An Alternate Life

fullsizeoutput_c607My husband and I recently celebrated our 41st anniversary. It hardly seems possible we have been married that long. We look so young, in love, and full of hope in this picture. In our wildest dreams or our worst nightmares, we never could have imaged the journey we have have been required walk these past fifteen years.

As our daughter and I were recently discussing our upcoming anniversary,  I told her that I feel like I should be in my 40’s instead of celebrating our 41st anniversary. The fact of the matter is that, in some ways, I feel that the world stopped and has been somewhat frozen in time since Jason died. I feel like I should be around 46 years old, the age I as when Jason died. It seems like Jenna should be around 17 and Eric in his 20’s. It feels like Jason should be coming home. It feels like Michael should be just little guy,  sitting at my kitchen table playing with homemade play doh. It feels like I should be looking forward to our kids getting married, to the birth of our grandchildren, to being involved in our grandkids’ lives, showering them with love as only a grandma can, taking them on wonderful adventures and making awesome crafts with them. It feels like there are things that are supposed to happen that never will. It feels like the hope I had for the future has changed so much I can’t see it, I don’t feel it. It feels like I am living the wrong life.

Have you ever watched one of those movies or TV shows where the characters somehow get trapped in another dimension or parallel world? Things are similar, but nothing is the same. The trajectory of their lives has changed. The characters know that they are not supposed to be in this alternate world; they know they have to get back to their real, true lives. Throughout the whole movie or TV show, the characters are trying to figure out a way to go back to the lives they are supposed to be living. They just want to go home.

At times, that’s what it feels like to me. I want to go home, one where all is right with the world, where my kids are all happy and healthy. There is an alternate life I should be living, one where Jason is alive and doing all the things he was supposed to do – hanging out with us, graduating from college, getting married, having kids.

It feels like I should be living a life where Jason is alive. It feels like I should be living in a home I love, one that truly feels like home, a home where our children and grandchildren can walk in the door at any time for any reason to a home full of love and laughter. It is a life where a wonderful young lady marries into our family and is so happy to be a part of our family, a young lady who is a wife to our son and mother to our grandchildren, one who appreciates and cultivates a loving and caring relationship between the family of his childhood and the family of his adulthood.

It is a life where I am connected, one full of family and friends, instead of a life of aloneness. It is a life full of joy and happiness, instead of one always with a shadow of grief. It is a life where I feel truly alive, instead of where part of me is missing. It is a life of hope for better things ahead, instead of one with intimate knowledge that none of us are immune from pain and disaster.

I am living the life I now have to the best of my abilities, this life left to me after the death of our precious son. I live and love and work, but it still doesn’t seem like this is really, truly my life. It is a paler shade of world than the vibrant one that used to be before Jason died. I am a paler version of the person I used to be.

After Jason died, someone gave me a note that said the world was a little less bright now that he was gone. Jason was pure sunshine – loving, caring, kind; an awesome son, brother, friend, person. How could this world be anything else but a pale version of the one that used to be?

You read about or hear bereaved parents say that, after a child dies, they feel like they should wake up from this nightmare. The horror of that nightmare fades some as time goes by, but it never truly goes away. It softens into a recognition that this alternate reality is now the one we have to live. The world we previously knew is gone. We can never go back to the life that once was, the world that once was. I miss that world. I miss my life. I miss my boy.

© 2017 Rebecca R. Carney

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Groundhog Day

We watched the movie “Groundhog Day” tonight on this February 2nd, the day celebrated in the United States as Groundhog Day. It’s a very funny and well-acted movie about a man who lives the same day over and over again, trying to figure out how to get out of that one day so he can move on to the future. He wakes up every morning when his alarm goes off at 6 a.m. to the realization that, no matter what he has done in the previous day, nothing has changed and he’s living the same day over again. He’s stuck. As the realization sinks in that he’s stuck living the same day over and over, his emotions and actions run the gamut from disbelief to frustration to doing stupid things to depression to suicide to trying to make himself a better person. After a while, he tries to learn new skills and to become a better version of himself, getting to know and care about the people around him.

Not to put a downer on a funny movie, but I had just a brief thought flash through my head as we were watching it. That’s kind of what it was like after Jason died. When my alarm went off, I woke up every morning from a sound sleep (a deep sleep from taking sleeping pills every night) to the realization that I was stuck in the same nightmare day after day. No matter what I did during the previous day, I woke up to the same nightmare every morning – the nightmare that Jason had died. As I went from that blissful, unaware state of sound sleep to a state of awareness and wakefulness, the horrible realization that our son had died hit me again anew each morning. There was nothing I could do to change the fact that Jason had died and I had to figure out how to make the best out of the day ahead of me without Jason. It took a very long time for me to feel like that nightmarish cycle ended and to see hope and future in a new day. I think there’s still a part of me that wakes to that nightmare every day, stuck in a world without Jason.

~Becky

© 2017 Rebecca R. Carney