A New Stage

I have encountered a new stage of grief. There have been volumes written on these stages, or more accurately phases. We don’t go through them step by step, but rather by turns, and I mean twists and turns, looping back on them, sometimes all at once, but not in any orderly fashion. These past few days I have been steeped in what I call the “disbelief” or the WTF stage. It is not Denial; that he is dead is an undeniable truth. There is no denying that I watched them lower Jake’s body into the ground, and that I was the first one to throw shovelfuls of dirt onto the plain pine coffin. It isn’t Anger, although I hold anger at bay daily, nor is it Bargaining; I have nothing to bargain with, the bazaar is closed. Not Depression, even though depression visits me often. Acceptance? What choice do I have but to accept this? This is a done deal, right? He ain’t coming back. It isn’t any of these; it is bewilderment that he is truly gone.

I look around my home, at the many photographs of Jake throughout his life, all the works of art he created that adorn our walls; I sit in what was once his bedroom surrounded by much of his ‘stuff’. His bookshelves with high school chemistry textbooks, binders full of notes, his eclectic collection of books: Kurt Vonnegut, Ray Bradbury, The Chronicles of Narnia, George Carlin, Mario Testino, Richard Avedon, Nutrition for Foodservice and Culinary Professionals, Robert Heinlein, Harry Potter, Shel Silverstein, Bram Stoker, Herman Melville, Nicola Tesla; the list goes on and on. I see the car models he delighted in building, clothes, old cameras, a ship model that his grandfather built; artifacts of a life now over. I look at the remote control submarine he used to play with when we stayed at hotels with swimming pools, and remember how that little plastic submarine netted us a visit to Disneyland as guests of Club 33, complete with lavish buffet and cocktails overlooking New Orleans Square. Jake had the gift of making such things happen. I look at the photo of Jake as the young chef, posed for his 6th grade yearbook, clad in his chef whites, happily flambéing strawberries at our stove. I see the pictures; remember all the moments of a person so full of life. He took so much delight in so many things, had so many gifts, unlimited promise; he could have been anything he set his mind to, and I wonder, how is it that he is gone? How can this be? It just isn’t possible. But sadly, in this universe I now inhabit, anything is possible.

Today, we did some gardening around the house. As I wheeled the green yard-clipping bin down to the curb for collection tomorrow, trash day, I rolled it over the section of sidewalk at the foot of our driveway that the city poured many years ago to replace an area cracked by a careless contractor. We saw the three sets of initials scribed into the concrete, EC, TS, and JC. Indelible evidence that he existed. Because what is happening, is that as the weeks drag on, 16 now, nearly four months, and this new life overwrites the one shattered by that two-minute phone call last December, the other bygone life seems so far away like the shadow of a dream vaguely remembered. But that life, the one that included Jake is (or was) the real one; the one that I hold fast to. This life I now live is the dream; a horrible nightmare that we will never wake from. It is a world where at any instant, pictures of that bygone lifetime rush at me, so vivid and real, it takes my breath away. I told Terry that yes, indeed Jake was real. He lived. We lived. He was our treasure, our all. He was such a huge part of our life; it is impossible to imagine life without him, and yet, we are stuck with it.

I have read, as time goes on, I will adapt to a “new normal”. That is bullshit. There is no such thing. This is in no way a normal life. This new life is so far from normal, that I can’t even remember what normal looks like. Sleepwalking through the days, wondering what comes next. We may learn to better navigate this surreal geography, find new ways to get to the end of each day, but I will never understand why this is so, why this happened to him, to us. To all of us. There are so many people who love him and miss him; as long as we all remember Jake, hold fast to the picture of him each of us carries, he will never fade. He lives in our hearts, in our memories, in the indelible imprint he left on this world. Why he is not still around is something that will always bewilder me; I may never get past this unknowable mystery. As far as I can see, I will be in the WTF stage for as long as I live.

About edcol52

The Infinite Fountain of Love and Loss flows unceasingly into the pool of memory and sorrow. I created this blog in response to the most dreadful tragedy every parent fears, the death of a child, our 24 year old son, Jake. We are now on an unimagined journey along this road of grief and recovery. If you can find some comfort within these pages, than I will have succeeded in some small measure.
This entry was posted in Coping, Daily Ramblings, Grief, Jake Colman, Jake's Spirit, Memory, Sadness and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

59 Responses to A New Stage

  1. Pam Thompson says:

    Oh Ed, our lives are truly roller coasters. As you say, the stages of grief are not linear – they overlap and twist around each other, confusing and bewildering us. This stage is such a difficult one to explain but you have done it well. For what it’s worth, peace to you & Terry.

