The Grief Journey

Michael aged 20

This is a very jumbled, scrambled piece of writing that I don’t even recall doing; very shortly after my son’s accident.  I’ve chosen to publish this as it is because I think for anyone reading this who is in the immediate aftermath of a sudden death of their child, it may help you understand that there is no “normal” at this point, just a shattered, scattered mess of random thoughts and tears.

Bouncing around the room buzzing; getting ready for the day… how many coffees today I wondered to myself.  Would I beat yesterday’s record?  Could I send another text to my boy, boasting about my skills as a Barista, having done around 300 coffees the previous day.  All of these thoughts were happily circling in my head as I dried my hair and got ready for the big day ahead.

Knock knock!

Who’s there I wondered to myself and wandered out to the landing upstairs and peered out through the window.  I couldn’t see a courier van which was the norm for around 7am and thought to myself, “oh, wonder who it is”.

I bounded downstairs and opened the door.

And stopped.
Three to be precise
Two women, one man
Holding their hats to their chests
I knew
My faltering words. A statement, not a question
My son

Confirmed by the look on their collective faces, tears began rolling down my face.

Confusion.  Voices.  Death.  Words.  Platitudes.  Am I here.  Don’t let my daughter wake.  Who do I tell.  What do I do.

Comforting the lovely young Officer.  Horrible job for her.  They’re all young.  Facing such horrors.

I wish I hadn’t had to answer the door.

Even though I knew from the moment I opened the door, I felt as if I had left my own body behind and was hovering slightly above the scene, watching as if some horrific movie was unfolding in front of my eyes.

It can’t be MY son. You’ve got it wrong.
But I knew they hadn’t.
I knew.

This wasn’t meant to happen.
He was just getting happy in his skin and his life
He was just finding himself and accepting and loving himself and others were following suit
He’d struggled too much


This happens to other people.
But it happens to our family again.
Both my brothers, separately, at the same age as my son.
How did Mum ever cope?
And now I am my mother.

I understand now
I understand too much
I wish I didn’t

Not me, not my baby, my first true love
I fought for every inch of his life from the moment he was born; alongside him, loving, fighting for him to realize his true worth
Not him

Stumble, cry, woman-up. My family, my rocks.  My grief-stricken daughter.  How can this have happened to her.  Her brother.  Her future buddy and partner in crime.  Gone.

Somehow we get through the raw days.  Shower.  Press small bits of food to our lips.  Sip water.  Guzzle wine.

Realize the desperate animal sounds I hear are coming from my own mouth and heart.

How do my lungs keep filling with air.  They don’t.  I have to remind myself to breathe  Jerkily, gasping, holding my breath over and over, forgetting that breath is life.  Do I want life?

Not really.

How does the rest of the world keep turning.  People are smiling and laughing.  How rude, how disrespectful.  DO THEY NOT KNOW?  How can they not know.  My world as I know it has ended.  WHY DO THEY NOT KNOW?

Humans, rushing to work, traffic lights, sirens, terror in every sight and sound.  Death lurking on every corner.  Every human in my life can die.  I can’t cope.  My daughter, days afterwards deciding to get in her car again.  I smile, pat her on the shoulder, cuddle her and praise her and cheer as she drives away.  Sinking to the floor screaming when she is out of sight, rocking, clawing at my skin, hoping she will live.

Sitting through his funeral.  Surreal.  Thank you to the candyfloss clouds of shock lining my day.  I am not aware it is there, and think I am superhuman and coping admirably.  Some time later the candyfloss melts into sticky, crunchy sugar that no longer cushions my progress and I try to move through sticky, heavy, concrete laden days of hell.

Listen in shock as well intentioned people fling their horrifically chosen words at me. “Thank goodness you have another child”.  WOW.  Did not see that one coming.  What is this?  A lottery?  Which one shall I choose?  Mmmm, let me see, boy child or girl child – doesn’t matter, I’ve got another to play with.

They’re oozing these words because they too are impacted and are incapable of choosing correctly.  “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.  I’m so f**king strong I passed all the tests years ago SO NOW WHY ME AGAIN?  Don’t give me that s**t.  They’re mostly too scared to say the real words like “this is so terrible and I don’t know how you will survive this”.  Me either buddy, me either.

The strange words keep reverberating in my head.  My son is dead.  He is dead.  They have lost meaning and gained meaning all in some terrible merry go round.  One moment I comprehend and the next moment I do not.  Those words become meaningless gibberish.

Those terrible, finite words are catapulting me across the bridge to nowhere.  From old life to new life.   I don’t want a new life.  But I am no longer who I once was and I will never be able to return.  You can not turn back.

The video of my former future plays at fast forward in my spiky brain.  The love and the loss, girlfriends, the weddings, the births, the birthdays, the anniversaries, Mother’s Day, vacations, grandchildren.  How damned bitter and sweet the rest of my life will be on every day which is a day.  Because every day will be a day of thinking and remembering.  Some will be hard days and some will be good days but every day, my beautiful boy is there, buried in my heart and soul.

Why me?  Why him?  Why us?

No answers.  Why can’t the Boss of the Universe just drop down and sit on my purple chair and just say sensibly and calmly “we chose him, he’s the man for the job we’ve got and I know it f**king hurts but we need him more than you”.

The primal, animalistic, feral, primitive grief.  So much snot.  So many tears.  Howling, keening, screaming, self-harm in the form of pinching.  Bruises everywhere on my arms and legs.  Splitting my head open and loving the pain of the stitches because it eased the pain in my heart.  I want more pain.  Tormenting my body with physical challenges because it temporarily abates the agony rampaging through my brain and heart.

Watching everyone I see.  They have their kids.  Their husbands.  Their partners.  Someone to go home to. I have death at home. All around me. In my heart and my soul. It has woven itself through me.

Afraid to go to sleep because then I have to wake.  And in that split second rainbow moment between fuzzy sluggy sleep and bats**t crazy waking, there is a suspended moment of belief that it was all a nightmare.  And then as you move from hazy to conscious, the realization will come thundering down.  Again.  Every.  F**king.  Day.

December 2018