I’ve written a lot about the amazing people that have supported us as well as the people that have disappointed us on this journey. Relationships change so much once you lose a child because you have changed. Either people can stick around or can’t handle it.
The scariest thing for us was talking to my sister and friend and hearing the ugly statistics of child loss. The hospital social worker had sent us home with loads of paper detailing what to do next. Parker and I weren’t all that interested in reading that literature and to be honest I still haven’t gone through the piles of paperwork from the hospital almost a year later. They sit in a folder that my friend put together in my living room on a shelf.
But my sister and my friend, they read and read and read. I remember in the days following how they would read some of the literature and then stop short. I knew at the time that they were paraphrasing what we would be able to hear and keeping the bad stuff at bay. The fact is that a staggering 80% of couples divorce after the loss of a child. We knew this very early on and honestly, it terrified us. We had already lost so much, how could the odds be so stacked against us?
I remember meeting with our therapist for the first time and she asked us why we were there. I looked her in the eye and told her the statistics and that we didn’t want that to happen to us. She asked if we wanted to both see her, or she could recommend someone else for one of us. We chose to both see her, because we both felt very comfortable with her and she was trained in trauma. She also sees us for couples as needed. She’s good at working with both of us on issues that one spouse might be having. She’s able to be fair and this has worked well for us.
Even though we constantly work at it, it hasn’t been easy. Most couples divorce after child loss for reasons of blame, lack of communication, change and differences in how they grieve. I can tell you first hand that I can see how easily it can happen.
I have such tremendous guilt over the accident (more on that at another time), but Parker has never expressed any blame on my part. He’s truly amazing, I don’t know that I would be able to feel the same way if the tables were turned. I find fault in everything. Maybe that’s why he’s mine. He’s a bigger person than me in so many ways.
In the beginning, it was very easy for me to show my feelings. We even joked that I would break down at night and Parker would break down in the morning, we were able to help lift each other up. It worked for us and kept us close during those first long months. Over time, we have (or mostly I have) retreated to our separate corners to lick our wounds in private. I took to blogging and found such amazing release in writing. Parker went back to work and would spend time at his desk going through pictures and videos of Benny (I have still not watched a Benny video yet). Parker shows more of his emotions while I tend to cry in private. It’s hard when your partner is not grieving the same way. As unfair as it is, I get frustrated when Parker is having a bad day if I’m having a good one. The good ones are so hard to find sometimes.
Communication has always been a frustration for us. I used to have an amazing memory and Parker was my goldfish, only able to retain something that I said for 30 seconds. I was busy, but usually able to keep on top of things with work, the kids and the house. I now have joined Parker in the fish tank. I forget everything unless I put it on our calendars. I can no longer retain details and this is very frustrating to a type A like myself. With two goldfish in our bowl, we had some major communication issues. We are constantly frustrated with each other because we forget to tell each other important things.
The only one that has come somewhat’easy’ to us is change. We didn’t have a choice. When people say, ‘oh I don’t know how you do it,’ we don’t have a choice in the matter. We’re surviving as best as we can and the only way to do that is to change, as much as you don’t want to. Losing a child changes who you are and changes your marriage. Ours is still a work in progress.
Ahhh, such a simple thing to do, but when was the last time you took a deep breath and just concentrated on your breathing? Got out of your head and focused on your body, your heart, your breath?
I do yoga Monday nights with Sue and I swear it sets me up for the whole week. It’s the only place where I’m not planning something, or trying to fix something, I just am. There’s a lot of relaxation involved and sometimes it’s hard to turn off my brain, it always inevitably happens though. I focus on my body and ‘leave my worries in a basket outside the door’, as Sue instructs us to do.
I breathe, I am. It’s my favorite time of the week and I always feel so healed afterwards and at peace. Thanks Sue.
Today I’m grateful for:
1. Being alive and healthy
2. My family
3. Tara, my lifeline
4. My crazy friends
5. Our Family pictures-even though Benny wasn’t with us, they came out amazing (thanks Auntie Bri!!). It was important to me to do them because we didn’t last year and I regret it.
6. Having fresh vegetables to make salsa
7. Having projects to keep me busy
Today we are supposed to be exploring our grief journey, to try to figure where we are and where we’re headed. These are some very difficult questions to answer.
