Losing a child is a sucker punch to the gut.
Shortly, after my youngest son Devin passed away, I was listening to Oprah's Super Soul podcast. She had a guest that was grieving the loss of her son and couldn't enjoy the life of her two surviving children. Oprah also brought on a brilliant, inspirational and spiritual guru to help her. I know that I was meant to hear that podcast at the exact moment that I did. The message was the following:
You can't compare your surviving children's milestones to the one that you lost. "Devin should be celebrating a birthday, graduating, going to college, getting married, etc." Your surviving children will never feel good enough because they can't compete with someone who isn't alive.
That message spoke volumes to me and I try to live by that mindset. I truly celebrate each of my children's milestones as their own, never what could have been. I am so insanely grateful for every birthday that they celebrate, every stair they climb, every challenge they accept and every success they earn.
But, my God, sometimes it is really really hard.
Last night, my oldest son and I were registering for the SAT's, talking about his high school career (he's in the 11th grade) and what and where he wants to go to college. We talked about classes that he's taken, ones he will take in his senior year and what he might take in college. What he would like to major in, should he plan to get a masters, what kind of college he wants to go to, whether he wants to join a frat. All these incredible things for his future, that are just on the horizon. I am so insanely proud of him, what he's overcome and the incredible person that he has become. I am so excited and so grateful that I get to be a part of this life that he gets to call his own.
My third son is celebrating a birthday in two weeks. This morning on our way to school we were talking about our breakfast tradition at our favorite diner and made our plan. His birthday falls on a Wednesday this year, so he is able to have the morning with me and the evening with his dad. He also reminded me that it is free coffee day at Dunkin Donuts and that we need to fit that into the plan. He is a boy after my own heart, drinking coffee younger than he should and constantly reassuring me that the it doesn't really stunt your growth. We started talking about his brothers and how for six months he and Devin are just a year apart and for two weeks he and Owen are a year apart.
Then it happened. As we were talking I felt like I got punched in the gut. Hard. I was trying to hold it together until I dropped him off. I couldn't breath. Brenden got out of the car and I broke. Waiting in line to get out of the school parking lot, I tried to hide my tears, until I couldn't any longer. They streamed down my face in a way that I didn't see coming. That's the weird, terrible thing about grief. It's a sucker punch. You expect it on the angelversaries, diagnosis day, and birthdays that don't celebrate growing older. But it's the out of the blue, heart gripping pain, that still shocks me. It's been four years since Devin became an angel and it still surprises me every time it happens. I never see it coming.
I am learning to accept the wave when it comes, although it is never easy. I feel the pain and then try to redirect and look at all that I do have. All the moments that I had with Devin and the changes he continues to make in the world of DIPG, in our family and loved ones lives, and all the people who didn't have the chance to meet him but are changed because of him.
I know all this and believe it wholeheartedly. But, I am still human, a mom, and the mom of a beautiful angel. Time doesn't make it easier, it just changes things. Grief is very much the same.