Historical and Contemporary Romance Author

Don’t Read This Post…

…That is, unless you’re willing to put up with a lot of sad, rambling observations about grief and survival. If you feel you can stomach my navel-gazing, then by all means, continue.

I’ve read a lot of books about grief and grieving in the past four months. Yesterday, I finished Harriet Sarnoff Schiff’s The Bereaved Parent, which was published in 1977 but is deservedly a classic on the subject of loss, especially the loss of a child. I guess, if there’s one thing I’m “getting” from what I’ve read so far is that we’re doing everything “right”: going to support groups and talking about our loss, giving our surviving children space to express their feelings, taking steps to ensure we don’t build a shrine to our son in his room or by making him perfect in our memories, and so on. Sometimes, I feel like we’re the model grievers; I’ve been told numerous times by people who attend our support group that our family has been an inspiration to them.

So if we’re so perfect, why do I feel like life is empty and meaningless? Why do I go to bed every night wondering what the fuck I was thinking when I decided it would be a good idea to get married and have children and put myself on the path to this unbearable outcome? I thought of my family as the one thing that was worth living for, the one thing that mattered more than anything else. And now I’ve lost my innocence. I’ve been thrown out of that Garden of Eden to understand that all of that purpose can be taken from me in a heartbeat. That I can be the parent to an incredibly smart, talented, loving 16-year-old son one minute and lose him in the next. And if I can lose him, I can lose everyone. I can lose everything. What, then, do I have?

The answer, right now, is nothing. And it’s a wholly unsatisfactory answer. Because right now, I’m going through the motions, doing the things I’m supposed to do, being the model griever, and it’s not getting me any closer to feeling like I want to live. Oh, don’t worry. One thing grief has taught me is that I would never, ever deliberately inflict this kind of suffering on those I love by taking my own life. I’m not remotely suicidal. What I am is apathetic. Whether I live or die may be of concern to others, but it matters very little to me. And that’s because I don’t know what the hell I’m living for beyond those other people.

That should probably be enough. Maybe I’ll come to the point where it is enough. But right now, I’m genuinely in search of something more. Something bigger and better that I can do in the world that will make my life and my pain seem worthwhile. My children will grow up and begin their own lives. I can’t continue to invest my purpose in them indefinitely. My husband and I will continue to love and support each other and grow old together. But that can’t be all there is.

So I’m out here. Looking. Searching within myself for whatever it is I’m supposed to do that will matter.

At our support group last week, I talked about this. THe facilitator said, “Maybe that was Julian’s gift to you.” Maybe it is. I only hope I am worthy of it.


  • Meoskop July 28, 2014 at 11:07 pm

    I have known far too many who’ve died young, and I’ve got no answers. I can tell you that those who knew Julian will carry him forever. I don’t know why you have to carry this pain or how. I do know that you will. I have seen others struggle through and find a way to live around this unrepairable injury.

    Julian was. He was happy and achieving and whatever purpose he may have been assigned by whatever assigns these things was filled. He was all of those things because you were. Someday someone unrelated to you will say “This is because of Julian” and you may never hear it, but it will still be said. It will still be true. The people he loved will remember that he loved them. When they feel hopeless, they will remind themselves of that love, the love they will have known because of you.

    I don’t know what will move you forward or give you meaning. I don’t know how you’ll live around this pain. But I do know Julian will be carried by his friends through their lives, changing people he will never directly know.

  • Cora Pendergast July 31, 2014 at 4:33 am

    Jackie, I just want you to know I read this and am sending love. You have been thrust onto this excruciatingly painful path that I can’t begin to imagine traveling. Maybe being model grievers will turn up some signposts along the way for you and your loved ones. My fondest hopes are with you.

  • Tania Stanwood August 7, 2014 at 5:52 pm

    Your story is inspiring, even in your grief you have shown how to survive. I have been doing some reading lately on this and found a great book called Finding Vern, findingvern.com by Darcy Mascarro. She inspired me through my grief, and posts like yours and books like hers can really teach us so much on how to keep going. Thanks for posting this!


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