People think they know how they’d react, what they’d do. You don’t. Grief is experienced differently by everyone. It is managed differently by everyone.
I did the dishes when my son died.
After we’d held his lifeless body for hours, crying the tears of devastation onto his still face, they gently took him from my arms. We were escorted out of the room, family, or maybe it was the medics and police, I don’t remember, felt seeing him placed in a body bag would have been too much for us. I remember thinking…”Too much.?” As if his death alone hadn’t already destroyed us. But perhaps whoever it was, had been right. I know now that I probably would have been further traumatized by it, seeing my tiny baby zipped up in a bag much bigger than him, to be carried out of our home forever. And so, we were walked back into our bedroom, where Rowan, my brother and his wife, my best friend, my mom, my dad, and Justin’s sister, all waited for us.
My entire body felt like it couldn’t sustain me any longer. My eyes burned and ached, my chest was heavy. My head pounding. It felt as though I had no more tears to give. I sat on the end of our bed, staring blankly at the laundry I had piled in the corner the day before, having been too busy with the kids to fold it. Kids, plural. “Just yesterday there were two of them.” I remember thinking. And then I felt this wave of embarrassment over the state of my home, wishing it wasn’t so messy that day, when all of these people would see it. Worry that maybe they’d judge me for the laundry, the dishes, the toys everywhere.
It was such a silly, trivial thing to be concerned about, and yet, it’s where my mind went briefly, before the sudden memory of that morning, of Sloan, of why everyone was there, of what was happening out in our living room at that moment. I stood up suddenly, not really sure why. Like some part of me thought I could run out there and stop them from taking him, or rewind time and hold him again. Just for a few seconds. Just one more goodbye. But it was too late, and it was unchangeable.
I stood there silently and didn’t look up when I heard someone come in and say “Okay, they’ve taken him”. I collapsed into heaving sobs again, I’m not sure for how long. It felt like seconds at the time. And then we were all back out in the living room. Everyone was silent. I scanned the room. Someone had pushed the ottoman back into the middle of the room where it belonged, but his toys, jumper, and high chair were still in their places.
I couldn’t bear to see them, sitting untouched and abandoned, they were haunting. My own voice startled me when I choked out a sob and shouted, “I need someone to get his things out of this room. I need them out.” And then, I started doing the dishes.