So my financial situation dictates that I must return to work this week. Yesterday was filled with meetings, tasks for me to do, awkward moments and bewildering changes. Even though our company has experienced a lot of changes during my absence, in a way, it was comforting to come back to something familiar. Nonetheless, I am shaky in every possible sense and in everything I do: I ask obvious questions. I fumble through. Social interaction is strained and opportunities to make others smile, something which I usually pounce on, just roll on by.

The ship of my company sails on…with me dangling behind in a dinghy trying to catch up. And never far from my mind are the ashes of what was once my son, enshrined on the sofa table of my new and awkward home.

My new home. Now a place where I have one less child and half the time. Half-hearted attempts at decor. Snapshots hanging crooked in the hall. Random pieces of furniture that would never have chosen to sit next to each other. Even though it’s the same “stuff” I had back in June, it’s not the same “stuff” at all. Back then, things seemed perfect: all of my possessions were organized and radiated the sense of vibrance, excitement and independence I felt at starting again on my own. I was proud of my home. Proud to be able to provide for my children rather nicely and live in a place all mine.

But now…my new home feels more like my first apartment did. Some places crammed to overflowing. Other areas empty. And to me the whole place feels all at once cramped and hollow. It makes me want to get rid of everything. Just pitch it all and start over. But I know I can’t do that. The coffee table where Noah built Lego cities, Tinkertoy broom stores, marble mazes and race tracks. The table where he ate. The sofa table that has always held photos of him. Even the Lightning McQueen magnets that held his crayon masterpieces taunt and comfort the ache in my heart and my life.

I feel stuck. Stuck in every way. Stuck with the double meaning in everything. I devour the memories, fully aware that they are sweet but poisonous. And the reminders are all around me, everywhere I go. Going to work feels comfortingly familiar, yet foreign and painful as I remember how I took for granted going home to a safe, healthy and full family. Or how I worked a few extra minutes to finish a project when I should have gone home and played with the gifts that are my progeny. And it feels forced. It all seems forced: living, working, interacting, participating in the world where I couldn’t do anything to keep my son here with me.