I’ve only had one panic attack that I know of or can remember vividly. It happened less than a week after my son died. I had gone to the kitchen, my husband, daughter and sister were in the den. I don’t remember why I was in the kitchen. We had been trying to watch a movie, because it seemed like something to do. It was a few days before the gathering in our son’s honor. I remember standing near the refrigerator when my pulse started racing and I felt lightheaded and if I had had someplace to run, I would have because the feeling of danger was so close. It is a horrible and frightening feeling. Your body is acting in a way that is not in sync with anything that is physically going on around you. My daughter, son and husband have all had panic attacks. I understand, once they have happened why thy can paralyze you from doing some things for fear they will come again, uncontrolled and debilitating.
Grief is a bit like that. I told my sister yesterday that one of the problems I have is that after a bad day, I find myself dreading the next day when I (may) have to do it all over again. I put the (may) in there because sometimes the day dawns differently. Sometimes you get a little reprieve for a while before you get sucked back down into the grief. I cycle through more quickly at times now. Unfortunately I still have those days, after having had a couple of lighter days when I just can’t escape.
One lady who shares my unfortunate circumstance said to live in the moment. I’ve been mulling that over. The problem is probably, that that is what I have always done. Fairly spontaneous and not worrying nearly enough about minutia as my husband would have me do, I have appeared at times down right cavalier. Stream of consciousness kind of gal. I paint that way too. I figure out what I want to paint, sketch and think about the whole thing, sometimes sleep on it and then boom!
I paint. I let the painting take over. I loose focus on the world around me and I really don’t know where I am.
I haven’t been painting much lately. I use as an excuse that there are a number of framed pieces that need a good home hanging in my studio, and even more -newer pieces – that have not found their way into a mat or frame yet. My husband years and years ago told me I could, if the work did not sell, stack them under the bed. I may have to take him up on that and just get back to the easel for my sanity’s sake.
I used to be able to (pollyanna like) tune out some of the darker news out there in the world. The impotency of loosing a loved one makes you realize how little you can change and influence. Now the news, bombings and senseless death shout at me. The financial state of so many who want to work, who are industrious and capable, yet find themselves in dire straits seems impossible. Political bandaids are offered, people in somber suites and bright ties lay out their plan. It’s just not that easy.
The foundation is shaking. Michael Jackson sang about “The Man in the Mirror” and that is the truth. Motives, abilities, blank honesty about who I am, what I have been, where I am now is pretty hard to face. Time gets by so quickly and good intentions set mutely on the shelf, not speaking at all for the things I “would have done.”
I have to admit, I really hate and conversely am thankful for being made to be aware at this point. The father in “Pride and Prejudice ” waves his hand at his daughter who worries over her father’s time of trial. He slumps in his chair and says and I paraphrase “don’t worry, it won’t last as long as it should.” I have been guilty of moving on quickly too quickly after some things. Things that may have been more important for me to learn something from than I gave credit.
Living in the moment is tough. Trying to not let memory overshadow the moment or anticipation destroy it. I should have practiced more when I was younger.
My son would not want our lives to stop because his did, I assume this, because I would not want other’s lives to stop when my does. Even if someone did want that it is not within their power to make it so – just saying I remind myself, over and over, and my husband too, that because we are not grieving 24/7 does not mean we are dishonoring our son. I have found in the past five months that there is imbedded in each day enough memory triggers that I do not have to dredge anything up. I need to stop dreading them, that is the trick, because the panic attack like grief comes. I need to separate the memory from grief if that is possible, and replace the link with the joy that most of my memories of my son are attached to.
The tears are indistinguishable to the viewer however. Tears of joy can be confused with tears of grief and sometimes they tip over spilling into each other.
The circumstances of the death are hard for parents to get over. Young people involved in car accidents, drug related, violence related, disease related, and the unexplained sudden deaths and suicide. The very instance of the death, how it happened leaves for most of us the unanswered question of why, and why our child? But why anyone? Why anyone that young and so full of promise?Those questions compound our grief, and can take over. It seems cavalier to say, there is nothing I can do about it now. And that is painfully true. There is nothing you can do about the fact the child is gone. I think that lack of control feeds the panic/grief attack.
I am aware of those who have taken that need for the answer to their question and turned it into positive action. Raising money and awareness concerning the dangers that exist out there for children. It is a way of moving forward while honoring the deep connection with their child and their loss. I think for most it takes a while to sort through and decide the direction this should take in their life. For some it becomes their new life. Those that benefit cannot begin to comprehend the cost, but I am so proud of those who choose that route.
I can’t lobby against rock climbing. There are too many people who love the challenge and risk. There are too many companies making money off of the sport and even advertisers have capitalized on the allure in commercials these days. Safety is up to the individual, as much it is up to me to click that seat belt and drive defensively while in my car.
As parents the problem is we don’t always see our children as individuals. They are a part of us. We see ourselves in them and we are surprised when we see nothing that resembles us in them. We, on the day they were born heaped upon that poor helpless being a whole load of hopes and dreams, expectations and anticipation. I don’t know how to lobby to parents to stop that and give the kid some space to be whoever they need to be. It would take reprograming and I don’t know anything about that.
I can’t do anything for my son anymore. Nothing. I miss the doing. I talk to him but as in McGoo’s Christmas Carol, “where is the voice to answer mine back?” I can do things “in his memory” – but that is called living my life as I do in honor of everyone who has made an impact on me.
I try not to overdo for my daughter and her husband. I don’t want to smother them or make them overly dependent. They need to grow together.
Death brings everyone connected to the death to an abrupt halt for a time. Things come into sharp and painful focus. The lack of control probably fuels the panic and grief which so hard to control and can take over where panic left off.
I don’t have any answers. I wrote in my status yesterday on Facebook, “love one another.” I think that is as close to an answer as I will get again today, for my husband and my children, and my neighbors far and wide. I think that was the answer in the first place.