Lessons of Grief — Year One

During the first year after losing my 20 year old son Brandon (who had the brightest smile, perfect dimples, the hardiest laugh and gave the best hugs), I learned a lot. A lot about myself, about people, about God, about death, about grief, about Brandon himself and also about life. These unwanted enlightenments or lessons (or even blessings, depending on my perspective and mindset that day) taught me things that I never wanted to learn. The most harsh one being how to go on without my son.

I recently attended a grief workshop that allowed me to be with like-situationed people who are also just looking for any sort of grief survival tools/resources.

At the beginning, I had to introduce myself and say who I lost, how recent my loss was, etc., etc. During discussion time later on in our breakout groups, I let the group know that one year ago today, to the EXACT date & time, I buried my precious son less than two miles from where we were meeting at this moment. Speaking every one of those words burned like fire coming out of my mouth and subsequently left my group speechless.

The workshop was hard to endure, but ultimately proved very useful and gave me some real world, applicable tips and resources to use as the anniversaries, holidays and other milestones approach, but NOTHING can teach you or prepare you how to handle a loss of any magnitude, much less the loss of a child, like TIME itself can.

In my measly, but oh, so long one year “in”, I’ve learned more life lessons than I can count and at times, more than I even care to remember.

Blaine, Sarah and Brandon Cavazos. Blaine is wearing a white shirt and dark brown sweater vest. Sarah is wearing a blue and white print dress and black glasses. She is in the middle. Brandon is on the right and he is wearing a dark blue button down shirt.

I’ve learned that I continue to and will always love Brandon unconditionally, just as I do Blaine.

Brandon’s life was cut irrevocably and unfairly short, but his legacy of love lives on in all of us. He loved people without fail and with a Christ-like love, and that is something that is so unique, so admirable and such a desirable trait to reflect.

I’ve formed unbreakable and sacred bonds with others that are bereaved and not just bereaved parents, even though those are my core “people of understanding.” Bereaved parents wholeheartedly understand each other’s need to carry on, even when it’s unimaginable. We understand the agony behind even a sincere smile.

I’ve sadly come to the realization that there is no short cut to healing, no quick fix.

For as long as I have breath, I will grieve my Brandon and will always ache for the sight of him. I will NEVER not wonder what his life could have been. I won’t dwell on but will always wonder things like what his career choice would have been, how charming his wife would have been and would his babies have dimples as deep as his.

When I buried Brandon, I buried not only the body of my first born child and my first true love, but also everything that enveloped him and, most crushingly, everything that he would ever be. That loss of his potential, his life and time with him will forever be grieved by me. Forever.

I’m still in the infant stage of my grief. Perhaps as I continue on this journey of mine and mature along the way, all of the pain and anguish of losing my baby will manifest itself into some sort of advocacy or awareness campaign. I’ve considered that something along these lines may help me to heal and could also potentially spare another family from going through what our family has gone through since day one of this. Even one mind changed, piqued or alerted to the effects of and potentially deadly results of over-drinking will matter. But if I alone or my words or my tears or even just the knowledge that “it can happen to you, too” changes a mindset, I’ll do it. However, for now, I’m going to work on literally surviving. Selfish, but necessary for the time being.

I will always be intensely aware of Brandon’s absence. I will always be painfully cognizant of the fact that “The Cavazos Family” doesn’t have all of its original members. I will always feel the emptiness of his bedroom, the empty chair across from Blaine at the dinner table and the hard stop in our family tree. Those things will always be missed, the hole will always be there and I will miss him forever.

Brandon and Sarah Cavazos. Brandon is wearing a bright blue t-shirt with a fraternity campaign button on his right chest. Sarah is on the right wearing a pink shirt. They are standing in front of a pond.

I’m a fighter and much braver and stronger than I ever knew I could be. I’ve fought to be where I am, even as fragile as I am. I’ve been prayed for and over on a daily basis since that terrible November day. I’ve rolled up my sleeves and gone toe-to-toe with the devil in the middle of the night while everyone sleeps and ended up with a spiritual black eye. I’ve been waist-deep in the muddy waters of grief. I’ve sunk and I’ve swam. I’ve had a quicksand spiritual foundation with all of the tools to stand on solid rock but refused to do so because my soul was so offended and wounded. I’ve “embraced the suck” and accepted my lot. Coincidentally, I’ve felt as destitute and angry as Lot himself, but also as blessed as Mary. I’ve been knocked down and over by my grief and loss but I’ve also kicked them in the face. I endeavor to claw my way to healing, as long as the Lord allows.

Because I’ve lost so deeply, I now love more deeply. I embrace, with fervor .. every day, every challenge, every sunrise and every sunset. I take note of the way the birds sing in the morning and the way owls hoot at night. I know the precious sanctity of sleeping all day and also the frustration of a week’s worth of insomnia.

Since November 11, 2016, I’ve cried until I’ve thrown up, but also laughed until I cried. I take to heart that all of the extremes …

  • Make me flawed but human and honest
  • Keep me heaven bound
  • Help me heal
  • Honor my Brandon and his life
  • MOST IMPORTANTLY, my extremes and dual sides of grief remind me to honor God in all of this. It is my ultimately goal to give God the glory for my time with Brandon, for upholding me when I can’t stand on my own, for Him not even wanting me to stand up on my own specifically, for sending and evoking His people to help me and for being my Ultimate Healer and Constant Comforter. I am clothed in His Grace daily, and I intend to stay that way.

These lessons of grief are mine and may not make sense to you. I PRAY that they NEVER apply to you, but I had to write them down because they were taking up too much space in my head.

Thank you for your continued love, all of you.

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  • Hilda says:

    Dearest Sarah, I know this is an older blog but it is new to me as I enter 18 months of loss. Your words hit so many “Me too” buttons in my head as I read. I never imagined when Shelly passed on 12/24/2020 that I would still be here without her. Some days I still don’t know how that happened, I was so sure I wouldn’t be able to live without her in my life. Your writing brought your son fully into my mind and my life. I could see him huddled there under that table hiding. I have 4 sons so I could laugh thinking about my sons and some of their potty training exploits. Like the time my youngest son decided it would be fine to just drop his pants and pee in the park since his daddy had done something similar while working our farm. Oh boy, his teacher was not amused. I hope that life has been kind to you, and if not kind I hope it has been gentle with your heart, Sarah.
    Gentle hugs from one broken-hearted momma to another.

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