If you’re single and middle-aged, going to weddings can be a little uncomfortable. If you’re single and middle-aged and you don’t drink, going to weddings can be even more challenging. If you’re single, middle-aged, alcohol-free, and you've lost a child around the same age as the bride and groom, well then, going to that wedding might take your breath away.
I’m guessing it’s probably similar if you've lost a grandchild and are going to that same kind of wedding.
Now please don’t get me wrong. I mean really, really please don’t get me wrong. This isn’t a bitterness thing. I love the bride and groom. I love the parents of the bride and groom. I count them in my closest circle of dearest friends, and I want to share in their joy. I definitely do. (And I will, no matter what it takes.)
But you see, what I don’t particularly want is the weight of the emotional bootstraps I have to pull myself up by in order to graciously walk through this, for everyone's sake. I don’t want the what-ifs, the regrets, the deep sadness. I don’t want to feel like I can’t mention my son’s name, for fear it will “bring everyone down.” I really don’t want to feel any of this at all.
Weddings are naturally full of hopes and dreams. I don’t want to be reminded of dreams, especially lost dreams. The dreams I had for my son Chad, who died in June of 2019. And the many dreams he had - plans, hopes, and yearnings that died on the day he died. Dreams for a wife, and children, and hopes for his own grandfather to live to see his children. His grandfather still lives, but Chad doesn’t. That’s harder to swallow on some days than others - like on wedding days.
Yes, I know Chad’s in a better place. I remind myself of that often, and “they” tell me to. “They” being all those well-intentioned friends who don’t really have a clue how I'm feeling. Sometimes I wish they would cut me some slack about it - especially when they compare my loss to their natural loss of a parent or an older relative. But instead, I cut them some slack, because they don’t know what to say or do with me. I’ll never be the same, and they're doing the best they can - and I'm grateful for that.
So I’ll go to the wedding, and I’ll feel woozy and askew and lightheaded and off. And I’ll smile, "act as if" and do all the right things. I’ll try to set aside myself, my heart, and my emotions and manifest nerves of steel. It won’t be easy, but I’ll do it. I’m getting good at doing it. I’ll pay for it the next day in tears, trauma, and hurting lungs. Did you know grief affects the lungs? I learned that recently. Oh, the things we learn after our children die.
And I'll hear the bittersweet words that aren't meant in this way but will ring differently to me now. The words that a mother never imagines will come true about her child: "Til death do us part."
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