I didn’t even know that today was Children’s Grief Awareness Day. So often I think that we expect these kids to just bounce back and ignore that they are struggling too. ‘Kids are so resilient.’ Until they’re not.
I’m not a huge fan of calling someone grieving ‘strong’, because what choice did we have? But this post left me feeling empowered. Maybe anything is possible.
So I was scrolling through the Facebook tonight and reading about a celebrity who had a mishap and their child was hurt as a result. I was impressed said celebrity kept it real and was willing to share that accidents happen. I was scrolling through the comments because let’s face it, the content there is usually better than the story. Then I ran into this little gem.
If you can’t tell, I’m feeling a little unsettled and snarky about this comment. On one hand I get that it’s a joke and said in jest. It was not said towards me or anyone in particular. Hell, I would have said something similar six years ago. Before I knew.
It turns my stomach a bit that she’s repeating what her doctor told her. What an awful thing for anyone that practices medicine to ever say. How absolutely horrified would I be if those words were spoken to me? The implication in them is that if your child isn’t still alive, than you as the parent are to blame.
It’s not funny anymore and I’m horrified that I ever joked in such a manner. Unfortunately we joke about it because we think it can never happen to us, it’s a way of distancing ourselves from that reality that death can happen. To anyone. At anytime. Even our children.
Know better, do better. That’s all that I can do.
It’s been a week. A week of stress. A week of unknowns. A week of chaos. I’m Type A so naturally I hate this lack of control.
My oldest daughter is on a field trip to Maine with her classmates. I have not seen nor spoken to her in nearly 4 days. I am losing my mind missing her face, her voice, her eyerolls and her attitude.
Yes she goes on sleepovers to her friends, but I have never spent this much time apart from her. As much as I would love to sometimes hop in the car and head West until I run into water, I know I never could. I’m losing my mind without her over just 4 days!
The worst part of it was that I thought she was going to home to very bad news. She always seems to be away when tragedy strikes in our family, something I’m grateful for. My dad is sick and in the ICU. He rallied a bit today and I have no idea what’s ahead for him, but I really thought she was going to come home to another death.
I’ve spent years researching the best and safest products for my children. I looked into carseats, organic foods, read parenting books. I tried to limit screen time, used sunblock outdoors and tried so hard to keep her healthy. I thought I had this parenting gig down. I was armed with band aids for boo boos and hugs and kisses for owies.
Here’s the problem though, even though I felt prepared, even though I read the books and did the research, I was not prepared for when someone she loved died. I couldn’t prevent that from scarring her so deeply. I couldn’t kiss that pain away.
Five years later I feel that we are headed back in that direction. I’m sad as I realize that there is literally nothing that we can do to prepare our little ones for one of life’s most horrible fates. I can’t make death any easier or better for her and it kills me.
Grieving is hard work. Grieving with little kids sucks. Suddenly you have to learn to balance your grief. Are you crying too much? Are you crying too little? How much emotion do you share with your littles?
The hardest part is making the space to grieve yourself while you watch them go through it. You cannot take their pain away, which is heartbreaking.
Here’s what I learned along the way though, you have to take the time for you in order for you to be able to be there for them. You cannot bury that emotion inside. It’s a tough dance that’s not easy to choreograph. It takes time. It takes love. Love for yourself and love for your child. It’s composed of failure and lessons to figure out what works best for you.
There is no magic wand or simple solution. Grief is like the children’s song Going on a Bear Hunt.
‘Can’t go over it, can’t go under it, cant go around it, got to go through it.’
‘Oxygen and the air pressure are always being monitored. In the event of a decompression, an oxygen mask will automatically appear in front of you. To start the flow of oxygen, pull the mask towards you. Place it firmly over your nose and mouth, secure the elastic band behind your head, and breathe normally. Although the bag does not inflate, oxygen is flowing to the mask. If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person. Keep your mask on until a uniformed crew member advises you to remove it.’
This airline safety speech was read to us at the first grief group we attended with The Compassionate Friends. Their point in reading this was to push us to remember that in order for us to take care of others, we need to take care of ourselves first.
Self Care is tough, especially when dealing with grief. The last person that I cared about after Benny died was myself. I was so concerned with how Darcy was doing and how Parker was coping. And I was devastated.
I didn’t have time to think about me. It was easier to focus on everyone else’s wants and needs so that I could ignore the impending emotions. As a mom, I was used to putting myself last. I fell into old habits.
