Tami’s Thoughts

GDPR Compliance

Hey all! I know you already know, but just in case, you know I don’t do anything crazy with your personal info, right? First of all, the most I’ve collected is your first and last name and email address, and the only way I can do that is if you input those details so you can make a comment on a blog post, or if you want to follow my blog.

To tell you the honest truth, I’m not even sure how to access that much, because truthfully, I don’t care to. All I really want is for you to read my blog posts, check out my website on occasion, and hopefully buy a few of my books. That’s it. Oh, and if you want to chat, by all means, come find me on Facebook or Twitter. That’s where I tend to hang out most frequently.

I also want you to know that I’ve upgraded my site, have also upgraded all the plugins, and added a couple additional ones directly meant to ensure GDPR compliance. I’ve noticed all my plugins (like Mailerlite, my newsletter provider) have been taking all necessary steps to ensure they’re following the rules too.

So just letting you know the limited info I may have is safe with me, ‘kay?

Thanks and happy reading!

I’m No Champion

The other night, I accidentally stumbled across a bunch of unread Facebook messages from twenty-two months ago. From when my son died. Most were well-wishes, prayers, a bunch of I-can’t-image-this-happening-to-my-family. One wrote, “You’re experiencing my worst nightmare right now.” Yeah, honey, mine too. Actually, that’s not even true, because I never, ever, ever thought something like this would happen to my family.

A few called for me to step up and be a champion for the anti-bullying brigade.

But I can’t be their champion. First and foremost, I’m not that person who feels a sense of closure or inner peace or whatever from talking about or even thinking about my son. I envy people like that, who can take their tragedy and turn it into a movement or a way to benefit others.

I can’t do it. It may happen someday; who knows. But that day certainly isn’t today, and it was most definitely not in the days immediately following his death. Hell, I was still waiting for him to walk through the door at that point. And for many months after, to be honest.

In addition, these people wanted me to be their champion because they assumed his suicide was a result of bullying. Fair assumption, given bullying is a huge issue in our schools.

But that wasn’t the case, at least, there wasn’t any evidence to suggest that was the cause. There was (post-suicide) evidence of mental illness, though. Although I’m not sure how I could champion the mental illness awareness movement either, since we were completely oblivious to his inner demons until it was far, far too late. Mental illness is most definitely a silent sickness, especially among children and teens, who don’t remotely understand what is going on in their heads and have a hard time talking to adults at all, let alone about these demons that aren’t supposed to be there. And if adults sometimes can’t fight those demons, how the hell does a thirteen year old?

About the only thing I think I might be able to champion—if I had to champion something—is the support network for survivors. The ones left behind when someone dies unexpectedly. But I’m not even sure I could do that very well. Even though I’ve been through it, all I know how to do is say “I’m sorry” and offer hugs and cry with other survivors.

All I can tell you is not to hope and wait for your life to go back to normal, because it won’t. That normal died with your loved one. And like the one you lost, it won’t come back. It can’t, because that normal, that life you had, existed because your loved one was in it. Your best bet is to actively work toward figuring out a new normal and embracing it.

In those first few months after my son’s death, we deliberately did things, chose activities, even dined at restaurants that were different from what we used to do when he was alive. Because every time we did something that was similar to our previous lives, it tore me up inside, reopened those wounds that hadn’t even truly begun to heal. Each moment of my day that followed in a footstep I’d made when my son was alive was a painful, stark reminder of what I’d lost. And when what we did was different, I was able to forget, or at least put it out of my mind. For a little while, anyway.

My other piece of advice: Try like hell not to feel guilty when you realize you’re actually smiling and enjoying life. Although rest assured, those smiles come with a price. At some point your lips will waver and something will trigger a memory or a reminder, and it will hit you that you’re having fun without that loved one and gee, it would be so much better if they were here, enjoying life with the rest of us. You might even let your mind wander down that terrible, terrible path; no, not “what if” but the other one … What Would Life Be Like If My Loved One Were Still Here.

