Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Fourth Anniversary

“The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.” 
Elisabeth Kubler Ross

Today (October 22nd) marks the 4th anniversary of Matthew's death. Four long years since we were with him. Last year I used the word "disbelief" to sum up how I felt on the third anniversary. That isn't the word I would use this year. This year, I am very aware of our new reality--our new normal.  I am aware that the image we hold of Matthew will always be that of a 21-year-old young man on the cusp of graduating from college and going out in the world. I am aware that he will not go through all of those rites of passage that one imagines their children going through-the first job after college, a wedding, the joy of fatherhood. I am aware that to the outside world we are now a family of four, not five (even though to us we will always be five).  I am aware that our lives changed irrevocably four years ago and we were set on a very different course. So it's no longer a state of disbelief that I find myself in, but rather I am reconciled to our new reality. And of course along with this reality comes the sadness that Matthew is not with us as we move forward with our lives.

I have also come to realize that I am a different person than I was four years ago. Grief does that to you. By surviving the worst possible loss I have emerged both stronger and softer. I also think that having lost my son I, in turn, appreciate my family and friends more than I used to.  I know that I live with a heightened sense that it could all change in an instant. Along with this awareness also comes a deepened sense of gratitude for each day that I am given. Isn't it one of life's paradoxes that it's possible to live with great sadness and still experience great joy? It's a wonder that people can go on and live rich full lives in the midst of massive losses. But we do...all the time.

Four years ago when we began this journey I wasn't sure that we could survive it. The grief that fell upon us was crushing, unrelenting and unlike anything I had ever experienced. It was physically and emotionally exhausting to just get through each day. But slowly as that first year passed, and then the second and the third, things began to shift. The jagged edges of our grief began to be smoothed over by the passage of time.  The grief is still there, and I fully believe it will always be there. But not in that compressing, debilitating way of the first year. 

Matthew lives on in our love for him and in the sharing of our memories of him.  I'm filled with gratitude for the short time we had with him. Like Elizabeth Kubler Ross says, we will grieve forever. But the grief we feel is the price we pay for love.


8 comments:

  1. Amen to every word. And much love to you and your family!

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    1. Looking forward to seeing you tonight, Karen.

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  2. Thank you, Robin, for once again expressing how I feel so eloquently! Although I wouldn't wish the loss of a child on anyone, it really is comforting to know I'm not alone. It has not yet been two years since Nick died, and I would certainly say 'disbelief' is often the only way to describe how I feel. Our situations are so similar, as Nick was exactly the same age as your Matthew, and we are left an 'empty' family of four instead of five. Sending you hugs!

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  3. Eight years on from the loss of our own son Matthew, your words have an echo in me. Except this past year I have felt for the very first time, more wholly alive, a sense of a deep release and an ability to fully enjoy the world around me as though there has been a paradigm shift. Yes the missing him and grief will always be a part of our lives, he was much loved by us, his brother, his young wife (now remarried to a lovely young man) and his friends. That deep love is his legacy. It runs through the core of each of us. He will forever be remembered.

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    1. Thank you for sharing how you felt, Viv. So encouraging!
      Yes our Matthews will always be remembered!

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