Am I stuck? Some days more than others. There are times that I feel like I’m in the same place that I was a year ago. At my worst moments it truly feels that no time has passed. It feels as awful as it was the moment the car hit us, hit Benny. That feeling like I’m watching a movie, because this truly couldn’t have happened to us doesn’t happen as often now though. It’s a little more real, now that we’ve lived almost an entire year with the little guy.
I haven’t really thought about the last year until recently. It struck me one day that I hadn’t actually worked in a year. This was a tough pill to swallow as we normally had reviews in November and let’s face it, most of us measure our ‘worth’ by how we’re doing at work, how much money we are being paid. If we were being reviewed by our children or our spouses, how differently would you live your life? How little would that salary matter?
So I took a close look at where we all are today as opposed to 11 months ago. This is now how I measure my ‘worth.’ Were we healing? Were we dealing?
We are all still in therapy. Parker goes bi-weekly and I still go weekly and now have another therapist to the list as mandated by my disability insurance, but that’s a story for another time. I was told that Darcy is doing great, and is well adjusted. She now sees her therapist monthly. I wish that adults were as resilient as children.
Parker and I try to attend a grief group monthly. It’s a way to check in with ourselves and other parents in our situation.
Parker is back at work full time, even hiring new employees. He’s busier than he’s ever been with guaranteed work for years to come. He’s happy there, he’s more focused than he’s been in awhile. He has his moments, probably more than I do.
I do all sorts of things with my time on the good days. I walk, do yoga, garden, started canning and of course the house projects. I still find that it feels best when we are giving back to others or connecting with others in our situation.
But these are all external ways that we are healing. Honestly, I’m angry a lot of the time, over stupid things. I understand that Benny’s gone, but I will never accept it. I’m hopeful that there are great things in our future, I have to be. I saw what amazing things came into my life after my mom died. I truly believe that there is hope, even after all we’ve been through. I no longer believe that ‘everything happens for a reason,’ because if I did, then that would mean there is a reason that Benny died and that can’t be true.
I don’t where we’re at really. I do know that we’re in a much better place than we were 11 months ago. We laugh, we enjoy doing things as a family and we love each other unconditionally. I think it’s a good first step.
Lisa so eloquently describes my ‘wallowing days’, though I much prefer the term ‘couch day.’ Thank you for this! In the sea of all of the good days, one of these is needed every week or so to keep me going and to allow me move forward.
Today, where I live, it is pouring. We all know how weather can effect mood, especially rainy, dark, dreary days. Sometimes it just feels necessary to stay inside, stay in our yoga pants, and do nothing of significance. You know, take a couch day.
When you are grieving, especially in the beginning (which, honestly, could mean any time in the first two years…), it is necessary to have these kinds of days. The kind where you disconnect from your life and marinate in your grief. (There is an important distinction between wallowing and marinating and I’ve talked about this here.)
Grieving is hard work. You grieve 24/7, no time off, no vacation days. Sometimes you have to create the space you need. There are theories that say it is necessary to balance the grief against the not grieving. (Check this out.) And I agree. Most days we are so…
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I’ve just read some very thorough and well thought out advice to help out family friends of the bereaved. One of the worst things that happens is when people don’t know what to say, so they don’t say anything. It’s equally uncomfortable for us, but we would rather talk about our children instead of pretending like they never existed. Please, please read and take the advice to heart the next time that you encounter someone that has lost a child.
‘It’s always darkest before the dawn
when your world is weary,
when all is dark,
when dreams die and fade away,
and all of life is stark.’
I’m waiting for the dawn. I know it’s there, somewhere out a few years or decades even. I wish nothing else but to be there now, to know the journey that I’m on and be on the other side. Who will I end up becoming?
I have hope that there is light in our future. I have to, or I wouldn’t be able to get up and face each new day. The dark can consume you and there are days when it does just that. I don’t want to leave the house, or get dressed or shower. I want to wallow, surround myself in it and waste away the day. I want to wear it like a cloak, because sometimes I just need it. I need it so badly to hold onto what I’ve lost.
It reminds me to of the light, of the good days. There are days filled with such happiness and love that I would think, even in my situation, that I am very blessed. The light is my daughter, my husband, my friends and my family. The light is having the ability to look at life on such days with open eyes and see what an unbelievable gift it is. The light is my memories, even though I’ve lost my son, I will forever have them to treasure.
I’ve spent the last 11 months jumping from light to dark. It’s part of the process I suppose. I look forward to a time in my life when the light outweighs the dark. I know it’s coming and I’ve no choice but to continue forward until I reach it.