Hoping to share the love, joy, and grace I have received in my own life.

I Can’t Do It All

on July 21, 2015

Don’t tell anyone my secret!  Family and friends still constantly tell me “You do so much!”, “How do you get all this done?”, or “I couldn’t keep up with your schedule.”  Maybe that used to be true.  I have found I often separate events in my life by before and after Trevor’s death.  I often find myself asking Jeff and the girls if certain things occurred before or after he died.  That is the way my life is though, really.  I feel like it is segmented into two lives.  I was a person before he died and a different person after, but I can’t see similarities in those two people anymore.

Just a few years before Trevor died, I was a 4-H Leader, teaching confirmation, involved in nearly every play in our local theater group, working full time, doing absolutely every wife and mother duty I could, and taking classes to complete my Bachelor’s degree.  Although I did get tired once in awhile, I never quit.  I also very rarely said “no” to any task requested of me.  That was my life…before Trevor died.

As I get further away from that horrible day (3 years, 7 months, and 12 days, not that I am counting) it seems that the superwoman/supermom/superwife that I once was is all gone.  I work part-time.  I write and read when I can.  I am behind on housework.  I say “no” to so many requests of me (or more likely make excuses, not only to others, but to myself as to why I can’t go somewhere or do something.)  Why?  I am not sure.  I love life.  Yes, it is hard to live a life without my son physically here with me, but I still see him in so much of what I do.  I want my life to matter, to make a difference.  I have recently added new activities…coloring and playing brain games on my tablet or Trevor’s Nintendo DS. Really! This is what my life has turned into.

In his book, Beyond Endurance: When a Child Dies, Ronald J. Knapp discusses the six characteristics that he found common in parents that have suffered the death of a child.  He interviewed 155 families who experienced all different types of deaths of a child.  One of the characteristics is what Knapp calls “shadow grief.”  Shadow grief is defined as the undercover lingering aspect of a grief response.  Knapp describes it as a painful awareness of the death of a child that never completely goes away and prevents us from fully experiencing the joys of living.  Although one can function normally, shadow grief is that dull ache in the background of one’s feelings that remains constant and on occasions comes rising to the surface, accompanied by sadness.  Eureka!  I have found myself in this book published in 1986.  Twenty-nine years ago parents were grieving just the way I am right now.

In the book Open to Hope, contributing author, Robert Thompson MD, discusses shadow grief, as defined by Knapp, and adds that even though we may not be defined by grief, we are shaped by it and cannot run from it any easier than we could run from our own shadow.  Similar to the way we see our shadow better on some days more than others, we also are aware of our grief shadow some days more than others.

I have a shadow of grief.  I have tried to blame my lack of desire to do everything under the sun as a result of aging. I’m only 45. Can I really blame choosing not to go to dinner with friends, not returning to my Master’s degree (started the month before Trevor died),  or not auditioning for another show on old age?  Trevor’s death is carried with me everyday.  It is like a heavy backpack…an invisible weight that, as I smile, is pulling me down, making it easy for me to say “no” to things that I so badly want to do, but ultimately, I feel as though I can’t.  I carry that backpack every day.  Each time I talk or write about Trevor, the backpack seems to become lighter for a little while.  Slowly it begins to get too heavy to carry alone.  My shadow gets larger as the backpack gets heavier.  I am blessed with a great group of friends.  A few of them can see my grief shadow, even though I may not know it is there.  My friend, Betsie, has come to me during a certain song in church and wrapped her arms around me and sang with me.  Looking back on that now, I can imagine my shadow being chased away by her care.  My friend, Susan, will often just know that I need a hug and reach out to me…the backpack becomes lighter.  Yes, the grief shadow and the heavy backpack are a part of this new me that I am still learning about.  Although a piece of my heart is gone, the rest of it still desires to do some of the things I used to.  The more I write, perhaps the lighter the backpack becomes.  I am unsure what this life is leading me to, but I know that it is not in vain.  My story isn’t over yet.

I don’t share these personal feelings with the world for sympathy or attention.  I share it because I am learning and as I learn, I hope to teach others.


5 responses to “I Can’t Do It All

  1. You are a great teacher and I am so greatful to be your student…

  2. Susan Carter says:

    Shadow grief is a perfect description. I see it enlarge and shrink around you. It makes me angry that you have to deal with this. A foolish emotion, I know but it does. I’ve grown to love you and I want to know you better and share with you under the tent and have wine at dinner with the 4 if us and tell silly stories so we can know Jeff better too. I totally understand but I hate that you live with this weight. I wish I could lighten it in some way. Keep writing. I’m sure you are helping many. Love you.

  3. Cathy Warren says:

    Love this Dana!

  4. Cindy Marino says:

    You are making a difference my friend

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: