Monday, August 3, 2009


We had another family vacation last week, a long weekend on the water. We've spent enough time without Henry that packing for a trip and traveling with just the girls feels normal again, not like we left someone at home absentmindedly.

Though new experiences are less heart wrenching than repeating things that we had done with Henry, they are far from sorrow-free. My first thoughts at a new experience are always him: what would he say, what would he like, when would he laugh. I have wondered how I would "remember" him as I experienced things he hadn't; recently, my thoughts have been more on him at age 5 as he would have been, without cancer. He was such an athletic boy, exuding health. I pictured him on the kayak, rowing with him strong little arms. There was no bald head, no steroid-induced cheeks. It was hard, sad, but I tried to look at it and move on.

As the weekend went by, it got easier. I thought of him less and less, as seems to be the pattern in new situations. Consequently, my mood lightened, lifted, I was more able to pay attention to what was going on around me.

I seem to be presented with a dilemma. Some days he's present and heavy in my mind, almost as much as if he were here. Other days I'm very upbeat, focused on the now, and when he enters my thoughts I touch on him lightly and with fondness and move on again.

But most days I'm somewhere in the middle. I can consciously choose to think about him, and be sad, or to not think of him, and feel happier. My mourning is much less intense than it was, but it is very rare that I can think of him and feel happy, light, and good. I'm like a balloon running out of helium, and to look at a photo, or really experience a memory, or to hold a favorite toy causes me to sink to the floor.

Which is of course tiring. And probably not great for me, or my family. So I find myself often pushing him away, out of my conscious thought.

And I don't feel great about that. But I'm not sure what else to do.


SOCKS said...

Nice post Dr Smak.

Henry is ever present and always missed.

I grew very attached to a boy at baseball camp last week - German - resembled Henry. I didn't understand my attachment until the last day and I realized how much he reminded me of Henry.

He was quiet, deliberate, serious, energetic, handsome, sensitive and determined.

I lost all composure the last night of camp when I said good-bye to him.

Snickollet said...

I'm at a point where my life with John feels like some kind of alternate reality, a show I watched or a movie I went to see. It makes it easier to deal with the day to day happenings of my life, but it also makes me sad that I can no longer conjure up any really intense emotion around my memories of John. Oh, sure, it hits me from time to time, but for the most part, it's become totally abstract.

As always, I'm so, so sorry that you have to figure out how to live without Henry. It's not fair.

Cathy said...

Many days I think about you and your family. I hope that one day this will get better for all of you.

Anonymous said...

I lost my daughter 12 years ago.

I think about her every day. I can do that and smile now. I am having difficulty with the fact that her 16th birthday is on Sunday and I cannot move passed wondering how my family would be so different if she was here. I also wonder what type of person she would be and what she would look like AND the unfairness.

I think certain things do get easier, but there are some things that still hit you hard when you least expect it, in years to come. I don't think that my mind ever stops thinking about what would it be like if she was still here.

Anonymous said...

nice post, as usual.
In my family, after the loss of my father, it seemed all five kids took turns having those heavier days. The ones who were okay comforted the one/ones who were struggling. I don't think it would be a bad thing to be open with your daughters about having a bad day as it might make them more open to talking to you when they have a bad day and are missing Henry and struggling. I wish I would have had the skills at age nine to be able to approach my Mom with my feelings instead of withdrawing or lashing out to whomever was nearby for me to take it out on.
My Mom was so lost in her own grief for such a long time that we just tried not to add to it by telling her we were sad too. IN retrospect, having had some one-on-one time with her would have been nice since we were different ages and various stages of maturity levels, coping skills, etc.

Taking Heart said...

Perfect way to describe one's rise and fall through grief.