Eight Years Is a Long Time

Today marks eight years since we gathered with friends and family to say our final good-bye to Dominic.

It had been eleven long days since the deputy woke me up on April 12th. Days when I was both unbelieving and overwhelmed by the fact my son would never cross the threshold again.

I woke up that morning numb.

I’d cried every day but for some reason when faced with this final act I couldn’t muster tears.

We received folks for a couple of hours before the service began and during that time I reached behind my back and placed my fingers in Dominic’s cold right hand clinging to the few moments I had left with his earthly shell.

So, so many people I didn’t expect to come, came. So, so many hugs and whispered words and sad smiles marched past as we were forced to participate in a parent’s worst nightmare.

When the funeral director indicated it was “time” I didn’t want to let go. I turned, kissed his cheek and drank in the last glimpse of his face in this life.

It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Eight years have come and gone.

The first few were excruciating-I experienced every moment of every day through my pain. I spent hours upon hours thinking about and processing what had happened and what I’d lost.

Gradually, over time, and by doing the work grief requires, I have become stronger and life has grown around my loss. I’ve learned that joy and sadness can coexist. Color has returned to my grayscale world. Most of the shattered pieces of me have reassembled themselves into a kind of whole. My family has survived.

I’m so thankful for every person who helped that day when we laid Dominic to rest. I’m so thankful for every person who has helped since. I’m especially thankful to my family for not giving up on me or on one another.

But I’m still astonished that nearly a decade has passed and Dominic is not part of a single memory or photograph.

Grief anniversaries stop me in my tracks and require my full attention.

Today is sacred. It’s a line in the sand marking “before” and “after”.

It deserves to be remembered.

Dominic deserves to be remembered.

So today I will remember.

Eight Years, Sigh…

The calendar is relentless. There’s no respect for seasons of mourning or grief anniversaries or weeks of sickness or unexpected early births of grandchildren.

The sun rises, the sun sets and another day is crossed off into history.

So somehow-without my permission-I find I’ve woken to mark the eighth anniversary (do you call such a horrible thing an anniversary?) of Dominic’s death.

It’s humbling to realize I (and my family!) are not only still standing but flourishing. It’s horrifying to comprehend I’ve continued to live and breathe for 2922 days since Dominic left us.

Most days are pretty good.

Today is hard.

❤ Melanie

When the numbness wore off (maybe around six months) I remember vaguely wondering what years down the road would feel like.

I tried to project the “me” of that moment into the future and imagine how I might deal with life changes, new circumstances, an empty nest, grandchildren (if there were any) and growing older alongside the heartache of burying a child.

But just as it’s impossible to comprehend how the addition of a child utterly transforms a family, it’s impossible to understand how the subtraction of one changes everything just as much.

We are all so very different than we would have been if Dominic were still here.

Life most likely wouldn’t be any more perfect because we would each grow and change, find common ground and find points of conflict, make new memories and drag up old hurts.

Still, none of us would carry the deep wound and traumatic injury of sudden and out-of-order death.

THAT is impossible to ignore. Even eight years later it’s a red flag, a sticky note, an addendum to every family gathering and holiday.

So we carry on.

Like generations before us who have walked this world dragging loss behind them, we keep going. It shapes us but doesn’t limit us. It informs our views but isn’t the only thing that molds our opinions and frames our choices.

My faith in God’s larger and perfect plan helps me hold onto hope even as I continue to miss my son.

But today is a hard day and I don’t think that’s going to change as long as I live.

I’m getting better at remembering Dominic’s birthday in ways that honor who he is and the man he might have become. I can’t say I’ve figured out any good way to walk through the yearly unavoidable and unwelcome reminder of the day he left us.

I’m learning to allow the grief waves to simply wash over me without resisting them.

Eventually the hours tick away, the day is over and I find I’ve survived yet again. 

The Last Day Before It All Fell Apart

I fell asleep last night thinking about that Friday evening eight years ago when I closed my eyes on the world I knew only to open them to a world I wish I could forget.

It’s odd how these anniversaries play out-there’s the actual date (which, if I’m honest isn’t nearly as hard for me) plus the litany of days that lead up to the date and reconstruct the weekend that ended in tragedy.

The Friday night/Saturday morning combination bring me to my knees even eight years later. Only someone who has endured the doorbell or the phone call can truly understand how dozens of tiny prompts create a mental, physical and emotional response that can neither be ignored nor controlled.

It was raining last night and all I could think was, “Why wasn’t it raining THAT night? He wouldn’t have taken his motorcycle.”

Useless, futile and ill-advised pondering that simply made it harder to close my eyes and go back to sleep.

Friday, April 11, 2014:

Julian and I went to a college honors banquet and came back to the house to find Fiona home for the weekend.  I called Hector and texted with James Michael.

I turned out the light and went to sleep.  

No warning shots across the bow of life rang out to let me know what was coming.

But that Friday was the last day I spent misunderstanding the awfulness of death and the absolute uncertainty of life.

Read the rest here: The Day Before It All Fell Apart

Child Loss: Surviving Grief Anniversaries

I know I’m not the only one who carries a calendar in my head that threatens to explode like a ticking timebomb.  Days that mean nothing to anyone else loom large as they approach.

The date of his death.

The date of his funeral.

His birthday.

My birthday.

The day he should have graduated from law school.

On and on and on.

