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.

Not So Sweet Sixteen

Dear Brady,

Happy Birthday. You should be sixteen today. We should be going to the DMV to get your driver’s license. You should be a sophomore in high school. I wonder if we would have figured out a way to give you a car for your birthday?

I wonder if you would still be in band. Would you have gone to homecoming a few weeks ago? Would you still be a straight A student? What would you want to do when you grow up, at this point in your life?

We’ll never know. And I need to stop with the what ifs, because all that does is lead down a rabbit hole of misery, and I’m getting better at avoiding that particular path.

Your sister’s doing well. She’s really quite beautiful, and intelligent, and is gaining confidence, although she’s still reserved, still prefers to hide in the background instead of take center stage. Sometimes I wonder if she’s hiding behind your ghost or if this is really, truly the personality she’d have even if you were still here.

I remember one year ago today, writing you a letter and telling you it doesn’t get any easier. But that’s not really the case anymore. It’s been two and a half years since you left us, and we’ve found our routine as a family of three. We’re making it through life, finding joy despite our loss.

You’re always there, of course, a constant reminder in my heart, but I’ve mostly learned to divert my thoughts when those emotional waves start crashing. It’s only fair, right? Just because you died doesn’t mean I should stop living.

Wow, it sounds so selfish when I actually write it down, instead of chant it like a mantra in my head.

I dreamt about you, about eight six or eight weeks ago. I haven’t told many people because I wasn’t handling it very well. It was such an intense dream, so real that I can still describe the red shirt you were wearing, the crooked smile on your face, your mused blond hair.

You had come back, but it was temporary. Like an extra chance to say goodbye, I guess. I knew what was going on, but you didn’t—you didn’t know that you had died or that you were going to leave us again soon—so you didn’t understand why I kept hugging you and couldn’t stop crying.

Suffice to say, it was the hardest day I’ve had in quite a while. I’m not sure what it was about, the reasoning behind it. Lord knows I have zero desire to relive those few days after your death, even though I often do because, well, sometimes you just can’t help thinking about the point when your life took a sharp turn no one saw coming and frankly, no one ever wanted to happen. There’s a logical order to this thing called life, and you threw it all out of whack, and we’re left here to figure out how to journey down this new path. Without you.

It’s only the second time I’ve dreamt about you since you died. The first was a few months after your funeral, and you were a toddler in that dream. That one felt more like a picture show of memories in my head, whereas this one was, well, real.

Except it wasn’t.

So anyway, your birthday is here, the beginning of what used to be my favorite time of year. Your birthday, followed by Halloween, then Thanksgiving, then Christmas. I suppose it still is my favorite time of year, but like everything else in my life now, it’s different. Until you died, I loved the idea of creating traditions, anticipating doing the same thing each year, like pumpkin carving together or hunting for the perfect Christmas tree or taking the annual Christmas morning family pic in our pajamas.

Now I struggle, because I don’t want to give up those traditions, but it hurts to do them; the memories of years past are still too potent. We’ve compromised on a fair number of them, mostly by changing the tradition just enough that it’s similar but not the same.

We’ve started exploring different pumpkin patches and apple orchards than the same one we went to year after year when you were babies. We found a new Christmas tree farm two years ago, too, and actually, I think we are going to try another new place this year. The Christmas morning pic has been a group selfie since you’ve been gone. So while I’m still capturing that memory, it’s more relaxed, goofy even. Just different enough to allow me to get through and even find some joy.

Because, like I remind myself on a daily basis, we’re all still living.

Love Always,

Mom

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

 

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