In 3 Days

In 3 days, my first born son will be 23 years old. In 3 days, I will not be able to tell him Happy Birthday. In 3 days, he will be celebrating his birthday in heaven. In 3 days, it will mark the 3rd birthday he has had without me. In 3 days, I pray that I make it through the day.

Work and Grief

A friend of mine that lost her son shortly after I lost mine has been going through total heck at work. She was only given two weeks leave after the passing of her only son. Since she has been back to work, there are days where she has had to call in because grief had consumed her to the point that she could not get out of the bed. She has decided to leave her job after one too many inconsiderate write-ups over her actions. T (as I will call her) asked if I would help write her resignation letter for her. She thought I could help her put into words exactly what grief has done to her. Us. And all the mourning parents.

The request had me thinking of the best thing to say. How to exactly describe what we go through. How do you explain to someone that has never lost a child what it feels like to have a piece of your soul lost forever? How do explain how your heart never will beat the same way it used to? How do you let them know that grief does not pick non-business hours to rear its ugly head? I do not think there is any way to really get the full impact of having so much of your life disappear in the blink of an eye. Sure we may have been fine when we left work on Tuesday. But the dream we had that night of our child made us wake up thinking that he was just down the hall in his bed. And then realizing we woke from our dream to the nightmare of reality. Yes we were just fine when we left for lunch. But while in the car at the drive-thru our child’s favorite song came on the radio, leaving us crying hysterically and cars honking their horns at us. Then there are birthdays, holidays, anniversaries of death and life. What about the sadness we feel when our child’s friends accomplish all the things he should be here for? We not only grieve the past and present but also the lost future. We will grieve when we see our friends with their grandchildren we were robbed of. We will grieve when we watch his best friend walk down the aisle without our son as his best man. We will grieve every empty space at the dinner table, the empty stocking, the quiet nights, the missing sound of laughter and all the messy messes that we desperately miss.

How do you put a time on how much work you can miss after the loss of a child? When you give birth you are given at least six weeks maternity leave. They even give the same amount to Fathers now! But only to receive two weeks bereavement time to mourn the loss of 19 years worth of hopes and dreams? It takes two weeks just to come out of the shock and fog! There is no textbook example of grief time because no one person grieves the same as another. Some can handle day to day routines like before with a hard exterior. Some will crack in public over random thoughts. Some will never get on with life. Some will tackle life and grieve quietly in the inside. I guess I was lucky that I did not have to return to any sort of job after I lost my son. I never really sat back and thought about the pain and hardship that my son’s Father, his Bonus Mom or my Husband felt. So how do I try and help her explain this to her employers? There is no possible way for them to understand shy of them losing their own child. And there is no way I would ever wish this torturous pain on anyone…

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Year 2 Review

First, let me say this…. To the people that said year two would be easier, you can go suck an egg. A rotten egg. Because truth is, year two is worse. A lot worse.

Year one we were spending it in shock and getting used to the fact that our son was not going to walk through the door ever again. We were so determined to be strong for our living children and give them a “normal” life that we put all of our emotions on the back burner. Stored them up for a later date. And while we accomplished giving them as best of this “normal” life as we could, we lost a little bit of our lives.

We entered year two with a fire that we were going to do all things different this year. We would live and laugh and remember our son with smiles and make new memories. That fire quickly was doused with all the tears that had been put up out of the way in year one. The strength that I had been leaning on faded away and faith is the only thing that kept me standing. Many days have been spent in the bed crying watching the clock. I had gotten really good at knowing how long it would take for me get my face to unpuff and go back to its normal hue and just how many cold rags it would take. I have figured out how long I can stay awake crying at night and still be able to get enough sleep to function for the family. I only thought I had mastered the face of strength and poise last year. this second year, I deserve an academy award.

Life did not stop at all this year for one second and give us a chance to breathe. One thing after another. Small things, big things, teenage troubles that made us want to pull our hair out, car troubles, loss of some dear ones, money troubles, health scares with my Mom and all this while trying to repair what death has done to my marriage. (more on the marriage later)

We did have our moments that we were overly blessed with. We met the man that has my son’s heart. Lance came and we showed him the town we raised our son and he got to meet Richie’s family and friends.  We met a young lady that can now run because of his gift. We were able to travel and watch Morgan graduate college. I was baptized! Richie’s best friend is married now and expecting a blessing of his own. Mom is getting better by the day. My spiritual life while being tested almost daily is growing. I have met and made lifetime friends that are on the same road with me that I can find reasons to laugh with and cry too. I have made friends at church that give me reason to laugh daily!

