Monday, April 12, 2010

A Thousand Deaths

Living after losing one's son is like dying again and again; it is like dying a thousand deaths daily.

I take a phone call at work, and for the next half hour, my mind is focused on my job. I’m thinking about the issues faced by my client, how to achieve a certain result. For the next half hour, I’m lost in a world insulated from the real one. But at the end of the telephone call, I look at a picture of Micah on my desk, and it all comes back to me again.

The memories of Micah falling out of the high chair. Going to the hospital. Micah going blue. Heather screaming. The wail of the sirens. Holding him in my arms as he died. The wake, the burial the funeral. And now visiting the gravesite. I have to grapple on a daily basis, again and again, that my little son is gone from us, and there is nothing that I can do about it.

A few weeks after Micah died last summer, I played with my softball team in our annual state softball tournament. Softball and baseball are both characterized by short moments of intense concentration (when the pitch is thrown), followed by longer moments of inactivity (the time in between pitches). I remember how excruciating those moments of inactivity were for me. In between each pitch, the excruciating realities would come to mind again and again, as if they were coming to mind for the very first time. At the end of that long day of softball, I remember how utterly spent I was emotionally.

This rhythm of life is emotionally exhausting. Mundane matters of life provide momentary respites. But we’ve found that the longer the respite, the greater the pain of re-engaging in the sorrow of our realities. Respites are necessary to function, but they sometimes make re-engaging in the realities of our grief even more difficult.

God has made us with such a great capacity for love. He has also given us great intellectual capacity, to direct a stream of consciousness toward (or against) a particular subject. It is possible to insulate oneself from painful realities by, among other “insulators,” consciously focusing one’s attention on anything (or everything) but the reality of the pain. Because of the manner in which God gave us emotional and intellectual abilities, it is possible to “stuff” or “avoid” grief for a long time. Humans have the capacity to successfully avoid grieving through using their mind to overcome the emotions. Grief counselors have said that some people are able to use their minds insulate themselves from grief for the rest of their earthly lives.

Some people have asked when we will “get over” Micah’s death. Being nearly 9 months removed from his death, I’ve come to realize that we will never, ever “get over” Micah’s death. Micah, and his unexpected death, will always be with us, and while our grief will get easier because we will learn to manage it, it will always be there.

We’ve also realized that we don’t want to “get over it.” We don’t want to ever forget how much our little boy loved us. How much he enjoyed cuddling with his mommy; spending time in the swing pushed by daddy. How much he loved watching his dog Sadie. We don’t want to forget anything about our little boy. All of these sweet memories we have of our son, this God-given treasure in our lives.

This morning, I laid awake in bed thinking about Micah. A scene came into my mind which is emblematic of my struggles. In that scene, I am driving my car at dusk, heading east. In my rear view mirror I see my little boy sitting on the side of the road. As my car takes me further and further away, it is increasingly difficult to see the features of his face, both because of the growing darkness and the increasing distance between us. For whatever reason, I am powerless to turn the car around and go to my little boy. But what really bothers me is the increasing difficulty to see his face.

I’ve learned to welcome the grief that comes each day, even if it means re-living all of the events of his death a thousand times a day. This is preferable over the alternatives. To push Micah out of our lives (through any means) would be to dishonor not only Micah himself, but the God who chose to bless us with this little guy for nearly 9 months. To push Micah out of our conscious thoughts and emotions would be to attempt (unsuccessfully) to undo the purposes that God has and will accomplish through Micah’s short life. I believe we best honor God’s purposes for Micah’s life and death, and Micah himself, by allowing ourselves to feel the full weight of the grief, again and again.


  1. I am so sorry for the earthly sorrow you both must endure each day! I can only imagine that grief....we lift you up in our prayers often. I pray today that soon another little boy will bring you both a break from that daily grief and bring daily joy instead. May the God of all life bless you both today! Keeping you in prayer.

    Angie Carey for the Carey's

  2. I understand exactly what you are saying about not wanting to forget Micah. Daily, I store up nuances of my kids' and grandkids' life in my heart. I do pray that one day Micah's precious face brings you more joy than mourning. It's hard to live in that kind of pain continually. God's Word tells us He wants to turn our mourning into dancing, and I pray that will one day be so for you and your wife.