A Phone Call a Day [Almost] Keeps the Panic Away

A few days ago I wrote about how panic is always just a breath away for those of us who have suffered loss.  

Like a friend of mine recently said, “We are branded.  GRIEF is burned into our hearts and we are never the same.”

So how to live this altered life?  

How can I manage that emotional tension that saps energy and strength from my heart, mind and body?

Our family has adopted some practical protocols that help.  Sometimes they fail (as they did that night) but for the most part, they give all of us a margin of assurance that keeps panic to a minimum.

We carry our phones, all the time.  I was never THAT person before Dominic left us.  I used my phone mainly when away from the house or traveling.  Otherwise it might be left charging in the kitchen or tucked inside my purse from my last outing.

Not anymore.  When I wake up in the morning I grab it and my glasses from the bedside table and my phone is in my hand, in plain view or in my pocket until it is put back there at night.  I make sure it’s charged and if traveling or going somewhere a plug may not be available I carry a small power cell to charge on the go.

cell phone in hand huffpost

We tell one another of our plans and, if appropriate, of our route.  My kids are grown.  I’m not interested in supervising their lives.  But they understand my mama heart and graciously give me at least a general idea of where they are and what they are doing.  They text when they get back home no matter how late it is.

I don’t stay awake waiting for it, but when I wake in the wee hours or in the morning, I have the reassuring message to greet me. 

We answer texts/calls ASAP.  Obviously we don’t encourage texting and driving but each of us has learned to give a “thumbs up” icon quickly in response to a text message just so the person sending it can be reassured.  Then, when it’s convenient and/or safe, we respond more fully.

We keep each other informed when traveling.  We distribute itineraries and give periodic updates on flight status, traffic or other appropriate information so family members not only know where we are but also if our time of arrival has been altered due to flight or weather delays or traffic conditions.

road-maps

We share phone numbers of friends and coworkers which gives us alternate forms of communication should there be an emergency.  Family phone numbers are in “favorites” in our phones so if we are unable to call for ourselves, emergency personnel would know who to call.

Truth is, we can’t stop bad things from happening and we know that.  

But there’s no reason to create fear and panic when a quick phone call or text can avert it.  

Our hearts bear enough already.  ❤

wounded_heart-960x600

 

Enough or Not Enough?

I already struggled with the sense that I was rarely able to meet everyone’s expectations before Dominic ran ahead to Heaven. 

That’s been multiplied by a factor of at least 100 since then.

For those of you who are so self-confident or blissfully unaware, it won’t make sense but for those of you who are firstborns or “Type A” personalities you know exactly what I mean.

I cannot ignore the gap between what people need from me and what I’m able to give.  

My internal dialogue is a combination of self-condemnation and pep talks to “do better”, “try harder” and “don’t give up or give in”.

But no matter how hard I try, it’s never enough.  

And I need to let go of that.  I need to let myself off the hook.  I need to admit that some people’s expectations are unrealistic or self-serving.  

But it is so. very. hard.  

I have had an invisible disease for a decade that saps my energy, circumscribes my ability to do daily tasks and gifts me with chronic pain.  Yet I tend to discount the impact it has on my life and try to ignore the fact it makes every. single thing more difficult.

It will be five years in April that Dominic left us.  FIVE YEARS!  I can barely type that.  I don’t even know what to do with it.

A lifetime ago and a breath away all at the same time.  

I feel like I am giving everything  I have to my family, to my friends and to other folks that count on me to show up.  So often it’s not enough.  So often I fall short.  So often I go to bed shaking my head and hoping that tomorrow is a better day and I’m a better person.

I try so hard to be brave.  

Sometimes I simply can’t conjure courage.

But I keep showing up. ❤

love is courage

 

 

When Your First Thought Is, “Oh No, Not Again!”

Last night I woke to my youngest son’s ringtone at nearly midnight.

I missed the call but when I looked, realized it was the third time he’d tried.  

My heart skipped several beats as I dialed him back only to have it go directly to voicemail.  I tried again and a second later, he answered.

“What’s wrong??!!!”

(Because he never calls me late at night unless something is wrong!)

Julian was downstairs at the front door and needed me to let him in because he’d received some odd texts from his dad- a series of random letters and emojis scrolled across his screen.

He’d tried to call him.  No answer. 

Tried texting him back.  No message except more of the same random letters and images.  

So he drove over from his house just a few miles away, the whole time running a dozen scenarios through his head.

  • “Is dad having a stroke? Mom is asleep upstairs and won’t know.”
  • “Is someone in the house and dad’s only able to randomly swipe his thumb on the screen trying to ask for help?”
  • “Why won’t mom answer her phone?  Do they have her too?”

Five miles and ten minutes is a lifetime when all you can think of is another family member needing help- or worse.  

As I was coming downstairs to let Julian inside, my husband woke up and asked me what was wrong.  We got to the door at the same moment and let our big, burly bear of a son inside.

