure cooked into our bodies and held there.
I knew I wanted to be happy again but I didn't know how that was going to happen. So I just got on with it.
Death breaks us open. Especially sudden death and at a young age.
It allows us to love and express in ways that we can't under normal circumstances because of conditioning and programming in our society.
It is an opportunity for growth.
I had conversations with family members that probably would never have happened had it not been for the profound trauma we were experiencing. Healing happened during those conversations and relationships blossomed once more.
Old Survival Mechanisms get Triggered
But as weeks slipped by I continued to hide my feelings and stuff them down. Later I found out that I had become an expert at suppressing my feelings as a small child and largely I had done it to protect others from my emotions. The process of suppressing emotions had become so refined over time that I had no idea I was doing it. And it became my default whenever there were difficult experiences to navigate.
Eventually I was so shut down and numb I couldn’t feel anything.
I couldn’t feel my smile muscles. Life became beige as I went through the motions of living on automatic. And at the same time my body shut down too.
I didn’t realise then that this was a depression that went on for some seven years. I didn’t know it because I was still functioning and to all the world looked like I was getting on with my life. It’s only in retrospect I can see what happened so clearly.
As I get windows of feeling better, I mean really feeling, I know that this is liberation. To feel it all. Every single emotion. Every single experience.
Joy is the ability to FEEL and EXPRESS all emotions without attachment to any of them.
When I was feeling and expressing my grief I was free.
I accepted what I felt. For a brief time, I didn’t worry about what people thought. This is what I mean by my son’s death liberating me. I wasn’t worrying about what people thought.
Free to feel, to express, to be. To be my True Self even if it looked terrible, ugly, sad, angry, broken or out of control or frightening to others.
Living with Loss
For some years now I have been learning how to feel again. It’s hard after decades of shutting it all down. I want it so much and yet a part of me still doesn’t feel safe to do so. It is getting easier but it can’t be rushed.
My attachment to Luke (and my brother Steve who also died in a road crash eight months later) made my life feel unbearable so it was easier not to feel at all. My belief that I could not go on without them prolonged my grief.
After the pantomime of their funerals what was left?
What was left!? All the other people in my life and my own life!
Wouldn't I be honouring them by living my life fully expressed and enjoying my time here on earth?
Isn't that how we honour life and our dead loved ones?
There is no life without death. There is no death without life.
If someone had told me I could have a child but he would only live for 20 years would I have chosen to have him anyway? Of course I would. I wouldn't have said, "oh, no thank you. I won't bother."
The attachments that make us love also make us grieve.
Without one we can’t have the other.
What grief taught me was what it feels like to let go and be human, how to be fully expressed, authentic and living within my own integrity.
It’s been a slow epiphany but finally progress is being made.
What experiences in your life have allowed you the grace to feel and express without editing yourself?
From my True Self to Yours
P.S. I want to get to know YOU and for us to build this COMMUNITY together.
Sharing our thoughts, ideas and struggles on what it means to be our True Selves; what stops us and what needs to happen for us to Nurture and Nourish our Flourishing. To Thrive rather than just Survive.