Grieving is full of dichotomies.
Grieving is unchartered territory, though generations have navigated the sea before us.
Grieving is as unique to an individual as his DNA, yet there are universal truths.
Grieving is holding on and letting go.
Grieving is living with pain while yearning for joy.
Grieving is unthinkable loss and immeasurable gratitude.
Grieving is denial…and acceptance. Or is it?
Denial is one of those universal truths of loss. There is not one person who does not speak of surreality of losing a child. There isn’t a person who hasn’t awoken for that brief second to think their child is still in their bed sleeping and it was all a bad dream. There isn’t a person whose brain hasn’t conjured the fantasy that their child is just at a sleep over or on a trip and will come through the door any minute.
Acceptance. Is acceptance of child loss a universal truth? Do we ever truly accept that our children are gone forever, dead, never to return, never to do all the things they should have done? Perhaps some do, but the word implies that it’s okay. Indeed Merriam-Webster defines acceptance as
1: the quality or state of being accepted or acceptable
2: the act of accepting something or someone :the fact of being accepted :approval
Denial is a trick our brains play to protect us. But it is cruel defiance of what is real. Reality always trumps denial in the end. Invariably, we wake up every day and they aren’t in their beds! As long as we wait and listen, they don’t ever walk through that door! We cook meals for one less. We take pictures with one less. We take trips with one less. Always and everything. One. Less.
For unpredictable measures of time, bereaved parents linger in limbo. We circumvent acceptance and perhaps find solace in scant moments of denial. But like an addict crashing from a high, the sobering reality inevitably and harshly descends.
So, if and when our brains no longer play that evil trick, does that mean we have finally accepted the loss? I personally don’t think so. The sentence, “I am in a state of acceptance that my son died a cruel death from a disease nobody has bothered to cure, while we watched helplessly” just doesn’t jive. It’s not the right word. There is no word. So I made up a new one.
1. the state of understanding that your permanent reality is full of tormenting contradiction. The state of living an amalgam of deception, denial, and acceptance. The state of it never ever being “okay”.
We miss you Chase. It’s real, but it’s never okay.
–This entry was inspired by two (of the many) amazing women I have met on this journey. Thank you to Stacey and Krissy for not accepting, not being apologetic about it, and helping me navigate the dichotomies of the incomparable grief of losing a child. To Jacob, TJ, and Chase: WE LOVE YOU.