Saturday, February 11, 2012
I've posted this image before, and looked at it hundreds of times more than that. It's James at the arboretum, munching. I always thought it was funny because of how warily he seems to be addressing the camera. I miss that.
Like this picture, I've noticed often lately that things seem to be on repeat. Perusing through old entries I noticed that I used some of the same words: "derailed" twice in a month. Derailed indeed. Many of the same feelings keep repeating, being resurrected, buried, and resurrected again. The longer this process goes the more I am surprised by the many twists and turns it takes. The path is never straight, pausing time and again to circle back in on itself. It reminds me more of a river than a highway, complete with oxbows and dead ends. There's no certainty about quite where you'll end up.
When I was young, my Grandfather, also James, used to take me fishing on the Red River in Louisiana. A tributary of the Mississippi River, it snakes its way leisurely from the Panhandle of Texas generally southeast until it meets the Mississippi. We particularly fished the little oxbow lakes along its way, little abandoned offshoots that never quite made it, experiments before the river took another course or overcame the obstacle in its way. It's all very vestigial. I sometimes feel that way now, running down dead ends only to come out and hunt for more.
There were no circles and abandoned paths in the grief I experienced before James died. When my grandparents died or someone similar died there was a sense of finality. Shock, yes, certainly for a while, but it passes. It was expected after all, if not when it happened then eventually. Anger, denial, bargaining, acceptance. It's the last one that causes trouble with the death of a child. You can accept that your parent dies- they had their time, their moments, their joy. It is much more difficult to accept that your child is dead. On a visceral level, I do not accept James' death. I acknowledge it certainly, but I cannot yet accept it. I cannot accept that it was his time, that is was right, that it happened for "a reason" as some people sometimes say, a well meaning if callous phrase.
So I keep circling round and round that. I can acknowledge things, even good things that have happened since James died. I've written about them here. But the fact of his death can still be incapacitating. It stands as a violation of the natural order. And so I keep circling. Round and round the little pockets of grief, cycling through all the stages in an hour or a month. People often tell me to embrace it, to give it time and to work through it, but sometimes it's hard to do that, especially when I feel like I've been there before. Sometimes it feels like an admission of defeat to pause, retreat, and recover the ground I've already walked through, circling back over and over again. But I don't know what else to do.
I know part of it is just accepting that there is no "acceptance" I'm likely to stumble upon. I'm not going to wake up one day and decide "Huh, well I guess it's ok my son died. That wasn't that bad." Because it was that bad. I think a better, more reasonable goal might be hoping I can accept that I won't be accepting it, but that I might accept that there's not a timeline, not an easy answer, and that I'm never going to "accept" what happened- that I'm not going to come to the apparently zen state described in the pamphlets in which I'm sublimely "at peace" with everything. A more achievable goal might be that I can accept that I will live with it. I don't know what that looks like, but I'm curious enough to keep looking. So I'll keep circling until the path works itself out. I'd rather do that than rush to a goal I'm not sure of.
Thank you for your continued thoughts and prayers.