Grief, Guest Posts

Unwelcome Guest

February 23, 2018

By Rebecca Marks

I wait outside your door knowing that you have just hung up the phone, that you have just received the worst possible phone call, the one every parent dreads. Right now, you are unable to move. I will wait for the shock and disbelief to loosen their grip enough for you to let me in. I will surround you, insulate you, protect you but all you will feel is the void, the chill, the despair.

Uninvited, unwelcome, I know you are sorry to meet me. You will wish me gone over and over, but you will also be afraid to let me leave. You may send me away for a while but you know I will return.  I am persistent and I will be here until the work is complete. We will probably be lifelong companions.

I am here because of love. It is my source; it both sustains and weakens me. In the end, it will be the force that puts you back together in some different configuration. It is only pain now, but there will be room for other things.

Let me warn you, I am tricky:  I have many disguises and I already know your vulnerabilities. I will slip unnoticed into the most joyful events, make a subtle change in the lighting or the music and take you from ease to despair in seconds. I am always just around the corner, hiding in the photos, lurking behind the laughter. I whisper his name, I mimic his voice, I appear to be him just in the corner of your eye.

You are afraid of me; you think of me as harsh and relentless. You see me as a storybook witch, the horrible monster with big bloody teeth and claws, the wraith that carries you into never ending darkness. You are not all wrong. You will soothe yourself with memory, feel the nearness of your dear child, but, like walking into a wall in the dark, the fact, the reality of death will stop you in your tracks, the calm and serenity vanished. You will return to the first moments, the panic, the despair, the wound newly gaping and bloody. And I will retreat leaving you in welcome oblivion, not allowing your body and brain to be a part of the nightmare anymore, giving you a momentary reprieve. The tears cried, the sobbing and shaking spent, I become the fog that muffles the music and mutes the color, the wall that separates you from the rest of the world, the numbness that gives you room to breathe.

There are hard lessons ahead, endless nights, empty days. You will be forever changed by all of this. You are already witnessing the depth of your love mirrored in pain and despair. If you had known, would you have loved less? Wasn’t every moment worth what you feel right now?

I know you would rather do anything than sit with me, feel the chill I bring to the room, step into the darkness. Love has opened your heart and death has emptied it. Your dreams are shattered. There will be comfort in the memories we explore, but there will also be regret and guilt. The journey is a hard one and many choose not to take it, to hide instead. You don’t have to do this; you can shut down and shut out the feelings, but you will also be denying the life, the love, the joy, and beauty that is your son.

Yes, we will be lifelong companions, but it will change over the days, months, years ahead. You will never be glad to see me. I will always be just behind that melody, waiting in the background and you will be less and less surprised. I will help you continue to love those who are left even though some of them will fail you. I will be your introduction to those who will hold out their own love and support because they have been touched by this same love and loss.

It is a long, terrifying journey, but you can set the pace. I am just outside the door, waiting for you to let me in. Because of love, I know what you will choose.

Until her son’s death, Rebecca Marks felt like one of the luckiest people ever. Now, she is rethinking and rebuilding her life, and learning to listen to the quiet.

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