The season of reason


This is the 5th Christmas season since the death of our son. Something about the numbers five, ten, fifteen and twenty and the milestones they represent taunt those of us who continue to grieve, yearn for and miss our children.
During this year I have felt myself waking up. I don’t mean that I have literally been asleep but parts of me have been. I’ve had a difficult time paying attention in the past five years. There are things that have happened that are documented complete with photographs that startle me a little when I realize “When did we do that?”
One of the things that I have been unaware of is the political state of this country. My son would have kept me on my toes about that. He would have pointed to trends, warning signs and fallacies. He would have held me accountable and questioned my understanding of the issues. He would have been being vocal.
Given the state of things now, I expect he would be applying for citizenship elsewhere.
I am a bit ashamed that I have not honored him by continuing to be alert concerning these issues because though they do not effect him now, they do my daughter and my family and friends.
My son was not overly impressed by the outgoing president. He understood my joy when Mr. Obama was elected but he also understood there is no perfection in any man. I can’t begin to understand the complexity of being commander in chief. There are things in which Mr. Obama has a right to take pride and other things that will be laid as blame at his feet. It is true for every presidency.
I can’t write about my son or family any more without it being cast in the light of what is going on in Washington. I am not a part of a family who has made and inherited millions and billions of dollars so there is no chance for me to make a bid for public office. Even in the most public of arena’s I have a very small voice and very little sway.
I can ,however, go back to the things I learned in civics classes, sociology and philosophy. I can draw conclusions based on the premise that during all these years I have seen played out again and again. That is the premise that “past behavior is a predictor of future behavior.”
I won’t use this page to deride anyone.
I am disappointed in the things a large portion of our nation believes or at lease says they believe by the votes that they cast. I really thought that people had gotten past the color of a person’s skin. I witness that there has been little change in perception concerning gender and objectification of women. There is an oppression going on in places where it seems to be done because of entitlement which is a concept I have never understood. I worry about the environment and support efforts to preserve it – most recently by installing solar panels on our home. I know my son would like that.
I don’t understand the source of the anger that I feel and see. I have been taught that anger is a manifestation of fear. I can’t quench everyone’s fear but if there are words that can be said or things that can be done to help, I am willing to try.
My biggest fear was always that of loosing my children.
After my son died I was angry for a while. Angry at God, angry at the world for being so unaware of the pain of such loss. So you understand why when we are shown the brutality of loss day after day in the news it becomes easier to go back to sleep.
I can’t stop children from dying. Wars, disease, mistreatment, accidents and addictions take control away from us. Being unable to control is the one thing we as parents of loss understand and are frustrated by. Now there are people who are lining up to take active roles in making choices for us that we have no control over either. I truly hope though I doubt that all have good intentions.
So what can I wish for everyone (myself included) this season while many of us mark another year without our child?
I wish that we may stay informed and keep a level head.
I wish that we take nothing for granted, good or bad and that we search out the truth in all things.
I wish that we will take a good hard look at our neighbor and see how at the core we are very much alike and that if we believe in a Creator then we must accept that we were all created in His image- every nation, tribe and people.
I wish that though we cannot bring our children back that we can live a life that would, if they could or can see us, would make them proud.
I love my son and I miss his voice more than ever in this world that needs a voice of calm reason.


