Please use this blog to help us remember Joshua Lee Anderson, who made the tragic and fatal decision to take his life on Wednesday, March 18, 2009. Please post any memories or thoughts you may have in the comments.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter Josh - April 4, 2010

Spring is finally here! After a harsh winter with record snow falls, the DC area is showing signs of rebirth. Cuttings of the earliest blooming trees, bushes and bulbs, (cherry blossoms, forsythia, and daffodils) are what I put in Josh's vase, in celebration of the new season.

We are now into "year 2" of our lives without Josh. It feels odd to write this for at some level, it seems like yesterday that the unthinkable happened and now, here we are, over a year later. How am I feeling these days? The answer is best described by the analogy of emerging from a "grief cocoon" - slowly ready to look at what is going on around me, reach out, take part, make plans and move forward with life.

The operative word is "slowly". In The Worst Loss: How Families Heal from the Death of a Child by Barbara Rosof, this quote describes my year:
Grieving is the hardest work we do. Simply put, grieving is the work of coming to terms with the fact that the person we love is dead. It is terrible work, and utterly necessary. If we do not grieve, we stay frozen in pain; only by grieving can we enable our lives to continue. Grieving families learn their own measure. What they once felt they could not bear for a day, parents find they can bear every day, only because they must. Acute grief, with its disorganizing symptoms and loss of function, slowly gives way to the long, long haul of mourning. This long haul is the work simultaneously, of building a life in which the child does not live and in keeping the child alive in our heart (pp 47-48).
I have not thought of grieving as "work", but rather something painful to be endured. This blog, however, is the evidence of the "hard work" done over the past twelve months. It is not only a web memorial to Josh, but a record of the tasks outlined in the following quote:
When you lose someone you love, your world changes forever. When you lose a child, it falls to pieces. Nothing can ever be the same again. Through grieving you must reassemble a world in which you can live. This new world is not built in a day or a year. Parents say they work with these tasks intensely for two to four years and, one way or another, for the rest of their lives. When a child dies, bereaved parents must:
  • Face the finality of the loss;
  • remember past memories and experiences with their child;
  • sort out what aspects of their child they can keep and what must be let go;
  • deal with a sense of failure and personal diminishment; and
  • build a life for themselves without their child (pg 51)
Reading this book has validated my own experiences and feelings. The massive scanning project that has overtaken my dining room is a way for me to re-live memories of Josh, as I look through pictures at every stage of his short life. Every memory that his friends have shared are like precious puzzle pieces, giving way to a fuller picture of our son. Many blog posts and journal entries have described the difficulty in accepting Josh's death and the overwhelming guilt due to the cause.

And it seems like every experience, conversation or event can be related back to Josh - in some way. This is natural, at least from the point of view of a clinical social worker who has lost two children of her own. Her comment resonates with me:
What I always stress to parents is to take care of themselves and to give themselves time. Most people's timetables for grieving are ridiculously short. Allow yourself two years to get to where your child isn't at the center of your awareness all the time....that's if you're straight with yourself and let the feelings come. If you try and suppress it, it'll take you longer. Then for most people, it's another two years before they feel their lives are reliably back on track. It is a long process, but I haven't seen any way to speed it up (pg 60).
And so the "grief journey" continues. Perhaps not as acute as before, but by no means, close to being over. This may be the most challenging realization for friends and even family - to understand that we have traveled through only one phase of our journey and that our "grief work" must continue. And it cannot be hurried for there are no shortcuts. The way to the other side of grief is through it.

I end this post with poignant words sent on a recent card, which are a source of comfort to me.
God has not promised
skies always blue,
flower-strewn pathways
all our lives through;
God has not promised
sun without rain,
joy without sorrow,
peace without pain.

But God has promised
strength for the day,
rest for the labor,
light for the way,
Grace for the trials,
help from above,
unfailing sympathy,
undying love.

God Bless

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