Through the Looking Glass and Not Looking Back

Submission Date: September 9th, 2011
Attributing Author: Cori Sievers (Jamie’s mom)

Jamie Sievers

A mother’s reflection.

Since just before the 20th of June, 2011, the first year anniversary of my only son Jamie’s death, I’ve been in a new corridor in the seemingly endless labyrinth of grieving, and I just couldn’t make it out for awhile…
I didn’t fall, I leapt into a path of self destruction with a single-mindedness born of true hopelessness.
I can honestly say, I wanted to die.
Three days before the anniversary, I drank a bottle of vodka and swallowed some sleeping pills.
Obviously, by some fluke or grace of the Powers That Be, I didn’t succeed in my attempt.

Every time I would dwell on my despair, think about what I could have done differently, think why…I’d fall down into a dark place inside myself that nobody is meant to look at for too long, let alone live; and the desire to die took a stranglehold on me.  I was drinking.  A lot.  And that made the desire to die completely overwhelming.  No matter who you are or how you end up dealing with it, the grief of losing a child takes you to places nobody is meant to go.  Some of us don’t make it out.

But dying would be passing the buck – onto my friends and chosen family, onto my niece and nephew who call me “second mom”…it would be spreading the pain out even further.  The ultimate selfish act.  Despite the pain I feel,  I know now I cannot do to them what my son’s death did to me.

Have you ever been so lost that you gave up trying to find your way back out again?

Until now, that meant giving up ever finding my way back to myself – to sanity.
But now I think that NOT trying to find our way back is essential to survival – but instead, we must push on…go deeper and deeper into the dark until we meet the thing that terrifies us the most.  Our loss.  Our grief.  Life without our children
Unthinkable.
Because until we do,  we aren’t really surviving, we are hiding…and the more we hide, the worse the pain gets until we’ll gnaw off our own limbs to end the trapped feeling, the intense pain of being caught in our own grief and guilt.

Inevitably what happens then is we bleed out and die.

Fortunately for me, I managed, with help, to drag myself through to the other side (with a lot of support, and no thanks to me).

Well, perhaps the one thing I did right after putting on the mental tourniquet is that instead of crawling back the way I came, I’ve resolved to claw my way past the big bear-trap that was sprung.

It’s already sprung, it can’t hurt me anymore.

Even though I know full well there will be more obstacles and traps out there…but nothing will ever hurt me again the way that losing my son hurt me.  And every day I live through another 24 hours, and find a reason to laugh or love or fight or create, is  an honor to my son’s life.
I’m not going to lie, it’s scary here.  Dealing with the grief naked, without the veil of denial, is something I’ve not done once this past year.

And sometimes the path seems to double back and you can see, running parallel to you, just a step away, the path back to where you came from.  Sometimes they even intersect, and you could, if you are not careful, end up right back where you started.
Only if you do, you find that suddenly you can’t seem to fit into your old skin anymore.  Nothing seems to belong.  Even the people around you don’t fit into their former places in your life.

Everything is just…off.  It’s like stepping through Alice’s looking glass – suddenly you find yourself in a new, strange world – the old one just in view, but remote and ultimately unreachable – because unlike Alice, once you’ve stepped through, you find eventually you can’t go back – can’t stay in that old, stale, hard world anymore because you no longer belong in it.  You’ve changed, and the reason for as well as the process of that change, sets you apart from the people around you.

When I was a kid, it was a silly kind of conceit to want to be different, set apart from people around me.  Now, it doesn’t have any kind of merit or stigma either way.  It just is.  It’s disconcerting and strange to know you have really passed through something – and are passing through something – that most people will never understand.  And you would never want them to understand, because that would mean them going through the unthinkable.

And so you have no choice but to try the new path – eventually, it begins to turn farther and farther away from the old path.

And then you are in a new place – one you can only trust will be a place in which you can survive and even thrive.

You have to evolve.  Change.  Then break free.
I cannot keep going the way I have.  I’m exhausted and frustrated and nothing fits anymore.

And besides, I know exactly where it leads – and that is a place I mean never to visit again.
All there is to do now is wait…breathe.  Then keep going – but not back to where I was.
This past year has not been a “cocoon”.  It’s been a raw, painful period of waiting to see whether a massive loss is going to bleed enough to clean itself out and eventually heal, or become infected and ultimately kill me.
It’s a noisy, painful, ugly time.  You are bleeding and suppurating and lancing the wound again and again – and there is no doctor giving you morphine.  You do the worst of it alone, and you do it fully conscious.  Even the cheap oblivion of booze or drugs (even the ones the doctor prescribes you) is temporary and ultimately maddening.  It doesn’t obliterate any pain, it actually irritates it and in some cases, even amplifies it.
It puts you in a mental and emotional holding-pattern that inevitably leads to a crash.
The only way to go through suffering is to go through it.  If you try to mask it, it only draws it out the longer.
But you don’t have to go through it alone.

It took me a year to get here – and I’m not sure where here is.
But I’m not where I was, and I guess you can call that progress.

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