One Brick At A Time

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Today would have been been Christopher’s 31st birthday. I miss him and my heart aches. However, I know now that our lives must continue. We recently took a vacation to clear our heads and try to move forward. I know in my heart that is what Christopher would want for us.
We purchased a paver in his memory over a year ago and recently found out it had finally been placed. The new Children’s Memorial Park in Wentzville, MO. I really believe this can be a place of hope!
Happy Birthday Christopher! We love and miss you!

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Today We Remember The Tie That Binds Us

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Today is International Bereaved Mothers Day! I wish with all of my heart there were no need for such a day. Unfortunately,  I don’t get to choose. I didn’t get to choose not to lose my precious child any more than any of the other mothers who live with this heartbreak everyday. We are tied together by a tether of loss and our lives are forever altered.

Every bereaved mother deserves a little peace, hope and love today. Remember don’t be afraid to speak our child’s name…

 

“Inspirational” Type Of Day

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We all have a totally unproductive day now and again and that’s OK! Some days you just need to take some time to unwind. It may seem hard to fathom that the world won’t end if we can’t be the absolute perfect domestic goddess, chef, employee, window washing litter box cleaner in the world!

Myself for example, it could be I’m in more pain than usual, mentally beat down or maybe just feeling plain lazy. The reasons are as varied as the flowers in a botanical garden. What matters is I realize I need a break, or as I like to call them “a mental health day”. You may be thinking, “wait this title says “inspirational” type of day?”.  Yes, I meant exactly that! I am at times “inspired” to give myself what I need the most. To just put aside what the world demands and allow myself to enjoy some quiet time for my mind as well as my tired body.

Full time wife, mother, nurse, friend, and everything that goes along with these titles, can add up to an overwhelming sense of responsibilities. Throw in the fact I am grieving the death of my son, worrying about elderly parents who don’t live close by and trying to be a good coworker, it can seem impossible to manage!

Giving yourself what you need most assuredly will allow you to gift more to the others in your life! Be “inspired” and take time for you! Enjoy that long bubble bath, book you’ve been waiting to read or maybe just relax and nap on a blanket under a tree. Trust me! Enjoying the simple pleasures creates and allows a more productive self in that important task called living.

Medication Turned Off My Feelings: Don’t Judge My Survival!

images g;ass and pillsSince the death of my son I have dealt with anxiety, depression and PTSD. My doctors subsequently prescribed medications for all of these. Albeit, the symptoms have thankfully dissipated to a tolerable degree, these elixirs have produced a completely different psychological manifestation.

I began to feel numb after taking my medications for a while. I do not cry anymore…about hardly anything!  I very rarely feel sad, angry, impatient, or any of the so-called “negative” emotions. Everything melded into just following the day-to-day pattern and feeling lots of nothing. I rarely show my sadness, however, it was always there just under the surface. Grief waits for me to stop taking the medications and give the monster a chance to rear his ugly head.

I did try to stop the “magical elixirs” that lead to my coveted numbness. It was a disaster! I went from one extreme to the next! Tears and sorrow became my constant companions. It was as if the grieving process restarted again. My heartbreak was new again and I was at the mercy of the harsh, ruthless reality of my life’s worst nightmare.

When given the choice, I had to decide on the quiet pseudo-reality of my medicated mind. I must function, work, live,  and when necessary can even pretend I haven’t suffered the tragedy of child loss. Calmness, quietness, and the ability to live with this injured psyche have allowed me to move ahead and focus on trying to help others. Though I know the pain and heartbreak will seep through at times, I can continue down my chosen path which entails survival.

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Yes, I know one day I must face my tormentors which include immeasurable grief, loss, and the undeniable truth of a grieving mother. I’m not ready!  I can’t let the monster out of his hidden fortress. I would I fear certainly go mad or shrivel into nothingness. Am I so wrong to keep my pain at bay for now? I don’t think so because it is my life and my survival at stake.

