Grief Changes Your Address Book

Grief changes your address book. There are welcome additions and equally welcome deletions. All of us who have found each other on this path we'd rather not walk know this to be true. All of us know a few other things, too.

This grief is all bout us. We don't want pity but being understood would be nice. This is personal, and first person, as every bit of it has happened to me, but it is also the distillation of my fellow grief travelers' words.

Truly, I write this for them, to put our words out there for all those others who were once in our lives and are no longer. Sadly for many it has been siblings, extended families, lifelong friends, and even parents who think their grief is just as important, just as deep, just as personal.

Here's a litmus test, if your grief is prefaced with any familial reference other than 'my child', it's not the same. We know you grieve too but whatever you are feeling isn't even on the same planet much less in the same universe as the grief we will live with as long as we draw breath. There is no love like that of a mother or father for their child. And there is no pain like burying that child. If you don't believe this, you are simply wrong.

For those who feel deleted from my life's address book and may be confused, or better, judgmental about it, this is why.

Have you wondered why I've not connected with you or reached out on or about your life milestones, triumphs or tragedies?

How many times have you contacted me in the past five years?

How many holidays have gone by where you've reached out to me in understanding of how hard those days are?

How many Mother's Days have you said to me, "I know this day must be hard for you"?

Do you even remember that my son would have turned 27 last month, and how it feels to wonder who he would have been, what he would have been doing ?

Are you upset because I haven't contacted you on your birthday, you or your child's acceptance to or graduation from college, your child's marriage or the birth of your first grandchild? Are you offended that I'm not reaching out to you, recognizing your life milestones? Do you ever stop to think I won't ever have most of those things? But you judge me because I don't recognize them for you?

Yes, you're damn right, it is about me. My child. My loss. My grief that doesn't end. It is not a constant state of being, not somewhere I live or even dwell but it is now a core part of who I am. Maybe that's it, you don't know what to say or do. You say I've changed as a criticism. Or, that I haven't changed in the ways you expect or think I should.

They say grief doesn't change you as much as it amplifies who you are. I guess I've been a pretty good person all along, based on who I am now. Now I'm just more. But you wouldn't know that because you no longer know me. Maybe, you never knew me as much as you think you did.

I'm more comfortable in my own skin, and in my head, than I've ever been. I'm more relaxed and care less than ever about what others think of me. I'm more confident in the direction of my life, too. And I'm more at peace, more happy even while I'm sad than at any time before, except for when my son was small and his every want, need, smile, step and blink was the sum total of my existence. But even back then happy as I was I had worries, something that hits me for fleeting moments at the most now.

In every measurable way, I'm more. I've changed interests, I no longer even think about much less worry about things that used to consume me. There are very few things, and even fewer people, I care about. I know what counts. I know what matters. I know how precious time is and I won't waste anymore of it.

I'm more selfish than I was, and that is a good thing. I'm more careful about who gets to walk beside. I value myself more because I've seen the best and worst life can throw at you. I appreciate those who choose to be by my side, who let me have my moments of rage, and sadness, and fury and share with me the soul-deep weary that is the after effects of those raging storms of emotion. Those are the people with whom I choose to share my joy and laughter and triumphs and silliness.

I am most selfish with those precious moments of quiet peacefulness that is the bond of those who have deeply grieved and those who have respected if imperfectly understood it. But you wouldn't know about that, have no idea what I'm talking about because it doesn't apply to you. You weren't there to pick me up, to hold me as I screamed so you don't get to be there when I smile. And I'm not interested in being there for your smiles.

I'm more cynical but more compassionate. I'm more serious while I know to appreciate the joyful moments more. I'm less tolerant of plain old stupidity, and more understanding people are often just ignorant. I now know from hard experience people can be more thoughtlessly cruel and insensitive and judgmental than they intend, at least I hope it is unintentional. I am ashamed to think I was even once the same way, to anyone, at any time. This makes me more understanding of those who don't get it and less forgiving of those who should.

If you were someone who was my friend, said you loved me, had a bond with me or were in my life while my son was alive and now you're not, you are in the 'should' column. This is about you and for you. Consider it a parting gift.

I'm truly not looking to reconnect or invite you back into my life. That's not for me to do, even if I want to. You walked away from me. You let your discomfort, your judgment, your appropriated grief if you felt grief, be more important to you than my pain.

I still am in pain and will always be in pain. But I've also grown. I've evolved into this new person. Actually, I'm still the same old one but deeper, lighter, darker, lighter, more alive and constantly, daily aware of death. And I'm not afraid. Maybe you are.

There are a few who have criticized me for choices I've made in this new life. Most have not dared to do so to my face. Those who have, haven't done so twice. They've not gotten a chance to, the proof of which is I've not been arrested for assault.

That's just the worst kind of cowardly judgment. Obviously, you know you are wrong so you do it behind my back. I appreciate you, and the ones you do it in front of who don't slam you down like the vile troll you are, for not being in my life. I would never, have never wished this on another. But for you I wish all the viciousness and bile you've spewed a round trip ticket on the Karma bus. That then parks on your forehead.

Some say I grieve too much. Some say I often act like I didn't bury my child. The funniest ones are those who say what they would do, how they would act, how they would feel if it happened to them. They're the funniest because those are the same ones who whisper or make snide comments, certain in their smug superiority, confident that such a thing could never happen to them because of something they do or are.

I find it darkly hilarious that they think they can control the universe, can prevent bad things or think because bad things haven't happened to them, it is some kind of virtue they can claim. These most deluded, funny, funny clowns are often the very ones who say "she's making it all about herself", while believing bad things not happening to them is all about them.

On this point, there is only one answer. I'm right and you're wrong. Burying my child is in fact all about me. Bad things not happening to you has nothing to do with you. Bad things happen. It's called life. And when they do, the after effects are indeed all about you.

In the past five years I've not always made the best decisions. I've stumbled on this rocky, broken path that is the journey of grief I must now walk. But I do walk it. Without you by my side. And that is all about you. Gee, I guess there are some things on this path that aren't all about me. Thank God! And thank you for giving me the gift of your absence so I could find that out.

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    Denise Williams

    Born and bred in Chicago, now living in the wilds of far suburbia. I'm a Gold Star Mom. My views are generally politically and socially conservative, though I am far from a Party line Republican. I believe in this country, our Constitution and above all, in the right of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I believe our government is supposed to serve the people, not tell them how to live. To me, this is just common sense, but since it seems to be a minority opinion, it has become "Uncommon Sense".

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