Thursday, April 23, 2015

Insight to feeling nothing...

Today is eight months after the tragic loss of my son, my daughter in law and my two year old grandson to what we were told was a murder/suicide.

Today I found a post on a blog that I follow - What's Your Grief? an absolutely wonderful resource that I wish I had found months ago. There was a great article on “emotional numbness” after a tragic loss. I was totally unaware prior to my own personal experience, that this was even possible.  I just remember being seriously concerned because I seemed to be handling the tragic triple loss of my family -so well.  What a joke.

All of my life I would have assumed the loss of any one of my children would have just spontaneously killed me and yet here I was not only still living, breathing, walking and talking but what was more concerning was what I was not doing.  I was not fainting, screaming, crying or wailing hysterically.  As a matter of fact I wasn’t feeling anything at all.  Not grief, not pain, not sadness --not anything.

I was completely numb.  I could not cry.  I could not taste.  I couldn’t even feel physical pain.

I sat completely unemotional through the service.  All through the week following their deaths everyone kept making comments about how well I was taking this and how together I had it.  What!!? I knew that wasn’t true but I could not explain nor did I even understand myself what was happening. I wanted to die.  I knew I was crushed beyond words but even I remember worrying that I was a soul less creature that had no feelings because I literally had no feelings.  As a matter of fact, I was in a numb stupor for weeks literally at times staring blankly into space with very little facial expression.  I felt nothing most of the time like I was completely dead inside.  The world had no color. I saw nothing as if I were looking right through people and things.  I heard no sounds except garbled background noise.  Food tasted like paper.  What was wrong with me?  Did I not even have a heart?  I knew I loved them.  And that baby was the light and joy of my life.  I wanted to die every single moment and I knew how broken I was but I had literally no reaction to any of it.  It was bazaar and unnerving and was the source of added anguish for many weeks.

Several weeks later maybe three or more I began to feel and cry a little at a time in short bursts.  Then the dam broke and I began to feel EVERYTHING and almost lost my mind – I would sob for hours --deep racking sobs that felt as if my heart were literally going to burst.  I physically ached inside so bad until it felt like I was being crushed.  Then I got angry.  I mean ANGRY; screaming, cussing, throwing things, raging --angry. As if all of the emotion of everything that had happened, their deaths, the crappy investigation, the way we were treated by the coroner and lied to by the investigators, the way the news reporters stole pictures from my daughter in law's Facebook account and plastered my children's picture all over the news before we could even notify family members, the fact that we never got to see any of them, the legacy this left for my son; one of the best dad's I've ever known, the cruel things that people have said, the way my friends have turned away, the way that strangers were staring and whispering about us everywhere we went, the extreme waste of such beautiful lives, the insecurities I now felt about law enforcement, prayers and friendships, my sister's leukemia and the timing of the treatment...all of it - all of it hit me at once and I had anger beyond anything I could even imagine.  

Then I began to seriously wonder if it were ever going to let up.  It was then I realized the benefit of that numbness.  Clearly it was a safety mechanism to keep tragic shock and resulting aftermath from completely washing over you like a tsunami.  It is there so that you don't feel it all at one time but instead it allows the sadness and anger and devastation to seep in a little at a time as you can stand it.

And the article I found was dead on it when they said that although you would think numbness would be so much better than pain it really is not so much - it is a pain in and of itself.  You really are aware that the pain and devastation is actually there - somewhere deep - you just cannot feel it.

So very weird.  Like drowning in a bowl of beige jello.  Blank, bland, nothingness - like you are the walking dead.  You feel dead but you know you are not.  You know there is sadness; a deep terrifying sadness but it seems so far away until you can't quite touch it.

The article really resonated with me and brought back all of those first weeks and I know absolutely that it will be helpful to so many that felt as I did and don't understand it.  As I said, I so wish I had found it months ago.  (

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

We are getting really good at pretending...

We pretended Thanksgiving was not on Thursday this year and held a “family get-together” on Saturday instead that was definitely not Thanksgiving.  

Then we pretended for some reason -- perhaps a new law went into effect - one that I don't remember ever voting for, like day-light savings time or mandatory insurance -- that required that Christmas be canceled this year.  Maybe it will be on schedule for next year who knows? Congress is still out on that right now.  But for 2014 Christmas was eliminated from the calendar.

I also pretended Paxton was just out of town for his third birthday.  Maybe off to Florida enjoying Disney or Legoland and that is why we did not buy the gifts we'd wanted to give him or have cake and watch him blow out candles or gather around him and sing “Haddy Dirtday” to him. 

Then I had the brilliant idea to actually let Brian’s birthday take place this year.  I decided we would remember him by baking his favorite cake then we would all get together and go out for pizza.  We'd reminisce about him tell funny "Brian stories" laugh and celebrate his life.

That did not work out quite like I’d planned.  

I cried for three solid weeks afterward.

