Is it really August? As I’ve been trudging through the last days, weeks, months, I’ve lost all perspective on time. It feels like years since I held Alex in my arms, and it also feels like I only had him for a few hours. In reality, I had Alex for 66 days on earth, and he’s been gone for 54 days now.
I’m not keeping a count of each day since he’s been gone… I just had to find a calendar to count because I feel like time is passing me by. I forgot a close friend’s birthday today. An event I would have planned for before, now comes and goes without fanfare. Sorry.
I spend all my energy remembering things and making decisions at work. When I get home, my head is full and I have nothing left inside. It’s not that ‘comfortably numb’ feeling I had right after Alex died, it’s different.
I feel like my head is an almost overflowing bucket of water. One more drop will spill the whole thing. There are days when I feel like I can’t handle one more drop. I go to bed and I start over fresh in the morning. When I get home from work though, the bucket is full and I feel like I’m over capacity in my mind.
Maybe it’s because it takes so much energy to not dwell on Alex all day long. I read spreadsheets and powerpoints and other documents. I participate in meetings. I answer emails and I throw away junk mail. It takes all of my effort to focus on the task at hand, and not drift away to thoughts of my missing little boy.
It’s like I need to put his picture on a milk carton or something. Missing: Alexander Cameron Jonas. DOB: 4/11/2011. Weight: 13 lb, 8 oz. Height: 24”. Hair: Black. Eyes: Gray. Suspected whereabouts: Heaven.
Intellectually, I can process the fact that he is gone. Emotionally, I struggle to think of anything else. How long will I keep looking for him? That’s a journey that won’t end well, so it’s best to avoid the trip completely.
I spent some time over lunch with a dear friend today. It was only about an hour, but it was an important 60 minutes. We caught up on five years worth of news and we also discussed my precious Alex.
We talked about the circumstances under which he died. About whether or not I was responsible for his death, about the extent God’s will plays a role in this whole series of events. In all reality, nothing new.
When I talked to Ben later, he asked me what we talked about- I said, “Alex” and I could read the look on his face. The expression so clearly asked, “Is there anything left to say?” I’m not sure. Do I repeat my self over and over when I talk about him? Am I writing the same things over and over in this blog? Does it seem like I copy and paste each time I write? Maybe.
Every time I talk about Alex and think about him, it all feels new to me. I feel fresh loss and regret and sadness each time I discuss him. Maybe there’s nothing new to be said, but it doesn’t feel old yet to me. It feels raw and bitter and new.
I’m ready for something new though. I’m ready for more laughter and happiness and joy. Does anyone have some spare joy to lend me?
We had fun over the weekend and Benjamin got to splash around with his favorite friends. We ate burgers and enjoyed the sun shining offLake Michigan. If I could bottle up those moments of happiness… I don’t know. Maybe the rest of the week would be easier.
We keep looking for the happiness and trudging through the lonely. And time passes us by.
Remembering Alex (#8): Surgery– This is the last note I posted on Facebook. I wrote it one month after Alex died.
30 days. Apparently that’s how long it takes to adjust to the new ‘normal.’ I’m back at work. I’ve been to the grocery store twice now. Laundry happens at more regular intervals. Not that I don’t think about Alex all the time, but our family has shifted into a different mode. We’re no longer in “survival” mode. We do the daily tasks of life every day- not just sporadically.
We’ve weathered the storm and we’re no longer draining our row boat with buckets. The clouds are moving along and the outline of the sun is discernable behind all the gray. We get up every morning and go through the motions of life. Our thoughts of Alex shift from the present, to the past.
Not that it’s easy. Every single day is a struggle- fraught with challenges we have never faced before. It’s different now though. We’ve learned to stare life square in the eye and just keep going.
We got a flier in the mail yesterday for gravestones. Junk mail for the bereaved? That’s a first. Marketing mailers that might have had me running for the Kleenex a week ago, are now less dramatic. I look through the options in the brochure with a shrug and a frown. I’m not sure the best way to commemorate Alex’s life on earth is with a granite headstone shaped like a teddy bear. I throw it all away. Maybe someday I’ll be ready to shop for that- not today.
When Alex died, it was like half of my heart was ripped out of my chest. The wound itself may have been sewn up, but it has not yet healed. I went through the first few weeks numb- still sad, but not really feeling all of the pain. As time as passed, the numbness wears off and the searing pain soaks in and radiates through the rest of your body.
Like coming home from surgery, we had things to aid our recovery. Flowers and cards and phone calls, casseroles and prayers all helped insulate us. Lots of people have checked in to see that we are on the mend. As special as all of that love is, you eventually have to heal on your own. The mailbox is empty, the flowers have died, and it’s just you.
Alex dying wasn’t a heart transplant. Part of me was taken, but wasn’t replaced. What is that? An amputation? I try to heal from this operation, I wonder if things will ever feel “good as new.” Can you go through something this traumatic and ever feel as good as you did before?
This first month without Alex has been hard- especially as we transition to life back in public again. The first time I went to Target after he died, I thought that people would be able to read the grief all over my face. That people would move aside for me in the aisles because I would look like as tragic as I felt. That first week out of house I felt like I was hobbled over in pain. Like I should have had emotional crutches to make it easier to walk, and I should have had a handicapped parking sticker because of what I was going through. I honestly felt that there should have been a special carpool lane for people like me, because the motions of life were such a struggle.
It is still hard, but I don’t feel like the grief is written all over my face. I think I can pass through the crowds without people spotting the pain coming from my chest. The wound is still there though. Despite the time that’s passed, it still bleeds. Sometimes at a trickle, unseen by others. Other times, it gushes blood, staining my shirt, alerting others to how much I’m still hurting.
I don’t know what I want from other people. I know I don’t want people to feel obligated to see how I’m doing. I cherish the support and friendship, but I don’t want to bring people down if I’m having a bad moment. I want to see people and talk to people and laugh. I just don’t want to hide if I need to cry.
People don’t treat me like I’m broken, but I need people to know I’m not all healed. I want hugs and high fives and fist bumps. Sometimes kisses too. I want permission to cry and permission to laugh. Sometimes at the very same time. I want people to acknowledge my pain, but I never expect them to share it. I can handle the sadness alone as long as I have the patience and laughter of others to keep me going.
There will be a time when Alex’s death will be a scar and not an open wound. There will be a time when I meet people in life who won’t know about this heartbreak, and won’t understand why the cry of a baby makes me pause, or why the name “Alex” can get me misty-eyed. Not yet.
Until then, we go through the motions of life, trying to recover. We get gas, pay bills and take out the trash. We sit in traffic, we clip coupons and we watch TV. There is no timeline that tells us how long it will take us to get better. I don’t know if things will ever be the same, but I know in this household, life does go on.