10 years 
10 things I’ve learned about grief and losing a child in the 10 years since Ryan’s death

1) There is no other loss like that of a child. And it doesn’t matter the age of the child. Whether they were in utero, a senior citizen or somewhere in between. It’s the hardest loss a person will ever experience. Worse than losing your parents, your spouse, your sibling, your precious dog, your grandparent….

2) You never “get over it”. Life goes on and time softens the pain but time does NOT heal all wounds. This wound is too deep and ragged to ever heal. We bereaved parents incorporate our loss into the new us and we learn to live again but we never get over it.

3) You can feel two emotions at the same time. In the early days of our loss, I didn’t think I would ever have fun again. I couldn’t imagine laughing or doing anything joyful ever again. But eventually I did laugh again and I did have fun again. But those emotions don’t replace my feelings of loss and grief; they just ride shotgun with the sadness. One book described it like going to a party with a toothache.

4) Losing a child strips away all the veneers we develop over the years. Like the Velveteen Rabbit, after our child dies, we become very “real”. “ by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

5) Your circle of friends changes. Many friends are there for you through the worst of it. Some disappear because it’s just too hard – you remind them that if it can happen to you, it can happen to anyone and you just aren’t much fun to be around for a really long time. But new friends, really good ones, appear. Some of them have also lost a child and thus you share a special bond – they “get it” like no one else.

6) Your life is bifurcated into “before and after”. I often refer to the days before Ryan died as “my old life”. My new life is good but different. And not as good as it would be if my boy hadn’t died.

7) People mean well but their words still hurt. It wasn’t meant to be. It didn’t make me a better person. God didn’t need him more than I do. Everything DOESN’T happen for a reason. Yes, I’m strong but I don’t have a choice and it’s a strength born of enormous pain.

8) Even when jealousy isn’t a natural emotion, it’s hard to not envy friends and total strangers, for that matter, of their intact families. Sometimes it takes all I have to be with families whose children are all still alive and thriving. I no longer read Christmas letters. And while I’m happy for you, just know your boasting of your amazing children wounds me like being stabbed with a hot poker. Sometime when you’re reciting where your children are and what they are doing with their beautiful, full lives, I simply walk away because it hurts too badly to hear it.

9) Time is a funny beast. It’s the only thing that brings even a modicum of relief from the suffering in the early days, but it also takes you farther away from the last time you saw your child. The loss is yesterday and forever, all at the same time. And time does continue to zoom by. Realizing it’s been 10 years since Ryan died is unbelievable in most ways.

10) We human beings are stronger and more resilient than we can fathom. I never believed we would survive this loss. Losing Ryan was truly the worst thing that could have happened to our family. He was the bright light of the Dickerson clan. He got the best parts of both his dad and me. He was the joy of our lives. The damage to our family has been severe and oh so painful. Wounds deeper than any of you know. But we have survived. All three of us, as amazing as that is.

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