Child Loss: Adding Up The Missed Milestones

So we went to my niece’s high school graduation this week.  

It was another in a recent long line of events Dominic was not here to celebrate with us.  

Another set of pictures missing his grin, his shoulders, his goofy antics, his presence.

It’s really beginning to add up. 

And it hurts.  

We were plunged headlong into some important celebrations in the first two months after Dominic left us-two graduations and a wedding.  But there was a kind of lingering aura that made it a little more bearable.  Everyone involved KNEW Dominic.  So while he was not there bodily, he was present nonetheless because so many people carried a piece of him in their hearts, had stories to tell and made comments about how he would have done this or that.

My niece obviously knew Dominic.  And that’s a comfort.  But the last time he saw her she was just entering her teen years.  Now she’s leaving high school headed toward adulthood.

Fiona’s new husband never met Dom.  His friends are a world set apart from our pre-loss life.  His family knows Fiona lost a brother and me a son but they have no idea how that fact changes everything.  They can’t.  They don’t have anything to compare it to.

My sweet little grandson will grow up hearing stories but never seeing the man behind them.  He will perceive Uncle Dominic as a tale told sometimes with tears and sometimes with laughter but never be the target of Dominic’s sometimes wicked humor nor feel the comfort of his strong arms.

IMG_1816

In some ways five years might as well be a lifetime.  

So much has changed.  

So much I want to talk over with Dominic.

So much I wish he was here to see.

I know he is perfectly content in Heaven with Jesus.  He’s not missing out on a thing!  But I can’t stop my heart from selfishly wanting him here with me as well.

It’s like playing a piano with a sticky key-somehow the melody is always just a little off. 

Never quite right. 

missing them from your side

I Didn’t Cry, But Then I Did

This past weekend was an emotional one.

My deployed son began his trek back home to his wife and newborn son.

My youngest son went on the bachelor trip with his soon to be brother-in-law and was incommunicado for almost 72  hours which always makes me nervous.

My daughter’s wedding is only a few weeks away and there is so much to do. Fun things.  Things I want to do.

My companion animal and faithful sidekick died two weeks ago and I haven’t been sleeping nearly as well as I did before

It was the fifth anniversary of Dominic’s death and funeral.

I didn’t cry, but then I did. 

And I couldn’t stop. 

I just couldn’t stop.

How in the world can it be five years?  I can’t explain it to anyone who hasn’t buried a child. But I keep trying.  The giant chasm between what I thought life would be like and what it actually turned out to be is so wide that it’s impossible to comprehend.  I’m living it and I can’t comprehend it.

dom on mountaintop

I am trying so, so hard to participate.

I’m working at keeping grief at bay and leaning into the life I have without constantly comparing it to the life I thought I would have or the life I wanted instead.  I’m purposing to keep my expectations low so I won’t be disappointed.

But it’s not working.

I think I’m just at the end of my personal resources.  I think I’ve exhausted any reserve I might have had.  I’m leaning into Truth and holding onto the hem of His garment.

I know it won’t always be this way.  

The tears will dry up.  They always do.  

Tomorrow is a new day.  

finish each day and be done with it emerson

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

Rainy Days and Mondays…

I don’t have to leave my house to “go” to work.  

Most everything I have to do is on these 35 acres or within a mile of my home.  And my routine is pretty much the same seven days a week.

So Mondays aren’t really all that big a deal.  But rainy days?  Well, those make EVERYTHING more challenging.  

It’s been one heck of week here.  Heavy rain for at least an hour or more each day means that it’s so soggy I can barely tell the difference between the mud and the manure (and that’s an important distinction to make around here!).

My driveway is a river.  I haven’t had to fill water troughs for days because it rains as much as the horses, donkeys and goats drink.

rain and gully

Gray days infect my soul with a kind of weariness that’s hard to express.

I’m always just a breath or two away from overwhelming sadness, and when there is day after day after day of rain and clouds and mud and muck it often overtakes me.

I try so hard to buck up and ignore it.  But I’m not always successful.  

Mornings are good.  If I sleep well the night before, I can get going and momentum carries me through until a little after lunchtime.  Somewhere between three and four in the afternoon,  I usually lose the battle.

Willpower just isn’t enough to overcome the sense of “what’s the use” that nips at my heels like a terrier chasing a squirrel.  

