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Something happened to my brain when my son died. I felt like it was shrouded in a dense fog. Like I was wandering an unfamiliar road, in the dark, with no idea how I got there. I’m not sure if it was a betrayal or kindness, but it’s definitely a thing. It’s going on 18 months for me, and I still can’t think clearly most days.

It seems like all the brainpower I have has been routed to “the loss”.

My brain is trying to protect me from living in a constant state of panic, to keep me from shutting down and to protect my heart. If I was living each day in the full knowledge of what had happened, what we lost, I’m not sure I could handle it. I feel like God designed our brains to meter out reality in small, more manageable pieces. This reality is spoon-fed to us a bit at a time, as the days turn into months and the months into years.

You live so distracted in grief. The other day, I walked into the house with the mail in my hand, went straight to the garbage can, popped the lid and threw it all away. About five minutes later, a niggling little thought surfaced that something was amiss. I had to really stop and think about what I had just done. You learn to listen to those feelings and remind yourself to engage in the moment.

In those first few days, I remember questioning whether or not we should be driving. I wondered if I was still capable of filling out paperwork at my job. I lost the ability to read and comprehend. Book club was no longer an option. Important decisions? Try not to make any. Except of course for planning an enormous get-together (aka funeral), deciding where you want your loved one to be buried, and picking out a granite edifice that will last for several generations.

Chunks of time disappeared. The loss seems like yesterday and a hundred nightmares ago, all at the same time.

I understand, rationally, that people are thinking we should be “moving on” and “getting better” but time doesn’t work that way in grief.

I have a hard time believing that 18 months have passed. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that he is gone, let alone the fact that six seasons have passed and two years is quickly approaching. How can that possibly be? I still feel exactly the same.

What helps? Embrace your phone’s calendar and notes feature. Add details to contacts so you can access it later. If someone recommends a book or podcast, write it down immediately. I know that I won’t be able to recall it later. Even when I’m fully engaged in listening, it seems like there is just no space left to retain details.

Give yourself time and be kind to yourself. You’ve been through terrible trauma and you should respect that.

Guard your heart. Keep talking to Jesus. Practice self-care and try to get enough sleep. Don’t put yourself in situations where you know all your buttons will be pushed. Limit your exposure to people if you need to. Understand that you don’t have to engage in conversations that you aren’t ready to have or answer questions that you aren’t comfortable with. You can say no. You can set up boundaries. You can walk away.

Your brain needs time to heal . . . to understand what has been taken from your heart.

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Kristin Schlegel

Kristin and her husband have been married for 30 years. She found writing to be very therapeutic after losing their son, John, to the opioid epidemic at the age of 24. She hopes her writing will help other bereaved parents know that they are not alone.

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