Sunday, January 26, 2014

Feeling Guilty For Feeling Good

There are times when I find myself enjoying the day and I almost feel guilty. A brilliant sunset, a warm doggy snuggle, or even enjoying a movie and laughing with friends can send a pain through my heart if I let it.

I know so many moms -- some face to face and some just through cyberspace -- that when I have a good day, I wonder if I've missed some important step and gotten too far ahead of myself.

I'm far from done with grieving, I know, but I have never been as consumed by it as some people are. Is it because I had been grieving in bits and pieces for years? Is it because the addiction that stole my son had damaged our relationship so that I didn't even really know him any more? Is it because he did not have a part in my day to day life? Is it because the demands of life haven't allowed me the time I need to do it right?

Ethan's loss wasn't a sudden one, like parents suffer when a child dies in an accident or from a previously unknown health condition. It was gradual, over time. It was as though he had an illness that was likely to prove terminal, but doctors had not given him some set period of time. No physician ever told him, "Barring a miracle, you've got six months to live." At the same time, I knew deep in my heart that if he did not stop, it would kill him somehow.

Still, like parents who live with a terminally ill child, I hoped for that miracle right up until the day I learned he was gone. Miracles do happen, and although I'm still inclined to turn the radio or TV when I hear of someone beating addiction through prayer, the fact that Ethan didn't get that particular miracle doesn't make them any less real. I guess if they happened for everyone, we wouldn't call them miracles any more.

Yesterday, the thought crossed my mind as I headed to town for my Zumba class and to have coffee with a friend that I still feel like the tractor-trailer loaded with grief may hit me. I may think I've crossed the road, only to find out there is another vehicle coming the way I didn't look. I may be like the squirrel on the yellow line, scrambling in every direction and not seeing the truck that is going to get me just when I think I'm home free.

Has the toughest part of losing him passed, or will it hit on his birthday, or Mother's Day, or maybe next year on the anniversary of his death? Will it accumulate with every day that I don't hear his voice until I finally crumble? Will it be a song that reminds me of him, or cooking a pot of macaroni (his favorite food, which of course, the girls love)? Will I see a young man walking on the side of the road who all of sudden takes my breath because just for a minute he's Ethan and this whole horrible thing has been a nightmare?

Or will it be all of those things, as I have a sinking suspicion it may be.

Perhaps I can hope that it will be like a receding tide and the highest waves have already crashed ashore. Sure, there will still be big waves that knock me off my feet and they'll be brought on by the little things and all the big things as well. But most of the the time they may only wash around my ankles or remind me of their presence as they crash before coming ashore.

Perhaps, instead of feeling guilty for having a good day with friends or family, I should feel grateful for those times when I'm free for just a moment from the burden of grief.

There are people who proclaim on a warm January day, "We'll pay for this later," when I choose to sit in the sunshine and enjoy the break without worrying about next week's Arctic blast. Perhaps I need to learn to look at my grief the same way. Yesterday, I was spared the heartbreaking pain and I enjoyed the day. I won't waste the good times worrying about the hard times that may come.

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