On Our Year of Grief

 Aly and Fynn saying goodbye to Roman

Aly and Fynn saying goodbye to Roman

November 27th, 2017 is a day that will forever remain etched on my mind and my heart and physically on my body. That was the day that we had to say goodbye to our third child Roman. In the 365 days since I have grieved, some days more than others. My grief remains even as I write these words. What an interesting emotion to experience. We all have experienced it at some point in our lives and at varying degrees. One of my favorite authors Joan Didion explains her grief after the sudden loss of her husband of four decades. She writes:

Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it. We anticipate (we know) that someone close to us could die, but we do not look beyond the few days or weeks that immediately follow such an imagined death. We misconstrue the nature of even those few days or weeks. We might expect if the death is sudden to feel shock. We do not expect the shock to be obliterative, dislocating to both body and mind. We might expect that we will be prostrate, inconsolable, crazy with loss. We do not expect to be literally crazy, cool customers who believe that their husband is about to return and need his shoes. In the version of grief we imagine, the model will be “healing.” A certain forward movement will prevail. The worst days will be the earliest days. We imagine that the moment to most severely test us will be the funeral, after which this hypothetical healing will take place. When we anticipate the funeral we wonder about failing to “get through it,” rise to the occasion, exhibit the “strength” that invariably gets mentioned as the correct response to death. We anticipate needing to steel ourselves for the moment: will I be able to greet people, will I be able to leave the scene, will I be able even to get dressed that day? We have no way of knowing that this will not be the issue. We have no way of knowing that the funeral itself will be anodyne, a kind of narcotic regression in which we are wrapped in the care of others and the gravity and meaning of the occasion. Nor can we know ahead of the fact (and here lies the heart of the difference between grief as we imagine it and grief as it is) the unending absence that follows, the void, the very opposite of meaning, the relentless succession of moments during which we will confront the experience of meaninglessness itself.


 Roman Xavi

Roman Xavi

In the days after Romans death, I had to plan a funeral, I had to call and make the decision of where my son’s final resting place would be. The grief that follows, as Didion puts it was obliterative, days that felt as if my whole world had ended, days when I felt the tears wold never stop. Losing a child before I was 30 was one of the most upending moments of my life. Seeing my wife in so much emotional and physical pain as she delivered our beautiful, perfect, but lifeless son into this world is an image that I will never forget. The silence of the delivery room, broken only by our inconsolable grief as I held my son for the first time.

The days turned to weeks, the weeks turned to months, and slowly the world would move on with its life but I could not, I felt as if my world had stopped when Roman died. Today would have been Roman’s 1st birthday. Instead of celebrating his life, our family is commemorating his death. 1 year, 12 long months, 52 what at times felt like endless weeks. In those early days it took everything in me not to instantly fall apart at the thought of Roman. Not to weep uncontrollably every time I thought of him. Today is what would have been his first birthday and if I’m honest, it isn’t any easier to write these words. I lost my son before he ever took a breath in this world. I still cry when I think of all the things I will never get to do. Grief is not something you just get over. You don’t just wake up one day with it gone. You don’t roll out of bed and say, “Well I’ve conquered that, now on to the next thing!” No, instead grief is a part of you, you walk with it day in and day out. Some days are harder than others and in my grief, I try my best to honor my son.

Months after we lost Roman, we found out we were expecting another child. We were obviously overjoyed, but at the same time so fearful. The birth of Jackson didn’t diminish my love for Roman or the memory of him, my heart simply made room for loving Jackson the way I love Aly, Fynn, and Roman. And now on what would have been his first birthday, I am filled with so many emotions. I long for the day when Christ will wipe away every tear, until then I wait and weep knowing that God has his wise and loving reasons that I wait to learn with tears and trust.

 Roman Xavi Arevalo, Born into heaven Nov. 27th 2017 at 11:57am

Roman Xavi Arevalo, Born into heaven Nov. 27th 2017 at 11:57am