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.

Back to School Blues…Not This Time

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

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

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

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

She’s not him.

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

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

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

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

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

Tami Lund Headshot 2014

 

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

Grief Gone Public

I recently read a blog post about a family who wrote an obituary calling out bullies. The obituary was for a teenager who had committed suicide.

Here’s the post (which includes the obit) from a blog called For Every Mom: http://foreverymom.com/family-parenting/sadie-riggs-obituary-is-going-viral-and-we-all-need-to-read-it-to-our-kids/

I spotted it in my Facebook feed and I hovered, considered whether I wanted to delve into this world I try on a daily—minutely—basis to avoid/forget/ignore.

I scrolled past. I came back. I hovered some more. And finally, I took a deep breath and clicked the link. And afterward, I closed it, shut down my phone, and went about my day, pretending I wasn’t thinking about what I just read.

About making sure your kids are aware of, understand the consequences of bullying, of suicide. The article cried out for all parents to talk to their kids about such important, life-altering matters.

Let’s be honest: My daughter has been slapped in the face with suicide. She understands better than the vast majority of kids her age what it feels like when someone close to you chooses that path in life—rather, to end their far-too-short life in such a way. She watches her parents, her grandparents, our friends, aunts, uncles, everyone around us struggle with managing the fall out created by suicide. It’s been fifteen months, and we still deal with it, some of us still haven’t fully accepted it, and all of us wish on a daily basis our lives—his life—had not taken that sharp curve that occurred when my son decided ending his life was the most optimal answer at that moment in time.

I feel reasonably certain this will not be my daughter’s first choice—or even on the list of options—in the eventual likelihood of her life becoming seemingly too tough to handle at some point down the line.

But that’s just her. What about other kids, the ones who were my son’s friends, or any child who has ever experienced something so difficult they are seriously contemplating a choice that has consequences that can never, ever be undone?

For the record, we have no idea why my son made such a monumental, earth-shattering, and incredibly wrong decision that day a little over a year ago. We have no proof bullying was involved. During the week after it happened, other parents from his school went online, screamed bullying, called the local media, and attempted to pull together a rally or picket line at the school to protest … what, I’m not sure.

Can schools do more to be on the look out for bullying? Yes. Can parents? Yes. Can everyone? Yes.

We can also conserve more water, eat better, spend more time at home and less at work … the list goes on. No one is perfect, and everyone can do something better.

Do I believe my son was bullied to death? No.

Am I being naïve or living in denial? Possibly.

What we do believe, in retrospect, which really sucks, because damn, if only we’d acknowledged these things a year, a month, an hour earlier…what we do believe is that he suffered from mental illness. Depression, maybe. Probably. Likely. There definitely were demons in his head. Loud, obnoxious, insistent monsters who convinced him they were right over all the people around him, people who loved him, who only wanted the best for him. Who wanted him to hang out on this earth for far more than thirteen pitifully short years.

Once upon a time, he was an easy-going baby. Took to breast-feeding with ease. Slept through the night before I went back to work. Smiled a lot. Was incredibly smart, super happy. I remember someone—no idea who—warned me that if he was an easy baby, he’d be a difficult teen.

Oh, were they ever right.

I’m pretty sure it started in fourth grade, but was definitely in full swing by fifth. And controlled his life by seventh, which is when the demons finally won.

Those bastards.

The anger. The misery. The refusal to be talked down once he’d worked himself up over something incredibly small or petty or insignificant. In November, 2015, four months before he’d make true on his words, during a heated argument with his dad and me, he screamed, “I wish I could kill myself.” Furious at such a horrible proclamation, we sent him to his room, told him he couldn’t come out again until he was reasonable. We didn’t know that to the demons whispering in his head, that was reasonable.

We thought he was being an angsty teenager, and we event said we couldn’t wait for him to outgrow this phase, so he’d be fun to be around again.

But he never outgrew it, and those asshole demons won. Somehow, some way, they convinced him he’d be better off—we’d be better off—without him.

They were wrong. And now it’s too late to convince my son, to somehow figure out how to prove it to him.

But it’s not too late for you, if you’re reading this. I have no idea how to shut up those demons—whether external or internal—but I do know what this world will be like if you let them talk you into leaving it.

It will suck. So much more than it does right now.

So talk to someone. Anyone. While I don’t know how to fix it, I know there are experts who can. Talk. To. Someone. And most importantly: Keep living. You’ll be glad you did.

I promise.

If you need them, here are a few options. I do not condone any over the other. I’m just giving you choices, because the demons aren’t right.

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org

https://afsp.org

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/suicide-prevention/index.shtml

http://www.sprc.org

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/suicide-prevention/suicide-prevention.htm

 

 

 

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

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.

