by Hamp Thomas
Anticipation is the life blood of joy. Anticipating life is part of what makes this world so wonderful. Whether it’s a new job, a relationship, a plant about to bloom, a bird’s egg ready to hatch, or a child. Anticipation gives you hope and keeps your energy flowing.
Losing a child takes anticipation in a different direction. Instead of anticipating the joys ahead in your life, you find yourself anticipating the fear of birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, anything that reminds you of your child. It’s anticipation in reverse. You so dread certain days or dates, you just want to curl up under the covers and never leave the house again. Most grieving parents have experienced the sheer dread of your child’s favorite holiday, seeing one of their close friends, their spouse, girl/boy-friend, perhaps even their child. You anticipate living through the grief and pain all over again.
But, at some point during the grieving process you will eventually find a new normal. It doesn’t happen in a matter of weeks or months or even years. You won’t notice the exact day it happens. It will just gradually enter your life and may even surprise you. Of course, it will never be the same as the life you once had, that life is no more. But, no matter how strong and long your grief, one day, when you least expect it, you will find yourself filled with anticipation.
When it does happen, many of us have the first instinct to feel guilty. How can we possibly be feeling a sense of anticipation, a happy feeling, when our heart is broken? How can we feel joy after our child has been taken from us? It’s not a feeling you’ve had for such a very long time, you’re not sure exactly how to handle it. How are you supposed to feel? Like most of the grieving process, there’s no right or wrong answers.
However you react to this feeling, you will find yourself looking forward to some event or special occasion. Maybe a much needed vacation or a visit from a long lost friend. Whatever the case, you will find a smile. Maybe it will be the first glimpse of a new grandchild and the love that fills your heart. Then you start to remember what is was like and you anticipate the future, again.
You have grieved for so long you almost forget how to smile. Your face becomes locked in a frown. That’s one reason people shy away from you. They don’t have to ask how you are feeling, it’s written all over your face. It’s not that you intentionally try to look this way, it’s just the way your body expresses itself. You are sad, angry, hurt, and have a myriad of emotions all at once; each one perfectly normal. Or perhaps you’re one of those who hides behind a smile. People only see a smile and the brave show you put on for others. They talk about how strong you are, but they don’t see or understand the extreme pain behind the smile. No one understands the wide range of emotions unless they belong to “the club.” That club where no one wants to be a member; the “parents who have buried a child” club. However, each member has a first-hand knowledge of the vast range of emotions that come with grief.
But now, here you are, face to face with a small glimpse of the person you used to be. A similar person who still enjoys the same things, but a person with a totally new perspective on life. After you lose a child, you will never again be that same person you were when your child was still here. That person was buried with your child. But, that doesn’t mean that you cannot experience joy and anticipation again.
Just imagine for a minute that you were the one that left before your time. How would you feel about the family you left behind? Would you not want them to be happy, to experience joy? That’s part of love, wanting your siblings and parents to be happy and healthy.
As much as we pray for those we lost, do we ever think that they might be praying for us to rediscover anticipation again? Think about that a little. When your day comes, and it will, it’s okay. Embrace it with love, it is a gift. The new person you have become is being born again. Just like a flower in spring blooming for the first time. Open up and accept this gift of love. It’s okay to live again.
About the Author: Hamp & Sherri Thomas live in Whispering Pines, NC and just celebrated their 34th anniversary. Their daughter Lauren is a doctor in Miami, FL and just gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. Their son Will left them at the age of 22 and they feel his presence in dragonflies all the time. The “signs” keep them going. Hamp is the author of the book, Love and Grief, My Child My Heart.
“Our Will passed away in his sleep in the middle of the night after complaining of chest pains for the last few days. We may never know for sure what caused his death and the doctors can’t seem to agree. I always hate to answer the questions about how he died because I don’t really know the answer. That almost makes it worse.” ~ Hamp Thomas