progress

My son died in early December……. just writing that is so strange.  But, as I begin to step back into my life, I have to be able to write it and to say it without falling apart. 

It feels like I’m beginning a new phase, with an entirely new set of challenges. There are fewer “I have to get out of here now” moments (like being startled by a comment or deeply moved by an unexpected kindness); but I’m still mastering how to manage those times when I do lose it.  My confidence increases each time I am able to hold back the storm until I am alone (which is one way I know I’m making progress).

Going back to work full-time requires that I “act normal” for longer and longer periods of time.  No more waiting until I have enough energy to do something; I’m now bound by my schedule.  And, knowing that people are counting on me adds an enormous amount of stress. All of this requires energy that I don’t always have (some days, I have only enough energy to get dressed).  I honestly don’t know if I could have made it back without the support, patience and flexibility from my work team.

I am already a different person – at work and at home.  I’m very comfortable with silence, and spend more time in my head than I do with other people.  When I do interact with people, the conversations happen very differently.  For me, the spaces between the words no longer need to be filled.  When a topic is over, there is no rush to begin another.  I’ve noticed that not everyone is entirely comfortable with extended silence.   

This is one of my favorite quotes: 

We fight for the right to grieve in a society that would rather we “get over it” in three days.  Grieving God’s Way by Margaret Brownley

I used to get so angry when I felt people rushing me (advising me how to move on, or pushing me to cheer up and be grateful I had another son).  Over time, my perspective has changed; people who care about you may not know what to say or how to say it, but they just want you to be OK.  All of the wonderful people in my life – family and friends who have carried me with their love and support; I can almost feel their relief when I am having a good day.  I know in my heart that their deepest wish is for me to feel better.

 

 

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control

We cling to this illusion; but what do we really control in our life?

The accident happened.  If I had been home; if I had spoken to him that day; if he hadn’t been fighting with the girlfriend; if he hadn’t been texting while driving.  All of these ifs,but none of them really matter.

I’m angry that things keep happening to me.  I feel as if have no control over anything……

My body betrays me – it yearns and aches and tightens.  At night, my mind wanders where it wants and I awake covered in grief. Memories are inconsistent: there are times I vividly recall the past; other days, what I need to remember is locked behind a wall and I can’t reach it. 

Often, my quicksilver emotions surprise me: the bittersweet sting of a happy memory pulls me into that sad place; or fear creeps in (dressed as something else), so it isn’t as easy to recognize…. 

I am learning to be more self-aware.  I think of it as a “full body scan” or like taking a complete inventory.  It doesn’t solve anything or make things better, but it does help me to understand what is happening. 

The only thing I can control is how I choose to deal with it

glorious sadness

memories

Right after my son’s accident, I could only recall memories of his last 6 months while living with us.    

It is only recently that the early memories have returned: my son as a baby, toddler, adolescent, and teen – such heartbreaking images. 

Allowing myself to remember what he was – to me and to others, takes me to a dark, lonely place.  In this space, I have no wish to speak; to listen; or to invite anyone in.  Time passes, much like you see in a movie when everything freezes; white noise and nothing-ness blocks the world from getting in.  It is a seductive, solitary place…….and I find it very healing.

“Grief can’t be shared. Everyone carries it alone. His own burden in his own way.” Anne Morrow Lindbergh

 

 

 

broken

There are days when I feel so broken that I want to plead with God – – to cry out to him  – – that I’m not ready to let my son go.  I wake in a panic, afraid that I’ve lost him forever, because I can’t remember the sound of his voice, or his laugh.  My struggle is to find peace in knowing that my son and I will be together again in a new place (he just gets to go there first). 

I wonder if it is true that when you lose a loved one, your mind forgets things so your heart doesn’t keep breaking over, and over again.

Life will never be the same – I will never be the same; I’ve simply lost too much.  And yet, I look around and see all that I’ve been given.  I’m just not sure how to reconcile this realization with the pain in my heart.  I’m constantly reminded: if you give God the pieces, he can take anything broken and make it whole again.  That is my prayer

“The LORD hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:17-18

 

 

 

 

healing music

Music has always been my greatest joy, and a source of comfort.  I find solace in a melody, and meaning in a lyric.  But in the midst of grieving for my son, I found myself unable to sing.  Whenever I opened my mouth, sadness and loss poured out and choked me.  Maybe this happens because music emanates from the soul?  I found a quote that made sense: “Music moves us as it can bypass reasoning, getting to our deepest memories and what we hold dear..” from Music Over a Lifespan by Rictor Noren(Psychology Today). 

surviving

I try not to dwell on the accident, but my mind wanders back there.  I’ve pored over the death certificate, especially details for cause of death.  Like any mothers, I need to understand what my son experienced; and if he felt any pain.   This is where I hang on to my faith.  I believe he wasn’t alone when he died.  I believe that he felt no pain, and that he saw only beauty.  And, now he is home.