Why would anyone judge me for relying on the pharmaceutical therapy to ensure I have a sense of empowerment? This situation would leave almost any parent despondent and inconsolable. Some may think me weak to rely on medications. I do not share that sentiment. I think it makes me strong to make choices that enable me to move on with my life. To those who disagree I ask you this question: if you were in a situation and had the choice to carry on and care for your family or curl up in a corner and give up, what would you choose?

I know this medicated lifestyle can’t last forever! I am aware there are ramifications to taking medications for long periods! I am just trying to live my life to the best of my abilities for the moment.

A quote comes to mind: “don’t judge my path if you haven’t walked my journey!”.  I hope with all my heart you never chance to walk my journey. However, if you do, remember there is no shame in using the tools available to ensure your survival!

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A Pathway To Finding Hope

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The death an unborn child or infant is certainly heartbreaking to the parents and the extended family. A sweet young life lost to all the possibilities. Howbeit, when my son of twenty-seven years was taken from me by the horrible disease of depression leading to suicide, the pain came from a whole different paradigm. This was not what I signed up for when I became a mother! I expected to grow old watching my child live a happy productive life. Suddenly, a lifetime of watching him grow, become a man, start a family, and become an adult gone. Suicide is an ending to the pain of the person who succumbs. Yet, it is only the beginning to those of us left behind to pick up the pieces of our existence.

I was in shock in the beginning and really didn’t feel anything. I don’t believe I cried during those first couple of days after Christopher’s death. I later busied myself with doctor appointments and self-care became a priority even though I was resistant to the idea. The psychiatrist, psychologist, and even my primary care doctors all worked together to keep me capable of basic functioning. Slowly the coping skills began to find their way into my perplexed and anxiety ridden mind.

It seemed incomprehensible that everything in our lives we had taken for granted as the truth was forever altered. Hopes, dreams, the future as we knew it all sent to oblivion in a single moment.  However, even though I did not believe it possible in those first couple of years, things have begun to change into more of a “normal” pattern and flow. My husband and I tentatively moved on into our “new normal”. We acknowledge there will always be the rough days and they must run their course. We have learned we cannot rush our healing nor ignore our grief.

The most arduous battle was the immediate absence of someone I had spent a lifetime caring for. I wondered if he would be remembered as others moved on with their lives after the immediacy of the crisis. I pulled out every picture I had and went through his life over again remembering every detail of what made him who he was. I made albums, filled containers of all his childhood belongings. Carefully placing cherished awards and  projects from school for safekeeping to give to his daughters when they are grown.

confused-computer-userI found on-line support groups to be very useful as they allowed me to be in the throes of a melt down and still communicating through the keyboard. This allowed real-time conversations with others who shared the same pain I felt. These groups allowed me to avoid the human contact I was not ready for in my delicate state. Support groups also provide families and individuals, in varying stages of recovery, the chance to help each other and provide hope to those who are not as far along in their own recovery.

My husband and I are and will continue to be our child’s parents. The fact that he is not here physically does not mean he is no longer our son. We still are the parents of three sons. My personal mission has become to make sure my son is never forgotten. I require his memory be in totality and not summed up the one heartbreaking moment in which he left this life. This purpose gave me the fortitude to begin looking for possible ways to become a stronger person.

imagessupport groupI recently signed up for classes and am working on becoming a Grief Recovery Specialist. Helping others is also becoming a wonderful tool in my own recovery. Using the new competencies, I have and will be learning, to aid another is a healing process in and of itself. It may not seem possible, but at some point, you will be the person who is farther                                        down the recovery path than the next:

  • You will know what works for you and what may work for another grieving parent
  • You will have informative insight of a child loss survivor because you are one                                                      

There will be pain which may seem insurmountable. Allow yourself to accept help and live life.  Remember there is someone somewhere who has answers when you are ready. You may need a friend or family member to take the first step for you to begin healing. Sometimes you simply may not be capable of doing it on our own. It’s perfectly respectable to receive and utilize the help you need. Alternately, so is being capable and strong. It doesn’t mean you cared less or aren’t grieving enough because you are capable of strength in adversity. Grief is as individual as the person grieving.