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Socially acceptable



When the hard things happen in life – the failures, the losses and defeats- social media has become a spotlight that few can stand in for long. The struggle most of us already have to know the right and polite thing to say gets stretched. We not only want to say the right thing but also want the thing we have said to be judged as good – to get as many “likes” as we can. Our posts have become our vanity plate.
For the hurting, the wounded,the one whose hopes and dreams are now shattered and scattered like dry fall leaves there is the conundrum as to whether it would help to bare their soul or to simply disappear. How does either make them look? And the fact that we worry about how we look in the eyes of others is most disturbing because at times it seems to override all decisions.
The concern about how we look, how we present ourselves is based mostly in facade. The political arena is perhaps the most obvious place, but it happens in our jobs, our schools, our churches and sadly even in our homes. There is nothing wrong with putting your best foot forward or choosing to try and put the best authentic face on something that you can. Social media, however, has become a new gauge of benchmarks. It is a lie.
Social media is subjective. It is driven by the users, their culture, their sense of right and wrong, and their own life experiences. Who has not cringed when they have heard the words they hated coming out of other’s mouths now coming out of their own and to make it worse they are typing them and inflicting them on others.
When Jesus squatted and drew in the dust sitting alongside the women caught in adultery whose accusers stood armed with stones to kill her, he averted his eyes just long enough to give the accusers the time to retreat. He knew that by not looking them in the eye they also had the opportunity to raise their stone against him in their anger and indignation. The question I have always had in this scenario is where was the man with whom she committed adultery but it was a dominate male culture – that Jesus recognized and stepped in to avert.
On social media you can just imagine how that story would have been handled. Misogyny, discussions of adultery, who was her paramour, would the children suffer, who was wronged, who was right -hit like, love, wow, angry. The point about forgiveness and understanding that there was not one person anywhere who had not committed something either outright or in their heart that convicted them also of human crime would be buried under reaction. We are a nation that reacts and spews opinions without even recognizing the stones we are throwing as we hide behind our keyboards.
Watching “The Durrells in Corfu” last night on PBS there was a character portrayed – a prisoner that is befriended by the youngest Durrell boy. His wife had died when he shoved her in anger and he had gone to prison for it. The wife had fallen and hit her head when he shoved her. He stood by her grave and confessed that within him flowed a river of tears.
I read the posts on social media. I see a lot of fluff and I wonder what is flowing underneath it all.
For me there is a constant current that sometimes threatens to flood my life – the loss of my son is a part of every day. Friends have lost husbands to health issues, friends have lost friends to suicide, accidents and the host of parents who have lost a child or children are a part of my network.
All these events no can do a thing to remedy – to bring back those who are lost to us or to rewrite he days that lead to their demise. What is strangest to me is that few outside of this group and some within it have not learned how to offer condolences. We are expected to get over it as others do the simple bumps and bruises of life.
Yet give them a political, economic or military situation that they disagree with and they release a diatribe without any intention of putting their warm body in the front line to change it. Nor will they physically give the grieving a hug and say “I am so sorry. I am sorry that your son is no longer in this world. When did we become so stunted, emotionally and lacking empathy. When did we growto believe that the face we put on for everyone else is the real thing.
In the scene with Jesus we are never told how many men were there poised to stone the woman. We are never told who was first to put their stone down and walk away. We are not told if Jesus or anyone else put an arm around her shoulders as she kneeled there sniveling and shaking expecting her life to end. We are not told how she was treated by the community afterwards, whispered about and held at arms length – talked about behind her back perhaps never again embraced. We don’t know. We can’t ask.
Today, with our social media we can ask. We can use it for good as well as evil. We can ask after those who we know are hurting, hiding, depressed, suffering, drowning in the river of grief that flows through them though they post only the things that others might want to see. Sincerely asking does not make grief worse. By giving it a name, by acknowledging the pain we actually gain strength. Pretending that the posts of sunsets and kittens, balloons and birthday parties really represents what is going on in a life is a lie.
Soon enough all the swords drawn to do political battle will be sheathed and put away again. Just words without action to back it up or to make any material difference for a suffering neighbor. “You who are without sin, cast the first stone.” Jesus said and knelt to draw with his finger in the dirt.
If all you can do is drop your stone and walk away it is possible that that might be enough. But you might want to learn how to take those few steps, offer a hand to the ones kneeling waiting for the blow to fall and help them. Look into their face if you dare because you might just see your own face mirrored there.

Posted in anger, Coping with the Death of a Child, Death, Faith, Family, Friends | Leave a comment