Yeah, that one. It’s a terrible road to travel; I recommend trying like hell to avoid it, even though I know damn well you won’t be able to. It’s okay, just make sure you have tissues nearby. My advice in this situation is to seek out a distraction. Anything, but preferably something funny. Because no good comes of wishing for what cannot ever, ever be.

Trust me.

But here’s the thing: You’re still alive. You’re hurting, grieving, wishing for what you can’t ever get back (I know, despite my advice not to think about it, you will), but you’re still living too. And it’s inevitable that somewhere along the line, somehow, you’re gonna enjoy some aspect of that life. And then you’re going to enjoy a little bit more, and more, and more. And one day, you’re going to think, hey, I’ve gone X number of days without crying. And then you’ll cry, because you feel guilty, because damn it, why should you have fun when your loved one is gone, gone, gone?

You should have fun because you’re still alive, and life is supposed to be fun. It’s also short, as losing a loved one has taught us, so why not carve out whatever enjoyment you can?

Go ahead. You deserve it.

Flannel Sheets & Memories

I changed the sheets today. Not a particularly exciting task, except that as I dug around in the linen cupboard I realized both sets of flannel sheets that fit my bed were in the wash, and the temperature isn’t due to shift above 10 degrees Fahrenheit until some time next year. And yeah, I realize that’s less than a week away but that’s still another five days of frigid weather and me with plain old—cold—linen sheets. And no, I’m not going to change them again once I wash the flannels. Not until the requisite week is up.

I hate changing the sheets.

As if this discovery weren’t bad enough to ruin my evening, I also did something else whilst sifting through the over-stuffed linen cupboard. I pulled out all the twin bed sheet sets and packed them away. Which turned into an act of nostalgia I wasn’t quite prepared for.

You see, my daughter got a new bed for Christmas. She’s been in her twin bed since she was three, and now she’s twelve—and almost five-and-a-half feet tall. She’s not a kid anymore, at least not in stature. And she shares that tiny bed with the dog, who sleeps a lot like I do—stretched from edge to edge with no concern for the other occupant of her sleeping space.

A bigger bed was long overdue.

Which means we no longer have a need for twin sheets. As soon as we haul hers off to Salvation Army, there will be no more twin beds in my household. One more piece of my children’s childhood, gone.

It’s been a while since I’ve had to pack away ‘baby’ stuff. A couple years ago, my daughter went through her room herself and donated all the dolls and various other kiddie stuff to charity. She kept her Legos, the stuffed animals, books, and only a few other playsets. And then last year, a few months after my son died, she and my husband went through the basement and piled all those toys into his truck and handed them over to charity.

So, like I said, this small, seemingly meaningless task hit me harder than expected. Somehow, over the course of my kids’ childhood, we’d managed to procure some pretty darn cute sheets. Flannel, ironically. (But I don’t sleep in a twin bed, so no, they wouldn’t have worked for my purposes.) And they remind me of happy times, when my babies were, well, babies, and flannel sheets with snowmen on them were fun. Back when they liked to snuggle, and I liked to sneak into their bedrooms and watch them sleep.

Back when we believed they both had their whole lives ahead of them.

Now, I only have one, and she’s outgrown these adorable flannel sheets. Hell, she doesn’t like flannel sheets at all, let alone those with cute characters dancing across them.

Tonight, I tucked away another piece of my life, my past, my memories.

~Tami

Funerals & Grief & Dealing

A friend of mine recently lost her husband, very suddenly, very young (40s), very tragically (it’s tragic to lose your spouse at any age, but 40s just seems far too young).

I found out via Facebook (isn’t that where we discover practically all our news these days?). I opened the app minutes after she’d posted, announcing her loss and the funeral arrangements, so it was the first one to pop up at the top of my feed. I thought, “This must be a joke.”