Death ,however, still has its shadow over my head. It is almost like sometimes I am scared for something good to happen for fear of bad creeping in. That I am told will ease with time but never go away completely. Year two has taught me to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Keep praying. Keep helping others. Put a smile on face even when I am a river of tears on the inside. And just keep on going. Oh, and to stock up on ice packs for the swollen teary face. Bring it on year three!

 

Grief Stage #482

I seem to have hit yet another stage in this grief journey. I don’t even know what you can call it. The “if he where here stage” or “he’s missing this stage”? Whatever you call it, for three weeks now I just cry every free moment alone I get.

It started when preparing for my sister’s wedding. She and Richie are only a few years apart and were more like siblings than aunt and nephew. The whole time all I could think of was how excited he would have been for her. I have no doubt he would have been a groomsman or fought to give her away. I try not to live in the thought of every second of the fact he is not here but during the ceremony and reception it was all I could think of.

I have been doing that in everything. Even little things like what I am cooking. I have picked up the phone to text him what is being fixed so many times lately. I have all but stopped cooking. A movie was coming on the other night and wanted to tell him to watch it. I hate when we have anything lately with family because I can feel his absence. I just keep thinking about what he would be doing. Would he be aggravating Lexie and Kane? Would he be teasing his Grandma? Would he have been yelling at the football game on TV with Jeff and his uncles? Is he missing out on everything that is happening here?

Yes, I know everyone says he is watching down from heaven and isn’t missing one thing but I find that hard to believe. The only thing that gives me comfort in him being gone is that he is in heaven. As I am lead to understand from studying the Word, in heaven there is singing, worship, serving, ruling, fellowship with others, eating. (Rev 15:3, 5:9, 22:3, 22:5, 2:17, 2 Tim 2:12, Matt 17:3) Richie is experiencing a life of fellowship with God (Rev 22:4), a life of rest (Rev 14:3), a life of service (rev 22:3), a life of growth ( Rev 22:2) and a life of worship (Rev 19:1). Why would he be looking down here at this messed up world? He is probably having such a glorious time with no worries of this world, sickness or trouble that he hasn’t thought of us. I am sure my Granny has gotten a good grip on him and is showing him off to everyone up there.

With all that being said, I am still mourning what he is missing but I am comforted by Richie rejoicing at the right hand of Jesus!

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At least…..

“At least you had 20 years with Richie” If I had a dollar for every time I have been told that! I could I certainly could live high in the hog until the end of my days! I usually just nod my head and not think about it. But in the past few days it has really struck a chord with me. Does this mean I am luckier in my son’s death for the 20 years as opposed to someone who only had a few days, weeks or years? I am going to give four different death stories that have touched my life. They all have different amounts of time and circumstances. Then we will see who is luckier.

Let’s start with Renee. She was pregnant and excited for the new life she was carrying. Her family was busy buying everything they could get their hands on. Then she went into early labor. Just a week before the six month mark. She fought for more than a week and then the doctors had no choice but to deliver. Little Ian was delivered and only survived just shy of 2 hours. In this short time she held her baby, loved him, prayed for him and memorized every part of his tiny self. Time with her child: less than 2 hours.

Zack was the son of Tonya. Tonya spent ten years trying to have a child. Then when she gave up, God blessed her with a son. She raised Zack for 18 years. He was on the way to his high school graduation rehearsal when he was in a car accident. A few days later in ICU, he turned 19. Five days after that, he succumbed to his injuries. In the 19 years Tonya had Zack, she raised him, loved him and lived for her only child. Time with her child: 19 years 5 days.

