Here I am, three years and some out from my son dying in my husband’s arms.

I’ve gone through moments of thick, black, heavy darkness, and I’ve had moments where a smile creeps across my face. I’ve sobbed in front of strangers talking of my boy, and other times I’ve held back, not saying anything too specific. There are people I have met in the past three years who do not know I have a son who died. And there are other people who do know and think I’m “OK now.”

I’m not sure what that means. “OK now.”

I’m not a threat to myself or others, but I’m not sure what else I can claim at any given moment.

I remember reading articles in the early months after loss, analogies of cracks being filled with gold and hearts growing to let in more love. They made me sick. I told myself I’d never heal.

At some point I realized it isn’t about healing for me. It’s about taking life one day at a time, and finding meaning where I can. That meaning may be directly tied to Oberon, and it may not. It took a long time for me to be comfortable saying that out loud – that I could find meaning and purpose beyond my son. Just as my entire self is not tied to any one of my children, his entire existence is not tied only to me. Of course, his impact on me and his father has been the most profound. We are changed, in large and small ways, in positive and negative ways. He left an imprint on our lives, on our very ways of being.

If it were possible to never openly grieve again – to never break down in tears, to never feel jealousy at a complete family, to never resent the circumstances of my loss – I would still be forever changed. I know that grief will rear its head and knock me down – again and again.

But I don’t need it to justify my love for my son or my relationship with him. Because his impact on me is felt through more than tears and sadness.

It’s felt in how I support other loss families. It’s felt in how I listen. How I am more in tune with my needs. How I respect the needs of others. How I allow myself time to slow down. How I acknowledge things that make my skin crawl. I’m sure people who have known me before and after would have more observations.

He is my first born child, and I was going to be changed no matter what happened. When he died, those changes didn’t stop or reverse. If anything they became deeper and more ingrained. Grief will be a part of me for the rest of my life, but it isn’t the only way I carry my son with me. I have no choice but to carry him, every minute of every day. In my heart, in my breath, in every word, and every embrace. His impact, forever felt. And me, forever changed.

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