Next month marks 2 years since my son David died. In some ways it feels like the motorcycle accident that took his life happened just yesterday, and in other ways it seems like he's been gone a much longer time.
As I reflect on my grief journey so far, I recognize the extent to which I felt broken and in need of healing. For me, the quest for healing included a requirement to make sense of the tragedy.
Shortly after David's death, I became interested in afterlife theories. It just didn't seem possible to me that he could be so full of life energy one moment and suddenly cease to exist the next. I devoured books and searched the internet to learn what others think about what happens after death.
In the process I learned that most bereaved parents have some version of this need to know their child is okaysomewhere and that the love they shared will somehow continue. That's powerful motivation to open up one's ideas about what's possible. With my passion thus normalized, I carried on in earnest.
One notion that resonated was that of a life contract. This assumes that before birth and with guidance we all write and agree to key life experiences in order to accomplish our spiritual goals. Included in every contract are five potential exit points, and the understanding that one will be used to end that life. Obviously no one remembers their own contract negotiations or any of the details they approved, including possible exit points.
I constructed a story in my mind in which David had long ago agreed to a short life this time. Perhaps his spirit was that of my beloved father, who died in 1973 from cancer. I imagined him trying to convince the panel of spirit guides to let him return to my life 11 years later, and their stipulation that this lifetime could only complete his earlier, abbreviated one. Adding his 26 years on earth now to the 59 years as my father, and that equals a respectable 85 year lifetime. That felt healing.
I thought about David's having 5 potential exit points in only 26 years, and tried to identify times when he either had a close call or serendipitously avoided possible calamity. Shockingly, I was able to recognize 4 other such times. In a rush of insight, I could accept his need (unrecognized, though, at the time) to access the last available exit portal of his lifetime. That felt healing.
Obviously no one really knows what death is like or what truly happens after we die. This "not knowing" affords each of us the opportunity to construct our own healing stories based on our individual circumstances and needs. I felt comforted to believe that David had a hand in choosing his lifetime, even if he got caught up in the excitement and forgot about getting ready for an early departure.
I imagine him suddenly hearing the conductor calling "All Aboard!" and realizing he had to get to the station and locate the right track. And then I imagine him seated and catching his breath, relieved to have made it, even though a bit disoriented. And although I still miss him, it's healing to think my son caught the last train home.
Essays on Grief Resilience