Meltdown

One of the blessings (although I didn’t realize it at the time) of the early days of this journey was the immediacy of my response to triggers.

Something would upset me and I would react right away.

Nearly five years in and I’ve developed such excellent coping skills that I am rarely caught off guard, cry in public or respond dramatically regardless of what happens.

So this past couple weeks of on again/off again stress has been met, for the most part, with a calm demeanor and a “can do” attitude.

But it caught up to me last night.

All the pent-up, piled-up stress and grief poured out of my heart and dripped down my face.

I had a good, old-fashioned meltdown.  

meltdown

Smack dab in the middle of overwhelming thankfulness that my grandson is doing well, my heart reminded me that Dominic is not here the enjoy it.  I remembered that Ryker will grow up and never see Dom’s amazing dexterity on the drums or hear his witty remarks or be caught up in his powerful hands and held overhead until he squeals to be released.

And I realized once again that while I love, love, love the blessings God sends my way, there’s no cosmic scale where those blessings eventually counter-balance the desperate longing I have for my son.  

balance_scale-300x225

I have so appreciated the messages from other bereaved parents who “get it”.  They know that I am absolutely overjoyed my son and his wife are spared the horror of child loss.  But they also know that my mama heart still yearns for my own son even while rejoicing in the birth of theirs.

I’ll be OK.  

A few tears, a quiet evening, reflection on truth and my heart will manage to find a way.  

just because no tears doesnt mean heart doesnt hurt

 

 

Repost: It’s Been YEARS, When Should I Mention My Missing Child?

This came up in a bereaved parents’ support group and I thought it was a great question:  When you meet someone for the first time, do you tell them about your missing child?”

It’s one of those practical life skills bereaved parents have to figure out.

I remember when it dawned on me a few months after Dominic left us that I would meet people who wouldn’t know he was part of my story unless I told them.

It was a devastating thought.  

I had no idea how I would face the first time it happened.  

Read the rest here:  It’s Been YEARS, When Should I Mention My Missing Child?

Repost: Breathe In. Breathe Out. Repeat.

Almost four years and I still have those moments. 

I know from other grieving mamas that I always will. 

But sometimes they catch me by surprise.

Motoring home from Walmart, a campaign sign catches my eye.  The candidate is young and running for District Judge in our county.  That could have been Dominic.

Breathe in.  Breathe out.  Repeat.

Read the rest here:  Breathe In. Breathe Out. Repeat.

Child Loss and SAD: Seasonal Affective Disorder

Most people are familiar with SAD-Seasonal Affective Disorder-a cluster of symptoms mimicking depression that develop in otherwise healthy folks when the shorter days and longer nights of winter limit sunshine exposure. 

Fewer folks know that nearly every bereaved parent has his or her own version of SAD which has nothing to do with daylight/darkness cycles and everything to do with the calendar. 

For me, it starts in February and runs through May. 

The last time all my children were together was mid-February 2014 as we celebrated the youngest’s birthday.  I remember sitting outside on the unusually warm day and chatting about random things.  There were two upcoming graduations and my oldest son’s wedding.

Someone said, “Hey, we should get a picture.”  Someone else said, “Nah-we’ll be making lots of pictures this spring.”  

So we didn’t take one.  

Every year that’s the day my heart marks the beginning of the end.  

The beginning of a march toward the most awful thing that has ever happened to our family.  

family never gets over the death of a loved one

Then there’s the day Dominic came out to the farm to fix a friend’s car.  They needed the tools and shed to do the job.  We joked and talked and shared a meal.

Then I hugged him and he went on his way.

That grease-stained jacket is still hanging on a peg in the downstairs bathroom.

Spring Break.  I thought I’d see him again before classes resumed but a trip that lasted a day longer than it was going to meant he drove directly to his apartment.  So a couple of weeks passed before he was able to plan another weekend trek out to the house.

I had just exchanged a series of messages with him, sharing photos of the heavy rains that ran our creek out of the banks and almost into the elevated roadway.

julian and creek in 2014

We ended our texts with “I love you.  See you Saturday!”

My heart still accuses me for neglecting the days between the last time I saw Dominic and the last time he drew breath.  If I had known then what I know now…

But we don’t, do we?

So on my season goes. 

From February and all the “lasts” to April twelfth and the devastating news that my son would never come home again.

Then my heart marks the funeral, cleaning out his apartment and the first family celebration of which one of my children was not a part.