Richie was my son. He was my firstborn of three. If you have been following my blog, you know our story. Summing us up because I will spend hours writing of his life, he was called home after an auto accident almost two years ago. Time with my child: 20 years 5 months 23 days

Ricky is the son of a precious lady named Mrs. Laurie. He is one of two sons she had. He fought hard to beat cancer but lost his battle in March. He was a loving husband, father and grandfather. Time with her child: 52 years 5 months 21 days

So which one of use Mothers is luckier? Is it one that has lots of memories to cling to? Lots of memories at times that cause us to want to scream because they are nothing more than memories now? The one that got 19 years with  her only child she didn’t think she would have? The one that had 20 years and but has her other children? 52 full years with a son that she thought would bury her? I could go into great detail about what each has and what others don’t. The one that has grandchildren from her child to watch versus the one that will never have a grandchild. The way people say it it almost makes me think that I should have one the lottery. Oh I had 20 years so bells and whistles and confetti should come out. On and on I could go!

But why compare. If we all four were to sit down to discuss our stories together, we would all have the same feeling… This is horrible all around. None of us is luckier for the amount of time we had. None if us are sitting around thinking about how the time we had was just the right amount. Not one of us would say that if we had a minute more it would have just ruined our lives. Or one minute less would have been much easier. You cannot put an amount on time when it comes to your children! The natural order a Mother thinks is this: The perfect amount of time we should have with our children is the time we have until our death, not theirs. That is the most perfect time no matter what it is. No matter how many other children we have. No matter how many memories we have.

I am not lucky for the 20 years, 5 months and 23 days I had. I am grateful for the 20 years, 5 months and 23 days I had. Forever grateful! Anytime we have with our children we should be grateful for. No matter what age our children are called home, we will mourn the could haves. We will forever wonder what they would be doing at this time in their life. What would we be doing. All I know is each and every day when I talk to God, I ask him to give my son love for me and ask him to just let me live one minute longer than my children still here with me.

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I know tomorrow isn’t promised so SHUT YOUR PIE HOLE!

I am fired up today! Since the minute our son passed away people say things like “tomorrow isn’t promised’ and such. I have always brushed these little saying off and let them roll away with the wind. Since taking my me time this summer and trying to heal, it seems as if this is everyone’s favorite saying. If I don’t go to something, they say it. If I do go to something, they say it. If some random person dies that I hardly know, they say, “You know better than all of us that tomorrow isn’t promised.” Well, guess what???? NO CRAP SHERLOCK! I DO KNOW THIS! WHAT IS YOUR FIRST CLUE THAT I DO? MAYBE THE FACT THAT I BURIED MY 20 YEAR OLD SON?

Yes, tomorrow isn’t promised. I promised my son that he would be going off to his new job and being the best ever at it. Promised him that I would be calling him the next morning to make sure he got up. I promised my son that we were all going to go to the mountains in a few months. Promised his brothers and sisters that he would be there for Wednesday supper. Promised his brothers and sisters that they could pick up the playful joking in a few days. Promised my husband that him and Richie could go to some tournament they were looking forward to. I promised myself that I would watch my first born become the best Richie he could be. I promised myself that I would have little Richies running through my house and would be spoiling them like crazy. I promised myself that I would continue making family dinner twice a week every week until I was too old. I promised my three children that they were going to get to fight over who I would live with when I got that old. You know what? I promised my whole family and myself that we would be having Taco Tuesday that New Year’s Eve and would spend it together having game night! Well, you know…..I DIDN’T GET TACO TUESDAY BECAUSE MY SON DIED THAT MONDAY.

I am well aware tomorrow isn’t promised. I live it every day. It is the first thing I know in the morning. I know it all through the day. I know it night when I lay my head down. I know it when I pick up my phone to ask Richie what time he will be home. I know it when I see the pain in my children’s eyes. I know it when his birthday comes around. I know it when I don’t have all three of my children at my supper table. I know it Christmas, Easter, birthdays, Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. I Know it at 1 pm, 3 pm, 10 am! I know it every single second of my life.

What makes me even more angry is the people saying it. Not every one that says it means it to upset me. But the ones that say it to guilt me! It is more they are saying it out of their guilt. They missed the opportunity to know my child whole heartedly and now feel they need to say it to make amends. Your loss now shut up. Then the ones that have not spoken to me in months that say it to guilt me into coming to something they are doing. The ones that I have cut out of my circle and now use it to get me to open the door again. Then the ones that say it just to say it. I do not play the death card. I never use my son’s death as an excuse for anything so why are they using it? Stop saying it. Stop using it!