Saturday, July 2nd



Dear Son,

I remember distinctly July 2nd 2011. I know there are details missing, but there are details that stand out – that are burned into my brain. I have a few days that are like that – but I have allowed the dates to blur – but that day and awful date I remember. I am sure there are others who remember it too. Maybe they don’t remember the exact date – but because it came in such close proximity to the 4th of July – perhaps they do. I hope for them some of the pain has eased.
If there were a box or a devise to secure those memories out of the way maybe someone would want to use it. I would not.
I don’t remember July 2nd of 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015. I know the days came and went and I am sure there were tears but I cannot tell you one other thing I did. Maybe there is something on a calendar somewhere or something I wrote that day. Beyond that there is nothing.
So how will I remember today besides the fact that it has been five years since I last saw you? Maybe these few words will remain. I wish they held more.
I know this sounds crazy but I still worry that you suffered. I think that is every parents fear. I am astonished at myself that I did not worry this much over the other times when you obviously suffered. Maybe I did but not to this obsessive degree. A lot of those times you kept hat suffering to yourself. You were if nothing else a meticulously private person.
For a while I hated the days after you died for moving me farther and father from you. Now I realize almost daily that I am moving closer to you.
As for people “feeling sorry” for me or our family I’ve decided it is okay. If people can feel “sorry” because you are not here, then I’ll accept that . People need to feel something these days.
Conversely, I feel sorry for them. They didn’t get to know you (if you would have let them). I remember when I told you that I had run in to the mother of young man you had known as a child you lost touch with. She and I agreed to remind you of each other and you were so annoyed with me – at us – the meddlesome moms! Then her son Caleb reached out to you and you responded and the friendship that ensued! It still makes me smile.
You introduced me to Matt and Zach, Travis, Joseph, P.T., Chris, Andrew, Jennifer among so many others. You shared your friends with me. What a gift!
Thank you for teaching me about dinosaurs, praying mantis, cobras, birds of prey, hiking, ethnic foods,craft beer, authors I would have never read and philosophy. I might never have considered learning about any of those things had it not been for you.
Thank you for loving us, your family.
So today is another day to pull out all the poignant, fine, sparkling memories. Louise Penny in her book The Long Way Home says “Maybe every now and then he (she) simply wept. Not in pain or sadness. The tears were just overwhelming memories, rendered into water, seeping out. (You) could almost see the images inside the tears.”
I love you babe.

Forever – Mom.

Posted in Coping with the Death of a Child, Death, Family, Friends | 3 Comments

What does it taste like?




I go out to eat.  There is something on the menu I have never seen before so feeling brave – I order it.   Everyone with me watches as the waiter places the hot plate before me.  They watch as I take the first bite.  They will decide if they will ask me for a taste after they watch the expression on my face.  Upon that bite as they watch me chew and analyze the question waits right there on their lips.

“What does it taste like?”

What can it be compared to?  Give us a reference point.  Does it taste like chicken?

When my dad died I had a lot of people who understood ( at least they thought) how I felt.   I’ve had friends who have lost parents and I can strongly empathize but I know deep down that I don’t know the nuances of their relationship with their parent.  I don’t know how they feel.

Maybe that is the lesson.  We need to stop thinking we understand.  After all, is there any way to figure out if chicken really tastes the same to me as it does to you?   There will never be a way to analyze and prove that one way or another.

What seems to be important here in the human experience is that we figure out a way to find some common point upon which to relate.   The danger is we manufacture, make-up and invent common points, we project our own feelings on to others without really being able to understand their feelings because it takes too much time and energy to listen.   We  are quick to check it off our list.

We say the words that are meant to close the door and secure it when others want to talk about the uncomfortable, the sad, the grievous.   “I know” we say.   Even though we don’t really know at all.

When my son died no one could stand to watch for long to see the expressions on my face as I entered this time.  I lost friends.  I did not loose my son – he still lives in me – but I lost friends. They don’t want to know how this tastes.

I have made friends with people who have experienced the death of a child.   The facts about what we have tasted go unspoken.  We can sit together in companionable silence assuming our feelings resemble each others.  There is nothing to prove and I can accept it when they respond to me “I know”.  Yet this connection wears thin too with time.

Family members have a hard time with me too.  Perhaps because they think they know me, having grown up with me to a point (when we were barely grown up at all)  and the changes they see and can’t pinpoint frighten them.

I have always wondered if ghosts were real.  Now at times I think I have become a ghost drifting through days, down halls I have always inhabited, interacting in a flimsy way with  the “real world.”

I pay attention to people with what “we” call disabilities.   I see how they work to compensate to function in a world not built for them.   I relate to that now.  I spend a lot of energy compensating. I thought it would change with time and it has but instead of becoming easier it  seems that once one hurdle is crossed another is in its place.

I am hyper vigilance.   I have tagged a lot of triggers and know where they are. There are unexpected triggers everywhere and I have to be on my guard.  Time is precious and entire days can be destroyed with a hidden trigger.

I can not really relate to the  situation I am in  either – not really.  It is never quite “done” and I don’t like how it tastes.  I do not  understand it. There are no rules.  This person, my son is present and not present.  He is here and not here.    I am not asking anyone else to understand either yet I keep trying to explain- if only to myself.   It doesn’t work.  I can not explain how this feels or tastes or looks.

