When Kiran died last January, we were in the middle of one of the coldest mid-winter spells.  The ground was frozen hard and covered in snow.  The trees were bare and brown.  It seemed fitting.  I didn’t ever want it to warm up again.  Eventually, of course, the days grew longer, the sun warmer and, without even a passing nod to our grief, spring arrived.  It was really hard.  When the weather warms up, all of Boston seems to come out of doors, the playgrounds fill up and you hear little children everywhere.  In the beginning there were times we had to shut ourselves in just to hold on to our sanity.  Over time I’ve slowly learned how to enjoy their company again, and to wear the mask when grief breaks through.

This past weekend once again heralded the arrival of spring.  I can’t believe its been over a year, but time moves inexorably on.  My grief is not as raw as last year, but the onset of spring is still hard.  I have the urge to go outside, but it feels empty and meaningless without Kiran.  I want to be enjoying the outdoors with him.  I imagine all the things we would be doing together.  Would he still like to watch the trains, or spend the morning swinging and clambering through the big boy playground?

Over the last year we’ve found some comfort talking to other parents who’ve lost children, reading their books and blogs.  I thought When The Bough Breaks:  Forever After The Death Of A Son Or Daughter by Judith Bernstein was excellent.  It was a sensitive book by a bereaved parent who also happens to be a professional psychologist.  Joan Didion’s book The year of magical thinking also made a deep impact on me.  The book describes the year following the death of her husband during which her daughter was quite ill.  Her daughter died the year following the events outlined in the book.  I recently finished reading Death Be Not Proud by John Gunther.  John writes about his son Johnny’s last year as he struggled with the brain tumor that would take his life.  Though the book is set in the 1940’s the underlying emotions are all too familiar.  The last chapter, written by Johnny’s mother Frances, could have been written by us today.  Here are some excerpts.

Frances Gunther in Death Be Not Proud

“My grief I find, is not desolation or rebellion at universal law or deity.  I find grief to be much simpler and sadder.  Contemplating the Eternal Deity and His Universal Laws leaves me grave but dry-eyed.  But a sunny fast wind along the Sound, good sailing weather, a new light boat, will shake me to tears:  how Johnny would have loved this boat, this wind, this sunny day!”

“Missing him now, I am haunted by my own shortcomings, how often I failed him.  I think every parent must have a sense of failure, even of sin, merely in remaining alive after the death of a child.  One feels that it is not right to live when one’s child has died, that one should somehow have found the way to give one’s life to save his life.  Failing there, one’s failures during his too brief life seem all the harder to bear and forgive.”

“All the wonderful things in life are so simple that one is not aware of their wonder until they are beyond touch.  Never have I felt the wonder and beauty and joy of life so keenly as now in my grief that Johnny is not here to enjoy them.  Today, when I see parents impatient or tired or bored with their children, I wish I could say to them, But they are alive, think of the wonder of that!  They may be a care and a burden, but think, they are alive!  You can touch them – what a miracle!  You don’t have to hold back sudden tears when you see just a headline about the Yale-Harvard game because you know your boy will never see the Yale-Harvard game, never see the house in Paris he was born in, never bring home his girl, and you will not hand down your jewels to his bride and will have no grandchildren to play with and spoil.  Your sons and daughters are alive.  Think of that – not dead but alive!  Exult and sing.”