I have just sent all of my babies off to school. As I was editing the pictures I took this morning I was overcome with grief. It's a funny thing to say when looking at the pictures of 4 beautiful, healthy children. Back to school is one of those trigger times, most especially this year. What do I mean by "trigger times"? There are standard times of the year that I most acutely feel Gabe's loss. It's almost as if I could mark them on the calendar. There are also the times that come from nowhere and attack me like a rabid animal. Back to school is one of those calendar events.
For the first few years after we lost Gabe I remember seeing boys that would be his age, with his hair colour, they caught my eye. I would watch them and think "so that's what he would be wearing", or "that's how tall he would be". I would watch his friends from a far and try to see what stages he would be in if he was still their age. He will forever be 9 going on 10. For some reason early on I was fixated on trying to guess what he would be doing if he were still alive. It took years to wean myself of this fixation and to allow myself to just miss him and forget about what might have been, and just treasure what I had.
This year is especially a difficult September for me. This past week-end a local family endured an unendurable tragedy. They lost their 7 year daughter in an accident Friday, she was a class-mate of Elly's last year. Our whole community is reeling with the loss. It is a loss like this that reminds parents how blessed they are to have their children and to hold them a little tighter, talk a little softer and love a little more. Every time I look at Elly I feel their loss. As I lay out their new back to school clothes last night I was thinking about how that mother would have purchased all of the back to school clothes and supplies and they will sit there as a physical reminder of what she has lost.
The loss of that beautiful little girl has brought back grief in me that I thought was long ago buried away. All of the ache, the devastation, the acute unbearable loss has come flooding back. I want to sit and cry, to morn my little boy, to morn the man he would now be. I want to shout and scream and make someone bring him back to me. I look at my Rowan, my strong, tall, handsome boy. He was just 5 months old when he lost his big brother. That little baby is now older than his big brother was and will ever be. That really hurts. I am feeling a renewed loss for Gabriel, and yet I also feel a great guilt for it. This time of grief, of sadness is not about me, it's not about my Gabriel. This loss is a beautiful little girl who will immortally remain 7. This is a time of unimaginable grief for "her" family, not mine. This is not about me. This about what I can do to help ease "their" pain, to show them that it does not feel like it right now, but they will survive this. I feel guilt for my own selfishness, my own grief.
So tonight when your children get off of their school bus, or get home from school in whatever way they travel, give them a big hug. Stop and think for just this moment what a great gift they are. You are the lucky one to have children that you can hug, can hold. Cherish this moment, if only for this most briefest of moments. As for myself, I am going to give myself a little slack. I am going to try to help this family in whatever way that I can. To mourn my child, to re-grieve his loss is not disloyal to that beautiful little girl it is outside of my control. I love my children equally, so how is it selfish to wish I had all five of them right here with me? Gabe's loss is a loss that I will carry with me to my grave, and I now know that it will ebb and flow from now until then, that is life, that is grief.