Life can change in an instant. You can spend your time overthinking the minor details in life, as I did in 2012, and suddenly you are struck by a loss so profound, so deep, that you can barely move.
When my son Hamish passed away after an accident at home in 2012, I never looked at the world the same again. The trivialities of life seemed ludicrous, the ‘fluff’ I had naval-gazed at so intensely, so inane. I had lost my child. I felt emotionally, physically, mentally altered. I’m convinced it changed me on a cellular level. I breathed differently (short, sharp gasps), I was affected more by the sun and the rain. I even walked differently. It changes you, converts you back to infancy – suddenly you are learning how to walk, learning how to speak, trying to swallow food that suddenly tastes strange. Baby steps all over again.
Hamish was my youngest child, my baby. After he left us, I wanted to sleep, to try and escape the deep, guttural pain I was in. But I couldn’t. I had three other children to take care of, to be there for. Putting one foot in front of the other wasn’t a choice, it was a necessity.
Well-meaning people said things to me like, ‘you are so strong, if I were you, I couldn’t get up in the morning.’ They meant well, but that comment always cut deep. Is it wrong that I get up? Is it wrong that I’m functioning according to the outside world? After another recent set-back in our family, a friend reached out and said, ‘You are all so wonderful with how you handle all the challenges you’ve been sent. I’m not sure I’d be as brave and as strong.’ I wrote back, ‘You would be as brave and strong. We all have it in us. I’ve just had to dig for it more than I’d like.’
For me, it was about finding something to cope with the onslaught of pain, of trauma and missing him. My GP kindly wrote me a script for something to help me sleep, but I knew that was a ride I shouldn’t get on. Numbing it wouldn’t change anything, it had to be faced, like standing in front of an impending wave, no matter how daunting it was.
So I wrote. I wrote letters, poetry (awful, awful poetry). I would light a candle and type and type and type until I wondered if the pads of my fingers would wear off. Then I would use a pen. It was a haven – a place of solitude, where I could grieve, remember those baby blue eyes and those soft feet, and release. Then I would sleep.