I reached a point where I was so very tired of telling the story. With each telling, I opened the scab and I returned to that dark, dark place.  So, now I work hard at being “normal” and moving through my days incognito (If you didn’t know me; I’d look just like the next person shopping, doing errands and interacting with strangers).  But, the intensity required to keep such tight control is a strain: tension builds, muscles tighten and i find myself swallowing often – as if I could keep this swirling mass of emotion from rising in my throat.

 The song seems to capture the vice-like hold that grief has:

“Something always brings me back to you.  It never takes too long.  No matter what I say or do I’ll still feel you here ’til the moment I’m gone.

 Set me free, leave me be. I don’t want to fall another moment into your gravity.Here I am and I stand so tall, just the way I’m supposed to be.But you’re on to me and all over me.

  You loved me ’cause I’m fragile. When I thought that I was strong. But you touch me for a little while and all my fragile strength is gone.

 Set me free, leave me be. I don’t want to fall another moment into your gravity.  Here I am and I stand so tall, just the way I’m supposed to be.  But you’re on to me and all over me.”

Gravity by Sara Bareilles

lifelong journey

In the midst of despair, being reminded that tomorrow is another day provides no comfort because it’s hard to believe tomorrow will be any better.” Surviving Grief and Tragedy – The Spark Within, by Michael Josephson  

I was confused when people told me I was “getting better.”   Yes, I was less distracted; I could read a few sentences; and remember a few more things.  But, I didn’t feel better.  My heart hurt.

Prayers – so many prayers – for healing, and then waiting for whatever was next.  When I had a good day, I was convinced that I was starting into the next phase – moving on towards “better.”  That made the bad days all the more devastating.

the big a ha

Weeks went by before I it finally hit me: there are no milestones, no half-way points, and certainly no end to this process.  This is a  lifelong journey that feels like scaling vertical rock face.  I have to decide if I choose life.  And I get to choose – every single day –how I want to live that life.  

Andy Warhol said, “They always say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”

every day of “normal” is a small victory

being real

It helps to be with other mothers who have lost a child.  Three moms visited me after the accident, and gave me comfort and some very good advice.  They didn’t ‘pull any punches” when they told me, “You will never be the same. Just know that when people tell you it get better – it doesn’t.  It just gets different.  There will be a new normal.”  (I was still dazed, but I remember thinking, “I just read somewhere that… “normal is just a setting on a dryer.”)  

sometimes, there is such cruelty in hope

You have a “good” day, and you delude yourself into thinking that you might be getting better, or nearing the “end” (as if the healing process was somehow linear).  Then, the next day you do a virtual “face-plant” on the floor.  After the third or fourth time you pick yourself up, most people would get it. But the pain is so great, you continue to hope – against all evidence – that THIS time, it might be different.  You just crave a bit of “normal.”

soul shattering

Featured

Losing a child has been described as a “soul shattering nightmare.”  It actually feels like a war.  I’m fighting to gather back every piece myself… all of those bits that flew in a million different directions.   I need those because I’m trying to put myself back together.

Just after he died, sweet memories of my son comforted me.  But they cut much too deeply – like jagged-edged jewels.  Over time, they’ve become easier to look at and hold close.  

There are days when I can’t find the memories, hear his voice, or see his face.  Other days, there are no words – all I can manage is to sit and stare.  It is comforting, but a bit startling to look up, see darkness and realize that 6 hours passed.

lyrics to a song by Sara Bareilles perfectly captures these feelings: 

“No words, My tears won’t make any room for more, And it don’t hurt like anything I’ve ever felt before, this is no broken heart, No familiar scars, This territory goes uncharted…

Each day, countin’ up the minutes, till I get alone, ’cause I can’t stay In the middle of it all, it’s nobody’s fault, but I’m so low, never knew how much I didn’t know,  Oh, everything is uncharted.  I know I’m getting nowhere, when I only sit and stare like…I’m going down..”    Uncharted by Sara Bareilles