Updated: Sep 15, 2021
As I contemplate this whole blog thing, I'm wondering if what it isn't really about is simply me wanting to talk about him...how much I love him and how much I miss him. An ongoing, never-ending memorial because after all, grief is really about love. If we didn't love so much, we wouldn't feel such pain and loss.
And so, maybe that's what you need and want to do too. And so you should. You don't need to blog about it, although why not? Why not shout your love from the rooftops if you want to, need to...
Keep a journal...write down all the things you loved about your Tom.
Make a scrap book.
Look at photos and print some...share them with friends and family.
Make a collage of favorite photos and other media.
Paint a painting or draw a picture.
Write a poem or a haiku.
But you may not be ready to do any of those things for a long time. I know I wasn't. Just looking at a picture of Tom caused me to sob. In fact, for the first year or so, just thinking about him made me cry. Most of the time, I cried in the bathroom -- alone. So don't feel like you have to do anything other than survive. Just getting out of bed in the morning may be all you can do for quite a while. Especially if your loss was in any way traumatic or negative. And by negative I mean your loved one's passing was due to something either you believe or society believes was in any way their fault, i.e., suicide, drug overdose, or any other illness (and addiction and mental illness are illnesses that nobody asks for!) that could be perceived as related to life choices or behaviors. If that's the case (as it was in our case with Tom), your emotions are going to be very difficult to process because you will have lingering questions and confusion about what could have been different...what could have been done to save them.
On the other hand, any loss, wether it is sudden and unexpected, or due to a chronic illness, are traumatic life changing events and questions will persist. Any suffering that you and your loved one experienced is profound. Early on in my grief journey, whenever I thought about Tom's passing, I experienced anger, acute pain, fear, sadness, confusion...probably every negative emotion there is. And that led me to doubt myself as a mother and him as a son. He died of mixed drug intoxication, which of course he did to himself. But does that mean he wanted to leave us? Does that make me a bad mother because I couldn't save him? Does it somehow change who he was? Having an addiction and a mood disorder..does that make the love we all shared as a family invalid? Not what I thought it was? All I could think about was, how could he do this to himself...to me...to our family? These thoughts are the negative emotions that plagued my mind.
Eventually, and I do mean eventually, I discovered that I can in fact turn my thoughts around a bit. I simply write down all the things he did take care of...all the things he cared about and took excellent care of even as he faced difficult challenges. I write about all the fun we had as a family. All the laughter, vacations, games we played. And I find that it helps me because the list of things he did right is so much longer than the things he did wrong. And I remind myself how loved he was (and is) and how much he loved us all back. How he was there for every family event, big or small. And I think about what he was like as a child...so curious and funny and smart and open and loving. He cared about the natural world, justice, and people's feelings. That's who Tom really was (and is)! And I remind myself that when he left us, it was not his choice. He did not choose to leave. It was a terrible accident -- a tragedy -- and he was not himself. He had a brain disease.
Addiction is a brain disease that develops over time as a result of the initially voluntary behavior of using drugs (which includes alcohol). Alan I. Leshnew, MD
And in the end, maybe he was just unlucky. He didn't do anything lots and lots of other people don't do and they're still here...
But even if you continue down the negative emotion path (and you will), you can find some wisdom (or perhaps weird comfort or solace). For example, I will say to myself, well, would you be less sad if he had died in a car accident or from cancer? Would you have fewer questions? I mean, if someone dies in a car accident, there are multiple factors at play in the universe. Simply being at the wrong place at the wrong moment in time is likely the only reason. So I could imagine torturing myself with questions like, if he had only left the house for work a minute later, he wouldn't have been on the road at that time when the accident occurred...and on and on and on like that. What if a loved one died in a car accident and they were speeding or looking down at their phone? Is it their fault? It may be, but does it mean they didn't care enough about their own life or the lives of others? And what if a loved one dies of cancer? What if it's lung cancer and they were a smoker? What then? Is our love for them any less?
And of course the answer is no, it is not. Sometimes, people make mistakes. And our love for them is deep, unconditional, forever and always.