Nothing is adequate.   It is not like when I lost my dad or my mom or my friends that have died.  It is not like when my daughter was sick, or when I miscarried.    It is not like anything else.   It is this.  My son died. He is still twenty-nine and I am still his mother.    Yes it will be soon be the fifth anniversary of his death and it is still yesterday.

Posted in Coping with the Death of a Child, Death, Family, Friends, Memories | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Each passing day



Dear son,
The world is still going crazy. The government is ridiculous. People  believe crazy things and  the politicians  making crazy promises and I apologize to you. I apologize about some of the things you used to ask me to question and for my stubborn stance. You were right.

I want to see you so badly.  I want to talk with you.  I want to take a hike somewhere. I would love to hear your opinions about the current presidential race. I need your arm around my shoulder. I need to brew us a cup of tea. I need you to make fun of my television shows. I need your critique about my paintings -there are so many you have not seen.


I wonder how you would be wearing your hair and what you would be doing now. Would you be teaching somewhere, involved in a post-doctoral program or earning a bicycle at New Belgium Brewery?

I don’t understand how things have come into being without you being here.

I can’t believe you have never met the youngest craziest dog in our pack.

I don’t know what I thought would happen with time. I keep going through the motions and I live and even have new adventures. There are real moments of joy because I love your sister and your dad and we support each other. Your dad, your sister and you are my home.

I still don’t know what to do.

There is nothing to be done for it.
I even stopped writing to you because I hate that I get no answer.


The red tail hawks come circle above me on these warming spring days and I wish I believed in signs. Regardless I tell them hello and thank them for coming by.

I am exhausted by the changes around me and the changes that age brings and the lack of change in the way I feel.

I am so thankful (and that sounds so strange) that I have so much I miss about you. I do the missing in many different ways and I’m not really good at any of it.
I don’t want to have to miss you. I really would rather be taking you for granted. (Sad truth in that sideways joke). I would like to have my concerns for you to distract me from this sorrow.

It is Spring and you, as ever, should be here. I’ve got hours and hours of things to say to you or hours and hours I would love to spend quietly with you but there is a mountain of snotty tissues beside me and saying anything more would just be repetition.

I love you. I love the memories I have of our time as mother and son. Oh sweet pea I love you so much.



Posted in Coping with the Death of a Child | 7 Comments


IMG_4790Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and my son’s birthday have passed. The light lingers a bit longer and the globe is repeating the pattern that slowly guides us into Spring. The year that was 2015 brought about good changes for some family members and friends. It also brought with it some sorrow.

I decided not to write about each incremental step of the holidays and the markers that are mileposts for my own journey. It was conscious and deliberate to see what it felt like by fasting from talking about everything.
I made some other decisions that might have appeared to some in my family to be abrupt. I made them because I was determined to see something change. I thought primarily, selfishly, that it was change that needed to happen to those I live with.
I decided to go to counseling again. The pastor at the church we now attend spoke so highly of her counselor and recommended her to me that I decided why not? Here was someone who, at least, would be bound to have to listen to me. After all I would be paying for my time with her. I felt there was so much to be said about my frustrations and fears and anxiety and dissatisfaction with life and most of the people in it.
I was being driven along through my days by a strong hot wind.
When I began talking to the counselor I felt every frustration bubble to the top. Where to start? Unhappy, frustrated and dissatisfied was the place I was used to being and without realizing it- what I wanted to hold on to.
I was talking and sniffling when she stopped me. I was on a roll and she stopped me and said “I hear so much anger.” Which I have so say, made me angry. Of course I am angry. I am justified at being angry!
Life itself is not what I expected. In fact very little if anything has lived up to my expectations. The world, country, town, my son’s friends, my friends, my former church, my husband, my daughter, my son have all fallen short of my expectations.
The counselor without missing a beat immediately led me through a short meditation practice. When she began it she asked me where I felt the stress in my body. I felt like my legs were made of lead – much like it felt right after my son died. The heavy wet blanket was draped over me. With legs of lead you can’t move forward.
I breathed through the exercise and I took note. I resolved to practice. After the instructions she asked me how I felt and I was honest. “I feel resistence” I said.
I hated to admit to myself that she was correct. Anger has ruled and it is toxic. Having let go of so many things I was loath to let go of this one thing I was so familiar with.
So I went home and I practiced. I practiced when the dogs were barking and the news from the world news was terrifying. I practiced when I saw photos of my son. I practiced before my husband came home and when I saw the sad expressions on his and my daughter’s face.
I am not in charge of their feelings and I need to be able to choose what to do with my own feelings with as clear a mind as possible.
The world – my world will never live up to my expectations. It is the way it is and it is not my fault nor is it the fault of the people in my world. I don’t meet their expectations either.
I am beginning to see how linked my anger and fear are.
I was afraid that I might not be honoring my son if I do not continue to express how much I love him and miss him. Yet there other ways to honor him and my family. I can continue to practice putting out the angry fires that fuel my fear and unrealistic expectations. I’ve practiced being angry long enough.



