I had a terrifying moment about a week ago. Technically, nothing happened. But I was more scared, more emotional, and more sure that something had, that I damn near lost my mind.
I’m an emotional person. I cry when I feel sad. I yell if I’m really angry or passionate. And I bite my tongue, to keep the peace, more often than I’d like to admit.
But in this moment of sheer panic, there was nothing anyone could say that would convince me that something tragic, life altering, and deeply disturbing had not occurred.
What triggered it was a lack of response when I tried to reach my parents. We live in the same city, we see each other weekly or more, and we talk, or text, or check in multiple times per day. But they didn’t answer their phones. They didn’t respond to my text. And I knew something had happened.
My husband volunteered to drive to their house after I said through tears that I needed to go check on them. He found them sitting in their back yard, enjoying the cool summer air. They were 100%, absolutely fine.
But my gut, my instinct, my empathy all felt just like the night before we were told our only child had cancer. I felt it the night before my cousin was tragically lost to suicide. I felt it the night before my child died. I’ve had this feeling before. And I knew something happened that would change the course of life as I know it.
I won’t say I was wrong, but nothing tragic occurred that day. As I paced and sobbed and thought of every worst-case scenario, none of it happened. But as a mother who lost her child tragically (is there any other way?) and a soul who knows that something breathtaking awaits us after this life, I still feel deep, deep pain.
And that pain is not always my own. We are living in a pandemic and much of my family is medically fragile. We are on the precipice of great global change. These aches—the aches of the world—manifest themselves in me.
When I started therapy, not the first time, but shortly after my sweet angel went to Heaven, my counselor talked to me a lot about coping. I think it was in response to my asking for vodka and horse tranquilizers—the only type of coping that sounded reasonable at the time.
But she told me that grieving is mostly about coping. Finding tools that lessen the pain, heal some of the heartbreak, and eventually bring joy. She was very honest and told me there are healthy and unhealthy ways to cope. And none of them would bring back my son. And they wouldn’t make the pain go away. I had to feel the pain. I have to feel it every day. But now, I have some tools to help me cope.
Sometimes coping means overreacting. It means calling a friend in tears, swearing on all that is holy that tragedy has struck, waiting for her to show up at your door despite quarantine, and sobbing into her shoulder for a good ten minutes.
Sometimes coping is crying. Sometimes coping is mediation, a hot bath, a good book. Sometimes coping is pretending to be ok. Sometimes coping is accepting that I’m not ok.
But this stuff inside—the hurt, the pain, the grief—it just can’t stay inside. It has to come out. It’s not pretty and it’s not fun. But it has to come out.