Friday, January 29, 2016

Why I needed to do this

I needed to write this. I was told to write out my feelings.  I needed to focus on something besides loss.  I needed the validation. I needed to"do" something. I could not do anything about much of any of this and I had to DO something.  I wasn't sure where all this would go but first and foremost I needed to tell Brian's story. The world had a one sided view of him that he did not deserve.  He could not defend himself and I needed to do that for him.

I needed to honor who he really was as a person and who he was before he was "this".

I needed to love him out loud.

I wanted to talk about all the things nobody wanted to hear. I needed to tell someone that there was another side to this story.  I needed someone to hear that there was no real investigation and that there was reason to have doubted what they claimed as true.  I needed for someone besides just me to know that there was in fact little reason to have believed what was told.  I wanted someone else to know what up to now, only we knew.

I wanted to have a place where I could remember them all.  A place where I could display sweet pictures and reminisce about the stories of my children and keep them with me a little while longer.

I wanted others to know what this has done to our lives.

I wanted it to help someone else if it could. I wanted to warn others that they cannot blindly trust what they read in the paper, watch online or hear on the 6:00 news.  Nor can you blindly trust law enforcement to always get it right and that what the crime shows on TV depict bears no resemblance to real life.  I wanted everyone to know that there are always two sides to every story.

I am not special.   I needed e everyone to know if it could happen to me,  it could happen to you. Bad things happen to everyone.

As I worked my way through the horror, I hoped parts of it could be edifying to someone else that was grieving.  Maybe someone else could gain insight or find something I said comforting or useful.

I hoped it would make people think about what they say to others that are grieving. I hoped it would make them see what helped and what hurt.

 I wanted it to make you thankful for your family and true friends and make you live every day with the reality that it could be your last or it could be the last time you ever hear your son's voice, or the last time you ever get to kiss your baby goodnight or the last Christmas you will ever enjoy. You never know when that last time will come. You always think there will be a tomorrow. I thought there would be a tomorrow.  I wanted you to love the people in your life. Put down the phone, get off of Facebook and be present with the people in front of you while you still can.

I wanted to be honest about the struggle with my faith so others would know they were not alone.  I also wanted them to see my faith and know how God has been there for me.  I wanted to be able at some point to let them see my faith stand strong and prevail over doubt in the end.

I wanted to record the miracles I experienced and know about the unusual and unexplainable things that have happened.

I had hoped it might make a difference to someone --and to me. I prayed it would give me a "reason" a purpose --hope.

Maybe it has done some of that.  I know it hasn't done all.

For what it's worth, that was what I hoped and now I think maybe it's just time to say "Goodnight Gracie."

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Second Year

It is so hard for me to believe that in so many ways the second year really is more difficult than the first.  I know I've read that for some it could be.  I just could not see how that was possible.  And it isn't in all ways but in many ways, it definitely is and I'd like to talk about that.

While the crying and the melt downs in public places is better; the grim realization has set in that this is forever and in many ways this year is actually worse.  I am much more depressed.  The shock has worn off now completely and I now see that long after I'd thought it was gone, it had still been lingering, protecting, pushing me forward.  Long after I thought I was facing this full on and that I was at least in "mid-recovery", I was steeped in deep denial; glossing over it, covering it up with "busy" and pretending.  Busy has come to a screeching halt and now I can't muster enough strength or energy or wherewithal to be busy no matter how hard I try - which by the way is not very hard.  I just don't care anymore.  If I could just sit and eat dinner on a TV tray in front of the television, read an hour, sit in a tub of hot water and then lay in bed and play solitaire on my Kindle till I get sleepy - I'd be good.  That would be my perfect evening.  Oh wait, that is my every evening.  But sooooooo not like my evenings "before".  Never been a big TV fan.  Maybe an hour in the evening to wind down was about my max.  It just always seemed like a major time suck and I always had far too much to do to justify very much TV for all of the housework, cooking, laundry, family time, pets, church, writing and I could never find time to stay ahead of it all. And all of those still exist but suddenly they are all so terribly unimportant.  I can sit for hours and binge-watch ten year old episodes of Alias without feeling a twinge of guilt at the pile of laundry I tripped over to get to the television. Dishes in the sink - fine.  Bathrooms need cleaning - so what.  Floors looking like you need to run the mower and grass catcher - I'm good.  Nothing seems important me anymore.  Everything except family seems like petty annoyances.  I have zero desire to actually "do" anything.  I can barely find enough energy to function on a low level and get by from day to day. 

