Grief is uncomfortable.
For the first weeks without Owen, I was full of sadness. I both went to sleep crying and woke up crying, which I previously would not have thought possible. Zach had taken off work, and we spent a lot of time just talking about Owen and missing him. I freely gave myself to grief and just wept. It felt right to grieve that way. Owen deserved to be mourned. Toward the end of that time, we started venturing back into the world. It felt good to get out of the house and do things that used to make us happy, even if we weren’t able to fully enjoy anything yet. Relatively often, one of us would experience what we started calling “sad attacks” when we would be in the midst of a completely innocuous activity and suddenly become overwhelmed with grief. That I’d end up sobbing about 5 minutes into my daily shower was kind of a given for almost a month. I imagine it was a pretty typical experience. Meditating on Owen’s life and how special he was to us felt completely natural, but that understandably brought grief along with it.
Nothing felt wrong about being so sad for so long, but the overwhelming sadness started to wane eventually and gave way to a general melancholy that accompanied everything I did. Zach returned to work, and I was at home alone. In the past it would have been a chance to watch all the terrible reality TV and crimes dramas that I wanted, but I didn’t really know what to do with myself anymore. I wasn’t really keen on seeing anyone. I definitely didn’t feel comfortable being out of the house for very long, lest I lose my composure entirely in a public space. I slept a lot, read a bunch of books I’d been storing on my kindle, and started to think about what I was going to do for the foreseeable future since my plans for the next eighteen years were now a bust. It wasn’t actually as depressing as I’m sure it sounds. I’d been a little anxiety ball for the past 8 months so sleeping until noon felt pretty alright. And I did watch a lot of bad television.
Sometime around five weeks, anger started weaseling its way in. I hated feeling angry. It felt so wrong and disrespectful of Owen somehow to feel angry. The kicker was that I didn’t even have anyone or anything to be angry with. Who was I supposed to rage against? What happened to Owen felt like a kick in the teeth from the universe or a big cosmic joke, but what happened to us wasn’t some supernatural punishment for past sins, it was genetics, an autosomal recessive disorder. As much as Zach and I love each other, 25% of the time, our genes won’t work together. The statistics for Owen’s condition are astounding, something like 1/250,000 for the general population. But us? 1/4. Gah! I was so angry at our broken, mutated genes and the unfairness of it all. And so, so, so very sad that the genes we gave Owen took him from us. I didn’t know what to do with my anger, and I still don’t. I’ve gotten much more accommodating…I don’t fight it anymore, but I don’t feed it either. It’s supposed to be normal to be angry, so I just let it flow.
When I started back to work, I felt like I was having a new, ghost-like grief. During times that my mind was occupied with mundane, daily tasks (putting on scrubs for work, for instance), my breath would catch and my heart would break, and I just felt consumed with devastation that Owen wasn’t here. I would go stiff at the suddenness of it. But then as quickly as it came, it would pass without any residual effects.
I am content more often than anything else now, pleased to just be in whatever experience I am having. Oftentimes, I do still feel sad. The weird thing is, I’m also happy when I’m sad, and I’m starting to realize that’s the new normal. I’m not some kind of bereaved parent savant who just knows that this is the right way to move forward, but I feel like this is simply what happens when you lose a child. Everything in the world is tempered by the knowledge that someone who should be here, isn’t. That can only ever be sad, and so I’m both at the same time, all the time.
Owen would be 9 weeks old today.
I miss you and love you so much, my sweet, wonderful, beautiful baby boy.