Yes, it’s normal. We are terrified of forgetting them. Afraid that if we let go of that horrible moment when our child died, that it will be like they didn’t exist at all. The pain is tremendous, but early in our grief we can’t seem to help wanting to stay right there in the past where our child was still with us. Even if the last memory was traumatic, we were with our child, and we want to be there with him still.
That terrible moment was a turning point. It was the last moment of “before” and the first moment of “after.” The emotions experienced at a time like that are a tremendous force that seem to pull us back there whether we want to go or not. Moving forward, healing, recovery, whatever we call it, feels like leaving them behind.
I remember doing this early on. I’d go back in my mind to the night of the crash and replay the whole thing. I guess I was trying to get closer to the “before” time by re-living it. It was just something I needed to do sometimes. After nearly six years, I don’t do this to myself much anymore, but during that first year and into the second, my mind would just go there and I had no desire to restrain it even though it hurt terribly.
It takes time to move through that, and the process is different for all of us. I will be honest, there are things about Hans I am forgetting. What I mean to say is that the minute details of having him here, moving about the house, coming and going, sounds and smells, are not as constant and defined in my mind as they were when he first left us. They are not gone but they are somewhat muted.
And I hate that. But at the same time, the pain is muted too. It is a terrible trade-off but I believe, for me at least, this is the way I need to go.
The memories are there: the golden highlights in his hair, the rascally look in his eyes, the chicken pox scar on the left side of his face. But the memories no longer consume my every thought, every waking hour.
I am not forgetting him. I have lost the fear of forgetting him. I have not lost him. I have not forgotten him at all. His physical presence in the world is fading, and that void causes me pain, but the pain no longer paralyzes me. The memories are safe. I can rest.
May I suggest something? Write it all down. Every bit of it. All the pain, the memories, things you would like to make sure you remember, things you would rather forget. Put the painful memories in one envelope, and the pleasant memories in another. (You may need a large envelope or even a small box).
Just knowing that the memories are safe somewhere and accessible if needed, may help take the edge off that fear of forgetting something precious, and free you to do what it takes to continue on in your grieving process.