Surviving after the loss of my precious son

Sometimes one person can be missing and the whole world feels empty
~ anonymous ~

Welcome to my Love Letters to Will. I am the mother of three boys; two who run and one who soars. Tragically, on the long weekend in May 2011, I lost my youngest son, Will, at the age of 12 1/2. Losing Will has changed me and life as I knew it forever. To imagine is one thing, but to have to live it is another. 

In the first year, I wrote Will a daily love letter. I talked to him everyday for 12½ years and I wasn’t about to stop. I couldn’t stop. This daily ritual helped me to, quite literally, survive. I looked forward to some time each day to be with him, to talk to him, to write to him, to imagine that he was sitting with me talking like we used to.

I still write to Will, though not every day. Sometimes I sit in my comfy chair, sometimes I lay in his bed propped up against his pillows like when we used to read together before his bedtime. I’ve taken my laptop down to the river and sat on the banks, written to him while I waited in a waiting room or an office; I’ve written to him as I sat in the passenger seat on our way to Fernie, woken in the early morning before the busyness of the day to write to him, and sometimes made it the last thing I did before I climbed into my own bed. It doesn’t matter where I am or what time it is… I look forward to my quiet time with Will and to writing him a letter.

I’ll need to explain a couple of things that won’t make any sense if you have no background of my relationship with Will. First, Will had many nicknames and I often refer to him in my letters as Willy (obvious), and the WillBilly (I’m not even sure how and when that started, but we called him that often), and “Little Mr. Blue Sky” (after his favourite song, Mr. Blue Sky by ELO). Secondly, for as long as I can remember, Will and I ended each day with a tuck in and the words “love you like a bus”. I know it doesn’t make sense, but when he was little, buses were huge in his world and he believed that you could never love anyone or anything bigger than a bus. And so, this phrase evolved and we used it always. So when I end a letter with that phrase which Will and I sometimes shortened to “lulab” (love u like a bus) you’ll get what I mean.

If you, too,  are a mom who is living the unimaginable loss of a child I hope that through sharing my Love Letters to Will you will find comfort in knowing that you are not alone.  You  might find parallels in your own journey and are looking for a way to continue a relationship with your child, even though it is not the physical one that we on earth only know.  Thank you for allowing me to share my Will with you in this way.

To those of you who have your children I hope that my Love Letters to Will will remind you that Motherhood is a labour of love and that your children are gifts.  There are days when mothering is difficult, when we sometimes wish away the hard parts, but here is what I know for sure. Nothing will ever be as difficult as losing them.

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May 14, 2022

Dear Will,

It’s May. Again. The month I shy away from, still. Dread, still. The month that is hard to write down, still. The month that conjures up deep pain, still. And, the month that measures time like no other. I pinch myself wondering how one week short of 11 years can still feel like yesterday and forever, still.

The still part feels like I’m stuck. And maybe that is what I have let May become for me? As I ponder and dread and feel all these things that seem to define the month of May, maybe being stuck doesn’t have to be a bad thing? Maybe being stuck or “still” allows me to sit with you a little longer, to honour and remember you with more intention than usual. Though sadness still creeps in, because that is, after all, the price we pay when we lose a loved one, it can also be a time to be stuck in the deep love part of loss. And, maybe, just maybe that is the gift, the silver-lining so to speak. To be stuck on you is not a bad thing at all!

In the beginning of my grief journey I would never ever, ever have believed that gratitude and loss could live in the same sentence, in the same breath. But, Willy, I do believe that it is possible sometimes. It is not possible to be grateful that you died, but it surely is possible to be grateful that you lived. It was too short, way too short, but it was better than no life with you at all. 

Of course, I wish things were different. Oh, what I’d give for a re-do of that tragic day. The shoulda, coulda, woulda’s still seep into my thoughts from time to time but I know that I have to push them aside as it is unproductive and impossible to change the events of May 22, 2011. It is nothing short of torture to dwell there, and besides, if there was a way, believe me, I’d have found it. 

Instead I will sit in the still of May and celebrate being stuck in the love part of losing you. Not just for May, but for every day, every month, every year, still. 

I miss you, my sweet boy. Still.

And I love you. Still. Like a big ‘ole bus stuck in love. By the grace of God, that love bus is plenty big for both of us. Still.


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