It has been almost six years since Luke passed away. Six years. Most days I feel in control of my emotions. The sadness and missing don’t sneak up on me quite the way they did after Luke first died. We call them *triggers* in the grief world – those things that set you off and remind you of your loved one. The songs, or places, or items, that have such deep meaning associated with the person you are missing that it makes you catch your breath or stops you in your tracks or brings you to your knees when you see it or hear it. Time lessens the impact of these triggers, but it doesn’t eliminate the response altogether. I only need to hear the opening notes to “See You Again” and my eyes start to well up and the ache in my chest is amplified. I am fairly certain that is never going to change.
The gift of time is that you have been exposed to every possible trigger, and more than once, at that. Six years in after losing my boy and there aren’t too many things that make me think of Luke and his death in a new way, and for that, I am grateful. Each new trigger brings with it its own set of emotions and memories. I think the best way to describe encountering a trigger is like a scab on your heart that someone picks off, leaving you exposed and bleeding once more. Early on, these emotional landmines are everywhere – on the radio, in the card store, watching a television show, or picking up an article of clothing. For example, I returned to work two weeks after Luke died. Not long after, I remember sitting at a school assembly with my class. One of the younger grades was performing and they had made a slide show talking about… well, I honestly don’t remember at this time what the subject was. I only know my eyes are filling up as I type right now, sigh, reliving how hard it was to see those sweet faces and hear their high little hopeful voices knowing I had buried my own son a few weeks earlier. I had to get up and get out of there before I went into full on sobbing. UGH… grief sucks.
So here I am this past weekend watching a favorite series on Netflix, The Sinner. It stars Bill Pullman as a police officer investigating the most unusual crimes in the most unusual of ways. John and I would both highly recommend it. This past season was focused on someone who died in a car accident and the circumstances surrounding the death. I didn’t really make any connection to my own life till the last episode. As they are wrapping up the story it showed the character from the car who died. He had been thrown through the windshield and his face and chest were bloody and covered in glass and metal from the car. When I saw him, it came to me, that Luke probably looked just like this when he died. I know, I know, you are thinking what was I thinking? It was a horrific car crash – of course he was injured. But you see, the woman who was with Luke at the accident scene told us he looked like he was asleep laying on the ground that day, so I always pictured him just like that – my Luke, unscathed, but somehow in this endless slumber. It wasn’t until this show, some six years later, that the image of Luke injured crossed my mind. I had a gut-wrenching cry over that one, I can tell you. It didn’t help that at the end of the episode there is a scene where Bill Pullman’s character is with someone who is taking their last breaths. He is consoling him and whispering words like, “You’re not alone. I am right here. Don’t be afraid.” John and I both thought of Luke and this same woman, our angel, who we know did that for Luke. It was like we were watching the last breaths of our own son for the first time. Sigh. It was a rough night at the Inwood house. Lightening may not strike the same place twice, but grief and its triggers strike every. damn. day.
So here’s what I need you to know: If today is your Day One or your Day 100, you are in the throws of grief and every day is full of reminders of your loved one. It is hard, and the sadness is raw and agonizing, I know. If I could carry this for you, I would, but grief is a path we have to walk ourselves- we can’t sidestep it or ask someone else to do it for us. Sigh. Don’t we wish! But hold on. Each day becomes a little easier and those triggers become a little less terrifying. And even though the more experienced grievers in the group can still be surprised once in a while, most sunrises have more promise; most sunsets hold more peace. Wishing the same for you. Xxx