Wednesday, August 18, 2010


We all want and need to feel that our world is safe, and I recently realized that I have not felt safe since Colby was born. Colby's lungs collapsed at birth and he had many upper respiratory issues as a young child. Even though I had a room monitor, several times I woke up to hear Colby gasping for air, struggling to breathe, turning blue. I don't believe I've slept deeply since then.

At three Colby was diagnosed with asthma, at age eight with depression, and on and on. There was always something, or several somethings, that made me believe that if I slept, deeply, something terrible would happen that I could have prevented, had I been awake. Turns out I could not prevent the worst thing that could ever possibly happen.

Close to twenty-five years of sleepless nights became a habit, and old habits die hard. I still don't sleep because I cannot find that sense of peace, of safety. I still wake up every hour and check the door to be sure it is locked. I check that the lights are tuned off. I check the floor to be sure a glass hasn't flown off the shelf by itself and broken, scattering bits of glass I might step on. This is not normal behavior. I know this even as I check, one more time.

This is not a scary, fearful feeling of being unsafe, rather it is the feeling that I left something important undone. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that because I could not save Colby that I am now overcompensating. This is yet another part of grief, another part of the process grieving parents experience. I am told my feelings, my behavior, are not unusual. Grief for parents who have lost a child is a lifelong process, and this is part of that process.

Now that I understand, I find if I talk to myself I can sometimes talk myself out of jumping up yet again to check something. I can calm my rising anxiety and ward off another frightening panic attack. And sometimes, I can reassure myself that my world is safe, even though it will never, ever, be right or whole again.

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