I’ve got the what ifs tonight, the night after Hank turned 16. And Jack didn’t. I don’t often let myself go down the rabbit hole of these questions. They are circular and end up in a spiral—a vortex—that goes nowhere and just leaves me exhausted and mad and sad and somehow even glad, then mad and sad again. Like a seasonal disorder, the what ifs flare up during the first week of June every year, and I am suddenly back in the hospital on bedrest. I squash them and ignore them until we have celebrated Hank’s birthday with joy and thanksgiving. Then I let the what ifs out of their box to swirl around for the four days between the boys’ birthday and Jack’s death. Then, because there are not any answers, I close them away again. They get four days, and no more. So here they are again….the what ifs:
- What if that nurse had been paying closer attention and not talking so much, and I wouldn’t have to wonder if that’s when the infection started?
- What if the high risk doctor had woken me up when she made her rounds, and found a problem earlier?
- What if the bad doctor had listened to me when I said I felt hot and short of breath?
- What if I had insisted he examine me instead of just phoning in his instructions that night?
- What if?
- What if that other nurse hadn’t noticed Jack’s heartrate problem and flagged down the good doctor who just happened to be in the hallway!
- What if they hadn’t acted so quickly and I had lost both of them?
- What if Hank had developed any of the many problems preemies his size could have had?
- What if?
- What if there was something I could have noticed or should have noticed or could have done or should have done differently?
- What if I could just get through the birthday week without getting the what ifs?
I haven’t actually been able to write about Graham yet. But I do plan to read your book very soon.
Julie Hester said:
Our hope is that the book (and the blog) might show you and others how writing can be a way to grieve, and remember. Thank you for your website. Peace be with you.
Kay Windsor said:
Thank you for including us on your web site. I’m so sorry about your son, and I hope that your own writing helps in your grief journey too.
I’m so glad I discovered your blog. I’ve added it to my website http://www.scoop.it/t/grief-and-loss, which I’ve been curating in memory of my 23 year old son who was killed 55 weeks ago.
My site is meant for bereaved parents and siblings and contains 11 pages (so far) of blogs, articles, websites, and other resources which are meant to be helpful to all of us in this alien universe without our children.
Prissy Armfield said:
Julie, I just met Dottye last week, and I brought up the same topic you just expressed. I am blindsided by the same feelings of “what-ifs.” I often have to say the Serenity Prayer to get past them.
It will be 20 years tomorrow since my son Britt died at 16years old. I hope I can maintain an attitude of gratitude for what was in his life. His brothers are here at the beach with me. We will share our memories I’m sure.
Blessings to you. Prissy Armfield
The what ifs can be crippling. I think the best we can hope for is to allow the passing of time to help us. My prayer for you is that you are able to look back with ever increasing degrees of clarity , and find some peace – in the reality.
Kathy Shoaf said:
Yes, the “what ifs.” We can all relate. Thank you for stating them so succinctly and so honestly. I’m working from my screened porch this afternoon. Just as I read your post the rain began to fall, as if this day is weeping for you. I’m holding you close.
I understand your pain and am grateful to you for sharing. I wish you peace.
Monica Sleap said:
Thank you for such a profound piece of writing. I often think “what if” we never had the chance to experience such heartfelt writings with one another. Bless you.
Dottye Law Currin said:
thank you, Julie, for saying so well what we all feel so often. I am walking with you down that dark hallway of memory. And I celebrate who you have become because of, or in spite of, the loss and sadness. Blessings.
Kay Windsor said:
I am holding you in my heart especially during the four days in June that bring back the what ifs for your sons. Maybe we just have to allow the what ifs in as you are doing, but sometimes it’s so hard to put them away. I don’t think they will ever go away, just rest where we store them until another vortex arrives.Thank you for sharing your writing about them.