Living: The Death of My Son

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The death of my son is very painful to me. It means that I am unable to watch his self-love grow. It means that I cannot witness his self-esteem burst forth. It means that I will never see him look at himself with pleasure knowing he is a wonderful, loved person. It means that I cannot experience his spontaneity.

I will not feel the energy that his confidence exudes. I mourn the death of his willingness to share himself, his trust in himself, and his trust in others. I will never again hear his laughter. His self-respect is gone. I am sad for the loss of his childhood.

It was a death for which I was responsible. I’m not talking about a physical death because he is still standing, still breathing and physically living. Sometimes I think it would have been better for him to have died physically then to be a shell of a man. Maybe I think it would have been better for him to have died physically then to remain alive to remind me of my failure to keep my priorities right and to have the courage to care for him properly. My grief is about my selfishness and self-centeredness as he was growing up and my need to feed my own ego even at the cost of his emotional well-being. This grief and anger is about me and not about him.

Maybe that is what all grief is. It’s not about the loss as much as it is about the fact that I can never go back and try again. It’s not about losing the person so much as really not having been with them while they were alive.

I am not grieving because my son is no longer a child. I grieve because I didn’t do what I know I should have done. I made decisions and now I cannot go back and change my mind. He trusted me. He trusted that I would take care of him and keep him safe. I didn’t do that and most of the time it was by choice. And I cannot go back and try again. Sometimes the pain is unbearable.

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It has been about fifteen years since I wrote the above piece. I remember trying to do homework for a class and being unable to continue until I wrote about the feelings I was experiencing. What I have since found out is that you can try again. You just can’t go back to the years of the small child.

As an adult, my son still wants the same things he did when he was a child. He wants to know he matters. He wants to know he is loved. He wants to know he is safe. He wants to know he is intelligent, creative, and that his thoughts have great value.

And so, at his adult age, I start all over — from the beginning.

Never does he enter my space without knowing that I am excited to see him. I let him know when I think he is doing something well. I keep quiet when I think he is not. He will figure it out for himself. He always does.

I work at letting go of control, which is very difficult for me. Most of my work is in my head. I train myself to think differently about him. I train myself to allow him to be exactly who he is and where he is on his life path. Wherever that is, it is exactly where he is supposed to be. I think of him as a grown man and refrain from calling him “my child.” I really have to work at trusting him. This is not because he can’t be trusted; it is because I have control issues. I guess I believe that in order for something to be done correctly it has to be done my way.

Is all of this helping him become confident in who he is? Yes. I see every day that it is, in teeny, tiny steps. Each baby step is a magic moment that I celebrate.

There is an aspect of all this I wasn’t expecting. It is the part that has changed me. Everything I express for my son comes to fruition within me. I, too, was dead and am now coming alive … One baby step at a time.