In October, just two months after the Accident, I wrote about my overcoat.
A New Overcoat
A dear friend of mine lost seven family members in a plane crash a few years ago, including her son and four grandchildren.
She told me that the loss of a child is like putting on a very heavy overcoat that you will wear the rest of your life. It changes you…(read more)
When I wrote this article, so early in my grief journey, I had no idea what all putting on this new overcoat meant. Now I do.
Every day I think of Andrew.
The first few months I had only bits of life and joy in the midst of my grief. Now, everyday, I have only bits of grief in the midst of my life and joy.
Rarely do I spend the day or even an hour crying or grieving, but he is in my thoughts. And sometimes the tears still flow. Sometimes the pain is very real and present.
Time is divided into “before The Accident” and “after a The Accident”.
There are so many things around the house that remind me of Andrew and my other grown, living children. Pictures, toys, books. I have many joyful memories for which I am grateful. But each brings on a pang of sorrow for things that will never be…My four boys will never be together in another photo. Andrew will not dance with Margaret at her wedding. Andrew’s ballet shoes will never be worn again. His nephews will never hear his loud, joyous laugh. I won’t hear him as he challenges his brother to another game of Madden. I won’t come home to hear him singing the latest play score, or reading lines, or singing Johnny Cash. His voice and laugh are silent here on earth.
When we travel, I see advertisements for live theater shows and immediately think of him. We passed a group of guys playing frisbee and I thought of how he loved to play. Billboards with classical dancers bring images of him on stage. Certain songs in church remind me of seeing him worship.
Graduations and weddings cause me to think of what he missed. So many of his friends are moving on to great jobs, careers, grad schools, pursuing auditions and trying out for tv shows! Things he would have loved doing.
I find great joy in things around me, in friends, live theater, traveling and my family. I laugh and play and ride my bike. I love and live! I have joy!
But…This event changed me…I wear an overcoat of grief.
All. The. Time.
And sometimes it is very heavy.
At times, grief hits me in the gut. Other times I am just a bit sad.
Sometimes I find it hard to do simple things like go to grocery store. Andrew worked there for three years as a cashier. I miss seeing him behind the register. I know he wouldn’t be there anyway; he would off at school. But, somehow, my memory of him at the store is frozen in time. I have difficulty going to plays at our local theater. I still support the local arts in many ways, but there is always a heaviness when I enter the theater. It takes much effort for me. So I have started going to events at other venues.
I have talked with moms who lost children years ago. They still remember. They still grieve. Most have experienced great healing and have joy and peace. And yet…They still wear their overcoats.
One of my mom’s best friends had five children. I played many hours at their home. I am still friends with Mama L and her kids. Her youngest drowned when just a little boy, before I knew them. I remember seeing family pictures with five children. And then there were four. I asked her once what happened. I was ten or eleven. She told me the story honestly. Mama L was, and still is, one of the kindest, most generous, and joyful people I know. She is full of love and compassion. She has invited our son Peter to their family reunion since he is in her town for the summer. That’s just the way she is; everyone is welcome and loved in her world. Her daughter who is my age has a son whom they named after her little brother. She wrote me a kind nite after The Accident. They all remember him. They honor him. They still love the little boy who died too soon. 40+ years later, Mama L still has her overcoat.
My friend who told me about the overcoat teaches dance and a stretching class at our YMCA. Dance helped her heal. She danced in a huge recital with her granddaughter last year. It was a lovely dance. She had a beautiful smile on the whole time. She has much joy. Yet when I speak with her, I know she still wears her overcoat.
If you have a friend who lost a child, please know that they can heal, laugh, love and live. But also know that this experience will change them forever. They will wear their overcoat until they reach heaven.
One dear friend texted me about five months after we buried Andrews. She wrote, “May I help carry your coat today? I am praying for you. I love you.”
We will always remember and love Andrew. We honor him by continuing to live full and joyful lives. But, for me, it is life lived while wearing an overcoat. A coat that impacts my life daily. A coat that is sometimes very heavy.