The Ups and Downs of the Holidays (and Life)

Sometimes I scroll through my own Facebook page, as I’m sure many (Someone? Anyone? Bueller?) of you do. And each time, I think, holy shit, my friends must think that therapy I’ve been going to on the reg for heading toward three years now isn’t helping much.

Because my Facebook page sure does seem… quirky. Here’s a sampling:

Funny post.

Funny post.

Post with a bunch of pics from some family thing.

Funny post.

Depressed post.

Funny post.

Depressed post.

Post with family pics.

Funny post.

Funny post.

Etc.

Seriously, *I* sometimes wonder if I’m possibly bipolar when I look at my own page. And I am not in any way, shape, or form minimizing individuals who truly live this disorder. Here’s one definition of bipolar struggles:

“Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.

There are four basic types of bipolar disorder; all of them involve clear changes in mood, energy, and activity levels. These moods range from periods of extremely “up,” elated, and energized behavior (known as manic episodes) to very sad, “down,” or hopeless periods (known as depressive episodes). Less severe manic periods are known as hypomanic episodes.”

(taken from the National Institute of Mental Health website: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/bipolar-disorder/index.shtml)

For the record, this is a very serious disorder that can be managed with proper care and a hell of a lot of work on the diagnosed individual’s part. It is something people struggle with on a daily, sometimes minutely basis, and it is not to be taken lightly.

While my blog post will contain attempts at humor (because that’s how I deal with life’s challenges), that is exactly what it is: my attempts at dealing with the challenges that have turned my life upside down and sideways and backwards and perhaps you (hopefully) understand why I jest??

Okay, so let’s get back to my train of thought before I lose it….

Here’s what happened. I dragged those bins up from the basement. You know the ones. The ones that contain The Christmas Stuff.

Yeah, those bins.

Ornaments. Decorations. Stockings.

Memories.

Memories.

Memories.

Hang on – I need to go sob and then blow my nose; I’ll be back in a minute….

Okay, anyway, for those who have recently discovered the Tami Lund Show, back in 2016, my life, which was pretty steady and unencumbered by any real craziness, took a turn. Like a sharp, jarring, unexpected fork in the road turn.

Have you ever experienced that while in the car? Like, you’re driving along, daydreaming, doing all the right things (using your blinker, NOT succumbing to that ‘zipper’ bullshit, not being an asshole and cutting people off…), and all of a sudden the one-lane road you’re on just, well, ends.

Literally.

And you slam on the brakes and stare at the DEAD END sign and you think, What the fuck do I do now?

Yeah, that’s it. That’s what happened to my life on March 15, 2016.

That’s when my son died.

Just to put this blog post in perspective.

 

Anyway…

 

So back to the whole up and down issue. That’s exactly what happens when you experience grief. When someone close to you dies.

God forbid, your child. (If I could eliminate this club all together, that would be my greatest wish in the world. Fuck world peace; just don’t let any children die. And yeah, I get that this will also literally create world peace.)

One of your parents.

Your spouse.

Your sibling.

Your best friend. (Nope, sorry, you can’t go first…)

Anyone to whom you have an emotional attachment.

Anyone. It really doesn’t matter if they are blood related or a pet; if you are emotionally vested in that individual’s life, you will experience grief if they die before you do. That’s how it works.

And grief SUCKS.

Sorry, let me make that more clear:

S.U.C.K.S.

Grief. Sucks.

It’s the worst part of being human.

Not joking here.

It’s taking that DEAD END and turning it into a human being. (Or your pet, because I get it, peeps, I do. The dog who had been part of our family since almost exactly one year prior to my son’s birth went over that Rainbow Bridge only a few months before my son left us for that next world. I. Get. It.)

And here’s the part of grief they don’t tell you about (actually, they do, but when you’re in the throes, you can’t even imagine…): You carry on.

Life doesn’t give a flying fuck what you’re going through.

Blizzard. Hurricane. Tornado. Wild Fire.