This has been building with me for weeks. I told my husband that I would no longer got to anything we were invited to if someone said that to me. He agreed. So if you say it, I will not come and will take a break from you for a while also. So please, KINDLY SHUT YOU PIE HOLE!

And yes, I know that some of you are gonna say to keep me away anyway…. for that, thank you! Jerks!

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Bandages

When I first got to the hospital to see Richie, I didn’t know what to expect. What does someone who has been in a freak car accident look like? My mind had built up a scenario that had me scared to death to walk in the room. When I got in the room, he was laying there with nothing wrong with him but lots of white bandages around his head. I looked him all over. He had not a scratch on him. All 10 fingers. All 10 toes. Freckles in all the same spots. Just the white bandages. It looked as if they had rolled miles and miles of white gauze around his head. I could just see the tips of his ear lobes hanging out. He was perfect except for the gauze.

I have been in counseling or therapy as some call it. I call it crying time. Sometimes angry time. I spent an entire session recently on wondering if I am crazy. See, I now have a fear of white gauze. When I see it, I panic. It cuts me to the core. I feel like I have been punched. I lose my breathe, my mind and all sense of what is around me. My mind feels like it is going in every direction at once. Screaming as loud as it can. My brain is yelling for thoughts to get out of my head and all while trying to tell my body to calm down and remind me to breathe. Breathe in, Breathe out.  I cannot look at it. Not just head bandages. Any bandages that are white. Someone had their finger wrapped in some and I immediately went back to being in the hospital room looking at my son and the doctor telling me he was gone. Like I was magically transported back by a genie blinking her eyes.

I have been told things to do to make it better or to try and help. Apparently I have PTSD. Not just for war heroes like I thought. I talked to my cousin about it and he told me,”That S#$@ is real. Take your time to heal. Cause it may never go away.” I asked the one counseling me. And Josh was right. It may never go away. You can just learn to live with it and cope or maybe you don’t. Another cross to bear along with unending grief from the loss of my precious boy.

So why am I being so open about it? Why do I feel the need to share about my fear, hate and anger over white gauze? Because with the way media sharing is now days, I cannot go one day without seeing a person laying in a hospital bed wrapped in gauze! Every single day there is someone that shares some picture with a story of the pictured and their accident. How we need to pray to heal them. Yes we need to pray! We need to pray hard for them. But does the world need to see them in the bed fighting for their life? Why can we not just share a picture of them as if they were up and running? Do you think there will be less prayers without a picture like that? Truthfully I doubt half the people even looking and sharing the picture are praying for them. Most are just doing it to show the “gory details” and to be able to way they saw them that way. At the hospital, we had a strict no media policy. You could ask for prayers on Facebook but you were not allowed to post pictures of Richie in the hospital bed nor were you to give details that were not approved by me. The news story of his accident was not to be posted because it was not fair or respectable to the family. Why do we as a society want to see the pictures and stories like this? I have been there! You do not want to see it. It is not a spectator sport, not a gossip item. It is a human life and families are involved. Respect. It all comes down to respect for others.

So I am asking each one of my family and friends…. with my most sincere heart…. Please if you are friends with me on social media, watch what you post. What may seem like an innocent story to you can be a horrible reminder of loss to others. It can be a trigger into a world of panic and despair for others. There is no need to see people dying in a hospital bed. No need to see blood, bandages and any other thing like that. And truthfully if I am being honest, I do not need to see the picture of the accident site. None of us do. We can pray with just a picture of the person smiling.

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How’s it going?

How’s it going? Such a simple sentence but one that made me feel so great! The person that asked it didn’t ask it in the tone of “poor you”. Nor did they ask it in the “give me the juicy details” tone. They just simply asked, “How’s it going?” Just as a friend asking. There were no special head turns. Not the change in voice or tone people get when I have make it to that side of the room. Other grievers will know what I mean. When you walk up to a group who are talking excitedly about their garden or football and then you appear. It is almost like they have to put on what I refer to as the funeral voice. They just simply ask how it was going! That question. In that tone. In that matter of fact way meant more me than anything else right now in my life.

