Anxiety is Awful!

I’ve written before about anxiety and child loss here.  No matter the cause of death, the FACT of a child’s death seems to create the perfect conditions for a parent’s body and mind to experience anxiety, dis-ease, fear and often a sense of impending doom.

My world was rocked to its foundation the moment I heard the words, “He was killed in a motorcycle accident”.  

The worst thing I could imagine had come true.  

There was no protection from it happening again, no guarantee that THIS unbearable pain would be the ONLY unbearable pain I would have to carry.

I think my body chemistry was instantly transformed that morning to include rapid heartbeats, shallow breathing and a horrible creepy tension that climbs my spine and clenches its claws tightly at the base of my skull.

Before Dominic left us for Heaven I was not an anxious person.

No matter what happened, I generally took it in stride, looked for a solution and moved forward armed with an arsenal of choices to meet the problem head on.

Now, I can be pushed into a corner by an ordinary phone call that lasts too long.  I can feel trapped if a price fails to ring up properly and I have to wait to have it corrected by a head cashier.  I can become positively frantic when I reach in  my purse and can’t find my keys even though I know for a fact I put them there and if I look a bit harder I’ll find them.

Traffic makes my heart go pitter-patter.  The doorbell sends me flying to make sure it’s the UPS man and not another police officer to tell me heartbreaking news.

If I try to multi-task (which I rarely do) I am soon overwhelmed and have to sit down to catch my breath.

I only shop in stores where I’m familiar with the aisles and where products I need are shelved.

I check and re-check directions if I have to go to an unfamiliar address and leave with double the time needed to get there in case I get lost.  Making on-the-fly course corrections doesn’t happen.

I pull off and have to figure out where I am.

And heaven forbid the phone rings past midnight -I wake with a start and even a wrong number means I won’t sleep for the rest of the night.

This is not “worry”.  It’s not “borrowing trouble from tomorrow”.  It is not an indication that my faith is weak or I’m “caving in” to my feelings.

It’s an uncontrollable physiological response to various stimuli.

So please, please don’t judge me or other bereaved parents for making choices about where we go, when we go and how much we go-most of the time we are anticipating an anxious response and trying to beat it.  

We are doing the best we can.  

Honest.

courage doesn't always roar male liion

Repost: Curating Grief

I wrote this post 18 months ago after a number of incidents when friends and family members tried to tell me how long to grieve, what my grieving should look like and (most hurtful) how my son would want me to grieve.

I rejected that notion then, and I reject it now.

Most of us have taken a class or two in literature–we read other people’s writing and sit around discussing “what it really means”.  My husband has always scoffed at the notion that anyone but the author knows that.

Me–I love books, plays and poetry so I’ve spent a lifetime reading and trying to interpret the meaning of others’ words.

But now I find I’m leaning more toward my husband’s point of view.

One of the challenges I face as a grieving parent is finding that other people want to interpret my experience for me.

Read the rest here:  curating grief

Grief Groups and Echo Chambers

I belong to several online bereaved parents’ groups and they are truly a lifeline in so many ways.

I can speak my mind there without fear of rejection or correction or of hurting my non-bereaved friends and family.  I learn from other parents farther along in this journey how they cope with birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and every day grief triggers.

Sadly, there are new members added daily.  New parents are forced to join this “club” where the dues are higher than anyone would willingly pay.

I am horrified by how quickly the numbers jump week-to-week and month-to-month.

And usually the parent (when they are ready) will share a bit about the child that has run ahead and the circumstances of his or her death.  It’s an important part of learning to live with this pain-learning to speak your story.

But when too many of the seasoned parents are silent and my newsfeed explodes with stories of newly bereaved parents, my heart can easily be ovewhelmed by the desperation, sadness and utter despair that swamps a parent’s heart when they first find out their child is not coming home again.

Then the sites turn into echo chambers where sadness calls to sadness, circles back around and calls again.  Despair is everywhere and there appears no way forward.

what is an echo chamber

Bitterness weaves a black thread through post after post after post:

No one understands,

everyone has abandoned me,

I am unloved, alone and hopeless.

That’s precisely how I felt in those early months and it is an appropriate response to the awful devastation of out-of-order death.

