Our son Isaac died at the age of 26 in 2005. We have not been whole since. We carry on and even have days of happiness with our surviving daughter, her husband, grandchildren and some friends but we live trying to precariously balance death in life.
When Isaac died it was as if a leg were cut off and we lost our balance for a very long time. It is simply not easy to balance on one foot. Just try it. You may have seconds of steadiness and control but then, imperceptibly something happens to disrupt your equilibrium. You begin to fall and have to put the other foot down. Try to imagine what it is like to not have the other foot. Can’t put it down and well, you fall.
That is what life is like after one loses a child. It is an eternity of trying to balance on one foot. Sometimes it can be maintained for a while but inevitably balance is lost and you fall down.
This is an account of losing a leg, falling down, getting up and the long journey toward then learning how to balance as best as is possible on one foot. It is the story and impressions of death, grief and resolution to live again without a significant part of our lives.
Just the other day after ten years since our son’s death, I was struck, blindsided by a sudden realization that he was gone and would not be coming back. My life fell back into depression. Grief had snuck up on me again. Grabbed me as I sat there cross-legged in the calm belief that I was coping with it all well.
Yet I have to say that I am actually dealing with it better. The grief, the pain, the loss all have generally become less intense. Less immediate. But the longing to be with, to see, and to hold my son again has never gone away.
He did go away and left me with a phantom pain that exists most every day. Yes, I know that most books on grief and loss work their way to a point at which life goes on and there is peace and calm. They can’t help it. They do not want to simply leave the reader with the hurt of the possibility that the loss of a child is an event that just does not disappear fully. Unlike a bad day at work or an intense sunburn that hurts like hell, burns like fire but does fade away and all is normal at some point. All is well again and the skin heals over so things are like they were before getting burnt. Not so for the death of a child.
The death of a child is such a traumatic experience that there is no other event that is strong enough to make it fade. The pain does diminish. The grief finds a place within the daily aspects of life. The excruciating agony of loss weakens into an everyday longing that sits at the back of the day like an imp just waiting for a chance to invade your psyche. Demanding an exorcism of and by depression. Life becomes livable but maybe not fully expandable.
Most books like to work to a climax at which life is again open and even happy. They are after all written to try and help people survive grief and loss. They discuss coping skills. They tell of how we made progress on the passage from utter despair to learning to live with the loss. But along the way they leave out the pain and some of the raw reality of part of that journey.
This one will not leave that out. It won’t because too often grieving parents have experiences that they believe are aberrant or make them abnormal. From real physical pain and memories that don’t want to function properly, to soul dragging depression, to even thoughts of suicide. These are all normal if anything is normal after the loss of a child.
This book shares aspects of loss and grief that are too often left out of the journey back to stasis that parents must take to survive and move on. It will try not to leave anything out so you know others have gone through what you have and are going through on your journey to becoming more whole again and rebalance life with grief.
But it is after all my journey. I can only relate what I went through from losing balance in life, to guilt, depression, thoughts of suicide, even brief longings for death. It may well be different than that of others. There are similarities in all bereavement it seems though. And these will be discussed through my own journey and my learning to balance on one leg and hop through life.
Excerpted from Standing On One Foot: A Journey Through Death, Deep Grief and Finding a New Balance in Life by Neal Raisman