Posted in anger, Co-dependency, Coping with the Death of a Child, Holidays, meditation, mindfulness | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Surviving the New Year



I always thought it odd when reading an obituary or when one was read at a funeral that “survivors” were listed. Survived by Uncle, Aunt, sister, brother, wife, husband, mother, daughter, father. The event that caused the end of the deceased’s life was either an illness or an accident and the ones still living were just . . . well . . . still living.


Here is the definition:

noun: survivor; plural noun: survivors
1 a person who survives, especially a person remaining alive after an event in which others have died.”the sole survivor of the massacre”
▪ the remainder of a group of people or things.”a survivor from last year’s team”
▪ a person who copes well with difficulties in their life.”she is a born survivor”


It never ever occurred to me what survivor meant until my son died.


When my husbands dad died, my dad died, my husbands mother died, my mother died – their age, physical health and lack thereof all made their passing seem inevitable. Health failed them with time. That was the order I was used to.


My daughter survived cancer. That issue of survival I understood. Other children being treated for other cancers while she was in treatment did not survive. It made no sense. I saw the families of these children and they terrified me.


The fact that bad things could happen was made very clear to me. I got the message – no need for more information. But some how whoever is in charge did not get the memo. My son died.


Healthy, beautiful, smart, talented, funny and caustic – he fell from a height (that some have fallen from and lived) and broke his neck and died. We, my husband and daughter and I were listed as survivors.


Surviving does not mean flourishing or that you are unscathed or uninjured or even whole. It means the body is still functioning for the most part. Beyond that I am not sure you can grade or assess it.


It is an odd term but totally accurate for those who loose a loved one. Now I loved my mom and dad, please don’t get me wrong. But I don’t think about them every day – every single day – several times a day and always before I go to sleep and always when I wake up and always when I wake up in the night and when I drink a cup of tea or when I play with his dogs or . . . well – you get it.


This is what I imagine surviving looks like. I picture a person hanging on to a little white life preserver bobbing about in a thrashing sea. That’s me some days . Some days the wind dies down and the sun comes out and I can relax my grip a little but I’m still salty and wet and weary – surviving. It is a lot of work and to make things even harder the cheer leaders left on the bus long ago.


Friends and family want to think you are alright, better, doing well because they don’t want to think otherwise, just as I did not want to think otherwise all those years ago watching bereaved parents of cancer patients. I get it. But if you get the chance or notice someone out here paddling with me and the others on this sea – give us a wave and thumbs up now and then – we promise not to splash you.

Posted in Coping with the Death of a Child | 2 Comments

lig·a·ment ˈliɡəmənt/ noun


Years ago in Durham while attending an evening Ladies Bible Study the verse was read from Ephesians 4:16 “For because of Him the whole body (the church, in all its various parts), closely joined and firmly knit together by the joints and ligaments with which it is supplied, when each part [with power adapted to its need] is working properly [in all its functions], grows to full maturity, building itself up in love.” One of my best good friends looked at me and pronounced to me – “you are a ligament”

noun: ligament; plural noun: ligaments
1 a short band of tough, flexible, fibrous connective tissue that connects two bones or cartilages or holds together a joint.
▪ a membranous fold that supports an organ and keeps it in position.
▪ archaic
a bond of union.

Over the years in various situations I have thought about what she said. I was not particularly flattered when she said it, but through the years as I have considered my role I think she may be right.

As a wife and mother I hold things together to keep them moving as smoothly as possible. I would like to think I am tough, supportive and able to keep things in position.

The archaic meaning – “a bond of union” may not be quite accurate for me. I have kept some things united and sadly (admitting my sin) I have probably tried to drive a wedge between other things.

In my family understanding my role helps. It does not keep me from being resentful or from feeling taken for granted. Understanding my role does not keep me from overstepping boundaries or keeping firm boundaries myself . Yet in times of high frustration, tension and anxiety I can remember that my job is not to fix the situation but to provide support so that those who need to make decisions can do so more easily or smoothly.