Turns out pretending was working way better for me so I opted to go back to pretending.   And so Easter this year was just another Sunday.  For the first time in twenty years we did not attend Sunrise Service or the fellowship breakfast afterward.  I did not go and help out with the Easter-Egg hunt on Saturday (although I did stuff 180 plastic eggs so as not to be a complete slacker.)  I did not buy a new springy pastel Easter dress but instead rummaged through my closet and dragged out a regular black and tan dress. I raked a comb through my hair, dabbed on some mascara and managed to show up for Sunday-School.  I didn’t even hear the sermon preached during the regular service but chose to keep the nursery instead.  I saw none of my children or grandchildren nor did I, in fact, see any family at all other than my husband that lives there.  The two of us ate lunch out and came back to the rental house early and watched TV till time to go to bed.

I’m going to Memphis to Graceland for Mother’s Day.  I'm pretending to be on vacation...

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

My latest gift...

I had had a particularly difficult week again last week and was feeling like God was so far from me.  I was finally able to sit down in the quiet and pray a little.  All I could pray for was for God to let me know He was in fact, still there.  I just needed to hear from Him in some small way to give me the little bit of assurance that I needed to get by another day or another week.

The very next evening I received yet another gift. 

He gave me the gift Brian’s humor.  Words straight from Brian that literally made me laugh out loud.

I had been sending photos that I had of the baby and Kara to Kara’s mom and had decided to go onto my Shutterfly account and see what was on there that she may want.  Turns out I had not been on the site in a couple of years.  The last time I’d signed in and downloaded some photos I had “apparently” set up a family page so that the kids and my sisters would have access to the pictures that I had taken.  As I told Kara’s mom about the pictures I was sending her – I love taking pictures and sometimes I would just randomly take Paxton outside and let him play and just snap away.  So consequently, I have hundreds of pictures - bad shots, shots of him crawling away, shots of him crying and sometimes that rare --perfectly timed, just the right lighting, just the cutest expression – “perfect shot.”  I had downloaded an afternoon of that kind of session to Shutterfly and sent Brian a link. 

Two years and seven months later I go back to find he has left goofy comments on a few of my crazy pictures.  Comments I had never seen; comments so typical of Brian until I could almost hear his voice as I read them and then for the first time in many months I thought of him and genuinely laughed out loud.  It felt so good and so right and I was so grateful. 

Thank you God for answering that prayer in the sweetest way.  


brian m "so if I slip you this $5 bill, then did you still see me poop my pants? 

"and she kept taking these pictures of me doing dumb things...I told her I had enough but..."

brian m "so I was like, give me my keys.  I'm good to drive home...then it hit me - I'm a baby, how the heck did I drive here?!"

August 31, 2012

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The little unexpected changes of grief

Personality changes are among the weirdest of the changes that have taken place since “this”. 

When you hear that profound grief changes you – you don’t really have any idea of the full impact of that statement.  You think:  "Well, of course I know that it has changed my family.  There are so many empty chairs now, meaningless birthdays, hard holidays and bad anniversaries.”  And of course you see how it might change your roles in life; if you were a primary care-giver to one that had an extended illness, you suddenly find yourself without a purpose. Or perhaps your identity as someone’s wife has changed and you aren't sure who you define yourself as anymore or the daily routine of being someone’s mother leaves your days empty and quiet.   You may change where you physically reside because of the passing of a spouse requires that you move to something more manageable or less expensive.  Your responsibilities may change in that you now have to do things that someone else once handled for you.  These things are the things the books and the grief classes prepare you for.  These are common sense and while you may not think of them all at first –they are logical and natural expectations.

But no one prepares you for the changes to your actual personality. 

Like the way you suddenly relate to all of your personal relationships:  The sudden and unexpected intolerance for certain types of people in your life; or the exact opposite –the sudden uncontrollable clinginess you have towards certain others? 

Before - I wanted people in my life.  Any people. All people.  No matter that they were not particularly "good" friends to me.  I kept friends that weren't always honest with me; friends that had ulterior motives; friends that were insincere and self-absorbed. It is not like I was blind before and could not see who they really were – I knew.  I always knew.  I just didn't care.  I allowed them into my life and even at times, struggled to keep them there.   Perhaps my “co-dependent “ tendencies made me cling to even toxic relationships – because they were better than no relationships.  I needed “friends” however loosely one might define that term.  

After - it is not that I no longer need people in my life but I find am choosing quality over quantity. 

It seems that after, I am seeing things much clearer. I can no longer close my eyes to things I once could and a relationship regardless of the quality of that relationship just does not fly anymore.  Maybe it's because I have now experienced the worst of the worst and realize that being without a lot of people in your life really does not kill you.  Losing those people that really matter in your life -- that is what kills you.  

I have learned the difference between real true pain and isolation and the imagined pain and isolation I feared would come from being without a lot of people in my life.  

I also see that life is short and that the quality of people I was spending the precious few days of my life on was taking away from the relationships that mattered.  

When you have been through something like the loss of a child, two children – three; your need for loving, quality relationships is so intense that things very quickly become black and white. 

Toxic relationships are all-consuming emotional vacuums; they are time consuming, resource consuming and downright painful at times.  Perhaps when you have been through something as horrific as this – you simply cannot take anymore pain and you just have to eliminate it where you can. 

Perhaps it is just an application of the Serenity Prayer:  God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.