Saturday, September 26, 2015

What I've learned about grief in 9 years since my son died - Chicago Tribune

"The truth is, we didn’t know how short his time would be, and we can’t change the past. So I’ve had to learn to tell myself that we did the best that we knew how to do at the time, and that has to be enough.

I learned that life can be fun again, and I can laugh and enjoy it. At the same time, grief is like a giant block of granite: The sharp edges may have softened with the passing years, but it remains as hard and as heavy as it was the day it first crashed into my life.

But I’ve discovered that sorrow has its own beauty. It brings depth and context to all the blessings in my life. It’s the salt that enhances the sweetness.

I learned how incredibly strong my wife is, and how much I need her resilience and grace.

I’m learning how losing a child affects my ability to let my other kids grow up. It’s hard for me to let them ride around the block on their bikes. I have to fight against the tendency to hold them close, as if I can protect them from all harm.

I’ve learned that I have to talk about John when I need or want to talk about him, and that it’s good for me to cry.

When he died, we were alternately mourning his loss and holding out hope for his brother, whose grip on life was tenuous at best. He was in the hospital for three months before he came home, and now I know how much I shoved the grieving process aside during that time.

It sort of metastasized, and I had to learn that alcohol might help you ask questions, might help you give voice to your pain, but it doesn’t take it away or help you find any answers. The only thing it adds is regret.

So I’ve found other ways to remember. I have something that I wear every day to remind me of him. I thought about getting a tattoo but decided against it — at least for now. I wrote a song recently.

I’m not saying it’s a great song, but it’s my song and it helps me.

In the past, I’ve been very private with my grief. For some reason, this year feels different, which may be why I’m writing this. And that’s another thing I’ve come to understand — the way you approach grief, and the way it approaches you, will likely change over time.

My eyes have also been opened to how easy my life was before this happened, and how easy it still is compared to most of humanity. Losing my son didn’t put me in a small club of people who’ve lost a child. Instead, it kicked me out of the very small club of people who have never experienced great loss.

I’d like to think that all of this has made me a kinder, more compassionate person. A better husband to my wife. A more affectionate father. A man less eager to jump in with all the answers to everything.

Maybe that’s the silver lining here. Maybe that’s John’s legacy.

If so, he got a lot done in a very short time."

Matt Walberg

What I've learned about grief in 9 years since my son died - Chicago Tribune

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