Survival Guides.

I used to wonder how anyone survived child loss. Back when it was my worst fear, I was mystified by bereaved parents when I saw them doing ‘normal life’ activities. I probably stared a little too long– and if given any chance to engage in intimate conversation, I’d come right out and ask– How.Are.You.Still.Standing.
Before October 25, 2014, I had not come across that many parents who lost children, but still, I am now impressed and grateful that no one ever slapped me. I never meant any disrespect, I was genuinely curious/fascinated. But now that I am on the recieving end of such questions, I can assure you that slapping occasionally crosses my mind– fleetingly– but, still. I know, I know, violence is a signal of internal suppressed rage, and I won’t argue that I have some, but mostly, this is in jest…
Nowadays, I am still truly mystified by my own survival. Sometimes I feel like I did back when I experimented with hallucinogens, (pre mama days) {or daze!}. I wonder if I’ve entered another dimension– if all death is but a portal and we keep living OUR illusion, ad nauseam, but we have been removed from other people’s illusions. I don’t mean to get too trippy on you, dear reader, I’m just trying to understand and explain how it feels to survive something so cataclysmic to the mind that it renders you an alien in your world. Because, that’s how I feel. And it isn’t that I feel foreign to everyone else– on the contrary, I feel more genuinely loved and held than before this tragedy, by others, but the strangeness I feel is with & within myself. It’s like I went to bed Jamie Lee Curtiss and woke up Lindsay Lohan. (Figuratively speaking, and maybe vice versa, but still… And maybe you would need to be a parent of a teenager to get that reference, but still…)
My best explanation of this ‘condition’ is that nothing feels the same. There’s just such a significant and consistent feeling of before and after– that never goes away. Never. I have tried at various times to be or feel like my old self, I’ve even imagined a return to her, but it just isn’t the same. I’m not the same. We dont believe the same things. We don’t enjoy the same things. We feel differently. I think we look differently. And by we I mean, me. Before me and after me.
(I know, I know! I’ve been gone from blogging awhile and now I’m blathering and surely you all will worry I’ve finally lost my mind. I haven’t. Perhaps I spend some time in my head, but I feel mentally strong, much to my own confoundment).
This is all just a long winded attempt at an introduction to a thought.
I’ve been waiting patiently for Isaac’s headstone to arrive from Virginia. It was an incredible gift from a friend of Isaac’s 2 dad’s.  

I’ve eagerly anticipated a private place to go, in daylight, that could ‘contain him’. The park feels too public so I only go at night. And the lake holds my tears but at times, the expansiveness, and/or my smallness, leave me craving something more directly and less obtusively connected to Isaac. As Isaac was cremated, we never buried him. But when our guy offered his gift, the three of us all agreed it would be nice to have a place to visit. It took awhile, but arrived a week ago, 2 weeks shy of 2 years. And as much as I love it and as grateful as I am for it and as high as I hoped for it to come, now that it is here, it is as though, for the first time, this is really real.
I’m not getting punk’d by the master prankster. It isn’t a nightmare. Nor an illusion or long strange trip. Nope. Half a ton of granite was all it took to shake me out of the minutiae of hope and wonder and disbelief that has stayed with me all this time, since I never saw Isaac, deceased. Shit. That is a shit sentence to write.
So what’s my point?!?!


I think I’ve survived because death, this big, is just so unreal. Not real. Unfathomable. Surreal. 

 And speaking of dilated pupils (wink wink), every stage of acceptance is like your focus slowly returning after seeing the eye doc. You keep blinking and waiting for more clarity and steadiness.
But unlike anything else, the passage of time does not diminish or dull the ache, the gnawing, the truth, which your logical self understood instantaneously, when your husband insisted you not ‘go over there’, as you tried to steady yourself enough to finish pissing, but this time on purpose, with pants down, right there, though soaked through from the moment you heard the screaming and pissed yourself.

You understand that 2 yrs is not very long at all– he was just here, he was just your sonny boy– you are still warmed by his laughter, echoing in your memory, the way he said Mama, all right here, so close– just here– and also, 2 yrs is hardly enough time to catch your breath, why– how–does everything carry on, can we all just pause until I’m ready again? Please. 

You recycle certain key concepts. 
You keep understanding that each day is the longest you’ve gone without seeing him and you miss him and you miss your life with him and you miss being in on the jokes and you miss the hustle, the pace of that life, the soundtrack of that life, the sugar, the laughter, even the banter that sometimes went too far–You even miss that… You know it has been too fucking long and that you must carry this forever and you have no idea how it’s even possible. How does an old woman carry this? 
But you just keep going. You put one foot in front of the next. You show up, for others, a little more each day. You choose wiser and kinder and more thoughtfully– infused with the essence of humility and gratitude and the utter loss of control and the memory of one so true. Weird and wild beasts, that you begin to recognize as parts of yourself you have denied, emerge and vie for your attention and you keep waiting for the dust to settle so you can see more clearly and you remember again that you learned that crisis means to sift so you begin to sift through the rubble that is your very existence– and you know that it is a snails pace but you do not compare yourself to everyone else. You find the source of true empathy, and for the first time in your known history you show some toward yourself and revel in the kinship you feel with this new you, you know you are connected by a mutual love of Isaac, and you think “this is how I survive” and slowly you start to believe it instead of the voices that say you should just lie down and die and that life cannot go on and nothing good will come again to one who was already so lucky.
And also it helps you to remind yourself that others have suffered and persevered. You recall the story of that mustard seed.  And every day, a little more, you find that it is not too much to hope for hope again, and it is not disloyal. And in fact it may be the most honoring thing you can do.

 And you also consider the stark realities like nothing lasts forever and everyone will die including you and you may lose again and survive again and you must endure this lack of security in exchange for living and loving on this planet.

And you laugh because it is dismal (and because you have a strange sense of humor).

And you cry because it’s true. 

And you carry on with your quiet knowing and you begin to see the whole world as vulnerable and sacred and connected. 

And you realize once and for all that you are not lucky, and never were– you were utterly blessed and still are. 

Published by: christinaryanstoltz

I write to touch the supple center of unguarded ache~ To release myself from the pressure of not knowing how to move forward from the unfathomable loss of my beloved son, my beautiful boy Isaac, to suicide, of not knowing how to release my grip on of the past, both the worshipping of it as well as the beating myself up for it, and letting go of the need to know what I could’ve done or what on earth I will do now. I write to heal.

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