How long can I grieve

andrew hockey 2It has been a year now. A year since we lost our dear Andrew. A year since our dreams of watching our son grow into a man, watching him get a job, get married, have children, have been cut short. In a tragic second, we went from proud parents of a son about to embark on his senior year in college, to grieving our son forever. We went from a happy life of enjoying music, food, and friends, to spending much of our time crying and talking to each other about Andrew and our love for him.

It has been a year. The longest and hardest year of our lives. We have had some terrible days, and some not so bad days. But never a good day. We now enter our second year, which we hear is harder than the first. And then our third, and forth, and fifth, and on and on. It will never end for us. The grieving, the crying, the missing. We will live with it for the rest of our lives. The form our grieving takes might change. We might change. But we will be grieving in our way.

Some people have asked us if we are okay now. It’s been a year, it has to get easier they say. Pam tells a story about the fact that she is five or six years out, and although her grieving has evolved and has changed, she is still grieving. Her friends find it hard to accept that she is still hurting, still grieving after all these years. The fact is her son is still gone – he is still not with her physically. She still lights candles for him, still talks to him, now more than ever. And probably will forever. But her friends can’t understand – how can they?

Andrew and Mom BMThe fact is we, too, will grieve for a long time, probably our entire lives. When we go to a wedding, of course we will be happy for the bride and groom and for our friends. But we will also cry knowing that Andrew will never get married. He will never have the joy of walking down the aisle and saying I Do, and being introduced as Mr. & Mrs. Andrew Grosser – and that hurts. When our friends have grand-children, we will share in their joy. We will smile with them and hold their grandchild and be happy for them. And again, we will cry. We will cry for the fact that Andrew will never know the pure love of raising a baby and watching that baby grow up. He will never stand there proudly as his son reaches his Bar Mitzvah, reads from the Torah, and becomes a man.

For all these things, and more, we will be there for our friends, and hopefully they will be here for us. But our grieving will not end, we will not, and can not, get over it. We are on a path that very few travel. It is a path of sadness, sorrow, and loneliness. But we will be on that path the rest of our lives.

When a parent is lost, it is the proper order of life. We grieve for our parents, we expect them to pass before us, and we eventually move on. We go back to work, we start to go out again, we have our children and our future. It is the normal cycle of life.

When we lose a spouse, it is harder. They are our present, they are our life partner. We know that one day one of us will pass before the other, and the one left to grieve will do just that – grieve. For a month, a year, a few years. But then again, they will move on. They may meet someone and fall in love again. They will go on with their lives and enjoy old age with someone, and sit on the porch someday not alone, but with someone new. We would want them to. They are not replacing their lost partner, for no one can do that, but they are moving on.

With the loss of a child, you lose your future. And you never get over that.

Some people are surprised that parents grieve for years and years. They expect us to get better, they expect us to move on with our lives. It’s been two, five, ten years – and yet you still light candles and cry? You still visit the cemetery every week? You still invite people over for Andrew’s birthday? Yes we do.

Just a few weeks ago we watched as the names of the victims on 9/11 were read, many of them still have parents alive and where someone’s child. And we watched as their parents grieved and cried on live television, and it was okay. We understand their grief, and have compassion for them and their loss. It has been thirteen years and they still grieve, and people are alright with that, and the public grieves alongside them. Then why is it different for those of us who lost a child not on 9/11? Why are we expected to get over it sooner? Why are we questioned after a year or two or three?

I am of course not comparing our loses to those lost in that tragedy, but the fact is our children are gone as well. The parents of Sandy Hook children will grieve for the rest of their lives as well, as will the parents of the children taken in Norway. Although our children were lost in different ways, we will all grieve for the rest of our lives.

So, do we get over it ever? No. But we learn to deal with it. We learn to deal with the hole in our hearts, we learn to deal with the forever empty bed in our home. We learn to smile again, we learn to enjoy some things in life. We start to put our lives back together.

Some things will also make us cry. For me it is hearing any Beatles music. Andrew loved The Beatles, he understood and appreciated their music. Whenever I hear them, I am just overwhelmed. For Dorothy, it is a young man on a skateboard, for she always sees her Andrew on that skateboard, enjoying life.

CCI08202014_00000So when you see us, any grieving parent, please understand that we are still grieving, and always will be. But out grieving takes different forms over time, it evolves, and we learn to deal with it different. We might light candles, we might have a birthday cake every year, or keep our children’s pictures all over our home. It is our way of connecting and never forgetting. It is our way of grieving.

And to be honest – we don’t ever really want to get over it.

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