There are milestones that separate life into a before and after – graduations, moving out of the family home, getting married, becoming a parent. I’ve done all those things, but nothing has created such a stark dividing line as the death of my son.

mom holding baby - a baby's death changes you

Of all the milestones I’ve hit, so many can be undone or repeated. Maybe that’s why they don’t feel as consequential, as final. I could always become a student again, move back home, get divorced or widowed, and my day-to-day life as a mom to living children won’t last forever – hopefully because they will grow up and move out.

But Oberon’s death? It is final in a way nothing else is. In a life full of change and fluidity, it is immovable. Impenetrable. Unchangeable. Finite.

Like a wall stretching across my existence, separating the before and after in an absolute way.

Friends I met before, friends I met after.
Hobbies I had before, hobbies I had after.
The person I was before, the person I am after.

Nothing is untouched, nothing is the same. It sounds hyperbolic, but it is true. Everything about my personality is touched by the experience of giving birth to and scattering the ashes of my son. Everything about how I relate to other people is shaded by him.

It isn’t all the shade of a black cloud – though that certainly looms large. Sometimes it’s the shared understanding with someone else grieving. Maybe it’s new grief that I can sit with in a way others can’t, or maybe it’s the lived experience to know that new grief becomes older grief but never leaves.

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It’s the fissures in the walls of compartmentalization I used to be so good at. The leaking of tears and emotions at inconvenient times in inconvenient company. I used to judge people like that, harshly, and now that is me.

I appreciate pragmatism and realism so much more than optimism now. I was maybe a bit that way before, but it is more extreme now. I don’t want to hear about the 10% of hopeful outcomes, I want to know the full context. I want it all, and I don’t respect medical professionals or others who take the easy way out by only focusing on positive possibilities until forced to admit something else might be going on. It feels like a way to protect themselves, not to care for me.

I had so many plans and dreams to maintain my sense of self when I became a mother, but none of that seems important now. It is impossible to be the woman I was before – and all I can do is accept this after and keep moving forward.

The after keeps going. One day at a time.

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