Unexpected death.

Life carries on.

And if you’re part of it, you will too.

It sucks SO HARD in the beginning. I mean, you will want to curl up in a ball and just cry away the pain.

Or, more accurately, BRING THEM BACK.

But that’s not how life works.

Yes, yes, life is an asshole – let’s make that perfectly clear right now.

Life doesn’t give a shit.

You are the only one who can give a big enough shit to actually carry on through all the horrible, terrible, absolutely outrageous pain and heartache that you will be forced to endure.

Bonus that it wasn’t even of your own doing. It just happened to you. Not your choice.

And yet, now you get to figure out how to…deal.

So how does that happen, exactly?

Well, first off, there is no exact recipe.

Yeah, for you control freaks (like myself), get ready. This is a roller coaster that is not only about to derail, but it’s going to shoot you into the fucking stars and just when you think it’s all peaceful and shit, it’s going to yank you back to reality. And you’re going to blink rapidly and think, WTF? And then it’s going to jerk you around some more and twirl you seemingly endlessly for a few seconds (but they’ll feel like years, maybe even a lifetime or two or ten), and then drop you back into reality again.

And spin, repeat, continue…

Yeah. That’s grief. Over and over. Endless happy-sad-happy-sad-happy-sad-fuckimfeelingsadwhyisittakingsodamnlongtomoveon-happy-shithereitcomesagainhopefullyitsquickthistime-happy-happy-happy-happy-goddamnitreallywhyisthisstillsodamnhard-happy-happy-ifuckinghatelife-happy-happy-happy….

Will this ever end????

I really do hate to be the bearer, but, yeah, it’s what you think.

Nope.

It doesn’t end.

I mean, I don’t know for certain because it’s only been not-quite-three-years, but there are (unfortunately) plenty ahead of me who can attest: yeah, it doesn’t end.

Does it get easier?

Yes.

Not that ‘easier’ isn’t without its own trauma.

I remember, at some point in the last year, sitting on my therapist’s couch, sobbing almost hysterically, while I said, “I’m afraid I’m forgetting him.”

Why did I say such a thing? Because life had been going along all nice and peaceful and normal for an extended period of time, and I thought, hey, I’m getting the hang of this, this new life with my new three-person family, and like fireworks set off next to a dog, it hit me why I even had such thoughts and why they were so significant, and then I cried and thought, thank God I have a therapy appointment soon.

And you know what she said?

“Yep, this sucks. Grief sucks. Every single step sucks. But no matter what happens, how you figure out how to deal, you will never forget him.”

It’s just the “good” eventually outweighs the “bad.”

But the “bad” is still there. It’s a fucking smog, hovering over every single little thing you do. You can’t wipe it away. You can’t wish it away. It sucks, and it’s so. Hard. To. Deal. With.

Luckily, as time grinds along, the “bad” moments happen less frequently, or at least, they are less impactful, most of the time. They almost become part of the landscape.

Yep. It’s time to celebrate [insert life event here], and yeah, it’s without my loved one who died, but it’s still important and wonderful and each year that passes, I’m able to enjoy more, weep less.

That’s what’s happening to me. Generally.

Unfortunately, the big things, the important milestones, the traditions, still hurt. Time won’t stop that. Sometimes it’s still this excruciating pain, heart sliced wide open hurt.

Christmas. Yeah, that one still aches almost as badly as that first year, when I was still in denial, still expecting him to come walking down the hall at any moment.

Still wanted to believe he was alive.

And that’s what happened this weekend. Opening the Christmas bins. Seeing the stocking. The placemat he made for Santa, on which we were supposed to place the plate of cookies. The homemade ornaments and decorations. The memories that hit like an actual, physical force when I popped off that rubber top, for some reason, momentarily forgetting how. Fucking. Hard. This. Is.

Holy shit.

Yeah, life sucks right now. Like, exponentially.