The reality of grieving is that your grief won’t be like anyone else’s. Each person will grieve at a different pace and in different ways. It is understandable that we as bereaved parents may be strong one day and inconsolable another.

Each individual as a survivor can truly aspire to live their life while preserving their precious child’s memories. Eventually, time and perseverance will allow you to forge ahead finding your way to hope and your “new normal”!

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Not A Laughing Matter

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I have been witness to several people who inadvertently hurt my heart and remained completely oblivious. The person who comments about how they “would rather be dead than have to eat that food” or “I’ll die if I fail the test”! No, you won’t physically die if you fail the test. However, there may be someone who was in the throes of a deep depression who did take their life after said test. You never know what is going on in people’s lives and these little shots at humor can be hurtful and in bad taste! The person next to you may have lost a loved one to suicide or may have attempted it themselves.

Another issue is the use of gestures such as putting your fingers to your head in a gunshot motion or acting as if you have a noose around your neck and are being hung. It doesn’t always take words to hurt a survivor of suicide. There is public outrage and disbelief that someone would mock a handicapped person or call someone derogatory names.  Unacceptable? Yes, yet it is OK to make fun of or act out suicidal actions? No, I think not!!!

It’s known that a high percentage of survivors suffer some sort of PTSD after the suicide of a loved one. I myself was unable to answer my phone and would have a panic attack when it rang for two full years after receiving the call about my sons suicide. People became frustrated and angry at times but I just couldn’t take the chance of more bad news. Not many people were aware of this manifestation of my PTSD.  Those who were respected my journey and would text me if they needed anything.

Everyone should take a stand and let the offender know it’s not funny to say or gesticulate in a joking manner about suicide. The person next to you may be suffering and unable to advocate for themselves. I am that person who once again can say something to the person who jokes about this life altering irrevocable decision. Please don’t!

Thank you and spread the word to get the conversation started!

Suicide is no laughing matter!!!

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Questions

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I find myself answering questions about my children often and especially when meeting someone new. People will ask out of curiosity or maybe simply to break the ice, “how many children do you have?” “boys or girls?”. While taking into consideration most people I am just meeting have no idea whether or not someone has lost a child,  their questions seem harmless enough. The question I find the hardest to answer is “how old are your children?”.

My answers will vary depending on how much my heart can handle on any particular day. On a good day I will respond with the ages of my two living children and then say that I also have a middle son who was twenty seven when he passed away. Knowing what will follow is the hardest part.

I’m sure most people mean well and will usually say they are sorry. However,  then they inevitably will ask what happened to cause his death? Some try to seem helpful and offer me a list of possibilities to choose from including illness, accident, car crash even overdose have all been mentioned to me! I  will let them know that my son died by suicide and watch their eyes drop and their mouths close. The conversation is ended as quickly as it started and I then find myself trying to make them feel less awkward. Why I do this I can’t tell you but it happens.

There is nothing not awkward about suicide but I feel compelled by something inside my head to try and ease their embarrassment, shock and disbelief that I said “suicide”. One might imagine they feel they need to do or say something life altering but are coming up empty. Suicide has that effect on people it is a vile creator of  many “what the hell kind of conversation have I gotten myself into” moments.

It is not easy to have these exchanges but it is becoming less difficult over time. The tears don’t come as quickly. The pain in my chest from my heart breaking doesn’t last as long nor completely shut me down where I am unable to function. I always look back and dissect each of these conversations. I hope I have explained the situation well and try not traumatize or embarrass the person asking me about Christopher’s death.

Open communication and honesty are vital to healing. Allowing the dialogue between the bereaved and the non-bereaved person both allows insight and  enlightenment as to this inexplicable heartache that is suicide.

Don’t be afraid to ask!

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