So who are you? If I asked you “Tell me about yourself,” what would be the first thing out of your mouth?
The first thing I would say is, “I am a husband and father to a wonderful family.” I wouldn’t lead with, “I am the father of a son who died.”
It’s a matter of focus: Jack’s death is with me all the time, an undercurrent to my life which colors, at least slightly, everything I do . . . but it doesn’t define the entirety of who I am.
I create my life as the father of four children who are still here and as the husband of a terrific woman and mother who has had a tragedy thrust upon her she never expected and doesn’t deserve.
If I let myself, I could probably become a basket case who does nothing but lie in bed and think of Jack all day. But I can’t choose that life. It just doesn’t work that way.
That doesn’t mean I’ll always be able to avoid times like that — I’ve heard from too many people at The Compassionate Friends that the second year is often harder than the first — but I will minimize those times as best I can. My remaining children deserve all the love and support I can give them. I can’t cheat them by undoing my life to satisfy the part of me that says, “Only by being miserable and melancholy can you be truly sorry about Jack’s death.”
In many ways, I feel that emotional trap in my mind; that if I am not always unhappy and distraught, I am somehow not really mourning my son. That if I laugh sometimes or, heaven forfend, actually forget for a moment that I lost a son in February, that I am disrespecting his memory and not being a real parent.
Fuck that. I am not going to be a slave to some misguided, romantic notion of what it means to mourn for my son. I do grieve for him. Every damn day. I just refuse to do it in a way that will undermine the things I need to do for my family and, angels and ministers of grace defend us, myself.
I love you, Jack. I always will.