Which was the same reaction I had twenty months ago when I was driving home from work and my daughter called and said, “Mom, hurry home! Brady just tried to kill himself!” I yelled at her, “That’s not funny. That’s not remotely funny. Don’t ever joke like that again!” Turns out, she wasn’t joking, and now I carry an extra layer of guilt for shouting at her like that.

The next day, my friend’s tragedy was all we could talk about at the day job, as we discussed when we should go to the viewing and whether we should attend the funeral as well. (No funeral for me—I try my damndest to avoid them at all costs now a-days.) I pulled up her Facebook page to look at the viewing and funeral information, and I had to scroll through picture after picture, post after post, all saying, “I’m sorry” and “Remember when…”

Exactly what happened twenty months ago. I couldn’t even look at my own Facebook page back then, because I didn’t want to see all those pictures, didn’t want to think about the good times, how cute he was, how smart he was, because now he’s gone and all I’ll ever have are those memories, and frankly, that’s not enough.

I went to the viewing with a group of co-workers—current and past. So many people showed up to give their support to their friend, the bereaved; some the widow probably hadn’t seen in years.

Just like at my son’s viewing. I remember getting momentarily excited every time another person walked in who I hadn’t seen in forever … until we recalled why we were finally coming together again.

My friend looked exhausted, and infinitely sad. Greeting people and hugging people and accepting condolences for hours on end when all you really want to do is curl up into a ball and cry until the tears run dry will do that to a person. I know I looked exactly the same way. During tragic times, you cry so much that when you look in the mirror, those puffy, no-makeup eyes actually look normal.

She had someone checking in on her every few minutes—“You okay?” “Need anything?” “Hungry?” “Can I get you another bottle of water?”

I had the same friend. Well, not literally the same person, but that friend, that person who spent the entire viewing tending to my needs, the grieving mother. I’ll probably never be able to thank her enough for that.

And the video. Dear God, the video. Nothing makes people tear up more instantaneously than the video at a viewing. That walk down Memory Lane. Hundreds of pictures of the good times. The person’s life captured in a five-minute, heart-wrenching slideshow. Young, old, in between, the video takes no prisons and leaves no dry eyes.

When all the hoopla was over and everyone else returned to their nice, normal lives, the funeral director gave us a bag of “goodies:” the thumb drive of pictures, the actual photo we’d used for the announcement in the paper and the sign at the funeral home, a stack of thank you cards, the death certificate (so many mementos I never wanted…), and the video, captured forever on CD.

Many bereaved, I’m sure, watch that video, possibly regularly. Maybe on the anniversary or birthday. Maybe every week or every day. Maybe it brings them peace or offers a glimpse into prior happiness that helps buoy their hearts, their lives.

Me, I think I threw it away. Not sure, to be honest. It may be tucked into a drawer somewhere or tossed onto a shelf in the basement. One thing I do know: It’s not something I have any remote interest in watching. Those memories are in my head, and I can barely stand that as it is, let alone actually watching them, recalling all those good times that weren’t enough to eclipse the demons who ultimately took him from me.

All said, I do hope my friend can find some comfort wherever she can in the coming days, weeks, years. Whether it’s the video or the friends and family who rally ’round her, I hope she finds some peace … and happiness. Because as we all know, the living must go on … living.

 

Tami Lund Headshot 2014

Tami Lund sometimes writes reflective, depressing blogs, but the books she writes are anything but. You should sign up for her newsletter, so you get first dibs on the cool new stuff she puts out: http://www.subscribepage.com/Tami_Lund

It Isn’t Easier

Dear Brady,

It hasn’t gotten easier. Despite the cards, the well-wishes, the hugs and phone calls from caring friends, today wasn’t easier than last year. I’m pretty certain your birthday is worse than the anniversary of your death. Probably because there’s more history, more memories associated with this day. Or maybe it’s because the memories connected to your death were chopped up into a bunch of days. So while the day you died sucked worse than anything ever, there’s also the day of the viewing and the day of the funeral and a few months later, the day we lay your ashes to rest.

