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It’s funny how the mind works. In the early morning hours when the fog of sleep lifts ever so slightly and before the alarm reminds me of the tasks of the day…

Maybe it was Zoe’s short hair that set it off. Maybe it was the shooting at the Jewish Community Center where Noah went to preschool. Maybe it was just completely random. It’s hard to say.

This morning I was only half-awake as I was thinking. I thought of my children and how much I missed seeing Noah. It has been so long since I’ve seen Noah and I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out why. Where was Noah? I have seen lots of Zoe lately, thank goodness, and always on schedule. But why hadn’t I seen Noah?

Jason must be keeping him, I thought. Why would he do that, though? Why would he share Zoe as planned but not Noah? As I thought harder to solve this mystery, I tried even harder to recall the last time I had seen them together and then something in my brain clicked on like a light switch.

Oh, I realized.

Noah is dead.

Dead. It’s such a harsh word that I have always made it a point of utmost importance to not let myself utter or even THINK that word. The self-protecting reflex on which I had grown so dependent was called upon once again. I tried so hard to collect myself and find an acceptable synonym. But it was too late.

Dead.

There it was. That word. That WORD describing my SON! It suffocated my heart.

With the cloud of sleep still weighing heavy on my body and mind, I could not seem to find a way to appropriately censor and filter my own thoughts, as I do when I am fully awake. Heartbroken and frustrated with myself, I tried to push it all from my head. A trip of conscience while the part of me that knows how to self-soothe was still sleeping. And the harsh truth of everyday language crept in on me like the sun creeping slowly from behind the curtains.

Luckily, I have other tools to fall back on. Tools like denial: making me able to force myself asleep (only sometimes) where I can pretend none of it happened. Just go back to sleep, I told myself. And somehow, my practiced intuition was able to forget the fact that almost two years later, there are still times that I believe Noah is alive. Out there somewhere but being kept from me; just out of reach.

When I realize the harsh truth, it’s as if I’m back in that hospital room again, saying goodbye to my only son as my heart, future, LIFE shatters right before my eyes.

My coping tools have grown strong, but these slip-ups still come. Even though, enduring and strong (strongER?), they live in me and haunt me for days. My head knows that my son is gone. My heart is still learning.

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