And the Journey Through Grief Continues…

Since March 15, 2016, I’ve inadvertently explored a wide gamut of emotions, the strongest, of course, being sadness. I’ve been so deep, wallowing so desperately in it that I could almost understand what my son was going through, in his head, when the monsters won and convinced him leaving this life was better than living it.

And then I think, I’ve lost my son and my stepfather, my grandparents, a couple uncles. There are parents who have lost multiple children, kids who have lost their own parents—some have lost both of them. And I think, this is so hard, how could I possibly handle any more?

But someone else did. Someone else does, every single day. And eventually, I will too, because that’s the circle of life.

And we handle it.

It’s hard, so, so hard. There are days—still, two and a half years later—when I can get so caught up in my grief that I can’t focus on anything else.

But most days, now, the grief is secondary. It’s still part of who I am; my son still affects everything I do, but it isn’t the driving force anymore.

The first time I realized that, I took a few steps backward in this grieving process. I felt guilty for “moving on” as people tend to say. (Really, it should be phrased “moving forward.” You don’t move on from something like losing a child, but you do, eventually, move forward and start living your life—your new life.)

I struggled with trying to remember and wanting to forget, and determining where my “new” life fit into the whole mess. It was difficult interacting with my daughter, my husband, my family. I wanted to talk about him but it hurt to do so. Because I wanted him to be here, to experience everything we were going through. To still be alive.

(If ever there is a testament to the importance of grief therapy, you’re looking at her, folks.)

I think I’ve been going through this stage for a while now. At least since spring. The anniversary of his death was difficult, of course, but not as much as I anticipated. My husband, daughter, and I banded together, and while there was a cloak of sadness over the day, we managed a fair share of giggles and smiles as well.

Mother’s Day there were no tears. There were a few at the end of the school year, though. Then summer came, and I’ve been coasting, to be honest. I think about him regularly, daily, many times a day, but I haven’t had that gut-wrenching sadness for a while.

And then we’re at today, the first day of eight grade for my daughter. A first for all of us. She wasn’t supposed to be the first; I should have one starting tenth grade as well. But here we are.

I took the day off work, because I have every first day of school since my son started kindergarten. I took the obligatory first-day-of-school photo, because I have every first day of school since my son started kindergarten.

After dropping my daughter at school, I went to visit my son’s grave, a new tradition I started in 2016.

And I didn’t cry. I stood there for a moment, staring at the boulder with his name and date of birth and date of death and the little burst of fireworks carved into its face. And then I lifted my phone and pulled up the pictures I’d taken a short time earlier. His sister, pretending to be wholly focused on her phone because that’s such a running joke with today’s youth. Her attempts not to laugh, the smirks. The one that looks so much like him.

And I didn’t cry.

Because the life we have is pretty darn good, even though it’s without him. We’ve figured out how to move forward. And the guilt for doing that is finally mostly gone. I’m sure it will surface again periodically, and that’s okay. It’s part of the grieving process. It’s what shapes us as human beings.

I thought about pointing out to my daughter that one of her pics looks just like her brother. And then I decided against it. Because today is her day. She’s an eighth grader now. She’s carving her own path. She isn’t in his shadow anymore.

She’s moving forward.

And of course, now that I’m writing all this down, I’m crying over my keyboard. And that’s okay too, because sometimes, the tears need to flow. They’re cleansing, they allow me to look at the world through a fresh, new filter. Sort of like the landscape that’s covered by morning dew.

And so the grieving process continues… And life, it moves on.

As it should.

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.

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

It’s Been A Pretty Decent Week…So Far

Yes, this is a bit preemptive, given it’s, well, Monday, but I’ve had a pretty decent week so far. Considering the anniversary that’s happening in a couple days, I figure I should take what I can get.

Granted, it didn’t start out fabulously, what with the one-and-a-half hour commute to the day job, slipping and sliding along unsalted and unplowed roads due to early morning snow showers (that lasted all day, by the way – WTF, Mother Nature? Don’t you know it’s almost spring??). But after that, things got better.

Not the weather, though. Actually, it’s still snowing. And while it’s pretty, IT’S MARCH, FOR GOD’S SAKE, MOTHER NATURE! (Also, it sucks to drive in snow. Even if you’ve done it for most of your driving life.)