But even ligaments get tattered, torn and frayed when pushed beyond their limit. We can only hold on for so long under some weight.
Over the holiday watching family members cycle through grief I felt myself approaching the limit of my ability. I understand that everyone must handle the grief they carry in their own way. I can’t fix that and quite frankly I feel overloaded – with my own grief in one arm and trying to prop up their elbow. An elbow that often – they jerk away.

The love you have for family is unwrapped every time you are in their presence. Even if your reaction to them is annoyance it is probably precipitated by the love you have for them. Every time you serve up their plate at meal time, wash their clothes, shop for Christmas gifts or birthday gifts regardless of the frustration it is fueled by love.

When someone you love dies all that love you feel has no outlet. It cannot be shared with someone else or spent on them because, after all it is the love you have for that person now gone. For a ligament it is tough to hold on to thin air. To reach to grip things that have no substance in the day to day world of earth. There is no place to focus this still active love.Creative activities are great along with other ways of being busy but there is only so much time in a day and finally your own internal ligaments say enough – time to rest.

We that have grief learn to do emotional weight lifting. We pack it up every day and carry it with us even though the package is bursting at the seams most days. Every time we encounter a place, a smell, a sight, a song, a taste that is linked to our loved one it connects as if wired into that package we are carrying. And being the ligament I am – when this happens – I hold tight to both the package and the thing I have encountered. I let all the gears spin as the teeth line up and I recognize and try to honor the privilege of having the connection, the memory.

I do this every day. Every single day.

These inevitable encounters may cause us to choose not to venture out into the world much, to stay close to those things we have built up our emotional weight lifting resistance to. That too is a way of coping.

The verse of the Bible is referring to the church but is it allowed to be inferred to family? If so then I probably have not taken time to recognize the power adapted to my need, nor have appreciated any growth I have sustained for maturity but I understand the building up of itself in love.
The emotional body building that it takes to lift the tangle that is a mix of both love and grief and bittersweet hope – I get that.

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Leaving Home


I haven’t been able to write anything to post here for some time. It is not because I don’t have things I want to say. If anything it is because I have too much I want to say and nothing seems adequate.
I keep waiting for something to change, for there to be a shift towards a gentler acceptance of the fact that my son is gone. I keep waiting for all sorts of things because of ideas that occur to me or ideas others suggest. I am just going to be where I am for the unforeseeable future so it is the expectations that may need to be ignored.
I feel like I am bragging when I talk about how wonderful my son was and how close we were. Would that particular closeness have continued had he lived? Would him choosing a mate have changed things? Questions like these are part of those things that I am trying to ignore. Who knows? No one will ever know. Speculation is frustrating.
Remembering is frustrating too. Remembering things you wish you could have done differently, opportunities that were missed, harsh words you wish you had never spoken. Those moments are gone but the impression they left has fossilized now and it makes it harder to ignore them.
There are so many memories.
Those who are left in my life need to be appreciated. How dare I allow grief to interfere with appreciating them and creating memories with them. I work hard at compartmentalizing so that when I am with another person I love I can give them as much attention as they deserve. Perhaps I over compensate. It is exhausting and I second guess myself.
I see videos of military personnel returning home and their dogs greeting them. I picture my son walking through the door and his aged dog seeing him again. Why do we make up such scenarios? As if the reality is not hard enough.
Keeping things that were his and not using them is something I continue to struggle with. I struggle with using his clothes and books or giving them away. It is as if by doing so I have to really truly finally believe he is gone.

