The Unspoken

Day 5 unspoken.jpg

Sudden and traumatic grief is such a strange experience. There is this split in mind and body that almost seems to make time stand still. Like oil and water, they separate. You see what is going on around you as if you are somehow separated from it, while at the same time living in it. I am reminded the Freudian concepts of the Id, the Ego, and the Superego. Other parents have alluded to this same experience, so I don’t think I’m alone, but explaining it in a way that doesn’t make you seem like a complete nut is hard to do. Maybe that’s why it’s often left unspoken.
When I first got the phone call, I was at work, showing a med student around. As I heard the words that told me Lach was in trouble, I didn’t say a thing to the student, but my body reacted. My heart was racing, my whole body was shaking and I ran. I bolted down the stairs toward the locker room and my keys. As I’m doing this, the voice in my head starts talking, “That was kind of rude. You didn’t even say anything to the poor guy. You left him standing alone there in the hallway wondering what to do next.” …I’m in the car and as I drove, my body still in panic mode…I drove like a maniac in desperation to get to my son, weaving through cars, driving in the turning lane, running red lights when possible. The voice in my head says, “Be careful. You don’t need to hurt someone else or yourself trying to get there. That won’t help anything. He’s got people taking care of him. Racing to be there won’t make a difference. Be reasonable.” I couldn’t listen to that voice…this was a matter of life and death. At one point I was forced to stop my panicked drive as I waited for a funeral procession to cross in front of me. The Voice says, “Maybe this is God’s way of telling you what’s to come. Wouldn’t that be a strange foreshadowing of events?” I didn’t dare believe that. I needed to hope that this was nothing more than an awful scare. I squirmed in my seat, desperate to move on. I wanted to honk, make a space to slip between cars, my world was slipping through my fingers. I couldn’t sit here and watch a funeral procession! I waited, unwillingly, while the possibility of death was planted into my being.
…We stood outside the daycare surrounded by emergency vehicles for what felt like an eternity. Waiting. No word. No update. When the EMT’s finally emerged with their eyes lowered and head shaking, I knew. Again, my body did its thing while my mind did something else. I dropped to my knees and started to dry heave. I thought I was going to vomit on the shoes in front of me. The Voice is removed from the experience. “This is a strange reaction. I wouldn’t have expected to do this. Why am I dry heaving? Is this what a mother is ‘supposed’ to do when she learns her child is dead? Am doing this because that’s what I saw on TV somewhere along the line? What are these people thinking of my reaction? Is this what they expected of me? Why am I even thinking these things right now?!” The voice pauses and I return to my body…I think I’m going to throw up.
The Voice continues, analyzing, wondering, commenting, but always as an observer, somehow removed from the emotion of the experience. Fast forward, we are at Lach’s funeral. Someone I know but haven’t seen in a while makes an appearance, my face instinctively flashes a smile. The Voice notes, “How can you do that? How can you smile right now? We are all gathered here for your baby’s funeral, remember? You might give the wrong impression. Do they think my smile means that I’m ok?” …I’m not ok. I can’t do this. I want to escape somehow. I have to do this. 
…I’ve cried so many tears by this point, that the well must be momentarily emptied, because, strangely, my cheeks are dry. “Now, when people are here, gathered for the funeral, watching my every move, I am holding myself together. Does that mean they think I’m being brave or strong or that I’m handling this well?” I am none of those things, my body simply can’t produce tears fast enough to keep up with the demand… 
This separation of mind and body continued for quite some time. Ever so slowly, I could spend more and more time with the parts working as a cohesive unit. Eventually my body began reacting in more predictable ways, and my mind started accepting the oddities and the unpredictable nature of the grief. That’s when the real “work” of grief begins.