But then this afternoon my husband suggested we go run errands before picking up the daughter from her friend’s house. And we talked about the fact that the lease on my car is up soon and what type we should consider next. And we bought stocking stuffers for the daughter. And he decided what he wanted to make for dinner, suggested one of my favorite wines to go with it. So we stopped at the grocery store.

And when we got home, I walked the dog. The husband will make dinner soon. We’ll harass our daughter about homework and remind her to take a shower. We’ll sit around the dining room table and exchange insults and jokes and do those regular, day-to-day things that suddenly seem so much more important than they did three years ago…

And we’ll smile. And laugh. And I’ll think:

I am so grateful for what I have.

Left.

Because I am.

Not that I’ll ever forget what we’re missing. It’s just that I’m figuring out how to balance the two.

A task I’ll continue to work on for the rest of my damn life.

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.

Suicide is Not the Coolest Way to Die

I get it; you’re depressed.

Okay, no I don’t. I admit, I’ve never felt that way. I’ve never been in that deep, dark pit, so far down you can’t even see the light, let alone convince yourself it still exists … somewhere. I’ve never felt like everyone in the entire world was against me, that it will never, ever get better, and the absolute best choice of the myriad around me is to end it all. To leave this world. Because I’ll be better off; everyone will be better off.

I don’t know how that feels. But I know how it feels to be the one you left behind.

I know what it feels like to receive a phone call that cannot possibly, by any remote stretch of the imagination be true. I know what it feels like to stare at your dead child’s body, dressed in his nicest shirt and tie, lying in a ridiculously overpriced casket we bought two days prior and that’s about to head to the fiery oven at the local cremation company.

I know what it’s like to get a call only a few hours after your child killed himself, asking if you’d be willing to donate his organs to someone who is still alive, who gets to keep on living, whose parents still get to hug their son or daughter. Joke with them. Talk with them. Love them.

And I know what it’s like to tell that person that I cannot possibly make this decision right now because I haven’t even accepted that he’s actually dead. And then they tell you how sorry they are but the organs are only viable for a certain length of time and as difficult as it is, this gets to be the very first in a long list of extremely hard and far too real decisions you have to make over the course of an incredibly short timeframe.

I know what it’s like to be a control freak planner who hands over every possible decision to the funeral director and the priest because there are some choices that are impossible to make when you’re the mother of a dead child and it’s bad enough you actually have to be there, to participate in the ritual of burying your own son. No, I do not care what song you play at the funeral. I’m not even supposed to be here.

I know what it’s like to walk through a room full of rows upon rows of coffins, and have to select the one your son will be laid out in, will be cremated in. I know what’s it’s like to choose one of them, to have that surreal conversation with your husband, in which you actually say the words, “It’s a beautiful casket. It suits him.”

I know what it’s like to greet people for eight straight hours—except for those few minutes you sneak out to the parking lot to drink wine straight from the bottle—greeting people you don’t know, people you haven’t seen in forever, people you love to see and wish you could actually hang out with without this shroud of sadness hovering right behind you.

I know what it’s like to have someone you don’t know sidle up to you and say, “So, tell me how it happened.”

I know what it’s like to watch helplessly while your husband, your father, your brother, your best friend break down in tears because goddamn it, it’s real and how the hell did something like this happen to us, our family?

I know what it’s like to ask why a thousand times a day, every day. I know what it’s like to ask what if just as frequently. Possibly more. What it’s like to relive that day, that week, over and over and over until you almost crave that moment when you get to die so you can see him again.

I know what it’s like to wish and wish and wish and then lose faith because wishes don’t come true. I know what it’s like to live your life without a piece of your heart. It used to walk around on the outside; now it walks around in heaven. At least I hope that’s where it is.

I know what it’s like to experience happiness, only to have the tainted memory of the son I lost slap that happiness out of the way. I know now that I will never again experience pure, unadulterated joy. Every significant event, moment, situation, every single aspect of my life will be clouded with the memory of what I had, what I lost, what I can never ever get back.

My son.

