The Sixth Stage of Grief: Fear that It Will Happen Again

My husband gave me a book to read this week. Once More We Saw Stars, by Jayson Greene. It’s getting wonderful reviews and is a beautiful, achingly powerful book.

Greene shares the journey of losing his two-year-old daughter, Greta, in a horrible incident. She is with her grandmother and a piece falls off a building, striking her in the head. The book goes through their experience with grief and finding happiness in life again. I’ll leave it there in the event you want to read it.

I’ll also leave it there because I’m going to confess, I couldn’t finish it. I made it through the first two sections of the book before I was stricken with such a horrible, visceral reaction that I couldn’t keep reading. I laid in bed last night crying, practically sobbing. My heart was broken—for this family, but also in thinking of my own.

When my son Ben had his accident, he was only two weeks old. What has haunted me ever since was the idea that he almost died, in my own home, the one place I could keep him safe. What if…when if…when.

I’ve lived, waiting for the other shoe to drop for nearly two and a half years.

When you experience trauma, there is a cycle of grief. Like anything else, I think, you travel through these stages. We all know them—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I’ve often wryly told people that I’ve been through these stages with Benjamin, and sometimes all in the same day. I’ve also added a sixth stage to my own grieving process, and that is fear.

I live with a fear that it will happen again. That next time, Ben will be taken from us. That when he gets old enough that he begins to venture out on his own I will receive a call that he is gone.

Trauma is never far.

What I’m trying to learn now is how to process that trauma so while it’s always a part of our story it isn’t who we are. That the accident is merely a moment in time, but the journey is the mark we make upon the world because of it. It isn’t easy to not allow yourself to become defined by a life course-altering second.

That’s one thing that has amazed me about my husband Jeff from the very beginning. Once we were out of the woods and knew that Ben was going to survive, he has been nothing but optimistic. To him, Ben is limitless and he has this ability to live without the gut-crushing fear. For Jeff, Greene’s is a book that allows him to be grateful, for me, I succumb to the fear that is never far.

I straddle a tightrope between the trauma of an accident—the indelible print on my heart and mind that it leaves—and the promise that Ben has shown.

The meaning he gives and the joy he brings. As I continue my own journey through grief, I look to my husband and young son for guidance on how to power through.

In the words of Jayson Greene, “…this is going to feel like it’s going to kill me, but all I have to do is step into it and it won’t”.

And it hasn’t.

This post originally appeared on i dream of naptime. It has been reprinted with permission.

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