Me: I’m pushing!
Me: I’m breathing!
Lar: I can see his head!
Lar: Okay, stop.
Me: Stop pushing?
Lar: No, just stop. I don’t want to do this anymore. Rob died nine months ago today, but this set-up doesn’t work. You can’t give birth to death.
Me: You can give birth to life—your life! Speaking of which, how you doing, man?
Lar: I’m pushing through, no pun intended. I wake up every day and I’m not sure how I’ll feel. Some days I’m depressed. Some days I’m busy and distracted. Some days I’m living in the past. Some days I’m present in the moment. It’s like a choose-your-own-adventure kind of story, only I still don’t feel like I’m the one doing the choosing. But I push through because there’s no other choice.
Me: It may not feel like it, but you’re choosing life. You’re choosing to get out of bed every morning, so in a way, pushing through is like giving birth. Maybe it’s more of a rebirth. It’s a rebirth to living your life without Rob.
Lar: It’s funny, but not really funny, that we’re even talking about this, because the other night in grief group, one of the moderators asked us, “What changed when you first became a parent?”
Me: Knowing that there’s really only one answer.
Lar: Yes, of course—EVERYTHING! And then I chimed in with the story of the day Robbie was born and how it was love at first sight (as it also was with Zach), and how the amount of love you feel for your children is so enormous and overwhelming, you didn’t and couldn’t possibly know that you even had it in you to give. There’s a transformation that happens at your core when you become responsible for this tiny, new human being who is 100 percent dependent on you. The world shifts from revolving around yourself to revolving around your child. Your child becomes your world.
Me: And that’s to say nothing of you not realizing how much you personally needed to give to Rob in order to heal your own childhood wounds, which came mostly from growing up without a father.
Lar: And that’s to say nothing of how incredibly needy Rob was right from the get-go, and how we were perfectly matched—the sand and the water.
Me: That’s a whole lot of stuff to say nothing of. And then you voiced the other question that everyone in the room was thinking and knew the answer to…
Lar: What has changed since losing your child? And duh, EVERYTHING! Everyone in the room expressed the same sentiment—there’s a part of us that is missing—it’s gone and can never be replaced. And we’ll never be the same just like we were never the same after our child was born. A piece of us died when our child passed away. Most people can’t see it because it’s partly invisible and partly disguised, but everyone in our group can. We can see and feel the loss—the missing piece—in each other’s eyes.
Me: But you all still carry your child in your heart and that’s forever. They’ll always be with you. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Rob is here, there and everywhere.
Lar: I know, and it’s truer now than it ever was before.
Me: Okay, let’s get back to the grief group.
Lar: Change was the main topic that evening and one father was struggling to see any significant shift in his grief. His son, who like Rob was adopted, passed away a year ago, and he told us that he still cries almost every day and basically still feels like shit.
Me: But it’s different.
Lar: It is. There has been a change for all of us, including him. We’re no longer in that unrelenting, agonizing pain. We’re no longer freefalling in a bottomless pit. The initial devastation has abated, but that doesn’t mean that we’re now shiny, happy people. Grief keeps changing. Moment to moment. Day by day. Month by month.
Me: Probably forever.
Lar: Definitely forever.
Me: How about you? How have you changed? What’s different about you since Rob died?
Lar: We’ve previously discussed this when I told you how Rob had broken me open, but I feel like I’ve become more compassionate.
Me: Like the other morning with the homeless guy who sleeps outside in front of our garage.
Lar: Before Rob died, I basically ignored that guy. He’d ask for spare change and I’d always say I didn’t have any. After I came back from Rob’s funeral in New York, I started giving him a few bucks every time he’d ask. Of course, now he keeps asking, and I keep giving because…jeez, the dude sleeps outside every night! And there’s a part of me that always worried that Rob would end up that way.
Me: The guy asked you if you had any spare pants.
Lar: When I pointed out that I’d already given him a few pairs of old jeans, he said, “But I ran out of them!”
Me: You can’t argue with that! On another note, I thought the second group exercise we did that night, where we were asked to describe our grief in a metaphor and draw a little picture of it, was kind of interesting.
Lar: My drawing sucked, but we all had to begin a sentence with the words “My grief is…” So, in keeping with my whole sand/water personal brand, I wrote, “My grief is an ocean and every day, I try to keep my head above water.” And then I drew little waves that look like the ones on my tattoo.
Me: One of the moderators asked you where your head was at in that moment.
Lar: I said that I don’t want to incur the wrath of the grief gods by saying anything positive, but my head has been mostly above water these days, and that’s when I brought up the change thing again. Because in the beginning, particularly for the first few months, it felt like I was drowning every day. I couldn’t breathe. I was being crushed by tidal wave after tidal wave, and after I scrabbled to get to my feet, the undertow would grab me and pull me down to a bottomless ocean.
Me: The depth of the ocean is also the depth of your love for Rob—enormous and overwhelming. And the truth is that you can now swim in it, and one day you’ll be able to sit on the beach and just look out at the ocean. You’ll feel sad, but it will also be beautiful, just like that imaginary place with your mostly imaginary friends, Meryl, Harry and John, when you did the EMDR session with Katarina.
Lar: The jealous writer in me has to admit that I liked another dad’s metaphor for grief way better than mine.
Me: Me too.
Lar: It was succinct and conveyed exactly the way we all feel. He wrote, “My grief is my constant companion.” Underneath, he drew two stick figures holding each other’s hands.
Me: He also shared that spot-on quote from Nick Cave. He definitely won grief group that night.
Lar: He totally did. I googled it and saw that it came from a letter Cave received on his website The Red Hand Files, where he answers questions from fans. Here’s the gist of it:
“It seems to me, that if we love, we grieve. That’s the deal. That’s the pact. Grief and love are forever intertwined. Grief is the terrible reminder of the depths of our love and, like love, grief is non-negotiable. There is a vastness to grief that overwhelms our minuscule selves. We are tiny, trembling clusters of atoms subsumed within grief’s awesome presence. It occupies the core of our being and extends through our fingers to the limits of the universe.”
Me: I think Rob would’ve liked Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.
Lar: You know, he did a side project called Grinderman, whose name Rob would’ve loved. And also, there’s a great track called “The Weeping Song” from the album “The Good Son.” And also, also: Nick Cave’s 15-year-old boy fell off a cliff and died four years ago.
Me: That’s so fucked up, dude.
Lar: Tell me about it.