So yes, you’re depressed, and it sucks. And I don’t know how to help you, other than to tell you there are a ton of professionals who have spent a fair portion of their lives studying how to make you better, who might possibly be able to shed some light—literally. Give you some light, some hope, a reason to keep plugging along, to try to find that sweet spot, that place where it isn’t quite as bad as the demons make it out to be.

And if nothing else, think about the people you will leave behind. The ones you think will be better off. And read this post again, and tell me how much better off they will be.

Tami Lund Headshot 2014

 

Tami Lund. Author. Wine drinker. Award winner. Depressing blogger. But that’s how she gets through life. How she brings you the fabulous happily ever afters she provides as often as life allows.

 

 

Living With Grief

It’s Sunday morning. I’m stretched out on the couch wearing comfy pajamas, a super soft fleece blanket draped over my legs. It’s dark outside, a rainy, overcast day. There’s no one else awake at the moment. I’m trying to write a book, but every time I glance up from the laptop, my gaze focuses on a family pic, one that includes my son.

It’s been nearly two weeks since I’ve felt the waves of grief crashing over me. Admittedly, it’s been nice. Grieving is exhausting and if I’m really being honest here, I’m kind of sick of doing it. I’m not foolish; I know it will never go away, but I do welcome that time when it doesn’t encompass my life, when it isn’t a major player in every moment of every day. That will happen at some point, won’t it?

It’s coming again, though. I can feel it. That lurch in my chest on Saturday as I dusted the mantel, over which a gorgeous black and white pic of my two children hangs. I think they were five and two or maybe six and three in that picture. Her arms are thrown around his shoulders and they’re both smiling, so obviously happy. Like at that moment, they knew they had their whole lives ahead of them–together–and in general, it was gonna be positive. It’s amazing how swiftly such an outlook can change, isn’t it?

My daughter is starting to talk about her brother with more frequency lately. I know this is good, because I know she’s still grieving too, and she’s struggling to figure out how to get on in this world in a capacity she never, ever expected: as an only child. I know she’d sure as hell rather not have that status. Besides wanting her brother back, she doesn’t like having all the attention focused on her, plus I know she feels this new sense of obligation to be “good” for the sake of her parents’ sanity. So not fair to her. To any of us.

But it’s hard, so very hard. I’m not there yet; I can’t talk about the good times, the memories. I can’t look at the pictures for more than a moment.

Two of my nieces spent the night this weekend, and I pulled out his bike so they could all go bike riding. Just cleaning it up; greasing the chain, putting air in the tires, wiping off the dusty seat was hard, because it makes me remember. His birthday, when we gave him that bike. His surprise and elation; it hadn’t been what he was expecting, but he’d been thrilled. We’d nailed the birthday gift that year.

And now we have an extra bike taking up space on the back porch.

Even though one of my nieces is the tallest and therefore would have been most comfortable on his bike, my daughter claimed it as her own. She does that; what’s his is now hers, and she’s not really interested in sharing. I get it, although I’m not like that. I’ve been more inclined to throw things away—because what the hell am I going to do with them?—whereas she collects mementos, physical reminders of the memories. I don’t begrudge her this, nor was I about to suggest she let the taller girl ride his bike. Those seats adjust, and mine worked just as well for my niece.

And then they were off, riding up and down the street, armed with sweatshirts to protect them against the slight nip in the spring air. Enjoying themselves, the comradery. Life. The way kids should.

 

Tami Lund Headshot 2014

 

Tami Lund writes books, drinks wine, wins awards, writes blogs, and occasionally sends cool newsletters. Signup here: http://www.subscribepage.com/Tami_Lund

When your kid commits suicide, you spend a lot of time wondering what if…

What if you’d left work early that day?

What if you’d called/texted and asked him to walk the dog?

What if you’d called/texted and asked if he picked his sister up from the bus stop?

What if you’d called/texted and asked what he wanted for dinner?

What if the dog had realized what was going on and barked incessantly?

