The experts say every bereaved person has his or her own “grief journey.” We all have to adjust to our “new normal.” That seems logical. Fact: Dustin is not going to be physically in my life anymore. I have to deal with it, adjust, get used to it, live life anyway. I have to move on, right?
If only the “new normal” were so simple. If only life were just like it used to be, but without Dustin in it. And for me, maybe people think it should be like that. After all, he was an adult living on his own and supporting himself. He was not a part of my daily routine. My usual activities, my responsibilities, didn’t really change after his death. If I wanted to, I could be doing exactly what I was doing before.
For me, adjusting to the “new normal” means learning how to deal with the changes inside my mind. There are many. Many. And some are totally unexpected. Unwelcome. Incomprehensible. Crazy?
My child was killed by a person behaving selfishly. Ashawntae was not being malicious, he didn’t intend to hurt Dustin. He was just a young man thinking only of himself, his convenience, his fun, his life. When I see others driving badly/unsafely now, I instantly think: selfish, self-centered people, only care about themselves. (I eventually remind myself that I may have behaved similarly prior to being enlightened the hard way).
This anger is new to me. I used to just let things go, to not get too bothered. And even if I did get bothered, I usually didn’t say anything about it. Thinking that way saved me much angst. I miss it!
Our family hiked the Eagle Creek Trail recently. This hike is “one of Oregon’s spectacular paths,” “an engineering marvel” because it was blasted out of the sheer cliffs of a beautiful gorge. Hiking guides recommend taking only well-behaved older children and leashed dogs on the trail because of the danger.
|Jenna at the start of the Vertigo Mile|
|The Potholes (yes, this is the trail)|
|Leeann exiting the tunnel behind Tunnel Falls|
I was having a good time with my daughter and sister, the men had gone ahead. Suddenly a dog ran past. Her owner, about 15 feet behind, assured us that she was a friendly dog. Lightning fast, I was angry. Trembling angry. Here was another person endangering lives just like the person who killed Dustin. I didn’t start out too bad, telling her, friendly or not, the dog was supposed to be leashed. It’s a little fuzzy after that, but I know I called her “selfish” and “uncaring” and when she said she is, too, a caring person, I said that ignoring the signs that dogs must be leashed demonstrated that she did not care. I even at one point stated that “another” selfish person (like her) killed my son, whereupon she said she didn’t know anything about that and didn’t care, either (at least that’s how I heard it).
It was a bad scene. That party moved on, dog leashed. My daughter and sister told me there were better ways to say things, which in my extreme emotional state I took as being non-supportive and totally not understanding my feelings. Why didn’t they understand the impact uncaring people have on society? Dustin was dead because of that, didn’t they get it? I cried and walked ahead of them, and we all felt miserable for a while.
In the end, I did apologize to the dog owner and she apologized to me.
Weeks later, I still feel crazy and wonder if I’m going to know myself (or at least be able to control myself) ever again. I wonder if I’m fit to be in public. I wonder if my husband, my children, my friends, are going to be able to stand me much longer because I’m so angry so quickly about little things sometimes. (I’m just saying that. I don’t really think of any of these things as “little.” Put in a context with the death of Dustin, nothing is little).