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.

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.

Not So Much Love For Fall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll never know.

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

I often wonder if it always will.

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s all any of us can do: Try.

Tami Lund Headshot 2014

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

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.

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

What if you’d left work early that day?

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

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

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

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

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

What if you’d been a better parent?

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

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

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

What if you’d only stopped at one?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What if he had different friends?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What if there had been signs?

What if you didn’t realize there were signs?

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

Every. Single. Day.

For the rest of their lives.

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

#dontdoit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What?”

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

“Is he…”

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

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

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

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

 

Tami Lund Headshot 2014

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

 

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

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

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

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

Fucking demons.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shit, am I normal too?

 

 

Ode to a Best Friend

 

It all started in college.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A life gone far too soon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

bffs

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