All say the same thing - he is gone. No longer here. No calls....no texts.....no jokes....no smirk....gone.
It has been over eighteen months and in some ways, I still can't believe it. Yes, the room is still empty. Yes, it is just Tim and I at home with our dogs. Yes, he was not in our family Christmas picture last year. Yes, I "visit" him every weekend and bring fresh flowers, trim the grass around his stone, scrub the dirt away and once done with my little "chores", sit and write a letter to him. Yet in spite of these truths, it is still hard for me to believe that he is really gone. I can't explain it. Maybe in God's mercy, it is His way for this awful truth to seep into my heart, mind and soul rather than be borne full force as He knows a mother could never survive.
But the reality hits me in other ways. Recently, I went to a friend's baby shower. Most of the women were strangers and while in the past, I would've engaged them in conversation about such innocuous things that are part of "mother talk" like: how many kids do you have, how old are they, what are they doing, etc., I was panicking internally that someone would ask me these questions. So I was a quiet guest, aloof and stoic. There was nothing in my demeanor or body language that would invite conversation. I was successful. No one approached me and asked THE QUESTION. As a result, I felt a bit sad while driving home. "Pre-Josh", this would've been a time to be refreshed as a woman and mother - connecting with others about life, family, and children. Instead, I felt empty. But small price to pay as THE QUESTION needed to be avoided at all cost.
In Suzanne Redfern and Susan Gilbert's book, The Grieving Garden: Living With the Death of a Child: 22 Parents Share Their Stories, there is a whole chapter devoted to this issue.
One of the incidents many of us dread the most is being hit with THE QUESTION when a stranger asks about our children. It feels like a body blow to our most tender and vulnerable places. THE QUESTION is excruciating when it assults us in situations like a dinner party, the dentist's chair, or an airplane seat. What do you say when you're asked, "How many children do you have?" (pg 31).
One parent's response
Even though I know my answer, I still dread hearing THE QUESTION. Most of the time I can feel it coming. It's often especially hard, as for many people, discussions of their children are "happy talk", relating how much they enjoy watching their children grow and be happy. I know my answer is going to change the atmosphere from happy to horror, as all suddenly contemplate the worst fear of every parent - loss of a child. After "the answer" from me, there's "the reaction". All of us have experienced the reaction of totally ignoring what's been said. Maybe the other party even immediately changes the subject. Maybe a quick acknowledgement and then back to "happy talk" (pg 35).
What more "happy talk" occurs than at a baby shower??? No, THE QUESTION had to be avoided at all cost. In fact, as shown in the next example, one can get very adept in avoiding THE QUESTION.
Last week, I was at a training meeting for work. The night before, several of us met at the hotel bar for drinks before dinner. While most of my work colleagues know about our tragedy, some did not. I was talking to one "uninformed" colleague and the conversation got around to children. She turned to me and began asking THE QUESTION. I immediately focused on what was showing on a nearby TV screen and made some comment that distracted her and everyone else. Mission accomplished. It was a very deliberate move on my part, but one that still feels foreign.
At this time, I am most comfortable with parents that knew Josh or have kids who knew him. We recently went out to dinner with 3 such couples and I was genuinely interested in knowing what was going on with their sons who have gone off to college. Keeping up with their kids is a thin thread to Josh - what he might be up to if still alive. The night did not pass without some tears on my part as we remembered him, but thankfully, they understand and are not afraid of my emotions.
There are ripple effects to Josh's passing, his death, his suicide in terms of how my life has changed. The way I interact with others at a baby shower or a work event is one small example.