In the beginning I couldn't think about these things and I was in the middle of caretaking and doing what I could for the living - postponing grief as it turns out .  Just getting from one day to the next the best I could.  This year that is no longer the case but you still have to have a reason to get up and I have no reason.  No hope.  No purpose.  I don't want to "do" anything anymore.  I think I need that puppy now or a donkey or something.  (Latest book - Flash) Whatever - but I need a reason to go on.

The second year is harder too simply because it is the second year and I thought if I could make it through the horror of the first - I would have "made it."  I would be better.  I would want life again.  I would be able to see good in things again.  I would have energy and hope and faith again.  I would be out of the danger zone.

Not so much.

Last year when I first started this blog it had been "Four Weeks" - the blog was a life vest to a drowning man.  Now...well I am floating adrift.  I don't need a life vest but I'm still in the water.  I'm not drowning but this is not living either.

Last year I had "coping skills" - this year now I'm contemplating drugs in order to make it.  What a hypocrite.  I thought if you just kept pushing on and forcing yourself to function, ignored the pain, pretended the holidays were not holidays, kept the kids alive and with me through happy stories, funny memories, pictures and videos.  If I read all the books, attended the right meetings, listened to the preaching, listened to the right music, talked to a counselor, wrote out my feelings and managed to cling to life by tooth and toenail and just make it past that magic one year mark - I would be "out of the woods".  The reality has hit me like a brick that not only is it not true that I will be okay after the first year but in fact that I will never be okay again.

Losing them did not change the number of chairs at my Thanksgiving dinner table or how many gifts I would buy at Christmas or how I spent my Sunday afternoons.  Losing them --changed everything.  Absolutely everything.  Not everything for a year or two years or five years but forever.

I don't even recognize this life.  I had goals, hopes, dreams and a strong abiding faith.  My whole life, those were the things that kept me going.  I truly do not understand how this can make me no longer be me?  I am not me.  God is not God.  Everything is just wrong.  And these are the things that I did not know last year.  I guess I couldn't face it or didn't realize it or God knew I couldn't withstand the full impact of all of that yet.  I guess it was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other and remember to breath.  And yeah the first year was horrific and yet in many ways the second is still kind of worse as you come to the cold realization that the horror is never going to end.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Not The Same...

Well it was a good thing I had that experience with my co-worker about the loss of her dog last week as I had time to think of a calmer and more appropriate response because believe it or not, within four days a second co-worker actually finished that sentence to me...  

Believe me, I understand completely that people love their dogs.  I love my dog.  I love all dogs.  All animals period.  I cried for days over a little wild bird that drowned in our lake as well as a possum that was hit on the road.  I have dragged home and/or rescued more animals than most people would ever have in a lifetime and not just your run of the mill stray dog either.  Pregnant cats --and I spent weeks taming the wild kittens, had the females spayed, found homes for all but one (and I still have her!)  And I have had ferrets, skunks, raccoons, birds, rabbits, rats, mice, guinea pigs, chickens, ducks, geese, hamsters, turtles, frogs and even snakes and I will patiently chase a lizard for an hour that has gotten trapped on my screened porch just so I can free him and also do the same for a cricket lost in my house.  Suffice it to say I love animals.   

And I know people have a tendency to make that comparison and say that losing their dog is as bad as losing a child - and apparently they say it a lot more than I ever realized.  And don't get me wrong, love your dog.  Please love your dog.  I love my dog but make no mistake that losing a dog is absolutely NOT the same as losing a child!  It is NOT "just as bad".  It is NOT in any way to be compared.  Trust me you do not have any idea what you are saying or how you are rubbing salt into a horrific wound that already will never heal when you say that to someone that has lost a child and for the record, you do not have any idea who that may be.   

I have learned since losing my children - that there were a lot of people that I thought I knew fairly well that I never knew had lost a child.  Friends, in-laws, neighbors, co-workers and business acquaintances - people that you come into contact with every single day in all walks of life.  It might be that when you say losing your dog is the same as losing a child in casual conversation to the realtor that is helping you find a house - that she watched her 12-year old daughter suffer and then lose her horrific battle with cancer.  Or that when you say it to the counselor in the student center of your college - that she lost her handsome and talented 21-year old son to a drug overdose. Or to the person that delivers your mail as she still struggles with guilt and still blames herself over her 16-year old son's suicide.  Or that your librarian lost her beautiful brown-eyed four-year old daughter to a freak accident in her own front yard.  Or that the sweet lady that takes care of your child in the daycare everyday lost her beautiful daughter and her only grandchild to murder... Not the same.  I promise you.  It is so not. 

And this time I did respond.  I did not run away in tears or get mad and lash out.  I simply looked her straight in the eyes and quietly said, "It's really not.  It really is not the same."

