My heart, soul, and body are always reminding me of the deep sadness within, even when I am enjoying a moment, like being at lunch with a close friend, or hiking through a beautiful forest with my partner.
When my son died of an accidental overdose at the age of 18, what seemed unimaginable became real. At some level, I was always able to imagine devastation. We all can, we just don’t want to. When we are faced with something we think we can’t tolerate, we have an instinct to protect ourselves, and this protection can come in the form of judgment.
It is understandable that when we hear about something so tragic, we want to blame someone for this: The parent, the child, the friends, the circumstances, ourselves. When we blame, we judge, and judgement creates distance, which leaves the grieving person feeling alone. A part of me wants to indulge in this loneliness, and actively create a bigger gap between myself and the rest of the world by swimming in guilt.
Yet, I have made a commitment to continue living this life, tending to my relationships, giving to the world, and seeking joy. Learning to navigate these murky waters of profound grief means knowing that bargaining is part of these murky waters. Bargaining is nothing but a fantasy where we create a version of how things could have turned out. In this fantasy, I take such pieces as a moment of anger or a missed opportunity and replace it with a piece that creates a story where my son is still alive. And that is exactly what it is, a story, since I do not actually know if moving these pieces would have changed the outcome.
Instead of getting lost in this fantasy, I am working on owning my part in this journey. I can name, acknowledge, and work with regret. I cannot work with the fantasy of bargaining. Regret is a facet that continues to shape my life and decisions. It serves as an ever-present reminder to love with more intention. I am no longer afforded to get wrapped up in the distractions of the day, without expressing my love. Regret also no longer allows me to feel angry, without continuing to reassure my loved ones that I nonetheless hold tenderness.
Life is a curious journey, and for most of us it does not turn out exactly as we had hoped for or dreamed of. There are certainly some amazing surprises, twists and turns, that made life better in the most unexpected ways and there are those experiences that cut us down to the core. Losing my son was the most painful reminder that I want to live with intention: Using curiosity and care to connect with others, rather than judging them (or myself), owning my regrets, rather than re-writing a story that only leaves me feeling more distraught, and deeply loving those I get to borrow for this shared journey.