So I usually give in.  Sometimes I even go on to bed.  

I feel like a failure.  

I used to be able to work hard for a good 18 hours out of every 24. 

Not anymore. 

Especially on rainy days…

 

Child Loss: Good Days, Bad Days-All Part Of The Journey

Will today be a good day or a bad day?

Not sure yet.

Mainly because what usually determines THAT is something that happens (or doesn’t happen) at some point after my morning quiet time.

But whether it’s a good day, a bad day or somewhere in between, it is absolutely, completely, utterly NORMAL for my emotions to change as I make my way down the path called “Child Loss”.

As long as I am doing the work grief requires I will continue to have some better days.  

But grief still comes in waves in response to triggers or in response to nothing at all and it may be a bad day.  

waves-of-greif

How well did I sleep, rest, eat or exercise? My body affects my emotions in ways I don’t fully understand but absolutely experience.

Stress can bring tears to the surface.  Even GOOD stress can do it.  Looking forward to things, planning a party, large meal, trip or event is stressful, even if it isn’t sad.  All stress weakens my defenses and makes it harder to employ the techniques I’ve mastered for diverting my thoughts or controlling my tears.

Sunshine or rain? I have learned to count the number of recent cloudy days if I wake one morning feeling bluer than normal.  I often realize that a week or more has passed since I’ve seen the sun.

Too much interaction or too little interaction with other humans makes a BIG difference. My introvert self loves long afternoons alone, sitting in silence with a book or crochet, quiet walks in the woods and chore-filled days without music blaring.  But healthy solitude can turn to withdrawal if I let it and sometimes I realize my sudden sense of overwhelming grief is, in part, due to lack of human company.

The list is endless.  

Thankfully, at nearly five years, the better days outnumber the worse ones for me. 

But  no matter what kind of day it may be, I no longer worry if it’s normal. 

Because it’s ALL normal. 

you will have good days bad days keep showing up

 

 

 

 

Grief Triggers

It’s funny what can make my heart race and my eyes fill with tears.

Sometimes it’s obvious- I hear of another son killed in a motorcycle accident.

But sometimes it’s obscure- like when I see someone using a legal pad to take notes.

Either way, triggers take me back to ground zero. They rivet my mind’s attention and my heart’s focus to the very moment I first learned Dominic had left us.

Triggers can happen anywhere, any time. They are often unpredictable and surprising.

And there is not one. single. thing. I can do about them.

Even four plus years into this journey and I am as vulnerable today as I’ve ever been.

I try to limit my exposure. I try to have an escape route. I try to suck up the tears and stifle the sobs.

But sometimes no matter how hard I try, I’m overwhelmed and undone.

overwhelmed woman image with glasses huff post

There’s part of me that wishes I could just move on and rejoin life and the human race calm and collected,  regardless of what memories a sight, sound or smell taps into.

And then there’s part of me that wants the world to sit up and take notice of the ongoing pain and toll child loss inflicts on a parent’s heart.

I’ll be honest, as I’m writing this I still cannot wrap my mind around the fact that one of my children is dead.

pencil-drawing-bereaved-mother

Oh sure, I can relate the series of events, but in my heart of hearts it is as shocking today that Dominic isn’t coming home as it was on April 12, 2014.

I really can’t adequately convey the ongoing sense that this must be a mistake.  There must be something someone has overlooked.  Maybe it was all a dream and he will come walking through the door.

I’m not crazy.

I know that Dominic is dead. I saw his body in the casket. I saw the casket lowered into the ground. I visit his grave to change out the flowers.

But I will never, ever get used to it.

family never gets over the death of a loved one

 

All it takes is a smell or a sound or any one of a thousand things that I associate with my third child and I’m transported to that awful morning.

So if you see me tear up, shut down or turn away- let me go.

I just need a few minutes to put my game face back on.

Repost: Anger or Sadness? Or Both?

We live in an angry society.

Social media is full of rants about this and that.  Television blares raised voices shouting over one another in what passes for news coverage.  T-shirts are emblazoned with one-liners intended to provoke others.

We tolerate and even embrace anger as a legitimate emotion.

Yet we rarely make room for mourning.  We hide our tears.  We shame those who don’t hide theirs as “weak” and “soft” and “cowardly” or worse.

Read the rest here:  Anger or Sadness? Or Both?