Monday, October 14, 2013

What It Feels Like Six Months Later...

Today is the six month anniversary of Gavin's death.

In many ways it feels like it has been six weeks... six hours... six minutes, even.  

Six months almost feels offensive.  When I think of something that is "six months away," it seems like a long time.  Yet here we are six months past the last time we kissed and held and wiped our tears from our precious son's body and it feels like we blinked.  How could it possibly have been six months ago?

Ed and I have learned a lot over these months.  We've learned a lot about ourselves... about strength we didn't know we had... about grief - our own and Brian's... about expectations and human behavior and unexpected miracles.

I have known people that have lost children, unfortunately.  And I remember struggling with how to best support them.  I remember feeling like I didn't "do" enough.  And I definitely remember the guilt afterward that I didn't reach out to them enough afterward.  It followed me, this guilt, until Gavin died.

And now we find ourselves on "the other side."  Now we are the ones who lost a child. 

If we're being honest, Ed and I had a day or two of feeling "abandoned."  I think we fell into a common trap.  You know, when you go through something tragic or awful - whether it's illness or death or a divorce of even the birth of a baby - and it seems like the people around you disappear.  The phone stops ringing.  You check the doorbell to be sure it's not broken.  If we're being honest, we probably both thought that the neighbors were mad at us for a minute... or friends were ignoring us because they didn't know what to say.  But then one night, on the couch talking... we realized that none of this was true.

It was us.

I can see how it can be an easy trap to feel abandoned.  I addressed this exact feeling - for a different reason - in the letter I wrote to a Mom who felt abandoned after the birth of her special needs child. You can read that HERE.

When something goes wrong - very wrong - in your life, people tend to flock.  Meals are delivered... cards come pouring in... the phone rings off the hook... and then, life quietly goes back to normal.  For them.  As it should.  But life didn't go back to normal for us - it still hasn't.  So when everything ended... and suddenly we were finding ourselves going through the motions of life... we felt alone.  For that day or two, we really felt it.

But the truth?  The truth is, Ed and I are homebodies and not really all that social on a good day!  We wave to neighbors and see them at neighborhood events a few times a year.  Neither of us are "phone people" - I talk to my sisters and my Mom, but I am not a big fan of talking on the phone.  We don't socialize with friends all that much - I suppose we've been consumed with Gavin's care and child care and exhausting nights for the last five years that it just hasn't occurred to us to "go out."  So the trap was expecting anyone to change - them or us.  And really, if people kept flocking around us it would have started to feel uncomfortable... because it wasn't part of our normal, everyday life.

In that moment, I was freed from the guilt I had been carrying.  Suddenly it seemed self indulgent for me to believe that people we were merely acquaintances with would be giving us any thought at all - wondering why we weren't "there" more or calling them when, truly, we never called or socialized with them much before.  I had a friend recently confess to me that she's been burdened with the thought that she hadn't done "enough" for us.  I was shocked - and felt that nothing was further from the truth.  I hadn't even expected what she HAD done... so I would have never thought it wasn't "enough."  We had our son's death on our minds... and truly didn't expect the outpouring that happened afterward.  Details from the first couple months are actually hard to remember - it was a blurry time.

I guess what I'm trying to say is - we're trying to put one foot in front of the other every day. One thing we're definitely NOT doing at all is keeping score.  I promise.

We've also discovered some beautiful and miraculous things about people after Gavin died.  The beautiful notes, the generous donations to our charities, finding out that Gavin's journey has inspired people in various ways and seeing how his organ donation has prompted so many to register as donors. To be the parents of this little boy who has moved so many people with a five year life story that isn't even told by him?  It's humbling, to say the least.

Six months.

It just seems so impossible that we're half a year past the day he died.  It also seems impossible that we'll mark the one year anniversary of his death with his four month old baby sister.

What it feels like six months later?  Every day is different. But we are in control of what we feel - and every day we try to choose joy in honor of Gavin.  And in doing so, we hope that we show his beloved brother, Brian, that joy is possible after something tragic and sad.  
The alternative just isn't healthy for anyone.

You just never know what life is going to throw your way. You can lay down and try to will everything and everybody around you to change... or you can change yourself to adapt to your new world.  Just like anything in life, it's up to you to choose.  It's no one else's responsibility... or fault... or concern.


  1. Absolutely lovely...very well said and written

  2. I pray for you all everyday, you recount the memories of Gavin and carry on his legacy so well in your posts.

  3. We are almost 18 years from the date our son ended his work on earth at 18 months after being sick since birth. Your words remind of the struggles and the laughs. Thanks for that. Believe me, your life will start new chapters, but your son will always be a footnote on each page of your life. Best to you and yours.


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