He is gone.
My Facebook feed is full of posts of parents who have lost children. I avoid Facebook sometimes because of that. Their new, raw horror is too much for me. I tell them I am sorry for their loss and hate the fact those six simple words are the only words that I or anyone can say. Those words that in proportion to the loss should be stretched across the universe scrolling down eternally like the banner in the Star Wars movies.
Comfort? That is a tough one. Taking comfort in . . . what exactly? There again there is an entire litany of words, platitudes, nice quotes, well intended suggestions, but comfort? Perhaps I have to face the fact that I don’t want any. Perhaps I take comfort in my discomfort and everyone who by exposure to me that finds themselves uncomfortable for that brief encounter will just have to get over it.
Actually, unless you know me very very well, as my daughter and husband do – you might never know. You might forget where I live until someone says something randomly – “I almost broke my neck” or “I thought I would die” or some other phrase.
Yet here is where I live – navigating what seems like a mine field of grief.
Triggers? Let’s see – how many examples do you want? Songs, smells, weather changes, season changes, holidays, TV shows, food, tall young men, guitars, birds, bugs, lizards, silver VW Jetta station wagons, rock-climbing videos or commercials, clothing especially Patagonia clothing, plaid shirts, Birkenstocks and beer.
I bartered for a painting at an art show I participated in recently. The painting is of a murder of crows on a limb. It is entitled “Leaving Home” There are four birds in the painting. Three sit looking one direction and one is facing the opposite direction. I attribute a different meaning to this painting than other’s might.
I am like an electrical wire whose insulation has been stripped in places. I spark and fire and short out now and then – but I try to keep letting the current flow while it can. I try, but you may want to give me some room.

Posted in Coping with the Death of a Child | 1 Comment

The questions of July


Dear Son

I am sitting here in front of the computer.  The coffee is brewing in the kitchen. The youngest pup has come to lick and wallow on me. I watch his antics and think “you would like him, must like him”? I never know exactly how I am supposed to talk about some of things I think.

I have felt you to be so “close” all week. Are you close to me or am I closer to you?  Yes it is the week that marks year four of that terrible anniversary. I can’t begin to express how thankful I am for those who continue to reach out to us in remembrance of you. At the same time I find myself hesitating over some phones calls when I look at caller ID. I don’t understand it myself. It is not like I am not used to crying but sometimes when I hear my voice full of tears struggling to talk I feel like I am embarrassing you.

The grief process has been likened to a roller coaster by many . But that description only goes so far (yes that is a pun). On a roller coaster you have a moment to at least acknowledge the fact that the current climb is going to lead to a dip of some magnitude or other at some point. For me most days, the dips and gut-wrenching loops still come out of nowhere.

The term softer is used by some of my contemporaries to describe their feelings with the passing of years. I think I have become harder. I am less tolerant. If you still laugh at me you must be laughing at that. Tolerance for some things was never one of our long suits. I gather myself up, steel myself for the situation and plow through, mow down, bulldoze under?  You get the idea.

I don’t think I am alone with this annoyance factor. I see it in other’s who have lost children. We flare so quickly when someone tries to tell us to move on, even if it is not directed at us personally. We are very quick to defend the bereaved parent. Recently someone accused bereaved parents of “wanting attention.” I will grant you there are a variety of personality types in our sad group who come at the situation with their own particular style and perhaps that is what they are seeing, and turning and running from (because that is what “they” do).

If parents seek attention it is not for themselves, but to draw attention to the child that is gone or to draw attention to the circumstance of the passing in a hope of preventing it for someone else’s child. But really, how dare the world forget their child! How dare anyone who knew you, forget you!

It is Saturday and the 4th of July and the country is pretending to understand what it is celebrating though few would put themselves in a position to do those things to bring about the independence this day is marked for. Independence is an ideal. It is the goal of many and the achievement of few. We are all bound by many things.

Fear binds me and others. Fear is a big one. Fear for the unknown. Grief binds me too and the knowledge that I wield no control. I am not independent of these things.

Your sister saw a juvenile red tail hawk the other day when she took the dogs – your dogs – out to play. She said it sat near by and watched her and the dogs, though the dogs did not notice the hawk. She and I and your dad notice – is that the right word-notice? We look for and anticipate finding the things that are connected with you to remind us and become our sign that we are still connected. As if we really needed a sign. Yet we crave it because we don’t have you.

Living the life I have is a lot of work. Remembering your positive embracing spirit and things you said to me while you were here is a common practice that helps to some extent. I don’t know if living is any more of a struggle than it it ever was, but I have to admit that sometimes I wish I could slap a handicapped sticker on my forehead – just to warn people. Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear – something like that.

I digress. I would so appreciate a reply from you.

This has been a tough week. There have been a few other minor losses among those of us who love you but we will gather ourselves up and press on. If you are aware of anything then you understand that that is no minor feat.

Yes, sweet man, you are that important to us. You changed our life and if you did not know that then the attitude you exhibited to us was a great act indeed.  I think – no I know – you were secure in the fact that we adore you.  I hope you are laughing now. You changed my life and I will be forever altered by you. I freely acknowledge no desire for independence from it. I love you and I miss you.


Posted in Coping with the Death of a Child | 3 Comments