The last time I saw a full rainbow over the South African sky was on 19th of April 2018, about 5 minutes before my life was shattered. It was the rainbow BEFORE the storm.
Standing outside my ex-husband’s house, trying to comprehend that my 19 year old son, Jordan was in there – but at the same time he wasn’t. He’s was gone. All that was left of him, was the shattered remains of a beautiful perfect body he no longer wanted to be in. He chose his angelversary. He chose to leave us all behind and graduate to Heaven.
How do you come to terms with that? How can a mother, a father, a sibling or anyone ever accept that? How do you go on?
Those first few days were surreal. The devastation took over and it felt like I was having an out of body experience. I kept hoping I would wake up from this nightmare, but I didn’t. My child was gone. I would never again, in this lifetime, see, hear or touch him. The physical truth of this reality felt like someone had punched me in the chest, left me with an indescribable pain which took the breath right out of me. Who knew ones heart could really ache? That pain would engulf every part of your mind and body, to the point of actual nausea.
I had decisions to make. Decisions that would define my journey as a grieving mother.
Shortly after our discovery, I made a decision that there would be no fighting and no blaming. Fighting over the why’s and what if’s was not going to solve anything. Jordan made this choice, he found a way to go through with it and nothing, absolutely nothing would bring him back to us. We were his parents, no longer married but we both did the best we could for him in his life Now we had to learn how to be grieving parents. We did not need any unhealthy, unnecessary complications in this incredibly difficult and devastating time.
The next decision I made was to not take any prescription drugs. I did not want to numb myself through this process. I needed to feel the pain, to experience the grief and to survive through it. I did not want to delay the inevitable. I chose to not take drugs, not even headache tablets. And because of all the crying and emotional exhaustion, headaches were frequent. I had also developed anxiety, something completely new to me and I chose to rather use a herbal calming remedy, when I needed it.
Grief exhausted me. I was however able to sleep at night even though it was interrupted sleep. I chose to allow myself to sleep. To gift myself with sleep as I knew my body, mind and broken heart needed it.
I made the decision to get up everyday. It’s a choice and believe me, it’s so much tougher than it sounds because if you don’t get up, you won’t.
I decided that just because my child gave up his life, I would not allow his devastating decision to rob me of mine. I have another son, a husband, a career, a family, friends and dreams to live for. In that moment, all of that seems very irrelevant because the pain and the grief numbs you, and you are not able to think about tomorrow, let alone the rest of your life. You are not really able to care for yourself in those first few raw minutes, hours and days, let alone give any consideration to anyone or anything else. But …. it’s still a decision you need to make because a time will come when today and tomorrow will matter more than you realize.
I chose not to wear black. Is that important you may ask? Well, in the Greek culture mourning is represented by wearing black. I didn’t want to be a mourning mother – I wanted to be Jordan’s mother. I would wear color and try and be as normal as I could be, without portraying myself as a mourner. This was a brave decision, as I never wore black to his funeral. It was the last occasion that I would get to dress up for him …. I wouldn’t attend his 21st, or his wedding …. so I chose an outfit that would honor him and be celebratory. One I know he would of approved of.
I would go back to work, sooner than later. Get back into some form of daily routine again. I need my job. I have financial commitments and my husband and I would not be able to survive without my salary. That was however not the main reason for this decision. I needed to keep my mind busy and find my NEW NORMAL. Don’t get me wrong, there were days that I arrived at the office and was not able to get out of my car. On those days, I chose not to, and drove myself home. Those days will come and that is ok.
I would honor commitments I had made, prior to this devastation. I was destined to travel to Kenya for work, just two and a half weeks after I lost my son. I chose to go through with that trip. That was by no means easy, leaving the comfort of my home and the security of my family and support system behind, whilst I was so fragile, vulnerable and broken was tough, but it was a good decision for me. I know Jordan would of wanted me to go.
I would not stop talking about him, and to him. He may not be here anymore in the physical, but he is still very much a part of our lives.
