Before and After

The loss of a child... unimaginably agonizing, deeply sorrowful, heartbreakingly devastating. Nothing, including the death of my husband 20 years earlier prepared me for the death of my son, Jordan. It had always seemed to me that the role of mothering is meant to withstand time, and to have the mortal bond between mother and son broken so prematurely left me feeling utterly shattered.


Some spoke of staying hopeful. The concept of hope for the future seemed laughable- I hadn't yet signed on for living. I teetered on the precipice between normal grief and insanity for what seemed to be an immeasurable amount of time. When did hope sneak in? Perhaps it happened when I finally understood that my grief would not kill me despite how powerless and frightened I was feeling. Or, maybe it was once I accepted that my life would always be divided into "before" and "after" with the split occurring the morning of the visit from the Army chaplain and the city police officer. However it began, it was subtle, and almost imperceptible. Hope began to flicker for brief moments in the shadows, flashes that just as quickly vanished. I noticed that my sorrow slowly became incorporated into my daily life and no longer seemed insurmountable. It has been said that without hope there is not possibly of happiness. And, living a life without any happiness at all seems inconceivable. I chose hope.


Five years later, I see bereaved parents as part of my private psychotherapy practice. It's easy to recognize the now-familiar raw, wounded look in their eyes as they walk in to my office. "Tell me about your child" I say and we begin to work together with a mutual understanding about the massive crack in their hearts and their need for solace and comfort. Briefly I think of Jordan and about how my love for him lives on in a way neither of us could have predicted. Then my client and I proceed, step by step in aching emotional proximity. We talk about sons and daughters, about grief and despair and then last about hope and healing. All the while I think about how hope for my own future was born out of a longing to live my life in a way that my son would be as proud of me as I am of him.