A few weeks later is Dominic’s birthday on May twenty-eighth when he doesn’t get any older but I get further away from the last time I hugged his neck.

A long sad season indeed.  

Every parent who is missing a child has their own.  A time when he or she wishes the world would both stop to take notice and spin faster to make the days pass.

My heart and body respond even if my mind tries to pretend these weeks are really no different than the rest of the year.

My son is still missing.  

My heart is still yearning.  

This is still the life I didn’t choose.  

dominic at olive garden

 

Background Music

Another bereaved mom wrote that she was better able to cope now than she had been a year ago.

And thanks to Facebook memories she had proof.

Several comments down a second mom wrote something that got me thinking-when, exactly, did Dominic’s loss move from the forefront to the background?

I’m not sure I can pinpoint a day or moment when I realized that sorrow was no longer ALL I feel and Dominic’s absence no longer ALL I see.

I remember when more experienced loss moms posted and talked about grief being gentler and quieter I thought that they were out of their minds.

How in the world would this breath-robbing, heart-stopping, crippling pain ever be anything close to “gentle”?

How could the pulsating, blasting, all-consuming noise of loss become softer?

In the first days, months and even years, everything about loss was so loud it was all I could hear.

Rock concert, standing-next-to-the-giant-speakers-loud.

So loud it shook my body and made me want to cover my ears.  There was no way to block the sound, no silent corner where I could retreat and hide.  Just relentless pounding noise and pain.

But little by little, in imperceptible increments the volume decreased.

Now, missing Dominic is the background music to everything.  A quiet tune I hum in my head that keeps me company all day and invades my dreams at night.

If I take a moment and pay attention or when other things quiet down, it moves again to the forefront.

My head and heart are never free of the music Dominic brings to my life.  He is the soundtrack to my days, the lullaby as I fall asleep.

dominic at gray haven

No longer an ear-piercing scream demanding attention, grief is now mostly a quiet song in a minor key.  

Never silent.  

Always playing.  

music from dandelion

 

Repost: “Why Am I Robbed, And Who Is Benefited?” Mark Twain on Child Loss

I only recently came across this quote by Mark Twain.   

It’s from a letter he wrote to a close friend after his favorite daughter, Susy, aged 24, died of meningitis while her parents were abroad. 

It is heartbreaking and utterly perfect. 

Read the rest here:  “Why Am I Robbed, And Who is Benefited?” Mark Twain on Child Loss

Child Loss: Setting Aside Time To Grieve Helps My Heart Hold On

One of the commitments I made out loud and in my heart the day Dominic left us was this:  I was not going to let his death tear my family apart.  

I was not going to let him become the sainted brother that stood apart and above his siblings.  

I was going to continue to give as much of my time, effort, love and presence to each of the three I had left as I had done when there were four on earth beside me.

I’ve been more or less successful in keeping this promise.

I have no doubt that if you asked my living children, they could give you examples when I’ve failed.  Some days are just too much.  Some events are too hard to attend.

Some moments I am overwhelmed

and undone

and there’s no way to hide it.  

But I’ve learned a few things that help me be present, attentive and joyful for the beautiful things that are happening around me.

One of those is to set aside time whenever possible to “pre-grieve” an upcoming celebration or gathering.

hand-coffee-roosevelt

I allow my heart to feel all the things it needs to feel.  I journal the questions and comments and (sometimes) anger that would otherwise overflow and ruin a moment.  I write to Dominic and tell him how much I miss him, how much I wish he were here and how very hard it is to mark another happy occasion without him.

I mentally rehearse walking in, greeting people, making small talk. 

I think ahead to any big moments that might tap emotions I need to hold in check.  I even plan an “escape route” should I need it. Just knowing it exists has always been enough so far. 

Sometimes I find a song that suits my mood.  

I cry.  

And then I choose a token I can wear or slip in my pocket to remind me that I’ve got this.

I can show up and smile (honestly) because I’ve already loosed the dam of grief and let the stored up torrent flow over the spillway.

engagement party group shot (2)

I’ve learned the hard way that memories are precious.  I don’t want the ones I’m making now to always be tainted by sorrow and loss.  

Dominic is never far from my thoughts and always in my heart.  

I’m not abandoning nor forgetting him.

I honor him by honoring his siblings.  

Love lives.  

happy birthday balloons no words