There have been times in my grief that I have been jealous of the way others are grieving. People who could forget for that split second before they fully woke that their lives had been shattered. That little tiny window of innocent bliss. That has never been my experience. I would wake, every morning, fully aware of Xavier’s absence. My dreams bereft of his presence. There was no sharp blow each morning, there was a dull and continuing ache. And then one morning I awoke, maybe two or three months after his death, and I felt nothing. I probed at memories, like a child wiggling a tooth, coaxing the tears and the emotion back. Nothing. Not even an emptiness. Just a complete absence of emotion. I was perplexed. Was this it? Was I “over” my grief? Was I “better”? It was not until a few weeks later, after the tide of grief had pulled me back in, that I realised this was my mind giving my heart a rest. Grief is incredibly exhausting, hard, tiring work. It leaves little energy for other things and eventually, my body claimed the rest it so craved. At the time, I couldn’t conceive how my intense grief had simply disappeared. And it made me uncomfortable. The tie to my son severed. Yet another thing taken from me – another silent thief in the night. I found myself jealous of those who were clearly in the dark depths of pain. I knew how bitterly that hurt, but at least it kept my son close. I was not okay with this version of okay.
Now, I find myself in an entirely different phase of my relationship with Xavier. And, surprisingly, it is okay. It’s never going to be what I want it to be – but that goes without saying. But, I can genuinely smile and laugh, without guilt. Increasingly, I feel Xavier in the love and laughter of my family. He has become one with that love – woven tightly into its fabric. Christmas Day, my husband and I visited Xavier’s grave. I waited for the inevitable rush of emotion. Being thrown back to the day we buried him. Wanting to hurl myself into the earth to be with my son. That emotion didn’t come. And as I stood, tinsel around tiny graves glistening in the sunshine, relentless heat searing the little christmas trees, I realised, Xavier was no longer there. Xavier was back with my family. He was around the Christmas tree. He was the joy in the season. He was the hope in shiny, little eyes. He was the promise in chubby little hands tearing at wrapping paper.
Is this healing? Is this the resolution of grief? Can I close a chapter or wrap everything up with a big, shiny bow? I think it is healing – I think it is a changing relationship with my son and I think that’s a positive thing. But I worry – how is that perceived? Do people think I am okay with the fact my son died? Do people think that I am stoic and brave? I am okay. But I am not sure if I am okay with being okay. I am not okay with how being okay might be perceived.
We wade through grief, waiting desperately for the day when peace will be restored to our hearts. But are we ever prepared to give up what might lead to that peace?
Little Xavier, as I think of you this Christmas season, I feel your comfort around our family. I try not to think of you, eighteen months old, tumbling around the Christmas tree. For that is not you. That memory belongs to someone else’s child and motherhood. To think of you that way is to invite pain. Instead, I catch glimpses of you in the twinkling lights, in the shining eyes of your brothers, in the embraces of family and friends and the very essence of Christmas that I once thought was lost forever. Merry Christmas little one.