 

Tea and Tissues and Middle School

When my children started kindergarten, the principal of their elementary school hosted an event called “Tea and Tissues.” Each year on the first day of school, parents of kindergarteners dropped their kids in their classroom and then made their way to the library, where the principal had coffee and tea and cookies and tiny packages of tissues waiting. She would greet the parents, joke about how hard the first day of school was, and reassure us she would take excellent care of our babies. She then read a book to us, something along the lines of parents letting their children fly free, I think, and then she sent us on our merry way, tears dried, emotions in check, comfortable in the knowledge that even though they were now in someone else’s care, they would be fine, likely blossom even.

I wish middle school had “Tea and Tissues.”

Today is the day. Monday, August 22, 2016. My daughter’s first day of school. First day of middle school. First day at a new school, in a new school system. First time she’s gone back to school before Labor Day. First time she’s gone back… alone. As the only one. First time she’s been the first to experience something.

That’s a lot of firsts. And I’m a hot mess because of it.

Will she like her new school? Will the other kids like her? Will she make new friends? Will she find her classrooms? Will someone help her figure things out? Will she remember she has lunch money in her backpack? Is her uniform correct? Did we buy the right shoes? The right supplies? Did will complete the mounds of paperwork correctly?

Will any of these kids, these new classmates know what happened back in March? Will they remind her, ask her about it? This is what we are trying to avoid by sending her to a new school.

Almost as bad, though, will they have no idea and say unintentionally hurtful things, about suicide, brothers, life?

I dropped her off this morning, both of us nervous, but her fairing much better than me. After she waved and walked into the gym to join her classmates for the first assembly of the year, I walked out to my car and sat in the parking lot and cried. Luckily, I’d parked far out, so there wasn’t much foot traffic, many people to give me curious looks. Although few of these people know me yet, so perhaps they assumed my child was a kindergartener, and I was sending her off to school for the first time ever.

Now I’m back home, and it’s time to start the workday. There is nothing I can do for the next seven hours except worry. And wait. I won’t know anything until two-thirty this afternoon, when I pick her up from her first day of middle school.

I think I need some tea. And more tissues.

 

The Truth About Elementary School Graduation

It’s official. My daughter has graduated from elementary school and will move on to middle school in the fall. The hoopla is over. The excitement, the thrill, the celebration….

The sadness. The marrow deep, incredibly-painful sadness.

It’s been a rough couple of weeks. And I’ll be honest: the anticipation was worse than the actual events. Which, I suppose, is probably best. It allowed me (us) to enjoy what is supposed to be a joyful, celebratory moment in life.

But yeah, a week ago, I wasn’t feeling particularly celebratory, and neither was the almost-middle schooler. For obvious, and maybe not so obvious reasons.

On the surface, it’s scary, right? Leaving the security of elementary school, all the teachers and the principal and the friends you’ve known for practically your whole life. Because even though most of you are probably going to the same school next year, it’s a big, giant school and the likelihood of you all being in the same classes—or even the same lunch period—are pretty damn slim.

It’s something new, something different. Growing up. Changing classes every fifty-five minutes. Puberty. Crushes. Fitting in. Caring about what you wear—what others wear or do or say. It’s a whole new world.

Yeah, on the surface, the transition from elementary school is huge, and scary, and exciting and so many conflicting emotions all wrapped up in an utterly un-tidy bundle.

And that’s for the “typical” elementary school graduate.

Now, let’s add the fact that your older brother passed away three months ago. And said older brother was in middle school. And you’ve lived in his shadow for your entire life, which, frankly, you were okay with, because you knew no different. In fact, you kinda liked not being in the spotlight.

And let’s add to that the fact that your parents panicked over your brother’s death and enrolled you in an entirely different school from the one he had been attending—the one you expected to go to—the one “all” your friends are attending.

And let’s layer that with your own grief, and the fact that you are not even remotely over your brother’s death—not that you ever will be—but you haven’t fully grieved, haven’t fully accepted the fact that he’s gone, really, truly, forever gone. And now you have no one’s shadow to hide in, and now you are the center of attention. Everyone’s paying attention to you, watching your every move, analyzing, agonizing, worrying, stressing—and telling you how awesome and amazing you are for the way you’ve “dealt with” your tragic loss.

So now you feel like you have to be perfect, and not cry, and not act out, and not… be yourself. Because suddenly you don’t even know who the hell you are, because you’ve lost an incredibly important aspect of you, and you have no idea how to deal or fix or move on or whatever the hell you’re supposed to do when someone you hold dear dies.

Yeah, that transition from elementary school to middle school sucks, doesn’t it?

 

 

Tami Lund Headshot 2014

 

Tami Lund writes romance, drinks wine, and occasionally writes emotionally-stark blog posts.

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