Since my son’s death, I choose not to fake what I’m feeling, to others or myself. It’s not that I dump my sadness onto others; rather, I decide what’s best for me in a given moment and assess my ability and willingness to share and be present for others. Yes, some things could be better, but mostly I’m finding my way. I’m feeling feelings as they surface and letting them go when I can. I choose to let go of the tormenting ones surrounding his death, replacing them with better thoughts about Richard when he was full of life and embraced life with vigor. Authenticity is a daily practice.
Gratefully, I’m thriving and I can honestly say that I’m happy most of the time. I have sufficiently shifted my business after moving to a new location to live close to my son before he died nine months later. My work as a life coach suits me and is an expression of the many hats that I have worn over the years, such as therapist, teacher and artist. In my work, I consider and support the alignment of others with their true selves. I have found that peace resides in the alignment of mind, body, and spirit. Emotions are our guidance system.
Mind: In the past two years, I have learned that what I think and give my attention to matters and grows.
Body: What I put into my body fuels me and is reflected in my energy. I have learned from my psychotherapy training that trauma is stored in the cells of the body. I use a system to cleanse toxins from my body on a regular basis.
Spirit: I contemplate the meaning of life often. My intention is to love whenever I find myself veering off course into isolation. My emotions indicate how I am doing from moment to moment and day to day. These are tools that help me.
The contrast to my usually positive perspective, have begun showing up more frequently as I approach the second anniversary of my son’s death. One of the most isolating feelings is that no one can truly know what his loss has meant to me. For now, it feels that way. Sad feelings usually start lurking at about 6-6:30 pm when the sun is low and darkness is approaching at this time of year.
One of the triggers this year, has been the anniversary of 9/11. I’m sure that last year I was preoccupied with plans for a memorial service with my family for the one year anniversary of Richard’s death. This year, 9/11 came with such sad memories and feelings. Knowing that there are so many others who feel a similar emptiness that their loved one(s) once filled added to my well of grief.
Last year at this time, I relied heavily on family and friends. This year, I don’t want to hear myself trying to describe in words what cannot be expressed. My heart is broken. MY HEART IS BROKEN.
I was 16 when my Richard was born. He has been in my life for over 70% of my life. On this day, I’m not taking it well. A slow panic begins to stir. What do I need? I ask myself. The psychotherapist in me says, take your mind off the sad feelings. Go do something physical and shift the energy. So I take my hula hoop and twirl it around my middle for ten minutes or so. I slight shift happens, but the night still seems so long.
I decide to reach out to find a friend in my time zone who is available to talk. When the call goes to voicemail, my heart sinks a bit lower than where it was a minute ago. I try someone else … same result. My heart sinks a bit lower. For someone who has had some real bad luck, I’m very lucky that I’m resourceful. Another idea occurs: go to bed. I decide this is the best option. Tomorrow will likely be a better day.
A few sprays of melatonin after a sleepy time tea, I climb into bed willing to reset my emotions.
Gratefully, sleeping tempers the sadness. Before this past December, I did not sleep full nights for over a year. I generally sleep through the night now. I attribute that to regular exercise and a healthy lifestyle. The next morning, as I lay in bed, I remind myself to stay on the positive side of thoughts for the day. I get out of bed and feel some hope but still on the verge of tears.
I look outside of my inner world and notice my surroundings. It is another beautiful, soft, morning in Southern California. Based on yesterday’s sadness and my vulnerability today, I decide to go on a good bike ride to flush out the residue from the previous day. I don’t want to shut out or deny thoughts of Richard. I just want to do the best that I can to ensure I’ll get another good nights sleep and so on. I hope to move through this second anniversary of his death as honestly and present as I can. There is no script for this!
I throw on some biking clothes, determined to push my body and flush out the sadness with endorphins. I decide to take the ride that Rich and I took most often on the Back Bay. I check my bike. Water bottles in place. Sunscreen, sunglasses on my face. Here we go. I feel Richard with me at the outset of the ride. I just feel a presence of him. Part memory, part connection that exists in the present moment. We often met on an early Sunday morning doing this exact ride.
At the beginning of the ride, there is a steep hill to climb. I’m grateful for the physical challenge, which is quick and all encompassing. Memories are squeezed out momentarily. The only thought is getting to the top of the hill. I stand up and crank up the steep incline as if I’m walking up stairs. My body feels good. At the top of the hill, I quickly remember how strong Rich was. I know that he slowed his place so that I could keep up with him while I was giving it everything I had. He was sweet like that and never complained.
At the top of the hill, there is a beautiful view of the Back Bay. Richard loved living here. I can feel him but now I start to cry. I remember his presence so vividly. So glad the sunglasses cover my eyes. Payoff Hill is on the other side of the hill. It goes down to the Back Bay and is exhilarating. I introduced Richard to this route to the Back Bay. In my minds eye, I see him flying down the hill in front of me on his mountain bike.
As the bike path levels out, I slip back into thoughts and memories. I start remembering 9/11. The collective sadness matches my broken heart today. The collective pain feels so heavy. I look at other cyclists for indication that they might be having similar thoughts. I let that go and tune back into the surroundings and my body. I keep peddling. Soon I approach the killer hill. Click into the lowest gears and crank standing up all the way up the hill.
I have to pause at the top of the hill to catch my breath. Richard would not be winded at the top of the hill but he would wait for me. I continue to ride. More memories, more tears throughout the route. On the way back I pause to refill a water bottle. Another cyclist pulls up and begins chatting. I am usually open and creative meeting new people. Today, I’m just plain off. The cyclist moves on and I realize that there is a part of me that doesn’t want to close up the brokenness. It was OK that I wasn’t ‘on’ right then. There is a humbleness, an authenticity, a being OK despite the tragedy. As I approach the second anniversary, I feel a swirl of energy, like the hula hoop around my middle. Good feelings and memories, neutral images and deep profound sadness, oscillating from one feeling and memory to another. Life keeps moving on.