anticipating the tidal wave

I haven’t been able to write for the last 2 months. I had to slip back into life and be able to function.

So I slammed the door shut on the painful emotions and stayed far away from it.  I kept moving, and I kept cramming down the pain (not very healthy, by the way).  I just couldn’t take the chance that I would lose myself in the pain and cease to function – because I had committments to keep.  But, the longer I did this, the harder it was to keep cramming. 

Last night, we passed the intersection where my son was killed.  I pass it often when driving to church, the store or to visit friends. Usually I distract myself by holding my breath, saying a prayer, or closing my eyes – but this time was different.  

I was startled by a compelling vision of my son.  As I saw his face, I could actually feel the intensity of his vitality and his joy.  It was momentary, powerful, and deeply painful as I thought, “All of that is gone. I can no longer hold him.” 

The pain makes me want to crawl away, find a quiet place and cry. And, I can feel a tidal wave gathering as we get closer to December 7th.  I’m shocked to realize that almost 1 year has passed since the accident. 

Not sure how I will get through the next few weeks – his anniversary & the holidays.  But with God’s grace, I’ll keep moving forward. 

This song, Nothing Stops Another Day, speaks to me. If you follow the link, you can hear how beautifully it is sung:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G19h037A728&sns=em 

“I know I have to let go of the life I’ll never know,

hard as it may be. 

I’m trying to understand instead there’s another life ahead. 

Because the tallest mountain cannot stop the smallest stream,

Winter can’t hold back the spring, no matter how dark it may seem,

Come what may, nothing stops another day

 Because the world keeps turning and I guess it always will,

I can choose to turn around, or I can choose to just stand still.  Either way, nothing stops another day

  Lyrics from “Nothing Stops Another Day”

 

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what would you do for your child?

I fell into a hole last week and got stuck there.   It wasn’t the result of being caught off guard with a “how many children do you have?” question,  another “first” or even a bittersweet reminder.  I simply had a string of bad days where I was feeling empty and missing my son – his smile, his laugh, his pranks and his hugs.  And, his little girl started back to school so I was especially sad that she didn’t have him there for her first day.
The loss is so visceral and, at times, all-consuming that even my body hurts.    I’ve discovered that my body knows the date before I ever look at a calendar.  My “monthly cycle is centered around the 7th – the day my son died.  It starts late in the day on the 5th when I find myself feeling weepy, and the waves of emotion continue for the next 2 days…..  it’s as if the body that bore him aches because he is gone.
My husband would give anything to be able to help when these waves hit, but he has come to accept that there isn’t anything he (or anyone else) can do.  The only comfort I have is that which God provides.  Well, last week, my husband asked me, “Isn’t it true that a mother would do absolutely anything to protect her child?”
I started to remember my pregnancy dreams: my son in the road and the oncoming car bearing down on him; me racing at lightning speed … reaching him just in time to push him to safety.  I had so many of these type of dreams all throughout his childhood; different variations but the same ending: I took on the impact so that he would be saved.
My husband’s point? That is exactly what I am doing now.  Had I stepped in front of a car for my son, he would have been safe (and I would have suffered as I recovered from the impact).  Well,  he is now safe and happy.  And yes, I am suffering as I try to rebuild my life.
I have to remind myself that my son was given to me for a time, and now he is home.  My work is done.

8 months today

I can’t believe 8 months has passed since my son’s accident.  I wasn’t watching the calendar, but should have realized as the physical pain and emotions began to build yesterday.  One thing that is different though – the memories of the accident day haven’t gone away but they do have blurry edges……..  

Last week, a friend offered to help me look through the last box of my son’s belongings.  I had been saving that last box; probably the same impulse that makes me delay reading the last chapter of a really good book – because I don’t want it to end.  But it was time.    

What an odd experience – I was in the moment and I was also watching myself

……..holding his Boy Scout shirt; reading little notes that he wrote; getting teary looking at the old photos; smiling at finger-paintings from 1982; and laughing out loud at his 8-year-old Christmas list (He cut pictures from every catalog he could find, stuffed them inside a manila envelope and wrote on the front: all i want is in here)

a wonderful flood of bittersweet memories

 And I kept thinking, “Why didn’t I save more of his things?”  

Maybe we need to live each day in a way that celebrates the present.  Is that the lesson I need to understand??

what does suffering teach us?

What do we learn from the pain of losing a child?  I know that we are irrevocably changed, but do we gain something from our grief?  Does our obsession to find answers help us to become something better? 

Perhaps it is when we finally decide to live – when we make ourselves move on – that we channel our energies into something good.  

I suspect our grief causes us to become more generous, or more altruistic than we might otherwise have been.   I see bereaved parents:

  • publishing books
  • writing blogs
  • lobbying for positive change
  • joining groups like Compassionate Friends who come together to offer comfort    

I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness and the willingness to remain vulnerable. 

Anne Morrow Lindbergh

 

friends who have slipped away

In the months since my son died, I have reconnected with old friends, and made new friends within this (startlingly large) community of bereaved parents.  

Many of my dear friends have drawn closer, but I’m troubled by others who have slipped away.  I recognize that not everyone who enters our life is meant to stay forever, but I’m not yet ready to give up on a few special ones.   

I just found this ‘letter to a friend’ in Margaret Brownley’s, “Grieving God’s Way.”  Here are excerpts that capture what I would want to say:

Dear Friend,

Please be patient with me; I need to grieve in my own way and in my own time… The best thing you can do is listen to me and let me cry on your shoulder.  Don’t be afraid to cry with me.  Your tears will tell me how much you care.

Please forgive me if I seem insensitive to your problems. I feel depleted and drained like an empty vessel with nothing left to give.  Please understand why I must turn a deaf ear to criticism or tired clichés.  I can’t handle another person telling me that time heals all wounds.

Please don’t try to find the “right” words to say to me.  There’s nothing you can say to take away the hurt. I need hugs, not words. 

Please don’t push me to do things I’m not ready to do or feel hurt if I seem withdrawn.  This is a necessary part of my recovery.  Please don’t stop calling me. You might think you’re respecting my privacy, but to me if feels like abandonment.

Please don’t expect me to be the same as I was before….. I’m a different person. Please accept me for who I am today.  Pray with me and for me.  Should I falter in my faith, let me lean on yours.

small mercies

I had a long, painful conversation with my sister who understands what it feels like to lose a child; she has been my rock.  I know how much it hurts her to see me in pain.  When she asked me if I had prayed for God to take away some of my pain, I had to wonder why I was holding on so tightly to my grief.  

I realized that because people were getting back to the business of living, I was afraid that my son would be forgotten. That would be like losing him all over again. 

The next day, I awoke knowing that my son was sent here for restoration and reconciliation.  In the 6 months he lived with us before he died, he learned to love himself, and accept that he was loved. 

I’m so grateful that God sent him here to me before taking him home.

overflowing

If you pour more liquid into an over-filled glass, it simply spills over.

My grandmother just died.  She was wise and loving, and so very giving.  She lived a long life, and I will miss her.  Yet, I am so consumed by the loss of my son, that I’m struggling to properly grieve for my Nana. There just isn’t any room.

It’s been six months since my son died and I’m not sure the pain will ever go away.  

A good friend of mine told me that the six month mark can be one of the most difficult points in the grieving process. Most other people have gone back to everyday life and are no longer constantly thinking about the person who died – and they expect that the grieving family will be experiencing the same thing.  But the family is still in the relatively early stages of grief, made worse by the expectation that they too should be functioning normally. 

I know I can’t expect the world to stop – just because mine did.  I just want people to remember him; I need to know that he still matters even though he is gone. 

 

 

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.

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

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.”