Right now my life is filed with so many emotions that some days I am exhausted just from my own head before I ever even get out of bed. I spend the days trying to cope with my delayed grief, empty nesting and just dealing with all the new things happening. It is so good for someone to just ask me a normal question in the pre-grief tone. Like it was amazing to me. I just can’t even describe. May seem silly to you but to me it was a big deal.

How did I answer them? I answered with this, “It is going good. Now tell me about the news with your fiance!”

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595

595. That is how many days since I last held my son’s hand. .595 days.

1 year, 7 months and 18 days since I kissed his cheek last.

85 weeks since I last cried on his chest.

14,282 hours since I last felt his heart beat.

856,944 minutes since I last watched him sleep.

51,416,688 seconds since I last felt complete.

595 Days, 2 hours, 24 minutes and 48 seconds.

595 days

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Self Under Construction

Well, I did it. I have officially decided to take time for myself, I have decided to for once to take care of me. This decision has racked me with pain, guilt and many sleepless nights. By all means, the outward appearance that everyone sees is of someone who is smiling, handling life and seems “okay”. The truth is that person has mastered putting on the face of happy deception. In reality, I spend my nights tossing and turning. Crying and screaming into my pillow. I spend my days with headaches and pure exhaustion. On the days that are good for me, there are the moments that fleet across my mind and will have me crying hysterically for a brief second. But that second is enough to leave me just ready for the day to end so I can crawl into the bed with sleepless exhaustion.

I was spending my days taking care of children when I could barely take care of myself. It is hard to put on a smile and fix grill cheese for these innocent faces when you just want to be alone. It has not been fair to them or me. They are not getting the best me they deserve. How do you answer them when they ask why you are crying? Well little child, I am crying because I miss fixing my son peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Or how about I am crying because Richie used to play this game with you and it hurts me now to do it. Not fair at all for them to have this sad mess instead of the MumMum that used to dance with them and sing at the top of my lungs over the littlest things. Not fair at all.

So what do I do when the last child leaves each day. I immediately go into shut down mode. I do not want to deal with life. I do not want to do anything. I want to go to bed at 5:30 and sulk in my own world. This is not fair to my husband or two children living at home with us. Well, Luke and Savannah are grown you may say. They can take care of themselves.Jeff can get his own supper and let you rest you say. Yes, they can and yes at times they do. But is this fair to them. They did not sign up for this grief ride either. I am the Mom. I am to take care of them no matter their age and I am to be the Mom. They do not deserve a Mom that shuts down from life every evening and does not share in their life fully. I should be making meals for us to eat around our table and hearing about their day. Instead they have been getting a Mom that is quick tempered, stressed, red eyed, frazzled and just a teary mess. My husband does not deserve to come home to a wife that tells him she has had a bad day and is going to bed the minute he walks in the door. How many moments have I missed with them that I can’t get back? Have I gone on too long like this that they no longer desire to be around me?

Then there is this….. Jeff and I have no more children we are responsible for. They have been raised, graduated and are off making there way in the world. What do we do now? We have always taken care of them and put them first always. I can’t count how many date nights were spent with a car load of kids and their friends because we didn’t want to leave them. Now what do we do? Are we even still close enough as husband and wife to be us? What if we don’t even like each other? How do we be us with just us? This scares me more than anything. How do we handle being married with just us? We are having to learn each other all over again.

Now the biggest one…. How do I take care of me? I have always taken care of others. My kids, their friends, my husband(s), others people’s kids, my family, my friends and even the daggum hamster! Now how do I take care of me? I have decided to start counseling to work through some of the things that are haunting me.Things that have haunted me since childhood. I have decided to rest. That is the hardest adjustment so far. I cannot sit still from thinking I have to do something. I am going to write, read, cross-stitch, volunteer at church and just take a walk. If I want to stay up all night crying, I will. If I want to scream at 12:34 in the afternoon because I want my son back, I will. If I want to go have lunch with my handsome son Luke, I will. If I want to go rambling with Savannah, I will. If I want to surprise Jeff with a picnic lunch in his office, I will. (I have always wanted to do that) I will do what makes me happy. I will take care of myself. I will for once let the grief out instead of holding it in until everyone else is taken care of. For once in my life, I will be under construction to be a better me for me. Not for others. Please pray for me. Aside from burying my son, this is the hardest thing I have ever had to do.

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