The work.

When Isaac died there were many who didn’t think I could endure the pain. They understood me. But the look in their eyes kept me here. For the first full year and well into the second I spent a significant amount of my energy just convincing these loved ones that I was/would be ok. It was exhausting. At the end of year one my therapist asked me what I wanted my life to look like going forward, and I said “I want to stop worrying about everyone else and just allow myself to feel it all, even the darkest of the darkness”. I wanted to become intimate with my grief.

Be careful when you ask for such potent things— just sayin.

Having already habituated myself to not falling apart around others so they wouldn’t see how lost I become in the keening, I have found it difficult to grieve WITH my family and friends. Still, to this day—I have dreamt of it repeatedly,craved it on a physical level, but just have never been able to go there, even though I still go there quite frequently on my own.

It is a wobbly thing to have those closest to you fear that you will off yourself, and tell you of their fears. I have a lot of empathy for them and in not wanting them to suffer anymore than they already were, surviving became something to focus on. It became what I do.

At times I feel like I am straddling the grassy part of a two track out in the forest. One foot I drag through the bracken of grief and the other is carrying me. Sometimes I feel like I’ve worked so hard already, how can I keep this up forever? Sometimes I know I’ve got a long way to go so I pace myself.

Losing a child changes some things so completely. Time, I would say, is the thing that transmutes the most. Whatever form of linear time I used to live in is gone. I can close my eyes and Isaac was just here. It makes me shudder. I cannot grasp it. I see the little milk belly from age 2. I see him smiling and cooing at me as an infant at my breast. I see him exploring as a toddler. I see him in his overalls. I feel his hug. I remember his tears. I hear his laughter and the way he said “mama you’re my best friend”— all his life. I see him driving my car, playing basketball, running like the wind. I hear his voice changing. I feel his old voice in my heart. And then my mind will turn on me and I will see things I missed. I will see my failure. I will fall down and I will consider never getting back up. The teen years get me every time. I will look out the window and say a nursery rhyme out loud and I will wonder if I am losing it. I was a good mama. I was an inadequate mama. I loved him so much. I loved him too much. Its a rabbit hole of these descending realizations. It’s a torture I won’t put anyone through, and I work MY FUCKING ASS OFF to get through to the other side where I float in a state of heart expansive bliss, like swinging on a swing set so high and that little rush you get from being on the edge.

It’s a good thing such loving people love me. Left alone I don’t know where or who i would have become from this. Loving them back has lead me to self love and true cherishing of this incredible gift of life. I fall down sometimes with the weight of my burden, I get tired and want to sleep and be alone and let my feelings take off all their clothes and lay on the couch and just breathe. In and out. Long and slow for as long as we (my feelings and I) need.

And then we rise (my feelings and I). We rise rooted in our knowing that there’s room for it all. That we can do hard things. That life is still beautiful. That love never leaves. That we did the best we knew how to. That we loved with all our faucets on. And it mattered. And it matters now.

And when I see that these truths soften me, that I can believe so fully in fluffy things, I think maybe I’m not so fucked up. Because when your only child dies by choice you figure you must be the most fucked up person you know. You must be.

But maybe not. Maybe, just maybe you are love. Maybe we all are. And maybe I cycle through these thoughts just so I can remember this with the same relief and reverence and joy when I finally arrive back here again, maybe a little sooner than last time, maybe a little deeper into my bones and maybe someday it will stay.

“I walk down the street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I fall in.

I am lost… I am helpless.

It isn’t my fault.

It takes forever to find a way out.

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I pretend I don’t see it.

I fall in again.

I can’t believe I am in the same place.

But, it isn’t my fault.

It still takes me a long time to get out.

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I see it is there.

I still fall in. It’s a habit.

My eyes are open.

I know where I am.

It is my fault. I get out immediately.

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I walk around it.

I walk down another street.”

—Portia Nelson

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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