I grew up in a house where we didn’t show much emotion. We would get into trouble for crying. I began to see tears as weakness. At first I didn’t care about crying, I didn’t care about much of anything. But as the weeks passed I started to turn internally.
I was lucky to have a lot of people looking out for me though. People checking in constantly, taking me out, calling, and sending me to therapy. It took me awhile, but I started to realize that my grief matters too.
A month after Benny’s death we started seeing a therapist. It felt so good to just get everything out to an impartial party. It felt so good for me to offload everything that I had started to hold in.
I started writing. A lot. I couldn’t keep it all inside anymore. I never intended to share this blog with anyone. I was using it as a tool to help myself. It ended up as so much more. Through sharing my blog I have met so many other amazing people. I have gleamed so much hope.
I started yoga. I had done yoga before to get in shape, but this time was different. I wasn’t interested in just getting physically fit, but I also wanted to work on healing my mind and soul. Well, as best as I could.
Joining a grief group at first was hard. I was so overwhelmed at the idea. Benny’s death had been so public. I hated the idea of people looking at me, knowing who I was. The first group I went to wasn’t for me and that’s ok. I found my tribe at a different meeting. I look forward to my time with these ladies who also know my pain. It’s easier to be amongst those that understand my heart.
Those are all big self care items that worked for me, but how about some basic ones too? Like showering, getting sleep, getting your body moving, etc. I was reading an article recently that talked about ways to help steer you in a positive direction. It was a check list for you to use if you started to feel like you were headed for the ‘upside down’ if you will. It said things like ‘did you shower today? Did you go for a walk? Did you hug someone?’ All very simple things. But I realized that when I stop doing these things is when I feel at my worst. Such simple advice. I need to carve time out for myself so that I can be there for when my husband and kids need me.
Keeping all of this stuff going is HARD! Four years later and I still often slide backwards into sloth ways every once in awhile when things get truly overwhelming. I just have to gently remind myself that I know how to fix it and get myself headed back in the right direction. I have to remember that in order to be the mom and wife that my family deserves, sometimes I have to deal with my own stuff too.
I cannot sleep. I have spent nights poring over the Florida school shooting stories. I am not okay.
I dropped Darcy off at school on February 15th and thought to myself, ‘what if this is it? What if someone decides today that they want to enter her school and shoot a bunch of innocent children and educators?’
I’ve had these thoughts before. Mostly when Darcy was in kindergarten and her classroom was on the first floor of the school. I remember thinking to myself that it was a good thing that she was in the second classroom in that hallway, farther away from the front door. I guess in my mind it gave her more time to escape. She entered kindergarten less than a year after Sandy Hook. An exit strategy shouldn’t be what you think about for your kindergarteners classroom.
Then Benny died and this anxiety grew. At the time we were clinging to Darcy as our port in the storm, what if something happened to her as well? Last week brought that all flooding back. I am terriffied. I am sad. I am sick.
Seventeen more families feel our pain. They have lost a part of their hearts in such a senseless manner. I know what they are going through and I am so sorry for their pain. I am sorry for what lies ahead. I am sorry for how this will shape the rest of their lives. A loss like this irrevocably changes you.
I am scared to send my daughter to school. I get it that this is terrorism at it’s finest and that I shouldn’t be scared. But I am. I’ve already held one of my children and had to say goodbye for the last time. I sat in the hospital and stroked his hair, smelled his sweet smell, kissed his head and handed his lifeless body over.
I have spent the last 4 years clawing my way out of PTSD and anxiety and trying my hardest to help my daughter and my husband do the same. This is the future that these families face. This is the future that these surviving children who were in that school face. You cannot witness a trauma like that and go on living your life. It alters you in ways you can never imagine.
I am furious. Disgustingly furious that this happened, that this continues to happen. That more parents have to live through the loss of a child. And still nothing changes.
I am repulsed that we ask our educators to work under these conditions. There are over 30 children in my daughter’s class this year. Thirty. How can a teacher and an aid be expected to hide 30 kids? Why should they be?
This is not a political issue to me, but rather a moral issue. Until you have stood where I have stood, until you have walked in my shoes, please do not lecture me on politics. I am coming from a place of loss and I feel very strongly that what took place in Florida, Sandy Hook, Columbine, what is taking place in this country, is something that can be prevented.
I want to be able to send my child to school and not be scared that it will be the last time that I see her. I don’t want to be this mother that is constantly on the edge of her seat, filled with anxiety and dread that she will lose another child.
I am sick for Florida. I am tired of the excuses. We should not live in a country where we send our children to school to die. Change needs to happen.