My close friend lost her teenage son a few days ago.
I won’t begin to speak, directly, to the loss of that beautiful bright light itself, and the all of the direct tragedy and horror that is wrapped up in losing a soul so young. To say that it is heartbreaking is only the tip of the iceberg.
I will save that for another day. Sidestep that conversation for something a touch less horrifying and unpleasant.
Because as the days tick by and the loss becomes a thing the living must deal with, I am struck by another loss as well.
Without putting too fine a point on it, watching a close friend lose a child is a little like losing a tyat close friend, themselves.
Yes, I realize that sounds dramatic. Or maybe self-involved. And yes, I realize that I will go on to have more times with her. Good times, bad times, amazing times, sad times. I am sure of it. I look forward to them all because I am happy to know her as long as she will let me.
But she will never be the same.
Look: There are a lot of clichés around this: Having a child is like watching your heart walk around outside your body. True. You would give one year of your life for an hour of your child’s. Also true. No one wants to outlive their child. Beyond true. Truth itself.
Watching someone that you love so absolutely learn to live in this world is terrifying and exhilarating. To lose that, to lose the joy of watching their lives unfold…that is devastating. A phantom limb, a phantom soul. And while you can continue, while you can even go on, thrive, have more joys of your own, like a chandelier with multiple bulbs, the loss of that joy is like the bulb that will always be out, forever changing the hue and quality of that light, of the mood, of the atmosphere of your world.
And so I mourn for him and I mourn for her and those who loved him in a totally different way, because that person who was building a future and a life and a family that always included him in it is gone, replaced with someone who is now a shell and the battle hasn’t even begun to rebuild the rest to something she can barely recognize, at this point, as her own life. The absence of the person she was ...is palpable, and brings me to tears when the loss of her son doesn’t.
Sometimes I wonder if this is why people avoid people who are mourning, when they wish they could be the person who would be there instead. Because to miss someone in their very presence is a unique ache, a powerless gut punch. And only the love for them itself overpowers that unique horror.