Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day

Yesterday my family and I headed to our local legion, listened as the names of all the fallen soldiers were read…one by one, men and women who served our country and either lost their lives during their services or sometime afterwards…I sat there, willing myself not to cry.  I was so moved by it all. I couldn't help but think of the mothers of those fallen soldiers.  The pain they felt when they were notified… the not knowing what their child's last few moments of life were like… the longing for just one more moment, one more touch, one more smile… to lose your child, no matter how honorable the circumstance, is horrific.  Than I wondered why I was trying  so hard not to cry… death is sad, there is no way around that!

 I was happy we went.  It felt good to honor those people.  I can tell you, however, prior to losing our own son I probably wouldn't have cared.  I wouldn't have thought twice about going to the cemeteries to see the flags… it would not have occurred to me.  However, since Declan has passed away, we have made sure his stone is 'ready' for Memorial day each year… we meticulously pick out decorations that we think will hold up to the mid-western wind, the blazing hot sun and yet still be considered appropriate for a child.  We head out there with a bucket of warm water, paper towels and a broom to clean it and make sure the winter hasn't done any damage.   Suddenly, it matters.

Since losing Declan, Nate and I enjoy walking through rows of cemeteries, looking at each one and pondering the stories behind them.   Sometimes we laugh that we don't know anyone else our age who has so much fun walking around cemeteries.   On Friday night, when we brought the last of our new decorations out to Declan's stone, we ended up playing with the kids and Murray for 15 minutes.   We chased Murray around and we were all laughing… as hot tears stung my eyes, I took a quick moment to ponder what we were doing.  We were playing in a cemetery.  We were laughing and having fun… and every single one of us felt content with it.  I noticed a car driving by and I wondered what we must look like… I am sure they thought it was an odd place to hangout.

The service that moved me to tears….

The flags that were breathtaking! Amazingly beautiful! 

The firing of the guns… gives me goosebumps every time! 

My husbands grandpa, Lloyd and his uncle Joe's stones.  

My husbands other grandparents, Wally and Leona's stone.

My grandparents, Sylvester and Phyllis. 

Declan's stone…. 

My niece, Medbh and my brother looking at Dex's stone.  It was really cute because we have pinwheels in the front of his stone and she walked right up and started playing with them… exactly the way it should be I think… nothing scary, simply inviting.  

Friday, May 23, 2014

A reflection on Mother's day…

I have been sitting on this post since Mother's day… I have been struggling with finding the words to actually describe what Mother's day is like after losing a child.  Here is what I can say a few weeks after the fact… Mother's day is just a day.  For me, and I am thinking I am not alone in this, it means nothing.  There is nothing "Happy" about it.  It serves as a day to remind me of what I don't have.  It is a day that I am acutely in tune to the fact that there are only two little voices wishing me Happy Mother's day and only two little faces giving me kisses.  Only two… there should be three.   If someone would have told me how tremendously painful being a mother was going to be, I would have never believed them.  I could not have imagined, as I watched my beautiful children enter this world filling me with joy, that their very presence would make me vulnerable… I would not have guessed that their pain could bring me to my knees in a heartbeat… I did not realize their very existence could ever make me second guess mine.  I wasn't prepared for that side of motherhood; to have your heart at their mercy. I have learned that when you lose a child, motherhood doesn't stop, but it looks and feels a whole lot different than it did.  There are moments when I experience true happiness and there are moments when I want to put a hole through a wall.  There are times when I can't picture what Dex looked like unless I look at a photo and yet there are times when I can still smell him.  I am moving forward… I am figuring out this new world of mine, but it's a day by day battle to choose happiness and to choice joy.  I don't always win that fight… but I am doing my best.  

Yes, I am blessed to have Noah and Courty.  God knows how they saved me from myself and my pain. .. the two of them bring me more joy than I could have imagined ever feeling again and in the same breath they remind me of everything I am missing with Declan.  On Mother's day, I was watching Courty run into the lake, holding her dress up, shrieking with delight and I thought to myself, 'I could not live without her.' The next moment, Noah ran by me, with Murray hot on his heels and I thought, 'Life wouldn't be worth living without him.'  It's those moments, the ones that used to bring me instant joy, that make me hurt the most now.  It's the ordinary life we are living that makes my pain and longing so much more real. 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The goal is not to "get over it"

I have bookmarked a lot of other grieving mothers blogs…. I used to find myself reading their words on a daily basis, hoping to find some relief in my pain or maybe even an understanding of how to move through this journey without losing yourself. I am not sure what drew me to these blogs, but they were there for me when I needed someone who understood; someone who could say, "I KNOW what you are going through and here is what I experienced". I would spend hours in the evening after the kids went to bed pouring through their words of pain and sorrow, but also seeing glimpses of hope and happiness. Over time, I have visited their blogs less and less and have found that my comfort and support is coming in the form of people I know. I have a great group of friends, all of whom have experienced the loss of a child, with who I can share my struggles, can laugh with and cry with. I am very blessed to have them.

