Fear, Suffering and Hope
MAY 11, 2023
Twenty-eight years ago today I became a mother. We had a beautiful baby boy. Fourteen years, three months and three days later God called him home.
It was unexpected, shocking, tragic and utterly unbearable.
For twenty-four hours I was numb. I kept waiting for it to be over, for the nightmare to end, to wake up and find I had imagined the whole thing. Then the pain hit. No one tells you about that kind of pain, that grief is a physical pain. It was like a knife in my chest, I could not breathe. I kept begging my husband, “make it stop, please make it stop” the poor man could barely function himself but he was totally focused on myself and the children getting through those days. Those first days. Fourteen years later and I can still call up that pain, it still surprises me, how physically you feel grief.
That kind of loss changes you forever. I bet if there was a way to test my brain chemistry or some other physical indicator before and after those tests would prove I am a different person. Because of that change, that grief, I am broken in a certain way that will never heal. I am also always afraid.
It is expected that we will lose a parent someday. It is awful but expected, and we might even lose a spouse or some siblings – but a child?? No.
So in comes the fear. Every time one of them leaves the house, or gets sick it comes over me in waves, what if it happens again?
That’s what that kind of loss does to you, it robs you of that sense of comfort that we all live in. The kind of tragedy that results in that kind of grief happens to other people. People you read about in the newspaper or online. People you pray for and feel sorry for but they are removed from you. Tragedy is for “other people”. Until it happens to you and you realize that you were living in this comfortable bubble and now the other people is you. Horrible things happen and now you are completely aware that they can happen to you. And it could again because the world is completely out of control and you can’t manage everything. It’s possible you will again be left behind.
That fear can immobilize you, it’s also imperative that you don’t pass it on to those you love. You can’t tell them that when they leave on an adventure that you are terrified you will never see them again, so you ask them to call or text when they arrive and you hope they keep in touch. You pray to their guardian angel and you never, ever let them leave without saying, “be careful, I love you,” because the last time you did that you never got another chance to do it. That fear can’t be part of their lives and you can’t let them suffer for your inability to process this part of the grief. They must be free to live their lives free from fear and to know I am ok with their adventurous spirits and desire to experience the whole world. It’s such a good thing.
Suffering is part of life and if you are Catholic you know it’s redemptive. No suffering is wasted.
1 Peter 5:10: “And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you.”
So I stuff the fear way down, where it will probably erupt someday into an ulcer or aneurysm, and unite my suffering to the cross as best I can. Christ and His Blessed Mother have walked closely with us through this journey of loss, we have benefited from His tender care but it is still so hard to be left behind. To know that he should be one of the children at my bedside when I pass into eternal life and knowing that he went without the comfort of his mother. His hand should have been in mine at the very least but that comfort was denied us. So we take comfort where we can, answered prayers, little miracles, stories of his silliness, his love of family, faith and his music. It helps.
To be left behind is indescribably painful but we wait in hope to be reunited someday. Until then I long for his beautiful smile.