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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Unexpected Friends, Unexpected Blessings

Over the past few days, I have been in constant e-mail with a lady I have come to know in this grief journey. She lost her son almost a year ago and is having a difficult time with the anniversary approaching.This morning when I read her latest e-mail she was saying she was glad we are friends. This got me to thinking……………..

I have met many, many new people since our own personal D-Day. We have met other grieving parents, donor families, organ recipients, church friends, blogging friends and just so many more. I have come to love and cherish each person. Saturday at the 5K, I told one of the coordinators that I could not imagine making it this far without the love from certain people at LifeLink. I can’t imagine not having Tonya or Sherri to be there for my spastic texts and e-mails when I am having a rough day. What if I didn’t have my new church family to be there to pray for me when the going gets rough? What if I didn’t have the recipients I have met to give me hope when I have questions of why? What if I didn’t have Debbie or Kayla? What if I didn’t have any of them?????

I look back and reflect on how and why I have met them. I have met them because my son died. Plain and simple. No sugar coating it. We crossed paths because Richie died. Richie died. I more than likely would have never met these people if my son was alive. I would probably have not even listened to the news story on Kayla and Zack,, I would have never read a blog from another grieving parent. I would not have even thought about LifeLink or Donate Life. I really do not think I would have had the heart I do now to even listen to some of the stories these new friends have. I would not have wanted the stories of death to come into the protective bubble I thought I had.

Then my bubble burst. My heart became broken. And these people came in at the right times in my life to help me stand. They have not healed my broken heart but they have done a pretty good job at putting a band-aid over some gaping holes. With that being said……….

I would give up everyone of them for one more day with my son. I love them all dearly but if I had my son here today, I could live without them, And they would think the same of me. With the friends that I can be brutally honest with I tell them, “I love you but I could do without having met you this way!” The friends that are brutally honest with me tell me the same thing. We hate this life we have been given but are stronger because of the people we have met.

This Saturday, Jeff and I will be going to dinner with a new friend we met at the 5K. Another unexpected friend to add to our growing circle of love.

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Life Insurance Money & Giving Back

Life insurance. Why do they even call it that? It does not insure anyone that they will have a long life. I guess that is the name it is given to ease the mind. Better than some companies that call it death benefits. Why this name? What are the benefits of death? Aside from organ donation and saving someone else’s life there are none.
I have received both since my son’s passing. Life Insurance and death benefits. Not a lot of money. I was able to pay off the rest of his bills and finish paying for the balance of the funeral expenses. There was even some left over. I have been faced with what to do with this money for months now. People have made many suggestions. Buy a new car. Remodel the house. Go on a vacation or cruise. I just cannot entertain any of these ideas. First off, I didn’t get nearly as much as most thought I did. Second, I just cannot bring my self to use this money to do anything for personal pleasure. This is money that we received because our son died. When we started these accounts it was because we thought the kids could use it if we died. Not because of one of them dying. How could I enjoy what I have so lovingly (insert sarcastic voice) refer to as death money. If I went on that family cruise and looked back at the pictures, who would be missing? My son. I cannot think of one thing that I would want to do with this money that would benefit me that I would have a peace of mind with much less enjoy.
So after months and months of tossing ideas back and forth with Jeff and the kids, we have settled on a decision. We will use that money to help others like us. There are two sets of families like us that will benefit.
The first is families that have lost loved ones in this small town. When a loved one dies, there are people everywhere. Two weeks later, the calm comes and most are left alone. You still have the visitors here and there but for the most part, you are left to sort your grief out alone. I was blessed to have a very good support group of family and friends. But what about the ones that don’t have this? There is no grief counseling here in this town. So what are we grieving to do? Well, hopefully at the beginning of next year, we will be able to have everything in order to start a support group. One where we can get together and just talk, laugh or cry. Share feelings. Help each other. Part of this support will be for us to reach out the minute someone looses someone and stay with them throughout the years. Not just send a plant, card or casserole and leave after the funeral. But to stay with them for the days that get rough. Be there for all the firsts, seconds and always. A group just to show love, support and prayer.
The second is for donor families. Yes, there is a lot of support being offered to us. But I have found that the best support I have is the one on one with other families like ours. Some of my best therapy has come from a special friend I have made who’s son tragically passed just after mine and was an organ donor. There are times when we email each other and talk about things that we would probably never talk about with to our husbands much less anyone else. Sometimes we just email to share something that we read that was inspiring to us. Or to simply share a letter we received from a recipient of our children’s gifts.
I will use the money that was received as a result of a young man’s untimely death to benefit others. He was always giving and caring. Always trying to help others. Always trying to bring a smile to others when they were down and out. So that is what I will do. I will honor the person he always was. A giver, Not a receiver. A light for others. I will be the light for him now.
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Clouds

I haven’t ever really paid attention to the clouds since my children were little and we would lay back and make shapes out of them. Here lately, I am fascinated with looking at the clouds. In the car with my husband, rather than talk to him, I am staring at the sky. Lately, all I wonder about is what my son is doing in heaven? What is it like? I think back to how we pictured heaven as a child with angels playing on clouds. As we grow older, we learn of streets of gold, mansions and the land of milk and honey.

So now I wonder, is my son sitting on a cloud in heaven? Or is he walking the streets of gold? I know it sounds crazy but I think I am looking for that one special cloud. That one special cloud that he shapes into something that lets me know he is ok. Will he shape it into a dragonfly? Or into some totally random thing that makes us laugh our heads off.

I guess I will always wonder and stare at clouds until the day that I am reunited with him. And then I will dance in the clouds and skip down the streets of gold in joy!

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