How can I survive these oppressive reminders of what I thought my life would look like? How can I grab hold of somethinganything that will keep my heart and mind from falling down the rabbit hole of grief into a topsy-turvy land where nothing makes sense and it’s full of unfriendly creatures that threaten to gobble me whole?

Read the rest here: Surviving Grief Anniversaries

A Thousand Pieces

We buried the earthly remains of my son seven years ago today.

I still have no idea how I walked away from that deep pit where his body would be lowered never to see daylight again.

But I did.

Western society doesn’t like to acknowledge the horror of death. We don’t like to be too dramatic, cry too loudly, wail and weep throwing our bodies over a casket.

But maybe we should.

Why can’t we have a dramatic outburst at the edge of death that burns an unforgettable image in the hearts and minds of those who join us to say good-bye?

Read the rest here: Fragments

Seven Years. Sigh…

When the numbness wore off (maybe around six months) I remember vaguely wondering what years down the road would feel like.

I tried to project the “me” of that moment into the future and imagine how I might deal with life changes, new circumstances, an empty nest, grandchildren (if there were any) and growing older alongside the heartache of burying a child.

But just as it’s impossible to comprehend how the addition of a child utterly transforms a family, it’s impossible to understand how the subtraction of one changes everything just as much.

We are all so very different than we would have been if Dominic were still here.

Life most likely wouldn’t be any more perfect because we would each grow and change, find common ground and find points of conflict, make new memories and drag up old hurts.

Still, none of us would carry the deep wound and traumatic injury of sudden and out-of-order death.

THAT is impossible to ignore. Even seven years later it’s a red flag, a sticky note, an addendum to every family gathering and holiday.

So we carry on.

Like generations before us who have walked this world dragging loss behind them, we keep going. It shapes us but doesn’t limit us. It informs our views but isn’t the only thing that molds our opinions and frames our choices.

My faith in God’s larger and perfect plan helps me hold onto hope even as I continue to miss my son.

But today is a hard day and I don’t think that’s going to change as long as I live.

I’m getting better at remembering Dominic’s birthday in ways that honor who he is and the man he might have become. I can’t say I’ve figured out any good way to walk through the yearly unavoidable and unwelcome reminder of the day he left us.

I’m learning to allow the grief waves to simply wash over me without resisting them.

Eventually the hours tick away, the day is over and I find I’ve survived yet again.

Remembering The Day Before It All Fell Apart

I fell asleep last night thinking about that Friday evening seven years ago when I closed my eyes on the world I knew only to open them to a world I wish I could forget.

It’s odd how these anniversaries play out-there’s the actual date (which, if I’m honest isn’t nearly as hard for me) plus the litany of days that lead up to the date and reconstruct the weekend that ended in tragedy.

The Friday night/Saturday morning combination bring me to my knees even seven years later. Only someone who has endured the doorbell or the phone call can truly understand how dozens of tiny prompts create a mental, physical and emotional response that can neither be ignored nor controlled.

It was raining last night and all I could think was, “Why wasn’t it raining THAT night? He wouldn’t have taken his motorcycle.”

Useless, futile and ill-advised pondering that simply made it harder to close my eyes and go back to sleep.

Friday, April 11, 2014:

Julian and I went to a college honors banquet and came back to the house to find Fiona home for the weekend.  I called Hector and texted with James Michael.

I turned out the light and went to sleep.  

No warning shots across the bow of life rang out to let me know what was coming.

But that Friday was the last day I spent misunderstanding the awfulness of death and the absolute uncertainty of life.

Read the rest here: The Day Before It All Fell Apart

Some Things I Wish I’d Known

I’ve written before that I am oh, so thankful I had NO IDEA Dominic would leave us that early April morning in 2014.

It would have cast an awful shadow over all those years we were blessed with his presence.

But there are some things I wish I’d known.

Read the rest here: Things I Wish I’d Known

How To Bless a Grieving Parent-Even When It’s Been YEARS

I do NOT blame you that my son and my sorrow have drifted down your list of “things that need attention”.  Your life is as busy as mine once was and your calendar full of commitments and celebrations that require your attendance.

But each year it feels lonelier and lonelier.  

Because each year fewer and fewer people remember or if they do, they don’t know how to offer that up as a blessing because it feels awkward or stiff.

So may I suggest a few things that most bereaved parents would absolutely LOVE for friends and family to say or do-especially as the months roll into years or even decades?

Read the rest here: When It’s Been YEARS-How to Bless a Grieving Parent

Why I Need Grace From Friends And Family

I first shared this post four years ago when I was nearly two years into this journey and realized that for many of my friends and family Dominic’s death had faded into the background.

It was a date on the calendar for THEM but it was an ongoing experience for me and my family.

I was reminded of how time feels very different to the bereaved this weekend as I spent the first anniversary of my mother’s stepping into Heaven with my father.

So, so many things remind a grieving heart of the person we miss. So, so many everyday moments transport us back to THAT moment, THAT day.

You might not (I hope you don’t!) understand. It really costs little to extend grace to the grieving. But for those of us whose hearts are broken, it makes all the difference.

You cannot possibly know that scented soap takes me back to my son’s apartment in an instant.

You weren’t there when I cleaned it for the last time, boxed up the contents under the sink and wiped the beautiful, greasy hand prints off the shower wall.  He had worked on a friend’s car that night, jumped in to clean up and was off.

He never made it home.

Read the rest here:Grief and Grace:What I Need from Friends and Family

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