So happy birthday, I guess. I mean, do birthdays even matter when you’re in heaven? They still matter to the living, even if the person we’re acknowledging isn’t here anymore. I doubt this day will ever be just any other day, no matter how many years pass. Unfortunately, it won’t ever be an entirely happy day, either. Not anymore.

We didn’t plan to do anything to outwardly acknowledge you today. I took the day off work because I knew I wouldn’t be worth a damn at the office, and then found out your sister had the day off school as well. Maybe it was divine intervention? We ended up having a girls’ day instead of me sitting at home alone feeling sorry for myself. And for a few hours, we were distracted, and it was fun, which is how it should be for the living. Although I ended up splurging and buying her practically everything she asked for, which I don’t normally do. I’ve decided to chalk it up to a subconscious need to give gifts to someone on this day, like I did for thirteen years of my life.

She’s mad at you, you know. Your sister. You left her to figure out this growing up business on her own, when she’s always had you to carve the path for her. All she ever had to do was follow in your footsteps, something she was content to do. Until you were gone. She isn’t a trailblazer. It’s difficult for her to try new things. She wants to keep hiding in your shadow but she can’t, and I think, nineteen months later, she’s starting to realize that.

Last year she practically threw a party on your birthday; this year she doesn’t even want to acknowledge it’s happening. She told me recently she didn’t want to talk about you anymore. Although the other night over dinner she regaled your father and I with gruesome, scary stories she said she learned from you. And when I dropped her off after shopping and told her I was going to head over to visit you for a few minutes, she told me to tell you hi. So I guess she’s not too mad.

(By the way, Hi. I actually forgot to say it while I was visiting you because this group of people showed up who appeared to be scoping out gravesites and I felt really awkward sitting there bawling like a, well, grieving mother, so I took off. Which I know is silly—it’s a cemetery, right? I mean, outside of the shower and my car, it’s really the perfect place to cry.)

And now we’re entering a new stage of grieving—and I’m scared all over again. My own grief I can handle. Your dad’s, your grandparents, your aunts and uncles; our friends. But watching my baby girl suffer and not having a clue how to make her feel better is the second worse kind of pain a parent can experience.

The first, of course, is losing you in the first place.

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Not So Much Love For Fall

I used to love fall. But the riot of color in the trees no longer brings me the same pleasure it did just two years ago.

I have no desire to pull my sweaters out of hibernation; no excitement over wearing my multitude of boots (and I own some super cute boots). The cooler days only mean longer nights and less sunshine, and the darkness gives me far too much excuse to feel sorry for myself. It’s the perfect shroud for the tears I prefer to hide from the world.

You see, fall is a season full of memories, memories I haven’t yet figured out how to live with. My son didn’t die in the fall; he died in the spring, but everything about this time of year reminds me of him, of what I lost, of moments I’ll never get to experience again.

He should have started his freshman year this month. I should have a high schooler. Instead, I have one kid starting school, seventh grade, which happens to be the year my son let the demons win. It’s like living that year all over again, except accompanied by the nightmare of what happened and the constant fear that my daughter might do the same thing.

(For the record, she tells us all the time she won’t, which is both a relief and not remotely fair to the poor kid. She’ll never be able to have a ‘normal’ teen angst period, but I have no idea how not to stress over every little nuance in her personality, which occasionally resembles her brother’s.)

Sometimes I wonder what he would have been like. If he had not made such a permanent decision eighteen months ago, would he have gotten over his depression, his misery, conquered the demons who convinced him to take his own life? My husband doesn’t think so. He believes had our son lived, he would have been fighting those demons for the rest of his life.

But at least he’d have a life. And I’d have a son. And humans are fighters, usually. Maybe he would have found some semblance of peace, would have started high school with a fresh, positive outlook.

