Art Sketch of a tree with downward dipping branches and dark and light shades representing sadness, loneliness, and empty arms of grief
“Empty Arms” Tree Sketch, My Forever Son

Instrumental Guitar Music (Written and Performed by Beth Brown, Dylan’s Mom)

Music for Grief after Losing my Son: Instrumental Guitar written and played by Beth Brown, Dylan’s Mom

Does the Pain Ever End?

To those of you that still feel you aren’t even sure you want to be here and you can’t imagine ever being happy again. The pain does change, it softens. You will want to live again and be able to enjoy life again. It will never be like before but the crushing, all consuming pain you feel right now will soften. You will be able to live with it. It just becomes part of you.

a mother who lost her son

Seasons of Grief

“You will be able to live with [the pain]. It just becomes part of you.”

Yes. And in the beginning of my grief journey in June of 2012, something I couldn’t (and wouldn’t) have believed. But yes, Dylan is part of my life still, as is both the love I carry for him, and the pain I carry missing him.

“You will be able to live with it. It just becomes part of you.”My son-my love, pain, and heart-all beating on inside me, an ache I’ve learned to carry which at some point these past 10 years, has become a part of me.

First Season of Grief

In 2012, tidal waves crashed constantly over me, plunging me deep into the despair of darkness without light, darkness without possibility of life. Even to breathe seemed impossible and when I did breathe, I simply couldn’t bear the pain. My heart wept. My voice wept. My eyes wept even when I slept.

I lost my ability to work (teaching college was impossible. Dylan died in what should have been his sophomore year at college.) I lost my ability to remember to eat, breathe, sleep–lost my connection to nearly all of my outside world as I was repeatedly driven down, down, down into darkness.

My pain was impossible, my grief enormous and engulfing, my landscape filled with a darkness so bleak my world went away. In the middle of a violent ocean, my heart heaved. I didn’t want to live. And I was exhausted by being driven down repeatedly into pain that wouldn’t end.

Dylan was my only child. He still lived at home, and his dog was my dog, a Gordon Setter with unbridled energy who in my grieving, grieved too. She and I held on—or perhaps it was I who held onto her. She was 11 years old when Dylan died. That she lived 2 more years still seems a Godsend.

I found an online support group for parents who have lost a child 2 months after Dylan died. I read when I could (my mind was mush but I read compulsively all the books I could find on suicide, losing a child, losing an only child, and so on). And somehow, time passed.

I learned I wasn’t alone. It didn’t lessen my grief over losing Dylan, but it gave me a place to share about my son and a place to work through the agony of my acute grief.

Does Pain “Soften”?

So when did my pain begin to soften enough that it became a part of me? As integral a part of me as sleeping, waking, breathing, eating, living again? I don’t know. But I do know I clung to my online support group and at some point, felt the tidal waves becoming fewer and farther in-between.

Multicolor watercolor painting by Dylan, age 5, My Forever Son
Watercolor Painting by Dylan, age 5, My Forever Son

Memorial Dates

My pain will always be part of my love for my son. And my love for my son will always be part of my pain. Some days, impossible days—his birthday, his memorial date, holidays—still overwhelm me. But I’ve learned to honor this sacred part of my love for Dylan by honoring where my overwhelming sadness and ache lead.

Sometimes it’s to sifting through photographs, always too few and always marking the stillness of time; sometimes it’s to playing guitar or piano and writing a song for Dylan; sometimes it’s to shedding tears flooding my heart and needing release.

Today, leaves yellowed by fall are dropping from trees. The wind is blowing, not a lot, but enough to know that fall is here and summer has waned. It is still warm, 75 degrees, though this week, will start the descent into lower temperatures (60 degrees, 54 degrees by day, mid-40’s by night). My cat sleeps in her basket beside me. The aloe plant in front of my desk spills over the planter’s edges. Still a bit of sun remains. Lower in the sky and visibly not as brilliant as during the summer months.

Finding Ways to Remember

I say all of this to ground myself, to remind myself of how far I’ve come. I didn’t even know what the weather was like for the first 15 months after Dylan died. He died June 25, 2012. I first realized the weather in late September 2013. I do not know if I wore a coat—or gloves, or a hat—during the winter of 2013. I do not know if I wore shorts and t-shirts the summer of 2013. I do not know when the sun shone, what the temperature was, what the skies were doing.

Somehow, just as fall has arrived, just as winter will come, and just as spring will come on the wings of hope next year, I, too, have passed through the seasons of my grieving. And they continue to flow, sift, move through my life.

The difference between then and now? I’ve learned that seasons pass, even the ones I love most, even the days I want never to end. I remember picking apples with Dylan in the fall, remember taking him to the corn maze, remember the year he got lost in the corn maze (still makes me smile and my heart glad to remember the love and laughter).

I remember apple cider and back-to-school clothes shopping, remember the ways the leaves crunched, remember Dylan’s favorite color was orange. I remember pumpkins on the front porch—I remember Dylan.

Chokeberry in Fall
Fall Colors in Red, Orange, and Yellow, My Forever Son

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Red Rose in June, My Forever Son

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