Let me count the positives, in hopes they hold up against that big, fat negative. Or at least help me get through it…

A sweet text from the bestie. “Going to check up on you over the next couple of days. Fair warning.” No, she’s not a stalker. She just loves me, and knows this is going to be one rough week.

A royalty check in the mail. (A small one, but hey, we’re counting every little positive here.)

A card full of tiny paper hearts from my husband’s bestie (Is it cool to call guys ‘besties’? Or does that make it weird?), with a note that said, “Sometimes life is just bullshit.” So, so true. But friends who send you cards like that are the silver lining.

And the best news of all: My daughter has been invited to apply to become a member of the National Junior Honor Society! I couldn’t be more proud, and the timing couldn’t be better. As sad as this week will inevitably become, I’m celebrating the moment. My wonderful tribe. And my beautiful daughter and her accomplishments. Honestly, I would have been pleased as punch if her brother were still around to share in this joy (he was NJHS too), but I confess, this little thrill is even more impactful now.

I’m sure I’ll be drowning in the sadness in the next couple days, but for now … It’s been a pretty damn decent week.

Tami Lund Headshot 2014

 

Tami Lund is an author who drinks wine, wins awards, and writes happily ever afters. She also sends cool newsletters. You should signup: http://www.subscribepage.com/Tami_Lund

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?

 

 

Who Cries Over Middle School?

It took me a few moments to realize why I was crying on the second day of school. Who cries on the second day of middle school? Hell, most parents don’t cry on the first. Kindergarten, yes. But middle school?

Unfortunately, this situation is anything but normal.

You see, on March 15, 2016, the last time I would ever speak to my son while he was alive, I drove him to school. Middle school. We were in a rush, because he had to be there by 7:15 for jazz band practice, and I was running behind. I pulled up in front of the school and slid the gear into park and said, “Don’t forget to turn in your math homework.”

“Okay.”

“Have a good day. I love you.”

“Love you, too. Bye.”

It was our final goodbye, although I didn’t know it at the time. I cannot tell you how many times since that day I have felt grateful that we weren’t sniping at each other; that I wasn’t upset about something he’d said or done, that he wasn’t mad at me for some parenting thing or another. It had been a normal day, like any other. Until it wasn’t.

Fast-forward five months to today, and we’re rushing to get out the door (largely because my daughter is not and never has been a morning person, one aspect that is 180 degrees different from her brother). As we’re driving down the road, heading to school, she is rearranging the supplies in her backpack while I’m trying to coax her into eating the Pop-Tarts she snagged on the way out the door. I know her; if she doesn’t eat she gets hangry, and they don’t do mid-morning snacks in middle school.

And then we’re at the school, and I’ve pulled up in front and dropped the gear into park. “Have a great day,” I say. “I love you. See you after work.”

“Love you, too. Bye.”

And she’s off, heading toward the building, determined to get to her first class on time. I shift the car into drive and cruise through the parking lot toward the road, and I’m waiting for traffic to clear so I can turn, when the tears start. “Why am I crying?” I say out loud as I dig a tissue out of the console.

That’s when the memory of that day in March hits me.

Other than the first day of school every year, I’ve never driven my daughter to school. She has always taken the bus. I didn’t start driving my son to school until halfway through seventh grade, just a few months before it all ended. He didn’t like his bus driver, and I literally drove past his school every day, so it wasn’t an inconvenience, other than his school started a bit later, so he usually had to wait outside the doors until they would let the students in, because I had to get to work. He insisted he didn’t mind.

Now, my daughter is in a new school, and while it is slightly out of my way to drop her off before heading to work, it’s only a mile or so, and her school starts early, so it works out to be exactly when I would leave for work anyway.

So I get to relive that horrible day in March, every school day, for the foreseeable future. I haven’t told my daughter this, and I don’t plan to (luckily, she doesn’t read my blogs). She doesn’t like it when I cry, so I do my best to hide it from her. My therapist says I shouldn’t, that I should show her it’s okay to cry. But I don’t, because I know how she feels. I hate it when my parents are sad, too. She’s an empathetic girl, almost too much so, and I know my pain causes her pain. Since it’s a pain that will never go away no matter what I do, I see no point in drawing attention to it.

Instead, I’ll tell her I love her every day. And I will strive to never, ever be upset with her when I drop her off for school in the morning.

And I’ll make sure the middle console in my car is stocked with tissues.

 

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