Grief can be described in many ways and with many words, none of which fully capture the experience of grieving the death of a child or close loved one. But right now, if I had to pick one word to describe my state of being, it would be raw.
I am raw.
When I first began riding motorcycles, I had a minor accident that resulted in what bikers call “road rash” on my right arm and hip. My arm took the brunt of the fall and the skin on the back of my arm was shredded from my elbow almost to my shoulder by the pavement when I hit on my bare arm and kept going. When the paramedics arrived and treated my injuries by washing them out with water, the pain was so excruciating that I began to faint. I’ve had my share of injuries, but in terms of sheer agony, none compared to that injury. I would guess there were thousands, or perhaps millions of nerve endings left exposed when my skin was torn off my body. Nerves are not designed to be exposed. They are meant to be covered, allowing us to feel sensations to a certain acceptable limit, as the nerves are shielded and protected by our skin. That is, until there is a trauma that rips away that protection.
The experience of my grief for Kai feels similar to road rash, except that this trauma has broken my heart and shredded my soul. There is no comparison to my physical injury.
The pain of a broken heart is intense. I have real, physical pain in my chest when my sorrow is at its most acute. The pain of my shredded soul is even worse. It is as if all my skin is gone, exposing every single nerve ending. I thought by now the raw pain might begin to diminish, even ever so slightly, but the opposite seems to be happening.
Perhaps this is why I have developed what I consider to be an odd obsession in the last seven months since Kai died. I am utterly obsessed with soft blankets. I look for them in stores, I search for them on the internet. I found a small, throw type blanket for $15 at the local Walgreens and so far I have bought seven of them. When these blankets are new, the fleece side is the softest thing I have ever felt in my life, softer even than Kai’s blue blankey, the one we buried with him. Once I wash one of these blankets, the initial incredible softness of the fleece that I bought it for is lost so I buy another one. I have one on my reading chair, one on my kitchen chair where I work on my computer, and every night I sleep with the newest one, the one that has yet to be washed. I will not go to bed without it. When I wake in the night and reality washes over me, I wrap it around me all the way up to my head. The softness of the fleece soothes me in a way that nothing else seems to and often I am able to fall asleep again. But it doesn’t make the agony of my longing for Kai go away.
My arm and hip healed in time. I have gravel and dirt permanently embedded in the scars, a reminder of the trauma of my motorcycle accident, but they do not hurt any longer. Will the same ever be true for my soul?