But if I’m to survive this life I didn’t choose, then I’ve got to also have a healthy dose of hope.

hope holds a breaking heart togetherSo I limit my exposure to the echo chamber from time to time, especially if I’m feeling weak and vulnerable.  I might take a week’s break to let my heart recover a bit and then go back with fresh vigor, ready to participate, encourage others and be encouraged.

Life after child loss is a marathon, not a sprint.

I have to pace myself if I’m going to make it to the finish line.

Sometimes that means taking a break and sitting on the sidelines.

let-yourself-rest

 

Can We Talk?

Joan Rivers was famous for opening her comedic routine with the question, “Can we talk?”

She would launch into a hilarious rendering of topics that were usually off-limits in polite conversation but which everyone secretly wanted to share.  It actually helped bring some things into the light that had been hiding in shadows for far too long.

So, I’m going to take a cue from her and ask, “Can we talk?”

Can we talk about my missing son and quit pretending that just because he’s no longer present in the body, he’s not still part of my life?

Can we say his name without also looking down or away like his death is a shameful secret?

Can we share stories and memories and laughter and tears just as naturally about HIM as we do about anyone else?

Can we make a way to represent him at holidays, birthdays and special occasions?  It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture-even a photo or place setting or ornament will do.

Can we stop acting surprised that I still get upset when other people’s kids reach milestones my son will never attain?

Can we talk about your feelings as well as mine without devolving into a shouting match or a flurry of accusations about who should be feeling what by now?

Can we make space for tears?

Can we make space for solitude?

Can we make space in our conversations and celebrations that allows joy and sadness to dwell together?

Can we continue to honor the light and life that was (and is!) my son?

Because if we can do this, it will make all the difference. 

best way you can help me

 

 

At Least?

“At least you had him for 23 years.”

Yes, but I thought I’d have him for my whole life!

“At least you still have three other children.”

Yes, but which one of yours would you choose to do without?

“At least  you know he’s in Heaven.”

Of course that brings me comfort and hope, but it doesn’t take away my pain.

A wise friend once said that any comment to a griever that begins with “at least” needs to remain unsaid.

It’s especially true for those of us grieving our child.

Because there is no “at least” in child loss.

NONE.

child-and-mama-heart-together

My Juggling Days Are Over

When I was a young mother, my brother used to love to sit back and wait to see how many things I could do at once.

I could hold a baby, iron a shirt and talk on the phone at the same time.  I could pick things up with my toes when I didn’t want to disturb the sleeping child in my lap and couldn’t reach the object with my hand.

Four children in six years, breastfeeding, homeschooling and taking care of all the household chores meant that I got pretty darn good at keeping multiple balls in the air at the same time.

juggling huff post

Those days are over.

Like so many things at this point in my life I don’t know how much of what I experience and feel is a function of getting older (definitely middle aged here!) and how much is attributable to grief following the death of Dominic.

But this I do know:  I am only able to focus on a single task, thought, desire or problem at a time. If I try to multi-task, I might as well cry, “Uncle!” from the start.

It’s a little discouraging.  

Often I feel like I’ve wasted an hour or a day or even a week. What exactly did I get done?

But it’s also a kind of freedom.  

My household isn’t nearly as busy as it once was so there’s really no need to rush from here to there or stack task on top of task.

I’m learning that taking time, talking to people for as long as they need me, doing something well even if I don’t do it quickly are all perfectly acceptable ways to spend a day.

And while I miss so much of who I was before Dominic ran ahead to heaven, I don’t miss the frantic craziness of trying to do too much in too little time.

I will receive THIS change as a gift.  

if you are always racing to the next moment

 

Bereaved Parents Month Post: What Grieving Parents Want Others to Know

I wrote this post December, 2015.  It hadn’t been long since I joined an online community of bereaved parents and began to see that I wasn’t the only one who had friends and family that misunderstood child loss.

I was spending a lot of time in my life trying to help others comprehend, just a little, what it felt like to bury a child.

Trying to give them a tiny taste of how this pain is so, so different than any other I had experienced.  Begging them to toss the popular ideas bandied around that grief followed “stages” and was “predictable”.

I re-share every so often because it seems to help, a little.  I’m re-sharing today in  honor of Bereaved Parents Month. ❤

People say“I can’t imagine.

But then they do.

They think that missing a dead child is like missing your kid at college or on the mission field but harder and longer.

That’s not it at all.

What Grieving Parents Want Others to Know