Are you enjoying the beautiful weather?
The sun taunts my grief, reminds me that life and the seasons are humming right along while my world has been absolutely shattered. I imagined strolling outside with my Zachary in this season and instead he lays in ashes on my bedroom dresser.
Did you have fun over spring break?
We tried our best to provide C.T. with breaks from the grief-filled walls of our home. Mostly, we grieved. I spent time on the phone with medical billing people related to Zachary's care, and bills that are now due or overdue. I had a meeting with the hospital's risk management officer and patient advocate to talk about mistakes in Zachary's medical care. These tasks are about as far from fun as you can get.
Are you doing better?
Seriously? Zachary is still dead. It has not yet been three months since he stopped breathing in our arms. I wake up in a terror anew, each morning, when I realize, yes, my Zachary is truly dead.
Innocuous questions cut me like a knife these days. The complete ignorance about the hell I am living sends me reeling and floundering for where to begin to answer. I try to regain my composure, shut my gaping mouth and respond in a way that honors my grief and Zachary's life, while attempting to remember that the asker has no experience with the death of a son or daughter. I believe I have mostly failed to do this well - for many reasons including my own inadequate words, an unwillingness on the part of the asker to hear anything but positivity and distractions such as interruptions from children. Sometimes I feel like a complete fraud when given no opportunity to "get real" about Zachary and our state of mourning, in a conversation.
I wish there were a Zachary-shaped hole in my chest to represent the depth of my anguish and to ward off any attempt at cheerful interactions. I wish it was still customary to have a formal, intentional period of mourning - a time during which it would be understood that patronizing a grieving parent with small talk is senseless and hurtful.
What is hard for me to grasp is that some people really think that if they don't mention Zachary, I will be somehow better off - that they, single-handedly, can spare me the grief of my dead son. They believe I won't think about him, or be sad, unless they bring him to my attention. They do not understand that Zachary is on my mind and heart at all times. Every breath I take grieves for him. There is not a thought or word or action that isn't filtered through the lens of Zachary's (and B.W.'s) life and death. It means the world to me when the first thing someone says to me includes a reference to Zachary or how we're coping in our grief. Conversations that keep a safe distance from the topic of Zachary feel contrived and even seem to marginalize Zachary's life and my grief (although I hope this is never the intent).
In his book, Lament for a Son, Nicholas Wolterstorff suggests that some people find the topic of child death so painful that they feel incapable of talking about it. They fear they will break down, or perhaps, fear the vulnerability of their own children to death.
"So they put on a brave face and lid their feelings - never reflecting, I suppose, that this adds new pain to the sorrow of their suffering friends. Your tears are salve on our wound, your silence is salt."
I wish I could relate to talk about the weather finally warming up, appliance failures and repairs, spring break trips, disobedient children, wrenches thrown in schedules, volunteer work, the perfect Easter basket, health scares and eating organically. But my loved and cherished little boy, Zachary, burst into our lives and then died at two weeks old, taking the old Gretchen, and leaving only a shell of who I was. It's all about me (and Zachary) and my grief right now.