Melissa's Loss Story
Saturday, my life was normal. The very next day, Sunday, August 7, 2016, my normal was devastated; shattered beyond recognition. From that day forward, my life would be measured in 'before' and ‘after’. My oldest son, my middle child, Alex, had been home from college for five weeks. He was 21, an incoming Junior, and was living away from home fulltime. We were lucky that summer because the restaurant that he worked at closed for two months, and he chose to come home. We had a great time with him at home.
That Spring semester, Alex had struggled a bit, as I think many college students do. He graduated with an advanced diploma from high school and was now attending a rigorous academic college. He was in a fraternity and living in their off-campus house by his second year, where he had also taken on a leadership position. He had a serious girlfriend for a year but in January they had called it off. His grades took a hit from having so much on his plate and his mental health followed suit. He saw someone at the school counseling center, but they were overloaded so his visits weren’t productive. He tried telling some of his frat brothers of his struggles. Though he had many friends, and was always there for them, he didn’t like to ‘burden’ anyone so he kept his own struggles inside. He and I talked regularly but he must have kept everything he was going through largely from me as well. However, by summer's end, he seemed to be doing well, even by his own account.
On Friday, July 29th, after over 5 weeks at home, I helped Alex pack up his car to head back to college. It was just me, him and his beloved 'girl' Harper (his 2 year old Carolina Dog). We laughed and joked as he gave me a big hug and kiss followed by “Don’t cry mom, I will be home in 2 weeks for Nic's birthday.” That would be the last time we spoke, though we did text a few more times that week. Alex drove away that day, waving and smiling, with his whole future ahead of him. Only eight days later, my youngest son Parker would get a call that would put him standing in front of me struggling to say the words “Alex is dead mom.” Those words will forever ring in a hollow place just beyond my comprehension … life as our family knew it ended in those moments. My heart lay in shattered pieces all around me.
I am still unsure how, and there were times I doubted it could happen, but I survived. Somehow, we have all survived. I have learned that traumatic loss changes us… on a cellular level, deep inside. It will not be easy, but I believe you too can survive. We are in this together fellow griever.