I’m back and reclaiming my JOY

It has been quite a while since I have wrote. There has been a lot going on. I had surgery. Church has kept us going. Our kids and everyone else has kept our calendar full. My daughter announced that she is going to have a baby so I am going to be a Granny. My niece has moved in. School is out and summer fun is underway. So so much is keeping us busy that I would like to say that is why I haven’t put pen to paper. But sadly it is not.

I have let something terrible happen in my life. I have let someone take my joy away. Actually more than one person. But to start, I let the words of someone who is very bitter with their own life get to me. Get into my head and into my heart. I let this person strip me down to the core with her words and leave me questioning everything in my life. What makes this so sad? This person knew the right words to say and how to use them. Even sadder, none of the words she said were true or even relevant. I had never in my life been spoken to with such hate and anger as I was then. Even though I knew everything she was saying was just pure hate, I let it sink in until it took my joy. I let this person who is so miserable in her own life, damage mine.

It caused a ripple effect too. It started with me feeling down from the words. Then it had me questioning the things said. This caused me to start letting other things get to me. Other people’s problem became like bricks on my shoulders. I let the words and actions that were so tiny aggravate or hurt me like they were the worst in the world. I even let someone at church almost rob me of my safe place at the altar. I would show up to places with an escape plan already in place and dread in my mind. I was only happy at home in my comfort zone.

What brought me out of it? I just dug in deeper and read more of my Bible. I did more praying and even more praying after that. Then one night last week, I had just had it. I realized that I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t joyful. I was sad. I was lonely. I was faking my way through so much of life that I quit even really living. So I reclaimed my joy. I took back my happy. I gave all the burdens that I was taking on from others back. I turned a deaf ear to negative and an eye to the positive. I for the first time in a long time got the urge to write again. I gave the hateful person that started this downward spiral to the Lord and her words to pray. I hope she finds happiness somewhere in her life and gets right with God. But for me, I am reclaiming all that is good, happy and joyful for me.

And now the writing begins……………….

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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Every wrinkle tells a story

I spent this morning looking real hard in the mirror. I look old. Gray hair, wrinkles, bags under my eyes, puffy places, droopy places! My jowls (as a friend calls them) are fatter and saggier. When did this happen? I guess it has been happening all my 41 years. Yes I have admitted it, I am 41.
I have decided this morning to embrace my age. Embrace my gray. Embrace all the wrinkles, sags and droops. Each one tells the story of my life. The lines around my eyes from laughing at my kids while growing up. The black circles under my eyes nights of sleepless worry while waiting on the kids to come home. The saggy puffy eyes from crying because missing my son is so unbearable at times. Even the one eye that is always puffier than the other! The gray hairs a mixture of a hard long troubled but happy life I have had. The gray streak a reminder from the day I was told my son was gone. The lines in my forehead from trying to understand why I had the life I had.
I have a friend that sells Mary Kay. She is always wanting to give me a make-over. “You will be a totally different person!” It seems every friend I have is selling this Nerium stuff. “You will look 10 years younger!” Friends that sell body wraps, eyelashes, weight loss pills and every miraculous age fighter known to man. It seems that every where I turn I can be prettier, younger, skinnier!
I am lucky to have the problem of aging. How many people are taken too soon to get to this point? My son for one. I have a friend that lost her daughter when she was 24. A time when her life should really start. Another friend who lost a son in his 40’s. I need to embrace this age and time that God has allowed me for whatever reason to see. I am lucky. I am blessed.
It seems to me we are all wasting precious years trying to be what we used to be or someone we are not. I don’t want to look like a different person. I don’t want to look 10 years younger. I want to look in the mirror and see me. All of me. Every flaw. Every line. Every age spot. Every little detail that makes me… ME. It has taken me quite a while to get the point that I am happy with myself. Happy with my age. I think happiness is the best look any women can have.
The endless lines tell the story of the journey that I have been on since birth. They are a road map that has gotten me to this day and the person I have become. I am going to embrace the gray! Embrace the wrinkles! And if I look 60 when I am only 41 then I will give God the glory for allowing me to keep on this journey of life. Because in my opinion, there couldn’t be a more gorgeous me than me.

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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You Really Wanna Know Mr. Osteen?

I keep getting asked how I am doing. I guess people think that because we are about to hit 18 months into the grief journey that things are just peaches and cream, rainbows and pots of gold. I am actually quite the opposite. I haven’t written on it because I have been trying to sort out this mind of mine that seems to be getting more frantic and loud. But after reading an article a fellow blogger shared about Joel Osteen’s views on grief, I had to share. Osteen believes that after a certain amount of time that grievers are only wanting pity. Well, Mr. Osteen, here is my response.

I am 18 months in this new life that God has dealt me. For 18 months, I have made sure to put others before myself. My children rarely see me cry. I make sure that each day they are not living in the shadow of their brother’s death. My husband and I have struggled to keep this family that was 5 and now 4 as normal as possible. We have struggled to keep our marriage strong when we have no words to ease each others pain and are lost as to how to be partners when our life is broken. I have to the best of my ability, and often failed, tried to keep up appearances at family events. I have tried to go to parties for other people’s children. I went back to keeping children one month after the death of my son. I never missed a school event with my daughter. I made sure my living son knew he was just as important to me as my angel son. If I was asked to do something, I 97% of the time did it. The other 3% I just mentally couldn’t. I never quit putting others before myself. I never said no when asked to do something for the church. I have smiled and tried my best to keep up a sense of the old life I had while trying to learn this new life. I will admit, I failed a lot. I failed my husband numerous times. I have even failed my children. I have horribly failed my sisters and mother. But I did the best I could to try to keep the hurt, sorrow, pain, and aching I felt to myself and not lay it on the shoulders of others.

