August 12, 2023, not only marked 4 years since Caleb died, it marked the day my middle child officially outlived him because she was alive after the third day of her Senior year. The time and space leading up to that day were honestly miserable and the anticipation of it wore me down mentally and physically. I had been dreading it for several months and lived in fear that she might die, too. Once that day was done, I was able to exhale and felt very relieved that it was over. I was able begin cherishing and enjoying the stage of life that she is in right now.
Four Years Have Come And Gone – How Am I Really Doing?
I don’t cry every day anymore. A day without crying seemed impossible, felt cruel and the thought of it made me feel guilty for a very long time. I think it was shortly after year three when I noticed that days were going by without crying. It doesn’t mean I don’t miss my son, that I’m not sad or that I’m no longer grieving, it just means I don’t cry every day anymore, simple as that.
I don’t feel the need to read grief books as often anymore. I began reading books on child loss and grief very soon into my journey. They were a necessity and helped me learn how to live with and navigate the pain and suffering I was going through. Reading stories of loss gave me hope that surviving was possible, and helped they helped me heal. I do read a chapter here and there, but haven’t finished a book on grief yet this year. If you’re not a reader, try listening to audio books. You can find a list of books I’ve read here: https://ajourneyforcaleb.org/resources/
I’m not writing as much. For at least three years, I wrote out my grief and all that it entailed in my journal. It was essential in my healing and helped in my efforts to clear my head before going to bed every night. I find now that I write in the journal about once every 3-4 weeks. When I have the urge to tell Caleb something or just need to vent to him about how I’m feeling, I send him an email. Typing ca into the “to” line and seeing his name populate, gives my heart a quick hug. I know he’ll never see it or read it and that my emails are just piling up in his inbox, but it’s very therapeutic for me! You can also tell that I don’t write as much because this is only the third blog post I’ve published this year whereas in 2022, I published 11 posts. It’s not because the want to isn’t there, but the need just isn’t as pressing as it was.
Hard things are becoming easier. They will never be easy or without hesitation, but they have gotten easier. Early in the Summer I took a trip to Utah with my girls, and it was amazing! I planned every last detail and we enjoyed every single minute of our time together. We also had family pictures done again. This is a difficult thing to do, but it’s important to me that my girls have them. I made sure to communicate all my feelings to our photographer beforehand and she was very understanding. In preparation we discussed how to include Caleb to ensure everyone was comfortable. This time we each wore one of his hats and the girls wanted to include “Jay Jay,” his favorite teddy bear. Taking trips and having our picture taken a few years ago was full of much more sadness and anxiety, than it is now.
All of this to say, I’m doing pretty well. Grief still comes in waves, but the big ones don’t come as often and they don’t keep me down for as long. I think I’ve found my footing and am balancing day-to-day life, grief and PTSD quite well. I’m not currently in therapy, but the door is open so I can return when needed. I’ve reached a place where I’m not looking for help to survive child loss anymore, but am instead in a place where I’m able to bring help to other hurting parents. I am still in unchartered waters, but I’m not crouched in the darkness begging for the light of dawn anymore. For the most part, I’m able to be right where I am, not overlooking the present because I’m stuck in the past or worried about the future. I’m at peace knowing that while grief may feel lighter, softer and manageable today, it might come roaring back like a lion and send me down to the floor in a puddle of tears tomorrow. Accepting the unpredictability of grief and being able to live fully in the here and now, is a welcome reality.