Susan lay in the tub and listened to laughter rolling up the stairs. She used to relish the sound of her children enjoying themselves, but now, it just grated on her nerves. Her husband’s laughter was an entirely different matter. It was like a knife plunged in an open wound.
She knew she shouldn’t feel that way, but she couldn’t help it. Her doctor said things would get better in time, but Susan didn’t believe him. She knew nothing would ever be the same again, and she really didn’t care anymore. She felt every laugh as if it were a physical blow, knocking her farther and farther away from the rest of them.
Ron had tried to help…in the beginning. After two years, he had given up. Susan knew she shouldn’t blame him, but she did. She knew in her heart that she would never have given up on him. I would have moved heaven and earth to make you whole again, she silently vowed to her husband.
The children didn’t understand. They wanted her happy again, but a piece of her heart was gone and what was left was broken. She tried to explain to them, make them understand she still loved them, but she loved their brother as well and couldn’t just forget him. Ron had blown up that day.
“You have to watch what you say,” he’d scolded. “The way you talk, the children will think they are wrong for moving on with their lives, but you and I both know they aren’t. You’re the one who is wrong, Susan. You have to get past the pain somehow.”
If only that were possible. She had tried, no matter what everyone thought. She just couldn’t forget the smell of Kyle, snuggled in her arms after a bath, or sweaty from playing ball in the yard. The memories bombarded her day in and day out, leaving her breathless and hurting. She was tired of fighting.
Her mother thought having Christmas at their house would help. Susan tried to talk her out of it to no avail. When Ron told her that Susan hadn’t even been downstairs all week to see the decorations, Susan’s mother came to talk with her.
“Susan, honey, you need to snap out of this,” she had admonished. “It’s been two years since Kyle died, you can’t keep holding on to your grief like this. It isn’t good for you, or your family.”
Susan knew her mother meant well, but still it upset her to hear people say ‘just snap out of it’ like she could turn her grief off with a switch. If she could have done that, she would have already. Nobody understood the pain she lived with daily. She knew they didn’t, because everybody else had moved on.
The Christmas music that drifted into the room made Susan cringe. She remembered how Kyle always loved the holidays and would start singing Christmas songs before Halloween. This was the first Christmas since his death that music had been allowed in the house.
Susan’s tears mingled with the bathwater when she heard the children start to sing. She reached out and pushed the door closed to stop the pain. “I love you, Kyle,” she whispered.
Before her mother had left the room earlier, she had told Susan she wished she could be happy again. Susan knew her mother didn’t have this in mind, but as she slipped beneath the water, Susan smiled for the first time in a long time.