  2. Melissa says:

    Thank you for coining that phrase. I, too, am in the WTF stage. I don’t understand why you am suddenly without a child. WTF, why me? WTF did I do to deserve this? All we can do in continue to breathe in and out day by day. How long will we feel this way? Until we don’t.

  3. Melissa says:

    Sorry for the typos. Pressing by phone this morning

  4. In one month it will be 2 years since we last saw our son. Two years…and we are still in the WTF stage. Like you, we are surrounded by all the evidence of a life that I can no longer touch. And I wonder constantly how this is possible and if there might still be something I can do to “undo” the catastrophe that catapulted us into this living hell.

    • edcol52 says:

      I think the WTF stage lasts forever. There will never be a satisfactory explanation as to why this happened to us. And of course, there is nothing we can do to change the past until someone invents a time machine. We can only muddle through and strive to make the best of a terrible situation. As Melissa says above, “continue to breathe in and breathe out, day by day.”

      • J. Sander says:

        Maybe, even though it feels like it’s the WTF stage, it will eventually become a stage of remembering. They may be gone, but they will never leave your heart. Noticing all the small things that you would never of thought to notice before wont make you think WTF it will make you love them even more.

  5. Ellen Golding says:

    Hi Ed,

    It has been awhile that I responded to your postings, this was a particularity sad realization. It was yesterday, Sunday that Brianna, my daughter, out of the blue said, “I miss Jake Mom. Did you know I knew him since he and I were thirteen? Mom I miss him. It is strange I will never see him again. Can we go to your storage and find those pictures of Jake and me? I know Jessy has photos of Jake, me and her that I want. Mom do you know how close we were? I miss him.”

    I could only listen I had no answers. Brianna’s words were enough.

    • edcol52 says:

      Sadly, there are no answers, and all the words cannot bring him back. We all miss him terribly much. I know Brianna was a good friend to him. She did her very best to help pull him through, we all did, but sadly, it just wasn’t enough. Peace to you and her.

  6. I have been experiencing these WTF moments as well, with the death of my own daughter. It’s been 10 months. You’re right, life is a nightmare now.

  7. WTF — yes, 8.5 months later, my husband and I are still in that stage.

  8. MissMe says:

    10 months out for me too & it will be WTF until I die. Life is unfair, bad things happen to good people and that’s “just the way it is” though it sucks terribly bad. I miss my son, and will mourn his loss every second of every day. I’m sorry for your loss, and appreciate your articles perspective very much.

  9. edcol52 says:

    Thank you for visiting and leaving a comment. I am truly sorry for your loss; seemingly empty words, I know, but they’re all I have. I wish you whatever moments of peace you can find.

  10. Danielle says:

    Beautifully written, I am so sorry for your loss.

  11. I honestly don’t know what to say… I pray the universe is kind to you and those who love your son and allows the grief to abate..
    peace to you and your family

  12. edcol52 says:

    Thank you Lynne for visiting and for your kind words. There really isn’t anything to say, in spite of the thousands of words I have written and continue to write. I am not quite sure if ‘abate’ is in the cards. I think we just get inured to it over time.

  13. just a dad says:

    I am glad you have a place like this and a community to discuss. I cannot imagine what you are going through.

  14. Blathering says:

    You have captured this “stage” well. For me it was my beautiful younger brother who suddenly died at 33, and I noticed, like you, that some of those recognised stages, such as Bargaining, did not apply to me at all, but Bewilderment – or as you term it, WTF – was predominant and even 2.5 years later I still feel that when I remind myself that I’ll never see him again. My parents are very religious so I can only hope for their sakes that religion gives them the answers that I couldn’t find.

    • edcol52 says:

      I think that is the thing that bewilders me the most, the fact that I will never see him again. For 24 years Jake was such a big part of my life, much of what I did was for him either directly or indirectly, so losing that has thrown me into a state of perpetual confusion. I am also experiencing a ‘crisis of faith’ which I have touched on in past posts. Thank you for visiting and bringing your perspective.

  15. Dani says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss.

    There are no words.


  16. I am so so sorry for your loss peace to you and your family I’m sorry I’m at a loss for words I will be praying for you ❤

  17. You may be in the WTF stage for awhile or your whole life. That is okay. I think the important thing is to just do the best you can with what you have. I haven’t lost a child but I understand grief. I have been dealing with it a long time. When I was 16 I was at a friends home and witnessed my friends get murdered. It was completely random and nothing made sense at all besides the guy was schizophrenic and turned away from treatment when he desperately sought it. I feel shame for not stopping the guy even though I know it wasn’t my fault. There are a lot of complicated emotions that go along with experiencing traumatic events. I understand what it is like to not be able to make any sense of losing someone. The pain can seem endless. Be honest with yourself and challenge the negative thoughts. Life is so tough but as we put one foot in front of the other we find that we can reach places we never believed we could.

