As I’m now in my second year grieving the loss of my son, I’ve officially made it through “the firsts,” the “first Thanksgiving, ” “first Christmas,” “first anniversary of his birthday and his passing date,” and so on. Those were tough. Thank goodness for friends and family who supported me during the dark days and remembered to check in with me on the milestones that they knew would be difficult to navigate my way through. I set place settings at the holiday tables for him, I lit 24 hour remembrance candles, I meditated and prayed, and I spoke to him like I do regularly, especially when I drive his car.
Then, as life resumed and I stepped back into the routines of travel and social life, invitations came to go to weddings. These weddings weren’t for “older” people like myself, they were for the “young adult children” of my friends, in other words, my son’s peers. I had known most of these young folks since they were little kids and I was delighted to see them walk down the aisle and be united with their soul mates. What I hadn’t anticipated, was the mother/son dances and the poignant sibling speeches at the receptions. The reality now was that I wouldn’t have a mother/son dance and my daughter would not get to have a sibling speech at her future wedding. With clenched jaw, I made my way through watching the first mother/son dance, but when I heard the first sibling speeches at a wedding, I had to leave the reception…it was more than I could take. The fond memories of growing up together and the shenanigans shared between siblings, that special bond, was just too crystal clear. My husband and I ended up sobbing in our hotel room.
When I was invited to the next wedding of a darling girl with three siblings, I chose to decline the invitation. As much as I wanted to be there to support her and her family, I had to protect my fragile feelings. I wasn’t yet ready for that.
The next wedding we attended was for an only child. Since she was a girl, and there wasn’t a mother/son dance or any sibling speeches, I predicted I could handle it. That was much easier to enjoy as it felt more like a fun party. My daughter was a bridesmaid, and seeing her have such a lovely time added an extra punch of glee.
The wedding I attended last week was for a young man my son grew up with. We would take vacations with his family ever since the children were born. While there, a sort of miracle occurred. My love for these lifelong friends overcame the grief of my son’s absence. It was a comfort and a blessing. Seeing him so elated on his wedding day and getting to know the bride and her family made me incredibly happy. I could share in their joy and overcome any sadness I might have felt. There is a word for this. It’s called MUDITA. Love for another had overcome my grief. I was truly fortunate.
With the holidays approaching, we are doing some things differently this year. We held an “early” Thanksgiving with my extended family, and we enjoyed talking about my son and some of the funny and not-so-funny stuff he did in the past. For Christmas, my daughter’s boyfriend will join us from England, and prepare a British Roast… a new tradition for us. New traditions help tremendously with the grief. I’m sure we will make a toast to my son, but perhaps no place setting for him at the table this year. I have the feeling he doesn’t need that spot, as he’s always around us.