The Year of Magical Thinking

Last week I received a call from a friend, the mother of my son’s friend. Her son, who had just turned seven years old, died. He got sick, was hospitalized and while in the care of doctors, had a brain hemorrhage and died.

On so many levels, for so many reasons, I am heartbroken.

I am doing my best to navigate the murky waters of being a friend and, at the same time, a reminder of what she and her husband have lost. I am trying not to be sad all the time. I’m talking to people in order to process it while trying hard not to make this about me.

A friend of mine – who lost her mother to a long bout with brain cancer – recommended to me that I read Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, a book looked upon as a classic take on mourning.

The book was hard to read; Didion lays all her emotions bare. And while it does not specifically address the death of a child, many of the things she goes through are universal. One thing stuck out to me: it was just an ordinary day.

That phrase is terrifying – there is no advance notice of death. Even if someone is sick for a long time, the actual passing is still difficult; without time to process, it’s devastating. You cannot prepare.

It can also be a comforting phrase – this means that every day is a special day when you spend it with people you care about. It’s an opportunity to make a memory, build a relationship, or share an experience. And in mourning, the most ordinary of things are the things you remember – and miss – the most.

I will continue to be sad, but I will also stop lamenting that every day is not a rainbow of fun, sunshine and candy. I will embrace the ordinariness of the everyday, because I have commonplace, I have mundane, I have one more day.

– Libby Bingham

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