    • edcol52 says:

      Rebecca, thank you for visiting and your thoughtful commentary. Yes, the emotions associated with such an experience are very complicated. All the ‘what if’s”, the “should have’s”, the “could have’s” pile up. It is human nature to hold oneself responsible for events that one may not have any control over. I have to remind myself of this daily, and yet I continually think that maybe I should have or shouldn’t have done something that might have prevented this. It is a futile exercise, as it won’t change anything. The only thing I can change, as you observe, is my own thinking, outlook and actions. Right now, I am working on getting through each day, one at a time. Each day, another step even though I can’t see the top of the staircase.

  18. I stumbled upon your post and I’m glad I did. My dad died of a massive stroke without warning in Oct. 2012 and my mother-in-law died suddenly in February this year so the WTF stage is alive and kicking. Many points struck home for me along with other comments here. God bless you and all of us that appear ok on the outside but have broken hearts on the inside.

  19. Hi Ed!
    Life isn’t always fair. There are many questions which remains unanswered and we still exist without knowing why and how long. But we as human still harbour grudges and hatred against others. But then I read your post and words fall short to express your grief. I don’t know if time can heal certain griefs, but only thing I want to say to you cherish the people the loved ones who are with you now and jake would never have liked to see you in this wtf stage. God bless.

  20. edcol52 says:

    Fair??! I think not. There are some wounds that time cannot heal. We just have to manage them, as we would any chronic condition. I wrote about this previously: http://wp.me/p4gJlR-aX. I do cherish the time I had with him, the people around me that loved him, who love and supported us during the first horrific months, and the ones that have remained steadfastly with us as we try to figure out the way forward. As for what Jake would have wanted, no one knows that better than I. Thank you for your kind words and thoughtful comments.

  21. Kirstie says:

    Firstly I’m so sorry for your loss. I lost my beautiful mum who meant the absolute world to me two years ago. And whilst I can identify with the grief you feel i am sure that the grief is totally different losing a child. I say this because people that say to me ” oh I know how you feel, I lost my grandad two years ago, he was 96, I was devastated” I feel like punching them. It’s not that I don’t understand their pain or loss but to me losing a grandparent at 96, an amazing age and natural age to pass away isn’t the same as losing your mum, best friend, rock and everything at 58 of cancer. It’s different. And you have no idea how I feel. Please do not compare the two. I too am still in the wtf stage. It comes over me in waves of grief that overwhelm me. Panic me. But I am starting to ‘come to terms’ with things more. The reason I think for this is because I have realised something. In this life I think we truly believe that if we are good people, try our best not to intentionally hurt others, be kind, do our best, be honest and law abiding, then bad things, really bad things won’t happen to us. But this is all just bollocks. It does. All the time. Murderers, rapists, the filth of society remain healthy for years, in prison hopefully- but healthy. They won’t suddenly be struck down by debilitating disease or involved in some horrific accident. That’s saved for the good people. I think because I have somehow managed to let go of that thought it’s helped me. You do your best in this life for you. And your family. It makes no difference to the grand scheme of things. A friend of mine told me that she said to my mum once ” why has this happened to you??” My mums reply was ” why not me?” She’s an inspiration to me. Everyday. I know she is with me all the time. She helps me to get thru it all. Love & hugs to you and yours xxx

    • grahamforeverinmyheart says:

      Your comment about your mother caught my attention. When my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, her view was “why not me?” rather than “why me?”. The only problem I have with that in relation to losing a child is that much of the pain isn’t just about my loss, it’s about what my son lost. He lost the opportunities that we should all have in this life – and he can’t say “why not me?”, he can’t say anything anymore. Somehow other people think his death is a tragedy for me, but it is even more of a tragedy for him. He had so many dreams.

    • edcol52 says:

      Kirstie, thank you for visiting. Yes, I wrote about what others say to grieving parents is mostly totally inappropriate, and I, too felt like punching certain people. Your comment is thoughtful and sadly true as far as the “it can’t happen to me” outlook most of us wield daily. Shit happens, and sometimes it is really, really bad shit. We are still in the midst of a shit storm of unimaginable magnitude and I don’t even have an umbrella. We all do our best, and whether it matters or not in the grand scheme, I haven’t a clue. What we do does matter to the ones we love and may unknowingly affect someone we don’t know. Either for the good or for the ill, and can have repercussions that reverberate through the years. Right now, it is moment by moment. Jake is with me always, that is slim comfort as I can no longer put my arms around him. You can’t hug a ghost.

  22. CiM says:

    To be brutally honest, most days “one day at a time” is just 24 hours too much.

