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What Grief Steals From Me Every Day

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I live with a thief.

It started the day that death broke into our home. I thought I had the doors locked tightly against him, but he managed to get in anyway. Death is a well-known thief, and in our family, he targeted my son. He stole everything from our 5-year-old. It’s a sleazy trick to steal from a child.

Death didn’t just take our son and leave, he coerced a trade. Death took our son and left grief in his place.

Grief has made himself at home with our family, and doesn’t show any signs of leaving. Sometimes I’m glad that he’s here, since he’s the replacement I’ve been given for my son. I spend time with grief, giving him my attention and energy. In a twisted way it feels that caring for grief is as close as I can get to caring for my lost child.

But it’s hard. He has a lot of bad habits. He is demanding and whiny. He sulks around the house, leaving messes for me to clean up. And it turns out that grief is a thief too. He searches through the private spaces of our home and takes whatever he can find. He’s sneakier about it than death. Everyone saw how we were robbed by death. It’s harder to know what has been taken by grief. I’ll reach out for something and find it missing. I’ll notice myself struggling and realize that something I used to depend on is gone.

I tell myself that living with someone this difficult has got to build character. Surely it will make me a stronger person in the end. Meanwhile, I try to survive with a houseguest who is robbing me blind.

Grief has stolen happiness.

Everything in our family is touched by sadness. Sometimes we drown in sadness, sometimes it fades to a shadow. But there is always sadness. Watch me laugh, and you’ll notice I am not completely relaxed. I can’t put my whole heart in it because my heart is broken. And grief is always there, watching me. I’m told my eyes look sad even when I smile.

I can immerse myself in activity as a distraction, but it’s hard to thoroughly enjoy things. The more light-hearted the atmosphere, the more I don’t fit. The funeral ended too soon. A year later I still need to linger at the front of the church, mourning, surrounded by compassion and soft words. I still need someone to take my arm, just so I can stay on my feet.

Grief has taken my emotional well-being.

I find myself in shambles. Stability and confidence are gone, and I have reverted to youthful insecurities I thought I mastered long ago. These old haunts have returned stronger, as if their hibernation left them well-rested. I succumb to depression. I watch people I love with anxious eyes. I take things too personally. I overreact and misunderstand. I lose my temper. I have PTSD from the loss of my son. Speaking of thieves, PTSD…

Grief has managed to steal time.

The last year has been a blur. Many days I sit in a fog, watching my family and friends as if I’m trying to wake up from a sleeping pill. Days that were meaningful and joyful are now days to survive. We struggled to get through Christmas and his birthday, and even the minor holidays are hard. The calendar is an ongoing reminder of our sorrow.

The loss of my son has aged me. I am old, weak and tired.

Grief has stolen relationships.

From awkwardness to avoidance, many in my circles show visible discomfort when they encounter me. Some friendships have disappeared, unable to face the tragedy in my life. Other relationships struggle with a very large elephant in the room. I don’t know if they can handle my grief; they don’t know if I want to talk about it. Genuineness recedes and we are left confused, uncomfortable. People suggest I move on, people tell me I can always have another child, people offer empty platitudes that leave me feeling misunderstood and irritable. I hide, desperate to protect my vulnerable heart from this ongoing pain.

Grief has taken my very self.

I am not the same person I was before my son died. I’ve lost the purpose and identity I had as his mom. My personality has changed too. I am more awkward, more angry and more scattered. I struggle to be productive. Some weeks grief knocks me down so hard I don’t want to get out of bed, my world a confusion of despair and pain. It’s hard to focus on others, especially if it involves something my new life-or-death mindset classifies as insignificant. Grief has taken my ability to be kind to myself, replacing it with guilt.

There is more. Grief has taken restful sleep. It’s taken my naiveté. Grief steals things as little as my ability to be in public places without crying, and my ability to watch a movie without thoroughly vetting it for sensitive subjects. It steals things as big as faith and peace. There are days grief even steals my ability to breathe.

Grief lives with us now. My son is gone, and this relentless thief has taken his place.

Follow this journey here.

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Getty image via kaipong

Originally published: March 16, 2018
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