All the family photos. They kill me. I love them, but they kill me.
I’ll never have a complete family picture again. There will always be a hole. Right now it feels like a chasm that I may just fall into.
All the photos of smiling kids. Holding their parents hands. Leaning into their Mom or Dad.
Don’t get me wrong, I am utterly grateful for what I have. I love Brooks and Shane more than I have words for. They are my world. I do love pictures with them. And I will cherish them. Believe me, I know how precious they are.
And I don’t begrudge others their family photos. I want to see them. I want to see the smiles. The love. The completeness. Because I don’t want anyone else to feel like I do. I want to see that those I love and care about are whole.
It’s just at times like this, when everyone is looking for a good family photo for the Christmas card. When everyone under the sun is posting their family pictures with the sweet sayings about being thankful…. I am thankful too. It’s just mixed with sadness and even anger because my family picture is forever altered.
And when I walk away from the family photos by the rock at the cabin. The same rock where I have taken countless whole family photos. On the same yearly trek that my child has been on every year until he died. On the first trip back to this place at this time without him. Where I held him as a baby. Where I corralled him as a toddler. Where he held my hand and leaned into me as a sweet little boy who was mine. Please know that it’s not about you or anything you did. I’m not trying to hurt anyone’s feelings. I’m not trying to spoil the mood. Or make everyone sad. Or not cooperate.
I just need a moment. A moment to collect myself. To calm my breath. To catch myself from falling into that abyss that is the empty space where my baby should be.
I need to harness the panic that is rising in my chest. The panic that makes my heart race, my breath catch, and my brain spin. I’m learning how to harness it. Because it still comes. It will never stop rearing it’s ugly head. Because my baby isn’t coming back. He’ll never be in the family picture again. But I am learning how to harness that beast.
And only I know how to do that. Only I know how to catch myself. Whatever other’s thoughts or beliefs or opinions, they belong to them. I have to do my grief my way. When I walk off from these moments… I’m trying not to lose my shit in front of everyone. I’m trying to save face. I’m trying not to crumble into a trembling pile of sobs in front of you. Because even though others may not want to believe it, or some might even think I should be over that phase, that still happens. And more than anything, I’m actually trying to spare everyone the pain that is ripping through my heart.
Please know I will come back. I’m harnessing the beast. I’m letting some of the tears run their course because that is how I will heal. Some of the sobs are escaping to make room in my chest to breathe. Because the deep breaths I take will calm the panic and chase the beast away.
So, when these moments happen, it’s not about you. Or what you said. Or what you did. Please don’t take it personally. I appreciate the space you give me to gather my dignity and put the smile back on my face. It can be the greatest gift I am given in these moments. These moments when my family picture is not and will never be whole again.