When my baby died, everything changed. Suddenly, the path I had planned to walk was blocked. I couldn’t continue down that path, no matter how much I longed to.
I was jarringly set on a new path.
It was bare, empty, and callous. Each rock dug into my aching feet. Over my shoulder, I could see the path I was supposed to be on. My path. The one where my child was still here with me, with trees providing beauty and protection. Right over there. So close that I can see it, smell it, dream it.
But not walk on it.
The only place my feet could go was the new path. One foot in front of the other, aching to be somewhere else. In my despair, my loneliness, my fear, my anxiety, my anger, I kept walking. Haunted by the path just out of reach.
My new path felt hostile and cruel for a long time. Everything felt wrong. A single colorful flower on the side of the path brought more confusion than admiration. How could anything good be here? I couldn’t reconcile it.
Over time, the old path drifted further away.
I can still see it if I squint, but it’s fuzzy and the details are hard to make out. I roughly know where it was headed, but I can’t conjure the full picture. I can’t reach it.
At the same time, the path I’m on now has softened. New memories, new experiences, and precious new life have grown. The rocks are fewer and farther between, replaced with soft dirt cushioning me. The edges of the path, once empty, are filling in with lush grass, flowers, and trees. There are all sorts of colors and smells filling my senses, and the occasional dangling branch to avoid. So many things vying for my attention has pulled my focus closer – to the here and now.
But I still look out, searching for that other path.
The should have been my path. It’s harder to see, but still out there. It calls to me in moments of weakness when I feel overwhelmed, in moments of sadness when I miss my son, in moments of reflection when I wonder what if. On anniversaries, birthdays, and regular days.
No path after loss is easy, but after walking close to four years, I do have moments of ease. It helps when I don’t try to compare, when I acknowledge my path now was the only place I could put my feet. It doesn’t feel right all the time, there are tree roots and branches that knock me flat, and I am painfully aware this isn’t how it was supposed to be.