In this iteration of our classic “Women in Numbers,” Jessica Wetterer gives her personal “numbers” and thoughts on grief.
By Jessica Wetterer, Illustrations by Jessica Wetterer
“He’s dead. He’s dead.” My mom’s voice sobs into the middle of the night, into the family room containing my two sisters and me. We are 10, 12 and 14 years old. She has just come back from the hospital, where my dad had been taken after collapsing during a basketball game. He never got up; we never got to say goodbye. My mother is now a single mom, raising my sisters and teaching us how to take care of ourselves.
“Just stay on the phone with me.” I am visiting my family in Kentucky when my boyfriend of five years calls me and tells me he tried to hang himself. The line goes dead. I call 911 in a panic and wait. My mom wakes up to my sobs and holds me. He is okay, but I am not. This is not the first, nor second time. I cannot live in this darkness anymore. I tell his family what has happened and ask his friends to check on him. I move out.
“Dave’s dead.” My sister gently tells me over the phone line. It is 1 a.m. in California, and I am with my husband, visiting friends. I cry into the night—my stepdad, my bonus dad, is gone. He wasn’t sick for very long before he died in a blur of difficult breathing. An hour before, I asked my mom to tell him that I love him. I fly back to Kentucky the next day to be with her and my sisters.
The darkest hours pass the slowest. It never feels like the light will come. But with the persistence of family and friends and time, so much time, comes daylight. Slowly, life’s devastations numb to make its gifts brighter. The sun rising, the stars at night, hugs with loved ones become that much more precious. On the other side of grief is survival.