Posted by: riverchilde | April 17, 2013

A gaping hole in the snow

Please, God, enough with the snow. It’s after April 15, we’re approaching the 11-month anniversary of Alex’s death, and I desperately need some sunshine in my life.

We’ve stopped shoveling the driveway after each snowfall, hoping that the sun will melt it away for us. It’s not that we’re lazy, but that snow shoveling is such a lonely act these days.

I hadn’t realized what my husband was enduring until I shoveled snow (thankfully with Eric) for the first time in January. Poor Eric had been doing this alone, because I simply never realized how emotionally difficult it would be. You see, Alex isn’t there helping.

Now Alex isn’t physically present at all in our lives anymore, but I don’t experience that the same way that I did while shoveling. His absence is sort of a steady ache that sometimes flares up into an inferno of pain. This was different. This was so different.

He should be there. He should be right there with us shoveling snow. Right there, right now. That’s what would be Right, if the world were rightly ordered. But it isn’t rightly ordered because Alex is Gone.

It’s as if the very space where he should be standing is a black hole, an open, gaping hole in the world. A space shaped like his body, that sounds like his voice. An empty hole in space that moves and shifts like his body would if he were occupying it. His very absence screams “GONE.”

I haven’t had this experience anywhere else. I’ve had the experience of what it would be like if he were present, making Christmas cookies or decorating Easter Eggs, but not this aching hole of absence. Not like this.

Unlike many parents who have lost children, I haven’t expected my lost child to walk in the door. When Alex was physically gone, he was gone. Perhaps his three post-death manifestations cemented that for me. I’ve never expected to hear his feet tromping down the stairs, or expected to find him sitting on the sofa in the basement playing video games. The closest I’ve come to that was at the cabin, where one morning I found myself thinking that he was still sleeping upstairs in the loft and then remembered that wasn’t possible.

But this sense of a gaping hole in space where his body should be is unique to shoveling snow. It’s almost unbearable. And I feel terrible that I didn’t realize that Eric was enduring that alone.


At least I discovered it soon enough to prevent me from sending my daughter out to shovel alone while home on break. Fortunately, she’s better at taking care of herself that I seem to be at taking care of her through this. She thinks about this stuff–feels it–ahead of time, and knows well enough to steer clear and not get caught off-guard.

Why the snow shoveling? I don’t know. Perhaps because it’s after the emotional novocaine has worn off. (As a side note, that happens about the eighth month, and it’s rather unpleasant.) All our other “physically absent” scenarios–most particularly at the cabin–occurred earlier when we were still in shock. But it’s a warning.

Our second summer without Alex is ahead, with Memorial weekend, Alex’s birthday, the Fourth of July, all to be experienced again–this time without anesthesia.

Maybe it’s better that it’s still snowing. I know how to cope with that.


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