Sunday, September 23, 2012

What Grief Looks Like

I have been wanting to get my thoughts out on this subject for awhile now.  It was spurred by a friend’s comment about how much I sleep.  It hurt.  It stung.  It really wasn’t that big of a deal…but, at the same time, it was.  You see sleeping is one of the ways I deal.

I think people forget that we are grieving.  We are in pain.  The pain manifests in strange ways.

I’m tired.

I spend my hours being mom to my living children, trying to keep up with my house, my responsibilities. Trying to look like a gentle rain when my insides feel like a hurricane.  I don’t cry in front of people.  I won’t let myself often.  I wait until the day is done and I am alone in my car.  All of the little moments from the day where my heart aches for the “family I should have” catch up with me and I cry.   It takes so much energy to get through each day without falling apart.  And, I am just exhausted.

This is what grief looks like.

It’s feeling uncomfortable with touch.  Prolonged hugs, lingering handshakes, a hand on my back….they make me cringe.  It all reminds me of the days in the hospital waiting for news from the surgeries.

It’s getting annoyed hearing people say how amazing we are.  We aren’t.  You just do what you have to do.  You would to if you had to.  We have two girls here that need us.  We have to work and provide for our family.  We have no choice.  I can’t tell you how much I’d LOVE to not get out of bed each day.  But, I do.  I have to find some reason to carry on for my girls and for Travis…because he didn’t get to. 

It’s laughter and joy heavily weighted in an aching sadness.  It’s watching our girls grow and knowing how we were robbed of our boy.

It’s jealousy.  It’s looking at friends with their healthy kids and aching.  It’s looking at three-year old boys and wondering…what would Travis look like today?  It’s being angry that we have to walk around with this heavy load on our hearts. 

It’s anger .  Anger at hearing heart moms praise God for answering their prayers…as if we didn’t pray enough.  As if we didn’t beg God to let us keep our boy.  As if we were not worthy enough for God to answer OUR prayers. It’s the screams that I hold inside.  The fighting to resist the urge to yell at people that he was special too.  He deserved answered prayers!

It’s an awkwardness that looms in every conversation…with those that know, with those that don’t, with strangers when they ask questions about our family.  It’s the elephant in the room. It’s a million decisions about how to handle situations…. what do I tell my new class when we have family events and my son is missing?  

It’s loneliness.  It’s figuring out that really, you are all you have.  It’s realizing that people can’t handle your pain.  It’s trying to put energy into friendships.  They all feel like such work.  Conversations seem so unnatural.   It’s cancelling plans because most of the time it is just too much effort.

It’s zoning out of conversations because I just can’t focus.  It’s forgetting things.   It’s feeling disorganized.  It’s over eating.  

It’s consuming.

It’s ongoing.

It’s deeper than you can even imagine.


  1. Nicole, I don't know what to say other than I love you!

  2. I've been sitting here trying to think of something to type, but we both know nothing I type will even compare to what you just wrote.

    You are strong. You can admit how you feel and that is huge.

    Travis is so lucky to of had you as a mom. What if someone just gave up on him from the beginning?

    I don't personally believe that religion has it's place in medicine or really in the power of prayers at all so I don't have much to offer there.

    Both of our children have medical issues, most people don't get it, but it's always in the back of my mind..when they have yet another surgery or procedure, that they could in fact have something go wrong and die.

    The innocence of a normal childhood has been taken away from them just as Travis was taken from you.

    My mother died less than 2 months ago and today is her birthday..i'm 26 and it is the first death I have experienced. Without having faith or religion to comfort me it's been really crappy. So many things I don't understand.

    I am so sorry Travis had to leave you, he was so perfect. Hugs.

  3. Hi Nicole -

    My name is Jesse and I found your blog through Bodie's blog list. My son is five and was born with a single ventricle. He has had the PA banding and the Glenn. Currently he is doing well waiting for his Fontan. Thank you for your post. Thank you for your raw honesty, which I think will help people understand the process of grief. My son is still here with us, but I have walked through the death of a child due to a heart defect with three friends.

    I just wrote my last two posts around my son's latest cardiology appointment last Friday. The first asking for prayer and the second giving a praise report for a good appointment.

    I am commenting on this post to tell you how sorry I am for your family's loss. I am so sorry that Travis is gone and in a small, small way, I share your pain.

    I am a Christian and want to glorify God in my writing and my life, but I never want someone to feel like God has heard my prayers over someone else's because my son is still here. Because that is just not true. I cannot pretend to make sense of Travis' death, but I lean hard on what God says: That He is Good and He is Sovereign. That's sometimes all I can lean on. What happened to you isn't good. It's horrible and tragic and so difficult but I pray that in the midst of your grieving, God makes it clear to you that He is still Good.

    Again, I am so sorry for your loss and thankful for making me more aware of the process of grief when a child dies.

    Heart hugs,