Loss, Grief, and the HolidaysIn Remembrance of Evan James Hill

I have held many titles in my life such as wife, daughter, sister, aunt, therapist, elected official and board member, but the title I have cherished the most is MOM. On Sept. 19, 2020, my world collapsed, and my life changed forever. My 18-year-old-son and two friends ran a stop sign and were hit by a drunk driver. My son and both drivers were killed in this horrific car accident. I could have never prepared for this day or the grief I have experienced over the past three months. As a professional counselor, I have had many trainings on grief. I am familiar with the stages of grief and I have assisted many clients in their own journey through the grief process. I realized very quickly that none of that mattered and I was entering uncharted territory. 
Words cannot accurately describe the thoughts, emotions, and pain I have experienced over the past three months. I have so many unanswered questions and feel helpless at times. I have experienced disbelief, guilt, anger, and sadness. Some days I am productive and others I am so overtaken with grief that it is all I can do to take care of basic needs. A fog has settled over my brain. The waves of grief are so powerful that I experience a physical pain in my chest and sometimes it is hard to breathe. I am extremely protective of his belongings, his bedroom, and anything related to him. Time seems to be moving at a rapid speed and I feel like I’m in suspended animation. How can I move on without him? Will I forget memories of him? The sound of his voice? His smell? Did he know how much I loved him? Was I a good enough parent? Grief is just messy.
We are in a season that is extremely hard for many people. Holidays intensify grief. Since my son’s death, my family has had three birthdays, Halloween, and Thanksgiving. We are closely approaching my son’s birthday (December 23rd), Christmas, and New Year’s. That is a lot of “firsts” in a short period of time. I realized I would need help and guidance to get through these holidays. I quickly began working with a therapist which has allowed me to have a safe place to process my grief. I have learned to respect my grief process and not apologize for what I may or may not need during this time. Sometimes I need my support system and sometimes I just need to be alone. I have learned to be gracious about the tearful moments, “brain fog,” and the “hard” days. I talk openly to God about my thoughts and emotions and I even talk to my son. I visit my son’s bedroom almost daily to feel close to him. There is no “right” or “wrong” to my grief.
There are many descriptions of grief, but the one that I choose to focus on is viewing grief as LOVE. When I see it as love, then it is not so overwhelming. My grief is significant, beautiful, enduring, and profound, because my love for my son was all these things and more. This grief will be everlasting as is the love I have for my son. Since taking control of my thoughts and perceptions of grief, I have slowly been able to see a future. A future where I honor my son and his legacy. My family and I have adapted old traditions and begun new traditions to include the memory of my son. We continue to find ways to honor him by blessing/uplifting others.
For those of you that are on a similar journey, you are not alone. Take your time and be gracious with yourself. Remember, our grief is now a part of our love story. Oh, how beautiful it is.
Bryn Dodd is with the Agape Counseling Services of West Texas.