    {Finding Our Way, 10/4/11}


    How does joy compare to the deep pain of grief?
    Joy only goes so far.

    I never found the bottom to grief.

    {Emily “Kirchink” 9/14/10}


    With no prospect of rescue – save death, but will that rescue, when it comes? – I struggle, also, through WTF wilderness. And bump into coffee tables.

    Remembering Jake. And his loving parents. Daily.


    • edcol52 says:

      I am at the moment by moment stage. It is a relief when I can crawl into bed at the end of each day. I don’t look forward, I am trying not to look back. Living each instant as it comes is as much as I can manage now. There is no bottom to this pool of sorrow, that’s why it is called the Infinite Fountain. Thanks for stopping by, Cathy.

  23. Gillian says:

    I’m so terribly sorry for your loss. Three years ago I lost my kid brother to cancer. Leukemia. He had had it when he was 14, went into remission, and then it came back when he was 23. He was a new father and looking forward to his life.

    I am 12 years older than my brother, and we had never really connected. Now that he had finally started to mature and settle down, I was hoping to establish a better relationship with him. That was taken away from me. So while I didn’t lose a son, I not only lost a much-younger brother, but the chance of having a better relationship with him. The first 18 months hurt the worst. I don’t remember going through any real stages, just a dark, constant feeling of pain and grief. I don’t remember when it began to lighten, when I adjusted to a new life without him, but sometime within the past year the grief eased. I know it doesn’t feel like it now, but a day will come when your pain will recede and your good memories will outweigh the bad.

    Peace and love to you and your family.

    • edcol52 says:

      Gillian, thank you for stopping by and your thoughtful comment. There are so many good memories, that is part of what makes this so horrible. We had such a wonderful time together as a family, mostly, and the idea that that is over, that all we will have from now on is those memories is part of the bewilderment. For me it comes in waves, there are moments when I am almost all right, but then the tsunami crashes over me and I can do little but crawl back into bed. I know it will lift, but I am not sure I will ever understand the why, or be fully free of the sorrow.

  24. ClaireMarie says:

    I get that you think you will be in the WTF stage forever, but this too, passes. The WTF stage just becomes life. It has been eight years since my dad passed away and honestly some days it feels like eight weeks or even days. Right now it feels like life is just ridiculous without the person you lost but eventually you’ll embrace new traditions and new ways of doing things, this does not mean you forget those old memories, if anything it makes you hold on to them stronger. Just don’t let new chances to make memories be clouded by not wanting to replace the old.

    • edcol52 says:

      Claire Marie, thank you for your insight. We are doing what we can to move forward, to find a new rhythm to this vastly different life while still cherishing the memories we have. What is so difficult is that we won’t ever get to make any new memories with Jake. Yes there is still a lot of life to live, new memories to create, but Jake will not be a part of it. That is what hurts so much.

  25. MissFit says:

    You summed it up perfectly. Parents should never bury their children. i know this all too well. It goes against nature. every cellular atom. WTF is right.
    Keep writing. you are helping more than just yourself. never doubt your impact

  26. neha_harve says:

    I think you described the stage perfectly when you called it the ‘WTF stage’. It’s hard to find words to describe a feeling like that. Thank you for penning it down so beautifully and perfectly. I’m so sorry for your loss. Stay strong, the ones we love never truly leave us. They always have a very special place in our hearts and will always remain there.

    • edcol52 says:

      Thank you for visiting and leaving a comment. Yes, there are no words. Almost 40,000 words later and I am still groping for meaning. Thank you also for your kind thoughts. Come back and visit again if you like.

  27. profjojo says:

    Thirteen months and I am living what some might call “the new normal,” but normal rarely means desirable. The empty house and vacant chair are normal…there would be something abnormal if he were there, and my wish for the abnormal scares me. It is absolutely real and completely hollow at the same time. I don’t know what stages lie ahead for either of us. I am rudely educated every day. I wish I had wisdom t o offer, but I can send love.

  28. teckygran says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. I cried when I read your post. It’s been 5 years since I lost my son and you never get over it, but you do get used to it, which helps a little. What more can I say”

  29. activearmywife says:

    I lost my sister to a drunk driver this year in March. I agree with the WTF stage. I will be there forever. I am also very angry. I guess I am shocked (even though I probably shouldn’t be) that someone so important to me can just ‘like that’ disappear from my world. You will be in my prayers.

    • edcol52 says:

      Thank you for visiting and commenting here. It is shocking, that’s the word exactly. Here one moment and gone the next. Jake’s death was sudden, unexpected and unnecessary. Poof. Just like that. I am sorry for your loss, I understand your anger. Mine fades in and out. I wish you as much peace as you can find.

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