Life in a Holding Pattern

In her book Believe, Jennifer Silvera describes how she felt in those early months after the loss of her husband Shawn:

“With plenty of doubts swirling around, it’s hard to believe in anything after loss.  Shawn’s death was never part of my plan for a perfect life, but a picture can quickly be altered.  Before Shawn’s death, I was naive and trusting.  In an instant, everything changed.

In the months following the funeral I was plagued by uncertainty, mistrust, and doubt.  At times I’d be suddenly overcome by the reality that Shawn was actually dead, that I’d never see him again on this earth.  I questioned what I’d always believed in, and wondered if this gray place I’d entered would be my permanent residence.

My body continued operating, but without my total self present.  It’s as if my spirit recoiled from the horrible reality.  Some might call this a state of denial, but it’s something deeper.  It’s life in a holding pattern–the body appears to function while beneath the surface the spirit continues to grieve.  This was my new state of normal, and I was frightened by this completely unknown territory.

My believe in the reality of my loss, of my perspectives, and of God became riddled with doubt.  Forty-five days after Shawn died, I wrote in my journal,

I am at a loss of how to express myself.  At moments during the day I try to suppress how I feel in order to continue with the tasks at hand.  In order to function in my role as a mom with young children, I merely endure the slow passing of minutes.

I give myself pep talks throughout the day, trying to convince myself that if I live without feeling too deeply, I will be able to survive.  I rationalize that if I am able to get through a moment without extreme sensation–neither high joy nor low sadness–and can maintain that even level where all feelings are dull or numb, then I will be able to carry on.

Life has taken on a new color: gray.  at present, I don’t see in color.  Nothing is bright or exuberant.  Nothing stands out.  Nothing engages me.  I feel disconnected.

At odd moments I am stabbed all over again that this is a real story, happening to real people, a real mom, and a real baby boy and a real baby girl.  And how I respond to this story will make all the difference in not only my life, but theirs as well.  This is a heavy responsibility.  Especially on days that I would rather cover up my head with my favorite down comforter and ignore the day altogether.

Being a mom doesn’t allow me this luxury.  In the famous words of my grandmother, ‘Life goes on.” Today those words offer little comfort.  The words may be truthful, but I am nowhere near facing the truth.  I still have secret wishes that Shawn will come home tonight.

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