Four Years Later: Reflections on Losing Will
Editor’s Note: For support navigating life after a Type 1 death, please visit Jesse Was Here, a unique program of Beyond Type 1, providing resources to spouses, siblings, grandparents, and friends in need.
As I approach the four year anniversary of Will’s death, I find myself reflecting on what my life looks like now compared to before.
I cannot emphasize that unless you are unfortunate enough to experience the loss of your child, or another important person in your life, you will never understand how difficult it is to just keep going. Getting up each morning to keep on living is no small feat. It has been the most difficult thing I have ever done, and I am proud of myself and my husband, son and daughter — we have all become very brave, frankly, for just getting up each day. I hate when people ask me how I do it because they know they could not if their child died. I then want to ask if they think I’m not grieving enough, and I want to tell them, “Be thankful you don’t understand.” What I say is that I have a husband and family to honor and support, and nothing would make Will more sad than to see his death derail his siblings’ future. If nothing else, we try to live in honor of Will, in a way Will would live.
Four years, four gifts
So, as I begin another new year without Will, I took a look at my life since 2/2/2015. How have I changed? How has my view on the world changed? I am surprised to realize that, although I live each day missing Will more than you could know, I have been given a few gifts. The price is far too high, and if I could give these gifts back to have Will here, I would. They are as follows:
1) PATIENCE AND EMPATHY: I am more compassionate and sympathetic to others, knowing they too have a challenge they are navigating. Like me, everyone is out in the world, looking for love and support, for friendships, to feel connected in a meaningful way with the world around them. I work hard to cultivate new relationships, to reach out to that person who looks alone or uncomfortable. I have always been a bit more reserved, it takes me time to open up but in the last four years, I have opened my heart to many new friends, whom I now consider family.
2) SAVOR THE MOMENT: I have also been given the gift of living in the present. Each moment is fleeting, so embrace it and enjoy it. Will loved to say that each day is a gift, and this is why they call it the present. You can only hold on to this exact moment, right now, so pay attention. To-do lists can be taken care of later. Surprisingly, I worry about the little things almost never. After the worst happens, there are so many little things that I just no longer fret about.
3) FIND THE LEMONADE: As a result of my determination to keep my family moving forward and finding happiness, I have created the ability to find our happy independent of a lot of factors that might otherwise affect finding it. I have learned that celebrating life’s moments, finding joy in the everyday does not cancel out being sad about missing Will. Joy and grief do go together, just as love and grief do. It is okay to laugh, have fun, and be joyful because you will always have that sadness lurking in the background. Embrace the grief, and embrace the joy!
4) TALK ABOUT DEATH: What I learned when the worst happened, was that people do not want to talk about death, or the person who died. It makes everyone uncomfortable. Platitudes are spoken to stop the conversation. However, it is so important to be real with each other. It is our darkest and hardest times that we need to share with those around us. I have learned that showing up for people matters. Showing up for the funeral matters. Living in the moment, both in the good times and the bad times, matters. I have worked very hard to keep Will’s memory alive. He lived and he was important. He should be spoken about. Everyone dies, no one gets out of this life without grieving for someone so important to them, so the topic of death and grieving should be easy to talk about.
Embracing the worst
Will’s death was the event I most feared when I gave birth to my babies. Each birthday, I would put down on paper how thankful I was for another year of health and happiness for my children. Will was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was 15. This was, at that time, the worst day of my life. I was so sorry that his carefree life was over. I worried each and every day that one of them would be the day he did not wake up. Imagine trying to wipe away the fear of your child’s death every single day. I did not share this fear with anyone, but I lived it every day. Will managed his disease incredibly well, so well that most people did not even know he lived with T1D, and those that did thought this disease was no big deal because he was so active and always upbeat and fun to be around. We credit the T1D diagnosis for our family unity and loyalty. We stopped complaining about the little things because not many things are as hard as living with T1D. Will did not whine about it, so how could we? Silver lining.
With these four gifts, I know that the best way to move forward is to live like Will — it is the absolute perfect way to honor him and who he was. I speak about it as often as I can, but more importantly, I live it. My two beautiful children have given us the best gift — they are compassionate, responsible, kind adults, and I am so proud! Throughout 2019, I will be living like Will, with joy and love. #strengthofwill