Losing Ethan

gate

Someone once said to me it’s stupid to worry about something bad happening, because if it does happen, you’ve lived through it twice, and if it doesn’t happen, you wasted your time and caused yourself needless suffering. On a cognitive level, this makes perfect sense, but when it comes to mothers and their children, rationality flies out the window. At least it does for me.

Some people think I’m an overprotective mother, even though my children are both grown. And it’s true: I worry excessively about something horrible happening to one of them. I still hate the fact my 23 year old son lives more than 600 miles away in another state, and drives every day. If I don’t see he’s been on Twitter in more than a certain number of hours (he practically lives on Twitter), I start to panic. Sometimes these feelings of dread get so bad I almost wish I never had kids so I didn’t have to experience that kind of intense anxiety. I know it’s neurotic as hell to fret so much about my kids’ safety and there comes a certain point when a parent has to let their children go off and be adults, but still I can’t help worrying.

They say losing a child is the worst thing that can happen to a person. I don’t doubt this. I love both my children with the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns and if something happened to one of them…well, I think I would probably lose my mind and most likely kill myself. How could I go on living? I just can’t see how someone could carry on after losing their child. Obviously they do though, and I marvel whenever I see a bereaved parent somehow accepting their tragedy and moving on with their lives. I’m amazed when they can talk about it without dissolving into sobs. But I don’t think I would be able to ever accept it and move on. If I didn’t kill myself I think I would cry for the rest of my life, become catatonic with unbearable grief, and the dudes in white coats would have to carry me off in a straitjacket.

Sometimes I have these dreams of something happening to one of my children. They are awful. I just woke up from one, and after breathing a sigh of relief it was just a dream after all, I decided to blog about it, before it faded away into unconsciousness the way dreams tend to do.

I had to pick up a few groceries from the store. My son Ethan, about eight in the dream, came along with me. Sitting in the front seat next to me, he chattered in his little high pitched voice about school and other things 8 year olds like to chatter about. Strangely, it was also the present time, and I was the same age I am now, with the same vantagepoint on my life I actually have now, but that sort of thing happens in dreams.

We were driving down a country road, and must have taken a wrong turn, because soon I realized the road was a dead end. At the end of the road we saw a high wooden fence, and it was closed. Past the fence was a single police car, with its blue lights flashing. But I saw no police officer or anyone else. It was parked in the middle of a thicket of weeds and wildflowers, and when I looked closer I saw that no one was in the car.

police

Ethan, being a curious 8 year old boy, wanted to see what was going on. Before I could stop him, he had taken off his seatbelt and was out of the car, running like lightning toward the gate. I called to him but he didn’t hear me. I got out of the car and began to chase him, but he had already worked the latch and was running into the dark woods beyond the meadow. The police car was no longer there. It hadn’t driven off, it simply had disappeared!

I called and called Ethan but he didn’t return. I ran through the open gate and almost tripped on rocks and a few times before I reached the woods. Running into the darkness of the forest, I kept calling him, but all I could hear was my own voice echoing back to me, as if the forest was taunting me. I waited. And waited. It seemed like an eternity but was probably just a few hours. Ethan never returned.

Weeping from panic, I walked back to my car and drove home. It was getting dark out. I’d completely forgotten the groceries, but I didn’t care. Who needed groceries when Ethan was gone?

There were people I didn’t know living in my house, but in the dream I knew them. The man who was my dream-husband listened to my story. Although I had no “proof” Ethan was dead, somehow I just knew. Still, I needed someone else to reassure me he was okay (or confirm my fears). Not knowing is worse than knowing. So hesitantly, I asked my dream-husband, “Do you think he is dead?”
He nodded.
“What do you think happened to him?”
“I think the cop did something with him,” was the reply.
I felt like I had died inside. It was horrible and so surreal I wondered if I was dreaming, and that was when I woke up.

I’m wondering if other parents have these kind of dreams or if they worry as much about their adult children as I do. I’ve Googled this problem and haven’t found much about it, so sometimes I think it’s just my PTSD and tendency to be overly anxious and fretful. I walk through life expecting disaster every moment. I probably need therapy.

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12 thoughts on “Losing Ethan

  1. Good post! There’s this thing called hyper-vigilance that you sometimes develop with PTSD or simply growing up in a toxic home. It’s an alertness to danger, almost a 6th sense were you try to predict what shoe is going to drop next. It’s a bit of baggage that really takes it’s toll on you physically, mentally, because you are in a hyper alert mode all the time. That kind of stress is not good for your body or your spirit. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to heal from this because the problem is your brain just keeps going to dark places. You kind of have to teach yourself to replace those dark thoughts with good ones until it becomes a habit. I’ve had to rely on faith quite a bit, because my children are really in God’s hands and no matter what happens, I now trust Him to take care of them.

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    • Exactly! Always waiting for the other shoe to drop because we’ve become so attuned to discord and misfortune. It’s a hard habit to shake. Hypervigilance is very common with PTSD

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      • I always pray or put my trust in God whenever I start feeling like this and it does help, but sometimes I don’t even trust God becuase I don’t really trust anyone at all!

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  2. Most parents are really worried about their children. But the fact that the more you worry the more it becomes worst. It’s like you are bending reality to happen. I would say, as parents we need to create good imagination of what is happening to our children.

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    • I know it’s bad to ruminate about bad things happening because it kind of puts it out there in the universe. Staying positive is easier said than done though

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  3. I don’t think any mother ever really stops worrying about her kids. I try to follow my mother’s philosophy: “If something bad happens, I’ll know about it soon enough.” Fortunately, my girls all live in town, so I see them often enough to assure myself they’re all OK.

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  4. I just love this post, gotta be my most favorite one ever! I’m glad the topic came up on here and I’m ready to go right squirrely over the kids at any moment. Everything feels so bad when I can’t reach the kids.

    I remember the days of disney movies and popcorn all the kids safe and sound on the couch, if I only had one day to live that’s what I’d be asking my grown children to be doing for me.

    Thanks for bringing this topic up.

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    • Thank you I am glad I brought it up too and am glad I’m not alone feeling this way (not that I want others to suffer too).

      Yeah, I remember when the kids were little you were at least right there with them to protect them from things like electrical outlets, hot stoves, and speeding cars. You feel like you have more control when they are small, even though they have no sense at that age at all. It’s so hard when they are adults and out in the big, bad world without you there to protect them. But of course we have to let them go and learn from their own mistakes. It’s just not easy though, is it?

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  5. Sorry you are dealing with this. I think being Aspie and PTSD from being an ACON can meld together into the hyper-vigilance and when will the next foot drop? The world is a dangerous enough place to the ordinary person but to those who have suffered abuse, we are almost taught to expect bad things to happen. Praying for you and your son. I worry about bad stuff happening to people I love all the time.

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    • Yeah, the hypervigilance we suffer sure is a bear! I can’t stand it. I want it to go away. When I ever have enough money or health insurance, I think I want to get some therapy for this because it can ruin a perfectly good day. For nothing! Because always, there was nothing to worry about. I like the advice though about worrying about something being like going through it twice if it DOES happen.
      Prayer does help a lot. In my story, “The Tree,” I described the way God proved to me He was looking after my kids.

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