One of the most common questions a parent who has lost her child asks is, ‘Am I going crazy?’
Part of the issue is we try to normalise how we feel when it doesn’t fit into the box we think it should – or any other box for that matter. Often when we can’t find a logical explanation for our extreme range and intensity of emotions or a believable reason why we are reacting the way we are, we conclude that we must be crazy.
I have experienced many things in my life and nothing has brought me closer to the feeling that I may be actually unraveling, than losing my son. Perhaps the scariest part is the self-awareness you can feel. It’s not something happening over there, it’s happening right here, right now, to ME.
I often tell other parents that ‘I understand when people say, you are not alone, but in all reality, I get that you are. No one can ever know what it feels like to be you. BUT, you don’t walk the path alone and there are many others who also walk their ‘alone’ journey with you.’
It is impossible to describe some of the experiences you have within the space of grief and loss. Everyone does it differently. Today I hope I can do this topic a little justice and shine a light, by sharing my experience.
TRIGGER WARNING (as I am never sure who reads this): Some of the content today may be confronting so please exercise self-care and please seek support if you need it.
It’s September 2017, I am standing in a hallway and someone is telling me something. I hear them talking but I am unable to process or comprehend what they are saying. I recognise the words but my understanding of what these words mean escapes me and it just sounds like noise.
I hear myself think, I know you’re speaking to me, but I can’t understand what you are saying. What ARE you saying??
My heart begins to beat loudly, so loud that I can hear it and I wonder if anyone else can as well. My breathing slows. It is barely shallow. Actually, I’m not sure if I AM still breathing. I become aware of my eyes feeling like they are stretched open wider than ever before. The image of a deer in headlights flashes through my mind.
The room begins to feel like it is spinning. I am overcome by a paralysing fear, and now I know I can’t breathe. I am frozen on the spot yet I can feel my legs weaken beneath me. I am aware of sounds around me but I don’t know what I am hearing, nor will I remember much of what is said later on.
And in that moment – my life changes forever.
It’s December 2021 and I am walking through a shopping center. Suddenly and for no reason my eyes well up. As I try and suppress this public display of emotion (cos that’s what we do right?), it continues to rise, like a dye going through every cell of my body. Finally, my eyes spill over, and silent tears begin rolling down my cheeks.
I know my face is calm and void of emotion, just act normal I tell myself. My eyes are stinging and I can feel my heart starting to beat a little louder. I am aware that the tears have now formed a steady trickle down my face, and I put my head down and quickly brush them away hoping no one will see me.
I don’t want anyone to think I’m crazy right?! And to be honest, I don’t need other people validating what I am already thinking about myself.
I am very aware that I can’t seem to pull myself together and my eyes scan for the nearest exit with the least amount of people traffic. I realise in that moment, I have no clue where I parked my car. Despite consciously knowing I park it in exactly the same place every time (to avoid situations like this) my mind is completely blank.
I can now feel the panic start to build inside me, but I know this is not a panic attack. I don’t get those but I have experienced this before. Breathe, Breathe, BREATHE I tell myself, you’ve got this.
I don’t even know why I’m crying. I silently berate myself, What the hell is wrong with you? And more to the point why is this happening to me now? I’m 4 years down the track for f*k sake. This shouldn’t be happening to me. Omg… please tell me this isn’t happening again!
At that moment, Ben immediately comes to mind. This both calms me and increases my feeling of overwhelm. Is he telling me it’s okay and he’s with me or is this just part of the process of me finally losing the plot?
I know I wasn’t aware of missing him when I walked into the shops but I am acutely aware of how much I miss him now, even need him, in this moment.
I remember where I parked, and I blindly float across the floor not feeling my feet on the ground. I hope and pray that I don’t trip over something – then people really will think I’m crazy.
I get into my car not having purchased any of the items on my list and autopilot kicks in. I somehow drive home. I am now crying out loud and the sobs that come from within me are a surprise and scare me a little.
By the time I reach home, I am semi-composed and a little stunned by my recent academy award-winning performance. I walk upstairs and my partner meets me at the door. The look on his face instantly tells me I look a mess, ‘What happened?!’ he exclaims.
And with that, I once again lose myself and wonder if perhaps THIS is really the beginning of me unravelling and before was just a preview. He does the only thing he knows he can do and wraps his arms around me. My body relaxes and I bawl all over again.
When I finally calm down the only answer I can give is, ‘nothing happened’. And with a knowing look, he remains silent acknowledging that there are just no words to say to me. He doesn’t know what it feels like, but he does know I’m not crazy.
So I pose the following questions and answers to go with them.
Is there an expiration on grief? NO
Is it a straightforward predictable road? NO
Do we all do it the same? NO
Am I going to be okay? YES
Will I likely have another moment of being blind-sighted? YES
Can I continue on my day as normal, acknowledging what has happened? YES
There are many other experiences that have made me question my sanity and perhaps I’ll share some of those also one day.
But for now, here’s what I know for sure.
AM I CRAZY?? Hell no!! … but I am and forever will be grieving the loss of my son.
This post is dedicated to my beautiful boy Ben – you are my inspiration and I love you more than I have ever loved anyone, or any thing, in my life.
And also to every other mother who has lost her sh*t at the shopping center – 1 year, 4 years, 34 years down the track. It’s okay, you’re not crazy either.
Dalya xx 💙