I would cry, scream, be as vulnerable as I could be, when I needed to be …. so that I could release the negative emotions through this physical demonstration of grief. As much as you try to contain it, it hits you when you least expect it, and you have to allow it. You have to honor grief. Allow grief to become you and then allow grief to release you. Release the emotions and let the giant, yes giant, tears fall.
I would laugh. I recall laughing in the early days of grief and I immediately stopped myself and almost reprimanded myself for expressing joy. In that moment I made the decision – to laugh. To allow myself to laugh and feel joy. To allow myself to be happy and create happiness around me. My birthday came just 5 weeks after, and I chose to celebrate on that day, and to celebrate other special occasions from that day onwards, including his birthday.
I chose to get back into my exercise routine. To run, and gym and stay fit. You under-estimate the benefits exercise brings. It helps you to release the anger, the hurt and the accumulated emotions. It releases much needed endorphins and keeps you in a routine, especially when you commit yourself to something and someone – like a running buddy or gym group. I recall the first day of cross training, we did a boxing session and as I boxed, I felt the emotions slowly but surely build up. I punched that bag so hard that I started to cry. I cried and punched and cried and punched. It was a beautiful release. One that I will never forget.
I chose to communicate with Jordan. I chose to, through a medium, be able to talk to my son. To know that he was ok. As a mother, we always want to know where our children are, who they are with and what they are doing. It is no different when your child has died. You still want to know all that, and more. You want to know whether they are happy. Whether they are still a part of your life. This decision in itself was a big one for me because of my religious conditioning. I stepped out of my box, and yes, felt the condemnation from my fellow Christian friends for doing so. Ultimately, this experience has brought me an incredible amount of peace and healing.
I chose to read …. I purchased all the books about the afterlife, Heaven, and after life communication that I could find. And I read and read and read. It brought me so much comfort. The books were from different authors, but all of them had a golden thread. There is there life after life and whilst they are not here in the physical, they remain with us in Spirit. They are with us now more than they could be in the physical.
I chose to be aware of the signs, and oh my gosh – have the signs been phenomenal. They deserve a story dedicated solely to them.
I chose to associate myself with like-minded people. To join Facebook groups of parents that have lost children. To connect with people who understand my pain, who would help me know that I was not alone in this grief journey. This has helped in many ways. It helps me to see how other mothers were able to move on, find joy and still honor their departed children. It helped me to also see the ugly side of grief. The side that I chose not to be part of. It helped me to know, that the decisions I’ve made, to get up each day and keep moving forward, have helped me become a functioning grieving mother.
I chose not to allow grief to consume me. I allowed grief to be a part of me, to do a demonstration now and then, but not to be the robe that I wear all day, every day. It will not define me as a person, and will not rob me of the joy life still has to offer. I will not seek pity through grief.
For many years I thought of myself as a hard person. I was not someone who would cry when others cried. I was not able to easily turn on the tears. Well, of course that has changed. Tears come now, they flow whether they are invited or not. And through this journey, I have realized that I am not hard. I am STRONG.
I chose to remember that I was a good mother to him. That I loved him unconditionally (and still do). That I gave him the best life I could. I chose not to torture myself with regret.
We did not chose to lose our child. This was not a choice we were given. But ….. through this devastation, we now find ourselves in a position where decisions are needed, to help us through this life shattering situation. The decisions you make everyday from now on, are some of the most important decisions, not only for yourself, but for your family and friends that need you in their life. These decisions will be what define the way in which you chose to live the rest of your life.
Today, I hope that you can chose to see the rainbow AFTER the storm. To know that after darkness, the sun will rise again, and to know that even though we live with pain and loss that cannot be adequately described into words, we are still able to live, create a life worth living, with and for the living, that will honor the lives of our angel children who are watching over us, and participating in our everyday lives with us.
Let’s allow them to experience the beauty of life they no longer have on earth, through us …. until we meet again ❤️
Stella Parker – Jordan’s mother