I’ll never know.

His birthday is next month. He should be turning fifteen. Ready to sign up for driver’s ed. It’s so odd; I spend an inordinate amount of time reflecting on what will never be, yet I can’t bring myself to relive memories of his life while he was still here. It hurts too much. Still.

I often wonder if it always will.

Part of me wants to get to that point where I can talk about him, reminisce, smile and laugh over moments that occurred during the precious little time we had with him. That’s thirteen years of my life that I currently can’t even think about, let alone talk about.

And the other part of me hates the pain, hates crying, hates feeling sorry for myself, hates admitting that I will never have another memory with my son.

After his birthday comes Thanksgiving. A family holiday. The start of the family holiday season. A time of reflection, of appreciation for what we have, of feeling grateful for our family. Which is hard to do when there’s one missing, there will always be one missing. Forever.

Let’s not forget Christmas. ‘Tis the season of opening boxes filled with decorations and ornaments that all have some significance, some emotional purpose. So many that were handmade by my children or personalized with their names or purchased with some aspect of their personalities in mind. Then there’s the stocking with his name on it. The pictures with Santa.

Christmas used to be my favorite holiday. Now I can barely muster excitement; I almost want it to hurry up and go away, move on. Which I hate because that isn’t fair to the one child I have left, or the rest of my family for that matter.

So, like I did my first year trying to figure out the way down this fork in the road created by my son’s decision to leave us forever, I will try to find bits of happiness and joy, hopefully new experiences, new traditions that won’t hurt quite so much.

That’s all any of us can do: Try.

Tami Lund Headshot 2014

Tami Lund sometimes writes reflective, depressing blogs, but the books she writes are anything but. You should sign up for her newsletter, so you get first dibs on the cool new stuff she puts out: http://www.subscribepage.com/Tami_Lund

Back to School Blues…Not This Time

My daughter has started seventh grade. For those who haven’t been reading my blog posts for the past year and a half, that’s the grade my son was in when he ended his life.

He was also thirteen; an October baby, so we didn’t start him in kindergarten until he was five turning six. My daughter, on the other end of the spectrum, is a summer baby, so she’s twelve, won’t be thirteen until a couple weeks after she’s finished seventh grade.

Which means I get to stress out and worry she’ll do the same thing for two years, not one.

I mean, I know I shouldn’t be worried. I’ve said it before and it bears repeating: She is not him. Whereas his glass was perpetually half empty and steadily leaking, hers is overflowing. Whereas he was almost constantly miserable with life, she embraces life, loves to be happy.

She’s not him.

Of course, as I’m the mother of a deceased child; forced to figure out how to raise the other one despite the dredges of grief that permeate our lives, I can tell myself that all day long (and I do), but it doesn’t really matter. I will still worry. I mean, it’s a mother’s nature to worry even without such a tragedy smacking me upside the head.

So far I’m good today, though. I dropped her off a short while ago, and I’m sitting on my back porch, drinking my coffee, feeling that eternal guilt because I didn’t stop by to visit my son’s grave after leaving the school. But the thing is, I wasn’t crying. I didn’t feel sad. In fact, I was excited for my daughter to go back to school. Yesterday she was chatting on the phone with one of her school chums and I could hear the excitement in her voice. She couldn’t wait to hang out with her buds again.

And I didn’t want to ruin my own tentative happiness by deliberately seeking out the reminder of my devastating loss.

So I came home. And now I’m hanging out with the dog, going to add some words to my latest work-in-progress. And later this afternoon, I’ll go pick up the kid, listen to her stories about school, about her friends, about the plans and goals for this upcoming year. I’m going to focus on the living, on the child who’s still here.

And breathe a very large sigh of relief that her glass is still far more than half full.

Tami Lund Headshot 2014

 

Tami Lund is an author, an award winner, a wine drinker, and a grieving mother. Blogging helps with the grieving process, so thanks for reading.

