When The Other Shoe Appears

For thirteen years I have been waiting for the other shoe to drop. Today, I see it hovering above my world. I’m having trouble not giving in to the panic and fear. My PTSD is in overdrive. I imagine I am not alone.

I’ve often shared the truth of my emotionally distancing myself, from my sons, after Becca was killed. I pulled back for two reasons: to protect them and to protect myself.

My young life was full of pain. It seemed, to me, anything I loved was taken away. Losing Becca proved my perception. Anything that came within my orbit was ruined by my existence. I couldn’t let that happen to them, too. Loving them . . . needing them . . . put them in danger. I wouldn’t let them be hurt because I was being selfish in having them around.

After Becca died, I would ask myself daily, how are you even still alive? How can you be breathing? Thinking? Surviving? Existing. I felt as if I was made of the thinnest porcelain and would completely shatter if anything touched me. I was empty. I had nothing to give. I couldn’t chance loving a child that would die because whatever was still left of me would crumble.

As the years passed and I grieved I was able to understand why I’d pulled away from Gabriel and Matthew. In little bits, I learned to trust life again, to a point. I never (and still don’t) trusted life fully. I was always on alert. Waiting. Waiting for that other shoe to make an appearance.

And now . . . it has.

My child died. I would like to think that this truth was a sort of vaccination in keeping my other children safe. It isn’t. I know too many other bereaved mothers who have buried more than one of their children. Losing one doesn’t mean we won’t lose another. And, we know all too well that children die.

So, here we are as a country. A world. We are in the midst of a global pandemic and people are dying. Young, old. Seemingly healthy, others compromised. Grandparents, parents, brothers and sister. And, children.

Initially, the news was reporting that those under 30 seemed to fare much better if they became sick. Thank god . . . I thought. My boys are 26. Under the age of worry. A factor in their benefit. In the past few days I have heard differently. Young healthy adults, under 30, are ending up in critical condition. Dying. Or living, possibly, with permanent issues in their lungs. Gone is any hope I had that they were immune.

As a bereaved mother it is easy (and almost immediate) to go from it’s gonna be ok to my child will not make it out of this alive. We’ve traveled the road before. We know the way.

Thankfully, both of my boys have been very understanding with how I have reacted to this. Checking in with me. Answering when I call. Being patient with my “overboard concerns”. I told them I would “Walking Dead” my ass down to DC to pick up Matthew if need be. I know it sounds funny but I mean it. My need to protect my children is insane and on high alert right now. I’m doing everything I can to not spin out of control and just completely lose it. I am actually pretty proud of how I am doing.

Though bereaved mothers know what it is like to bury our child/ren . . . I know that non bereaved mothers are fearful for their own children, too. Covid-19 is a real threat to every single person. It’s still evolving and the professionals are learning new things about it every single day. What will tomorrow’s news bring?

I’ve never seen stores in this condition. As I walk through the local grocery store the past ten days I have felt the general mood go from that of little true fear and jokes to another that is serious and worried. As someone said to me today, “this is getting real”. Indeed it is. And, it’s f*cking terrifying.

Earlier today I had the radio on in my car and realized the commercial was actually a PSA. The person talked about limiting our exposure to the news right now. Listen for an hour a day, he suggested, to get the facts and learn what you need to know. But, don’t have it on all day long. He went on to explain the signs of anxiety and urged listeners to seek professional help if they were suffering from it. Great advice.

There is a real mental health component to this pandemic. And, it shouldn’t be ignored. Take breaks from the onslaught of the continually updating news. Do something that brings you joy and peace. Share your worries with others. Pray, if you are so inclined. Protect your mental health. Give your soul a time out from the stress of the current world situation.

And, for my fellow bereaved mothers, breathe.

We are in this together, you and I. I am here for you just as I know you are here for me. These are tough times. But, we’ve been through tougher times, haven’t we? We survived those and we will survive this, as well.

Be kind to each other. Help where you can with what you have.

And, breathe.

 

Author: Diane Neas

I'm a mother, artist, and writer. A decade ago I lost my daughter. I find writing, and painting, heal me. Sharing my story of loss and healing lightens what I carry. And, hopefully, my words help another along the way.

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