It’s been three years since our son, Chad, passed away.
Just when I think I’ve got a handle on this thing called grief, I hear a song on the radio like Tim McGraw singing “I Like It, I Love It” which was one of Chad’s favorites, or I see a headline post on Facebook that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. will be starting in 2nd place at Daytona this year, and my heart just aches to hear Chad singing along with Tim or asking for the hundredth time on Sunday afternoon “Where’s Junior?”.
Like I’ve said so many times, “It doesn’t get better – It get’s different”. There are many people in my life now who don’t even know I have a son. I used to feel compelled to tell others I’d meet that my son died, not to get sympathy or attention, but just to mention his name so they knew that he existed, and that I was still his mom.
I believe that the hardest part of losing a child is not the horrific part at the beginning when you’re in shock and can’t believe it’s real, when you think you’re going to wake up from this nightmare and they will be safe and sound down the hall in their bedroom. No, I think the hardest part for me was letting go.
I’ve heard it said that we need to “hold what we love with open hands”, and that makes a lot of sense to me now. When we hold onto our children so tightly and believe that they actually belong to us, it just makes it that much harder to let them go. They are a gift from God. We don’t own them. They are just being loaned to us for however long God allows them to live on this earth.
The first year Chad was gone was so terribly difficult. Shock, disbelief, anger, guilt, the whole gamut of emotions, just to name a few. Walking in the valley of the shadow of death, trying to make sense of it all when it made no sense. In the beginning, I’d go to his room and sit on his bed surrounded by his things and it actually comforted me to be there. The day came at the end of that first year when I realized I was waiting for him to come home, so I finally went thru his things and lovingly stored them away.
The second year, I kept thinking would be easier, but somehow it was almost harder. For everyone else who knew him, besides my husband, daughter, and I, life had gone on, as it should for them. We were still missing a huge part of our lives, but he had just become a pleasant memory to them. Not that others didn’t care about our grief. They just could not comprehend it, and their lives had not changed as ours had.
During that second year is when I realized I had to let him go. I’d been unconsciously holding on to him trying to keep from leaving him in the past, and I could not “live forward” until I released him to God. When I was able to let go and trust God with Chad’s spirit and think of him as part of my future in Heaven, I was able to at last find peace.
I still miss him so much and think of him daily, especially during the holidays or when I hear the big engines revving up on TV for another NASCAR race. I’m finding with each passing year that I’m learning to smile a little more with each memory. Instead of wiping the tears away, I’ll laugh and tell someone about the funny things he’d say and do, and that keeps him forever alive in my heart.
For those of you who have lost a child, no matter their age, because they are always children to us, I just want to say – “Talk about them. Celebrate their life. Share their memory with others. Holding on won’t bring them back and will only bring you more pain. Let your heart heal and be at peace. Learn to laugh again, as they are. God’s got this, so gently open your hands and let them go!”