Just When I Think I’ve Got It Together…

There are days when I actually think I have it all together. When I believe I’m managing this new life that was carved for us last year. Sometimes that feeling can go on for a week, even longer.

I made it through our entire family vacation last month, a week during which we hang out with my father and my brother and his wife and kids. We rent a cottage on a lake, the more remote the better, and we just forget about real life for a while. It’s a tradition we started shortly after my son was born, and have reenacted every year since.

Not a single tear leaked from my eye that week. I admit, I was surprised. Pleasantly surprised, because I gotta admit, this grieving business sucks. It’s really frustrating how the dead manage to control the lives of the living. I never gave that thought much consideration until last year, when I was slapped in the face with my son’s death.

The entire next week after vacation was fine, too. Well, it sucked, but that had nothing really to do with my son and more to do with the fact that vacation was over, and as always happens when you escape reality for seven glorious days, you get to play catch up for the next one to two weeks. Not that I won’t do it again next year. Or the one after that, and that, and that…

And everything was going along swimmingly, and I actually thought the words, Maybe I’m finally there. That place where I have my life back, where each day is not marred by the nightmare of losing a child. No one has ever told me that place exists; conversely, those who have been through this agony, who have many more years’ experience than me, say it doesn’t. The pain never goes away, the memories never stop haunting you, the cloud of grief never stops hovering over every single little aspect of your day-to-day life.

I don’t know why I forgot that. Because when you forget and then it slaps you back to your newly forged reality, it’s almost worse than when you’re working through it moment by moment, day by day.

Yesterday was that day. I was punched in the face with my own personal reality, or as I affectionately call it, hell. I was scrolling through Facebook like any normal, redblooded human being, when I clicked a link. I should have known better, but that’s what those articles are for, right? To lure you in, to sell you whatever the author’s cooking.

In this case, it was about a woman who was getting married. A woman who lost her own son, and she’d donated his organs upon his death (we did the same thing – now there’s a call you don’t anticipate dealing with literally hours after your kid dies, while you’re still reeling from the fact it actually happened). And as people tend to do at weddings, she wanted to acknowledge him, to pay homage to his memory. So she left an empty seat at the front of the ceremony, and there was a sign propped there, something about her love for her deceased child, I think.

And then a man she didn’t recognize walked down the aisle. A stranger, but not really, because her son’s heart beat in his chest. The man’s presence was a surprise, contrived by her fiancé.

And much like I am doing now, I sat on my back porch and cried.

Here’s the article, if you want to cry too: SCARY MOMMY BLOG POST

I cried for that mother’s loss as well as my own. Cried because life is so very unfair, and while that man was able to live, that woman lost a son, and why can’t we have both scenarios? Why do we have to choose? Or possibly worse, why is the choice taken from us? I didn’t get to decide whether my son lived. He made that choice, and now I have to figure out how to live with it.

I don’t have answers (obviously) and I don’t expect you to either. They’re rhetorical questions, of course. The thoughts that run through a grieving mother’s mind. The wishes, the envy over those who still have their babies.

Later that same day, I came across a neighbor’s son while walking my dog. He and my son were friends, went to school together, were only two months apart in age. Now he looks like a man. I had the ridiculous (or maybe not?) urge to rush up the driveway and pull him into a hug. He probably would have let me, even though he would have thought, Holy crap, she’s going off the deep end. And maybe I am. There are still days I walk around in a fog a lot of the time.

I didn’t rush the poor kid. I smiled and waved and kept walking. Back to my house, my life. This not-so-new-anymore reality.

Hopefully tomorrow it will go back to one of those days when it feels all right, when I feel like I have a grasp on this life I’m trying so damn hard to enjoy.

Hopefully.

Tami Lund Headshot 2014

Tami Lund is an author, wine drinker, award winner, and grieving mother. It makes her feel a teeny bit better to blog about her crazy, fucked up life.

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