What if, four months prior, when he’d gotten so angry he shouted, “I wish I was dead!” you’d sent him to counseling, instead of told yourself, “He’s being an angsty teenager. This will pass.”

What if you’d been a better parent?

What if you’d figured out how to be a stay-at-home-mom?

What if you’d kept going after undergrad, so you had a better job and more flexibility, so you could be there for him more frequently? Or less frequently?

What if you’d waited another six months to start trying?

What if you’d only stopped at one?

What if you’d not allowed him to close his bedroom door when you were home?

What if you’d insisted on more frequent family dinners?

What if you’d pushed him harder to join clubs/sports/anything?

What if you’d asked more questions about school/life/friends/anything? What if you’d not given up when he said, “Fine?”

What if you’d let him play “mature” video games sooner? Or later?

What if you’d lived in a different city? Different state?

What if he had different friends?

What if you hadn’t yelled at him that one time four years ago? Or two days prior?

What if you’d encouraged him more often? Or less often?

What if his math grade hadn’t dropped to a B the week before? What if you hadn’t made such a big deal about it when he made all A’s? What if you didn’t make a big enough deal about it?

What if you’d insisted he practice more frequently, so he made first or second chair in jazz band?

What if you were a better athlete growing up, and maybe more likely to pass those genes onto him?

What if you and your husband expressed more affection? Or less?

What if you’d said “I love you” one more time?

What if you’d figured out how to make his sister less annoying (in his eyes)?

What if you had been aware of any possible bullying going on in his school?

What if it had occurred to you to send him to a different school?

What if there had been signs?

What if you didn’t realize there were signs?

And on and on and on and on … This is what suicide victims leave behind. This is what their parents go through every single day, from the moment it happens, for the rest of their lives. This is what their aunts and uncles, grandparents, cousins go through every day. This is what every adult who played any sort of role in that kid’s life goes through every day. This is what their friends struggle with, as they try to maneuver through this fucked up life, made a thousand times worse when they lose a comrade in arms.

Every. Single. Day.

For the rest of their lives.

If you think suicide is the answer to your problems, you’re wrong. Those demons in your head aren’t real. We are. And we care. So. Damn. Much.

#dontdoit

March Is Madness, But I’ll Be Okay…Eventually

It’s March. The worst month of the year. Which isn’t a fair assessment, generally speaking. March means spring, warm weather is coming. My dad’s birthday is in March; so is my husband’s and several other friends. St. Patrick’s Day. March Madness. Daylight Savings Time.

And my son died on March 15th, last year.

It’s weird. I cannot tell you what I did day by day, in these two weeks leading up to The Worst Day of My Life, but right now, every single day, I relive those few moments when it happened, over and over, a video stuck on repeat and I can’t figure out how to shut it off.

The exact moment when the call came through, as I was driving home from work. My daughter’s breathless voice blaring out of the speaker in the car. “Mom, Brady tried to kill himself!”

Me, instantly annoyed. “That’s not funny. Not even remotely. Don’t ever tell jokes like that again.”

Her, insisting she wasn’t kidding, then telling me to hurry up and get home, and then hanging up on me. My heart, starting to pound uncomfortably fast, even as I immediately began to tell myself it wasn’t true, it was a sick joke, and oh boy, was she going to be in trouble when I got home.

But I started calling anyway. Called the house phone, my husband’s cell, the neighbor whose kids were at my house at the time. No one answered. My heart rate increased, I almost felt like I couldn’t breathe. And I still kept telling myself it wasn’t true. It was a joke. A horrible, horrible joke.

My husband finally called back, and my greeting was, “What’s going on? Reagan called and said Brady tried to commit suicide. What the hell is she talking about?”

“She’s right,” he said. “Hurry up and get here.”

“What?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know why. Just get home.”

“Is he…”

“I don’t know. The ambulance just left, took him to the hospital. I’m waiting on you, so we can go together. The neighbors have Reagan. Just get here.”

