I’ve shared my heartbreak on social media, but I realize I haven’t posted anything on the blog in quite a long time, so for those of you who only hear from me when a new blog post pops up in your inbox, this may be the first time you’re hearing the terrible news that my brilliant, beautiful, 18-year-old son, Jamison, lost his life to mental illness in early January.
I am undone.
I count time without him on Earth in exactly the same way I counted time when arrived as a baby; first in hours, then in days, now in weeks. Eight weeks. And I wonder if next month I’ll say, “Jamison has been gone for three months”, or if I will drag it out the way some new moms do, continuing to count his afterlife in weeks until I’m that weird chick in the Starbucks line talking too loudly about something that happened, like, 95 weeks ago. I doubt it, but fuck it, maybe I will become a total weirdo. I mean, who can really say what kind of woman I’ll be 95 weeks from now? The truth is, since the day Jamison left, every minute has become an uneasy exploration of who I am in light of this thing we call, for lack of a better term, “moving forward”. This is entirely unknown territory for me. I really don’t know what I’m doing or how to do it, and I’m just guessing here, but I’m pretty sure that there is no right way to keep going, no defined path to follow, no guidebook for forging ahead after a loss this deep and devastating.
If I had a choice, I’d be moving backward. If it were possible, I would go back and I would fix it. I would do better. I would do more. I would do it all differently. If only I could go back. But, the thing is, even if I travel back in time, I don’t know where exactly I would need to land in order to save my son. I mean, not just to prevent his death, but to truly save him – to protect him from the all the years of pain and suffering and turmoil that ultimately led to his decision to leave us early. I’ve thought about it a lot (Sometimes I can’t stop thinking about it.), but there are so many forks in the long road of retrospect that I just can’t seem to find the one that would change everything.
In the end, it doesn’t matter. Because I don’t get a choice and I don’t get a do-over and moving forward without my beloved son is the only road left in front of me.
So here I am.
And it fucking sucks.
It’s probably hard to imagine that a person could feel a single ounce of gratitude in the midst of losing a child, but I do. In fact, I don’t know that I’ve ever been more grateful for the love of the people in my daily life, for the support of my faraway friends, or for the kindness of internet strangers. The speed, strength, and numbers in which my people showed up (and continue to show up) for me and for my two living sons in the aftermath of this catastrophic loss feels nothing less than divine. I know we’re supposed to roll our eyes and scoff when offered such trivial things as “thoughts and prayers” during our darkest hour, but I am truly grateful to have been the subject of so many. I’ve read every email, every private message, every comment, every tweet, and every card you sent, and I’ve received every one of your gifts (financial and otherwise) with a grateful heart. People have reached out in so many different ways, I really can’t begin to express my thanks, but if you’re one of them, please know that my family and I have been deeply moved by your kindness. It helped. I mean that.
Most of all, I am eternally grateful for everyone who knew and loved Jamison during his all too short life. I’m so grateful for how many of his friends stopped by the house to laugh and cry and tell us amazing stories in the days following his passing. I’m beyond thankful for those who sent pics of my tall, blond boy in texts and emails, and for those who wrote quick notes and long letters and put them in my hands, and for those who honored his memory in a million other special ways after they learned of his death. This is the gift that I cling to on days when despair would otherwise swallow me whole; Gratitude in knowing that Jamison loved the people around him so well and was well-loved by so many.
I’m learning that sometimes moving forward includes a lot of looking back…yes, to wonder what might have been…but, also, to see what really was. And Jamison really was amazing.
I’m grateful I got to be his Mom.
“We, today, have a language to celebrate waywardness, but we do not have a cultural language to bring people back home.”