Thursday, January 7, 2016

A stubbed toe - an amputated foot - same thing right?

Well I broke down and ate in the break room today with all of the co-worker friends I used to eat with; something I had really not done in a year and a half. 

It was a colossal mistake.

I only sat there long enough to eat a bowl of soup and was back at my desk in less than twenty minutes.  It was long enough however, to wreck the rest of my day.

The table conversation was about one of the girls’12-year old dogs.  She had four when we used to eat together.  A few years ago we both had a Chihuahua and I made the mistake of asking about hers. She told me that he had died around this time last year.  I told her how sorry I was to hear that at which she replied “I know. It was awful.  Losing him was just as bad as…” and she stopped dead in her tracks leaving the unsaid words hanging in mid-air.  Both of us sat in awkward silence knowing what she was about to say.  I was sitting desperately trying to think of what I was going to do if she had actually said it.  I probably would have stuffed it down, pretended I had to run back to work and brushed it off to keep from making a scene and making her feel bad.  But I was sitting there looking down at my phone staring at the wallpaper into those beautiful smiling brown eyes and what I wanted to do was shove that picture at her and say:  “Really?  Really losing your dog is exactly like losing him? I beg to differ with you.  I’ve had dogs.  I’ve had dogs I really, really loved but at no point would I compare the loss to losing my child.”

I remember sitting and watching the videos in GriefShare and hearing the story from a mother that had lost her two-year old to a drowning, tell about being somewhere in a social situation and having someone come up to her in a gesture of “comfort” and tell her to “Look at the bright-side, at least you won’t have to potty-train him.” What is wrong with people?

A few weeks back I ran into a friend.  She was visibly upset and when I stopped and asked her if she was okay the dam broke and she burst into uncontrollable tears.  I grabbed her and said, “Hey what is wrong?  What can I do? Are you okay?”  Instantly I felt the pain of her grief because judging from her reaction clearly someone important to her --had died. 

Nope.  Turns out she had a fight with her best friend and she had not called her in four days…

I seem to compare every loss against "this" and everything seems small in comparison. However, in all fairness I have sat and thought about what was earth-shattering drama to me just weeks before this happened.  I've thought many times about what I worried about, lost sleep over and even obsessed over.  How I would love to go back to a time of innocence where my biggest worry was getting in the long check out line at Publix or how aggravating it was to get cut off in traffic. Oh to go back to when I was blissfully unaware about how terribly cruel life could really be.  

I could sit down at any given time and cry and scream solid until this time next year and not even put a dent in all I have to cry about.  We could start with how the pain of losing my child, my daughter-in -law and my baby just goes on and on and how still seventeen months later I keep reliving that horrific day or waking up in a panic as I realize it is, in fact, really “real” over and over again.  Or I could cry about my sister and all that she is having to go through as I worry over her every single day as she fights the effects of not only the leukemia but worse still the treatment; overcoming one trial just in time for the next one to hit and sometimes they are overlapping.  Not to mention the frustration of going from doctor to doctor to doctor and the multitude of medication she has to take and all of the diagnostic procedures she is still having to suffer through not to mention the financial devastation of millions upon millions of dollars in medical bills that she will never be able to pay.  Or maybe on a slow day I could cry for the way that Brian’s existing two children are running off the rails trying to deal with all of this and the feeling of despair that I feel as I watch helplessly as their lives slowly deteriorate as this cancer slowly eats away at my family.  Or when I have nothing else to cry about – I could cry about the fact that after a year and a half I still do not even know what happened to my children or why and worse still is the fact that I may never know that.  Or I could cry over the fact that my other son has not spoken to me in almost a year because he has so much anger and nowhere to constructively place it so it landed on me.  So instead of losing one son, a daughter-in-law, the baby I adored – I can, for no real reason that I can understand, lose two. 

My entire family is in shambles and if that is not enough and friends are the subject of the day if I have any tears left I could cry about the friends I have lost as a result of this – not just one but several in all areas of my life.  Church friends, neighbor friends, work friends as well as the one friend that has shared every aspect of my life for the previous 37 years.  And I don’t even have tears enough left over to cry for my loss of her.  Sadly she is way down the list.  I’m sure I will get to it eventually – maybe in eight or ten years I can find time and tears to grieve the loss of that relationship. And then as icing on the proverbial cake there is the loss of my faith as I knew it and the loss of the relationship I have always had with my God and my comforter and really --what can compare with that? 

I have so much to grieve over that I don’t even know where to begin.  It will literally take years to even get through the list and so far I’m not having much luck getting past number one.