And then the line went dead. Just like my son. My entire life, altered forever, in a way that can never be fixed. Death is rather permanent; the one aspect of life we can’t fix or change or get back.

So if I seem a little out of sorts these next couple weeks, I hope you’ll forgive me. Like every other aspect of grieving so far, I don’t really know how to handle this, as it’s my first time going through it. His birthday was, thus far, the hardest day since his death, but I have a feeling March 15 will be even worse, at least this year. As it turns out, the pain of losing your child is substantially worse than the pain of bringing them into this world. This pain never goes away, because everything went away that day.

So be patient, bear with me. I’ll be back to normal in a few weeks. At least, this new version of normal.

 

Tami Lund Headshot 2014

Tami Lund is an author of books with happy endings, and a blogger of depressing real-life subjects. She also drinks a lot of wine, but I’m sure you’ll agree that can be forgiven. After her blog post makes you cry, I recommend trying one of her books, to lift your spirits again. Because that’s why she writes: To make you smile, and help us all escape reality for a while.

 

Confessions of a Mom Who Doesn’t Know What the Hell She’s Doing

Yeah, that’s me. Let me paint a picture…

Once upon a time, I had two kids. Despite the lack of a manual and the never-ending advice from everywhere—little that was repeated, and never knowing what was right—I thought I was doing okay. My kids were healthy, getting good grades, had friends, people generally seemed to like them. They shifted from helpless babies to temperamental toddlers to finicky school-aged kids to…

Ten months ago, when he was thirteen, my son committed suicide. No warning, no note, no drugs, no bullying, no idea what happened, other than we (now) believe he had demons in his head that no one else was aware of, and those demons managed to convince him that we would be better off without him in our lives.

Fucking demons.

And now I have one. An eleven-year-old daughter.

So now I reeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaalllllyyyyy think I don’t know what the hell I’m doing with this whole parenting gig. I mean, like I’m starting over from scratch, except I’ve been handed a girl on the verge of her teenage years instead of a helpless baby that needs care and molding.

My daughter is beautiful and funny and smart and is as emotional as my husband. To put it into perspective, the dog has a wider emotional range than the two of them. Not that they don’t have emotions; they just don’t express them.

So here I am, a highly emotional basket case on my best days, desperate to ensure my daughter experiences no more pain in her life—ever. I know, I know, it’s an impossible feat, but losing a kid does things to you. It makes you even more protective of the one you have left. It makes you try a thousand times harder to keep a smile on her face, and it makes you ache a million times worse when she’s unhappy—even when she’s insisting “it’s nothing” because goddamn it, I know it’s something. People aren’t unhappy for the hell of it. Okay, maybe they are, but she isn’t. And, frankly, we used to think my son was unhappy for no good reason, and that when he cleared those angsty teenage years, he’d be A-OK again, but obviously there were other things going on, things we missed. And every single moment my daughter isn’t utterly content with life, I have a bone-deep fear that she too shares those demons who took my son.

And I can’t let them take her, too. She’s all I have left.

Yes, I know this fear is irrational, but being irrational makes it no less real. And yes, I know it’s unlikely my daughter will walk that same path—after experiencing the pain of such a loss first hand, I can’t imagine she would ever let those demons win, if they even exist in her head, which is doubtful. Generally, she’s far too cheerful for demons to hang out in her subconscious.

Which is why it’s so damn poignant when she isn’t happy.

So then I try to goad her into telling me what’s wrong, and she keeps insisting it’s “nothing,” and I try harder, and she clams up more tightly. And then I’m frustrated and sad and trying really damn hard not to cry, because a) nothing, not even my goading makes her shut down faster than when I cry; and b) because it isn’t her fault her brother died and now her mother wants to cling to her so freaking tightly.

And then I start to worry that I’m going to screw her up somehow with all my emotional baggage, and let’s go back to that whole mom-who-doesn’t-know-what-the-hell-she’s-doing theory.

