I look in the mirror and most days I barely recognize myself. The eyes reflecting back at me are my father’s; the same empty stare he had as his dementia transformed into Alzehiemer’s. Lost, yet aware enough to know of what was going on.
The mascara I wore daily is applied maybe once a week. Maybe. And only if I care what I look like.
The energy to exercise or move my body physically to stay in shape has evaporated. I no longer care what I eat. I tend to seek comfort in the comfort foods that are unhealthy and for the first time in my life I cannot fit into my blue jeans.
I no longer reach out to family or friends. No one wants to hear my sob story anyways. Maybe that’s an illusion I hold. Who knows. Maybe my retreat started when I was asked, when does this crying-thing end? The response the person heard was never. I cannot burden my son Mason. He lost the man who inherited the father-role since 2005, his brother, his best friend and companion. How can I share my pain with someone who hurts equally as much inside?
My trauma brain is incapable of holding onto nouns – people, places, things. And you can forget about dates and times. That information escapes out the window like the aroma of a fresh baked cherry pie.
When Jeremiah died April 10th, my existence ceased. Rarely do I share the cause of Jeremiah’s death. In all reality, the how doesn’t matter. His mother lost her son and one of her go-to guys. His brother no longer has him to show him how to fix things, his father-figure to help him through life’s situations and his best friend. His three year old son misses his father beyond comprehension. And the heartbreaking list of losses continues on…
It does not matter the cause of death, the loss of a child bares incomparable emotional trauma.
It’s not that I’m ashamed. I simply don’t know how to respond to the anticipated questions that typically follow. I’ve alluded to the cause of him remaining forever twenty-nine less than a three weeks from his thirtieth birthday, but have yet to publicly state my son committed suicide.
Walking through the grieving process has taught me some of the grandest lessons of love and compassion.
People don’t know how to respond to me. Ironically I have no idea how to respond to them either.
- A month after Jeremiah’s death, I was in a public place and the woman (her daughter went to school with my son) behind the counter kept asking, “Are you sure you’re okay?” I’d reply, “Yes, I’m doing okay right now.” Each time she asked, her bottom lip pouted out more and her head tilted to the left a little more. To break the cycle, I stated, “Thank you; I appreciate your kindness.”
- At the grocery store a friend saw me standing in aisle four upset, and turned around and walked quickly in the opposite direction.
- Last weekend, I mentioned to a friend I hadn’t seen since the holidays how odd it is for me to be seen in public without mascara. “Who knew I’d ever let anyone see my naked eyes?” She then admitted she didn’t want to hug me and make me cry, and she had no idea what to say to me. I am grateful for her honesty. At least she was willing to talk to me.
- I feel more lonely today than I did five months ago.
Pearls of wisdom I’d like to share from my experience as a grieving momma:
- Unless you can bring our child back from death, don’t bother asking if there’s anything you can do.
- Acknowledge the mom and/or dad who experienced the loss of their child.
- Don’t ask for the gory details. Truly, we will share the information if we want to. Besides, is it any of your business?
- Treat the parent as you did prior to the death of their child. We are sad; not contagious with the plague.
- Listen. I cannot stress this one enough! Damn it, listen to us babble on and on and on about our child.
- There are days we need to verbalize every experience we shared with our child.
- There are days when the pain is too severe to talk about our child.
- Tear triggers are everywhere.
- Our tears are unstoppable.
- Time does NOT heal all things.
- Do not, for the love of God, tell me my child is in a better place. There is no better place for my child to be than in my arms and he’s not there.
- Allow me to be “broken”.
- The damnedest things will set off cascading tears; like the two year old boy standing in the aisle of a store that looks just like my baby.
- Everything reminds us of our children.
- Hug us.
- Don’t tell us, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do for you, just ask.” 1. I don’t believe you’ll answer my call (especially when you won’t answer when I dial your number), 2. three hundred other people told me the same thing and so far no one has followed through. 3. reread the first entry on this list.
- I desperately want to grab Jeremiah by the shoulders, give him the mother-stink-eye and tell him everything can be worked out…EVERY EFF’ING THING!
- The human touch is an amazing thing. Very few things offer as much comfort (not even creamy vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup).
- Don’t try to fix this situation. Allow me to feel what I feel in moment without trying to “adjust”, “manipulate” or “punish” me.
- Hug us and listen.
- Let me eff’ing cry.
And, for many individuals, there is a stigma surrounding certain causes of death. People’s first reaction/response is different based on how the child died. I’ve noticed (during my lifetime) the judgement and level of compassion is based on whether the child died from cancer, car accident or murder versus drug overdose, drunk driving or suicide.
As a mother said to me days after my son’s passing, “Welcome to this unfortunate club. No registration required.”
My best friend’s son died in a car accident five years ago, and he says the pain is as sharp today as it was on the day the local sheriff deputy knocked on his door.
A young man I’ve known all of his life, his mother is a very dear friend since high school, lost his life due to a drug overdose. She, too, has told me the heartbreak is as painful years later as it was on that faithful day.
I wish they’d lie to me. Please.
Live Life in Motion
I am doing okay. Truly I am.
The other morning while I was pouring water into my tea kettle, I heard the deep rooted sorrow in my voice exclaim, “I wish I had someone to talk to. I have no one to talk to.”
A loving voice within softly replied, “There’s one person who loves you dearly who is willing to listen. All you have to do is open up to her and talk.” There was a pause, as if my inner wisdom needed to make sure I was listening, and then whispered, “YOU.”
An emotional release washed over me, and I sobbed.
I am consciously making an effort to love myself like never before.
This is not the first time I’ve had to adjust my sails. Each time I experience a situation that depletes me, I learn how to take better care of myself, and actually L-O-V-E me for the me that I am.