Hi March, how are you?
Okay, honestly, I don’t care, because I hate you.
Yeah, yeah, I know you bring good tidings, theoretically. There’s March Madness for everyone who loves basketball or betting or cheering for the underdog. And of course, for those of us in northern climates, it’s supposed to herald the coming of spring (although for those of us in actual cold climates, we know that is a horrible lie and that groundhog can go to hell).
St. Patrick’s Day is in March. Easter is often in March. Occasionally (such as this year) Mardi Gras lands in March. Daylight Savings Time returns. (Wait, losing an hour of your day is not a positive, so scratch that one.) Actual daylight returns—the sun rises before we leave for work and well after we arrive home, all in the same day.
There are lots of March birthdays in my family. My husband. My dad. My brother. My oldest friend. (Not literal oldest; I mean longest standing—we’ve been friends since second grade.) A couple of my aunts have birthdays in March. Quite a few friends. There are a handful of wedding anniversaries in my friend group, too.
So many reasons to celebrate, to be happy when the calendar flips to March first.
So. Many. Reasons.
And one event ruined it all.
March 15, 2016. That’s the day my son died.
Yep. Three years this month.
No, it really doesn’t. When something like that happens, time crawls. It warps. Distorts reality and forces you to acknowledge that you can never go back to the way things were. When something so tragic as losing a child happens, that’s it. That’s the end of your life as you know it. Whatever happens from this point forward, it’s all…different. And no matter how desperately you hope and pray and wish and cry, you will never, ever, ever get that former life back.
This is your new life now. Whether you experience joy or sadness or anger or the myriad of other emotions we of course naturally feel, it will all be overshadowed by that one, single event, over which you had no control.
If I could, I would turn back time, in an attempt to make it all go away.
Of course, I have no earthly idea to when I should turn back the clock, which is a horrible, evil irony. Like, what if that genie appeared right now, what the hell would I say? What date would I give? Because if I turn back time, I will be as clueless once again as I was back then, and I never saw it coming. Not even a little bit. So what’s turning back time going to do for me?
Destroy me all over again?
I’m fairly certain I can’t handle that. Yeah, I’ve handled a lot with the dying of one child, the nurturing and (over) protecting of another, the trying to figure out how the hell we move on from here while constantly wondering what the hell we did wrong. My friends say I’m strong, which is funny, because there are many days when I wonder, How in the world have we made it this far?
Ironically, a few weeks ago, I actually thought, I’m okay now. Enough time has passed.
(Because there is a definitive timeline to grieving, I guess? For the record, there isn’t. It will go on forever; the process, the feels, the steps simply change over time.)
I even considered breaking up with my therapist.
I’ve got this.
And then some stupid little trigger hit me. A song on the radio (I listen to rock and holy shit, are there about a million songs about suicide, except in those songs, the protagonist isn’t successful and goddamn it, why couldn’t my son have failed???). Driving that same route I was on when I got the call (“Hurry up and get here, this isn’t a joke.”). One of my son’s friends driving a car and waving at me while I’m walking the dog (how are they possibly old enough to drive?). The bagger at the grocery store saying, “I know you.” And after a little back and forth, we realized that my children had gone to daycare with him.
A lifetime ago.
And then I go to my next therapy session, and instead of telling her I’m good, I don’t need her anymore, I curl up on her couch and sob because of the injustice of it all. “This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be,” I say over and over again.
Clearly, I don’t got this.
Which is okay. Yeah, weird to say, I know. But I have no choice at this point, right? This is my new reality, and I have to live it. Every time I say that my therapist says, “Actually, you do have a choice.” But as much as I desperately want to see my son again, I’m not in a hurry to leave this world. Eternity is forever, right? And this world, well, it’s fleeting, as I am all too aware.
So I choose to make my way through this murky new reality. Learn now to parent one child instead of two. Do my best to guide my daughter through a world in which she never, ever thought she’d be a forerunner. She spent the first ten years of her life living in her brother’s shadow, so marking her own path without someone else having barreled through before is all new to her too. It sucks to be the baby and suddenly be thrust into the role of first born. No, actually: only child.
As much as it sucks to be the parent of an only child when you used to parent two.