Over lunch today, I found myself catching up on some of those blogs. Trying to see or gage where my old friends are in their journey, to see if I am still doing this 'grieving mother' thing correctly… on one for those blogs ( I found this article by a man named Steven Kalas and his words brought tears to my eyes and took my breath away with how accurate someone who has not lost a child can be in describing this journey.    Please take a moment to read it! It may be a bit lengthy, but it's SO good!


When you lose a child, grieving is a lifelong experience.

When our first child is born, a loud voice says, “Runners, take your marks!” We hear the starting gun and the race begins. It’s a race we must win at all cost. We have to win. The competition is called “I’ll race you to the grave.” I’m currently racing three sons. I really want to win.

Not everyone wins.

I’m here at the national meeting of Compassionate Friends, an organization offering support and resources for parents who lose the race. In a few minutes, I’m going to address Compassionate Friends. This is the toughest audience of my life.

My address is titled “The Myth of Getting Over It.” It’s my attempt to answer the driving questions of grieving parents: When will I get over this? How do I get over this?

You don’t get over it. Getting over it is an inappropriate goal. An unreasonable hope. The loss of a child changes you. It changes your marriage. It changes the way birds sing. It changes the way the sun rises and sets. You are forever different.

You don’t want to get over it. Don’t act surprised. As awful a burden as grief is, you know intuitively that it matters, that it is profoundly important to be grieving. Your grief plays a crucial part in staying connected to your child’s life. To give up your grief would mean losing your child yet again. If I had the power to take your grief away, you’d fight me to keep it. Your grief is awful, but it is also holy. And somewhere inside you, you know that.

The goal is not to get over it. The goal is to get on with it.

Profound grief is like being in a stage play wherein suddenly the stagehands push a huge grand piano into the middle of the set. The piano paralyzes the play. It dominates the stage. No matter where you move, it impedes your sight lines, your blocking, your ability to interact with the other players. You keep banging into it, surprised each time that it’s still there. It takes all your concentration to work around it, this at a time when you have little ability or desire to concentrate on anything.

The piano changes everything. The entire play must be rewritten around it. But over time the piano is pushed to stage left. Then to upper stage left. You are the playwright, and slowly, surely, you begin to find the impetus and wherewithal to stop reacting to the intrusive piano. Instead, you engage it. Instead of writing every scene around the piano, you begin to write the piano into each scene, into the story of your life.

You learn to play that piano. You’re surprised to find that you want to play, that it’s meaningful, even peaceful to play it. At first your songs are filled with pain, bitterness, even despair. But later you find your songs contain beauty, peace, a greater capacity for love and compassion. You and grief — together — begin to compose hope. Who’da thought?

Your grief becomes an intimate treasure, though the spaces between the grief lengthen. You no longer need to play the piano every day, or even every month. But later, when you’re 84, staring out your kitchen window on a random Tuesday morning, you welcome the sigh, the tears, the wistful pain that moves through your heart and reminds you that your child’s life mattered.

You wipe the dust off the piano and sit down to play.

Copyright: Las Vegas Review-Journal

How true these words are… I love the part where he talks about the way the birds singing even changes because I experienced that. Prior to losing Dex, I was a dreamer. I was a glass half full kind of gal… I was the crazy lady who stopped on the road to take pictures of the sunset or of an eagle sitting in the tree. I used to be moved to tears over the beauty of nature… even really green grass gave me goosebumps. After losing Declan I remember crying because the vibrant, rich colors of the world were no longer there to me. I remember thinking how sad it was that the world had turned gray… and that I was alone in that grayness. No one else could possibly know how different I felt… I had felt like "me" for 35 years and in one day, I felt like I had become someone else. If you think about that, you can begin to imagine how grief effects EVERYTHING in your life… your relationships, your parenting, your job performance… everything. You lose your child and in the same breath, you lose yourself… tough luck!

However, like this man talks about, slowly I began to figure how to be comfortable with who I had become in my grief. I feel like I have 'partnered' up with my grief and together we are walking this path… no longer do I wither in fear of it or wish it gone. It is my reminder of what I have lost and what I have survived. Yes, I am different… I am NOT the person I was before, but I have come to a place where I cherish the woman I am now and I know I will continue to change and evolve into someone even stronger. And although I couldn't tell you the exact date, I do remember one day when I saw a family of deer in a field and I pulled over and snapped a photo… without even thinking about it. I got back in the car, looked at the photo and bawled my eyes out… I was so thankful that I was finally getting my 'sight' back after his death. I hadn't even realized how much I had missed it until it started returning. "You and grief — together — begin to compose hope." That day with the deer… that was the my first glimpse of HOPE after losing Declan and it felt really good. 

I am happy the majority of you will not understand what I am talking about… I am happy if you might be reading this thinking I am crazy… because that means you have not lost a child. If you are reading this and thinking, 'holy crap, that is SO true!' than I am deeply sorry for your loss and hope that your journey can bring you to a place that you can start to recognize HOPE again, because trust me, it's out there waiting for you.