So Mr. Osteen, do you really wanna know where I am at today in my grief? I am worse off today than I was the second the doctor’s gave me a time of death. I am worse off than the day we put my boy in his grave. In fact, 18 months of faking it and trying to be strong has taken a toll on me mentally and physically. I spend most nights tossing and turning. Releasing a days worth of built up tears. I do not want to attend any family events at all because my family is the broken link. I spend most days waiting on the clock to strike 5 so that kids go home and I can start my new rituals. What new rituals you ask? Well, Joel, can I call you Joel? I used to be very OCD about my house and life. The birth of my children’s half sister quickly let me see that this curly haired little toddler was winning the battle of messes. Now the OCD is back and I have the belief that if my house is spotless nothing tragic will happen to us again. My house was a little messy when we got the call of Richie’s accident. In fact, everything bad that has directly happened to us has come at a time when the house was a little untidy. I have been cleaning the house completely. Each room has been getting a deep cleaning. I dread having to get up in the mornings to take care of others. Nothing to do with them, I just can some days barely guide myself much less others. I hate answering the phone. People start conversations with “how are you?” I text very few people. Only the ones I can be real with get them. (A very short list) I am no longer the one at church that speaks to every single person. I sometimes fake reading something so that I do not have to socialize on Sunday mornings. I am exhausted by the end of Wednesday night Bible study because I have to fake happy on the bad days. I do not watch the news because it sends me into a tailspin of PTSD. I hate FaceBook because people seem to not understand that seeing wrecked cars and kids in the hospital bring back images that haunt me every single day. The sound of a train horn makes my heart leap into my throat. I only watch movies after they have been cleared by others for my broken mind to watch. TV holds little interest for me. The Travel channel is safe I have found. I hate 6:44pm on Sundays and the 29th of every single month. I feel as if I have won the lottery if I make it to 3:30pm on the 30th or a Monday and my living children are still living. I cannot eat chicken, mashed potatoes and corn in the same meal. Tried once and had almost had a nervous breakdown. I have started panicking about where my deceased son’s belongings are. Even though I know they are safely packed away in my guest room, I still have to go see they are there. I do this numerous times a day. It is all I have left that is tangible of him. I now get up numerous times to see if my living children are still breathing as they sleep. (They are 18 & 20.) A scratch on one of them has me thinking that the limb will be amputated and they will die. I text them constantly to see if they are safe. I text their friends if I do not get a timely response. I hate leaving the house other than once a week grocery shopping and church. I have certain things that we can not do on Sundays because if we do, one of my children will die. I am failing as a friend to the ones that are closest to me. I can’t remember when I last wished someone Happy Birthday when I was the one that was always the first. I cannot concentrate on tasks that are dear to me. I start projects and quickly lose interest.I spend some days pretending so convincingly to myself that Richie will be coming home that afternoon that by 4pm I feel like I lost him all over again. Sometimes I think that I put myself back into shock just to shut my mind off.

Even worst than the mental effects is the physical ones. I constantly have stress and tension migraines. I break out in bumps and itch like crazy if one thing starts getting out of the “new normal” I am enclosing myself in. I feel tired all the time but cannot sleep. And the absolute most terrible thing…. My heart constantly feels like it is constricting. It literally hurts all day every day. I believe my heart broke the day they told me Richie had passed. Since then I can feel it 24 hours a day. You really never know your heart is there until you experience a loss so gut-wrenching that you cannot even fathom it until days later. Then you are fully aware of its every beat. Every bloody thump against your chest feels like you are being stabbed. Do you understand the heart hurt Mr. Osteen? I am constantly on high alert, waiting on the next terrible thing to happen so my muscles are always sore. My nerves twitch. I have developed little ticks of nervousness. Some others never notice. I just feel like I am always in pain yet have no sickness.

Mr. Osteen, I have done it your way. I have not asked for self pity. I have hated conversations that revolve around me and my loss. I have put others first. I have not wallowed in my pain shutting myself off from the world. Where has it gotten me? It has gotten me no where. I am worse off than I was 18 months ago. I took care of everyone else and did not take any time for myself. So what am I to do now? Do I tell others that I need time now all this time later to be alone and grieve with no responsibilities? Do I continue doing what I am doing and hope it gets better? Quite a predicament I am in. There is no time limit on grief. Some parents lose a child and have another in a year later. Some can never imagine another child in their home. A wife can lose her husband and marry 6 months later. A husband can lose his wife of 60 years and pass away silently that night in his sleep from a broken heart. There is no book on grief. I hate the self-help crap people have been sending me. It would help to shove it up their wazoos. (I forgot to add the part about my quick temper being even quicker.) So please, Mr. Osteen, what do I do now that the way you wrote about does not work? You can email me your answer at mrsjschell@gmail.com. I will be awaiting your response.

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