Because I don’t. And that scares the crap out of me. Even though 99.9% of the time, my daughter is perfectly fine, even-keel; over-the-top cheerful on occasion. Actually, more than on occasion. She’s fine. She isn’t depressed, she isn’t miserable; she doesn’t hate life. Or her parents.

Frankly, she’s probably a pretty normal kid, who I happen to think is rather exceptional. And even if I could convince myself that she really is just… normal, I’d still want to protect her from sadness and misery and anger and any other negative emotion or experience. Because she’s my kid. And that’s what parents do.

Shit, am I normal too?

 

 

Ode to a Best Friend

 

It all started in college.

If I recall correctly, we met, or at least spoke, for the first time at a basketball game, our sophomore year at Centenary College of Louisiana. From there, she became my go-to girl, my wingman, my shoulder to cry on, my compatriot to get drunk and laugh with. She has always given the best advice, and insisted upon meeting my husband prior to giving me permission to get serious with him because she knew damn well how lousy I was at picking guys.

She was my roommate. We were each other’s maids of honor. She was my son’s godmother, and the first person I called after he died. When she got the call, she was at a conference in Indianapolis. The next day, she flew home to Dallas, repacked her bag, got back onto a flight to Detroit, all in one day, and was one of the last to leave when all the funeral insanity was over.

This past weekend, she flew back to Detroit and helped me clean out the room. All the way across the country to clean out a thirteen year old’s dusty, unused bedroom. And we did it. We got through it.

I couldn’t have without her. If she hadn’t come up this weekend, the door would still be closed, the room still untouched. Possibly until my own death, or if we ever decided to move. I mean, there are only three of us now, and we have a basement, which is where guests stay when they visit overnight. We certainly don’t need the space.

But it’s done now. Well, not quite. We still have a few small trinkets to determine whether to keep or throw away, and a pile of computer stuff to figure out whether to sell, donate, or recycle. But the clothes, the bed, the book bag, the old toys and books, the random bits of memorabilia; it’s all gone. The room is mostly empty. And the door now stands open, allowing the sunlight to stream into the otherwise dark, interior hall. This was, in truth, my driving force for cleaning it out in the first place. To have sunlight in a dark place.

It was hard, but not as hard as I expected, at least until we got to that top shelf in the closet. The one where he’d stored his newborn baby blanket in a box, intending to give to his own child someday. He was only six when he made that decision.

That shelf was also where I’d stored the boxes of baby memorabilia, including one my bestie had made for me when he was born. And a journal my mom had been keeping, when she babysat him when he was an infant. Literally, day by day notes of his life.

A life gone far too soon.

There was a “Big Brother” T-shirt up there, too. And a teddy bear that was signed by everyone who’d attended my baby shower. I didn’t even open the box full of homemade gifts from daycare and early elementary school. Seeing, touching the blanket was bad enough.

One more milestone, conquered. Yet another I wished I didn’t have to get through; never dreamed I’d have to.

That was the first day of a four-day weekend. After dropping off a truckload of supplies to the local Salvation Army, we put on pajamas and chilled the wine and relaxed with my husband and daughter; let the sadness slowly recede while we enjoyed excellent food, wine, and company. Especially the company.

And then we spent the rest of the weekend playing. My bestie got to see my daughter’s basketball team win. My parents and in-laws got to see my bestie. My daughter spent the night at a friend’s, so we got to “adult” on Saturday evening, which involved a lot of wine and a few other good friends. Before the night was over, we’d concocted a plan for our next get-together.

On Sunday I took her into the city; she’d never been to Detroit before. We negotiated with a parking attendant, ate at a cool, hip restaurant, visited the riverfront, and took pictures with Canada in the background.

And Monday, before I had to take her to the airport and let her return to her own life, we did one of our favorite “together” activities: we had afternoon tea.

While the purpose for the visit was depressing as hell, it was truly one of the best weekends of my life. And it was all because I have such an amazing best friend.

bffs

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