It took him a split second to realize that all was well and then it poured outthe fear, the panic, the intense self-control necessary not to simply break down the door and barge in, the pent up grief that lives inside each one of us since Dominic left and is always about to spill out and over when we think of another loss.  

He melted into his dad’s arms.  

This is how our hearts are wired since that morning nearly five years ago. 

When the thing you never think will happen, happens, it becomes the first thing you think of when you can’t get in touch with someone. 

Panic is always a breath away.  

family never gets over the death of a loved one

 

Repost: Halloween

Except for a few years early in childhood, I have never liked Halloween.  The combination of darkness and creepiness makes my skin crawl.

And now, this side of child loss it makes me angry. 

Read the rest here:  Halloween

Transparent, Vulnerable, Scared

I wish I could write openly about the things that are going on right now in my life,  but I can’t.  

So you’ll just have to trust me when I say these past months-really this past year-has been the most challenging since the first 365 days after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

I have cried more in the past three weeks than I have cried in the past three years.  

I am forced to crawl into that secret space inside my heart and soul over and over if I hope to not vomit all these feelings on whoever happens to be nearby.

I look like I’m walking around in the world, but I’m really just walking around in a fog-putting one foot in front of the other and hoping I don’t trip and land flat on my face.

I want to be transparent, but I can’t be.  Outcomes depend upon my ability to keep it together.

If I’m transparent, they will see that I’m falling apart.

So I plant a fake smile on my face, put on my good clothes, suck it up and suck it in and do what I have to do.

But I feel so very vulnerable.  

Every day I feel like I’m in one of those dreams where you show up naked to class or to a job interview or to some other important function.  And everyone just stares-dumbfounded-because they don’t know whether to laugh or cry at my predicament.

And I’m scared.

I know I write a lot about learning to set anxiety aside and not trying to figure out what the future holds.  I really do take my own advice.

But some days, some weeks, some months I find I’m just as unable as the next trembling heart to do that.  

So I’ve spent a lot of mornings crying before the sun rises too high in the sky.  Letting all that vulnerability and fear leave my body through my eyes.  

Then I dry it up and get dressed.  Put on my mask and get going.

It is utterly exhausting.  

I’m clinging to the fact that my track record for surviving hard days is 100%.

But it is still so very hard.  

grief bubble

Why Can’t I Remember? It’s Grief Brain.

I repost this every so often because nearly every bereaved parent I know wonders, at some point, if they are going crazy.

Things that used to be second nature escape us. We can’t remember words, names, dates, how to write a check or address an envelope. Sometimes we get lost in our own neighborhood. 

It’s not early-onset dementia (for the majority of us, anyway)-it’s grief brain.  

Read the rest here:  Grief Brain: It’s a Real Thing!

Courage Requires Vulnerability

 

It’s a funny thing. 

If you’ve never faced anything very frightening, it’s easy to think that those who do and march on through are somehow immune to fear.

But nothing could be further from the truth.

Courage is not the absence of fear but the mastery of it.  

courage is resistance to fear

Yet you cannot master something you deny.  You cannot resist that which you claim doesn’t exist.

Child loss is frightening. 

So frightening that those not forced to walk this road usually choose to pretend (in practice if not in words) that it simply isn’t part of the world they live in.

It’s so frightening that most bereaved parents experience a period of time we would describe as “being numb” and “shock”.

It was probably six months until my heart truly understood the fact that Dominic was not coming back.

Ever. 

It was frightening on so many levels-I had to face the fact I was not in control, had to face the fact my life was never going to be what I had envisioned it to be, face the fact that my surviving children would be shaped by grief in ways neither I nor they could anticipate, face the fact that I would live out my years carrying this heavy burden, and face the fact that no matter how hard I wished things were different, they were never going to be different-my child was dead.

sometimes even to live is an act of courage

And when the numbness began to wear off and fear creep into my heart, I had to choose: Was I going to embrace and experience this awful, devastating fear or was I going to try to deny it, distract myself from it or try to dismiss it as inconsequential?

Facing fear requires facing my own weakness.

Facing fear means becoming vulnerable-admitting that I am hurting, admitting that I cannot do this on my own, admitting that maybe, just maybe, I can’t climb this mountain without help.

cant get to courage without walking through vulnerability

Choosing vulnerability was its own challenge.

What if others mocked me?  What if no one helped me?  What if I just wasn’t up to the task?

courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen brene brown

I decided that NOT facing fear was not an option.  As long as it lurked in the shadows I would be its prisoner.  

So I turned and looked it square in the eyes.  And I found, with God’s enabling help, I could master that fear. 

Two verses became my touchstone:

When struck by fear,
    I let go, depending securely upon You alone.
   In God—whose word I praise—
    in God I place my trust. I shall not let fear come in,
    for what can measly men do to me? 

Psalm 56:3-4 VOICE

When I admitted my weakness, His strength was sufficient.

strength made perfect in weakness ant

Choosing vulnerability and facing fear opens the door for God to show His power in and through me. 

Child loss is still scary.  

I’m still afraid.

But the Lord gives me strength to master the fear.  

courage doesn't always roar male liion