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.
Thirteen years ago Parker and I set out to purchase our first house. We were 24 years old and living in our first apartment together. I had some money left to me from my mom and it was fairly easy to get a mortgage back then.
We started looking about 30 miles west of Boston, but there was little in our price range. We knew that we could handle a fixer upper and looked forward to getting our hands dirty. Because the market was crazy at this point, we ended up looking in Worcester. It was much farther west than we wanted, but it was what we could afford.
I remember pulling into the driveway of 72 for the first time. We got out of the car and walked through the jungle of the back yard and I knew. This was it. It was exactly what we wanted. We went inside and took in the wood paneling, shag carpeting and green metal cabinets. Looking back, I’m overwhelmed at the amount of work we took on with this house. But over the last 13 years we made her ours.
At first it was Parker, myself and our crazy pack of cats and dogs. We celebrated Christmas’, birthdays and hosted numerous parties. Parker proposed to me in that house after we lived there for a year and a half. We had our wedding rehearsal on our front lawn. It’s where we began our marriage and started planning our future.
We found out we were expecting our first child within those walls. I had so much fun setting up a nursery and spent a year painting a barnyard mural. Teriffied as all new parents are, we brought home a little baby girl. She got to spend 8 years growing up in that house and playing in that yard. She learned to walk on the hardwood floors in our living room and spent numerous Halloween’s trick or treating around our neighborhood.
Once you have kids is when you really begin to meet your neighbors. We were lucky to have some kids move in over the years and be able to form a close knit community. Some of these people have become our closest friends.
Because our daughter needed a sibling, we had a son. Suddenly we were busting at the seams, but in a good way. There was so much laughter and love. Such noise and chaos that can only come from 2 kids, 2 dogs and a cat. Life was good.
When my son died right outside that very house, I thought that our world was over. I could not imagine how we could move forward. At the hospital, my sister asked me if we wanted to go home or would we rather stay at a hotel. I paused for a moment, but decided I wanted to be home and sleep in my own bed. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was making a very monumental decision.
That aside, our community came together to take care of us in numerous ways. These amazing people that were our neighbors took care of us and held our hands during the hardest time in our lives. We were so lucky to have this support system. These people took care of us and showed us so much love. It helped us to be able to grieve.
Over the course of the next year I struggled with our home, the driveway mostly. I refused to step foot where the accident had happened. I closed the door to my son’s room and didn’t go near it for a good 3 months. His toys were still all over the house and the baby gates were a constant reminder of what was missing. It was awful. But it was still my home.
Even after all that had happened, it was still my safe place, my bubble if you will. After the accident, I was teriffied of going out, being anywhere where ‘something’ could happen. I mean if an accident can occur right outside your home, then surely much worse can happen out and about. I felt safest in that house.
Over time, I slowly put my son’s stuff away. The baby gates disappeared. Toys went into his closed up room. We remodeled some of the house and these projects got me excited about the house again. They gave me something to focus on, something to change.
We began to heal in that house. It didn’t happen overnight, but slowly over time. Like a catepillar in a cocoon working towards becoming something beautiful. Let me tell you, it was a lot of work and a lot of therapy.
A year after the accident we decided we were ready to try again. We were willing to give the Universe another shot and give our hearts again. I miscarried in that house. I think I was more angry than sad at that point. I was so pissed that we could lose something more. At that point I wasn’t scared, I was damn determined that we get another shot at love.
We brought Fletcher home to that house nearly 9 months later. It was hard having another boy, especially one that looked so much like his brother. We struggled. I had no choice but to accept the driveway as it was because this little boy had to be carried to and from the house in his carseat safely.
Eventually we made the decision to move Fletcher into what was his brothers room. It sucked at first. I rocked him in the same chair where I last sat with his brother, looking at an almost identical face. I added Fletch’s name to the wall, right below his brothers. It was as if they were sharing a room. In some ways that was true as all of Benny’s clothes were still in the dresser, same as the day he died.
We raised another boy in that house for 2 years. We held our breath until he was older than his brother had been when he passed. I panicked over every sickness and accident and would google myself into a frenzy. We spent 15 months of sleepless nights with that little guy as he settled in. Those walls somehow held me together.
When we found out we were expecting again, we knew our days in this house were numbered. We were crammed in there and had eeked out every available square foot of living space. We hemmed and hawed. We loved this house, but it was time to go.
I was ok with the idea as an abstract. Maybe it wouldn’t sell. Then we’d be stuck and have to make it work. Well it sold, and rather quickly.
Then I was excited. We were moving! A new house to decorate! A fresh start. Then it was ‘we’re moving forward?’, ‘moving on?’. Nope. Just ‘moving.’
Just moving. Leaving our home behind. Taking our kids out of their house. Walking away from where we raised and lost our son. I can honestly say that I haven’t cried this much since my son died. And this was our decision!
I’ve had a few months to really think about this. I am heartbroken to leave my house. It is the longest I have ever lived anywhere and there are so many memories and so much of my life tied up into this one house. Not one room has been left untouched, we have spent countless hours making that house into exactly what we wanted. Our home. I am absolutely devastated. Just because we decided to leave doesn’t make this any easier.
This house is where Benny lived. It’s where he took his first steps, said his first words. It’s where he’s real to me, where he exists. This is so hard to walk away from.
It’s also where he died. It’s the last place that I held him. It’s where our lives completely changed. It’s taken me a very long time, but in this process of moving I’ve come to realize that I finally made my peace with it. I feel ready to move because I’m ok with this house.
I cannot describe how freeing that feels to be able to say this. I never imagined a time when I could feel this way about this house, I didn’t think it was possible. Maybe it’s because we’ve redone the house since Benny’s passing, or because I’ve brought other babies home here. Whatever it is, I’m so glad that I chose to come home the night of the accident. It allowed me (forced me) to deal with the reality of everything. It was a massive part ofy grieving process. It’s just taken me a long time to figure that out.
Thirteen years almost to the day that we purchased our home we said good bye. Someone else is living there now. God, it pains me to say that. I’m broken up even as I write this.
We said good bye to our house and our community and it is killing me. I have brokenheartedly had to say good bye to some of the most loving people we have ever met. Sure we’ll still see them, but I will miss being outside and waving and chatting with everyone. It’s just not the same. So much of what made our house a home were the people that lived around us and supported us.
We won’t go far, but it is so much further out of my comfort zone. My bubble is gone for now. It’s time to make a new one.
This is absolutely heartbreaking to watch. I know that Darcy was young when Benny died, but this is still so close to home.
I was thinking the other day about how many songs I was able to relate to Benny and his life and death. It really got me thinking. Does Darcy have a song? Is there something that stands out in my mind? Was there something that I used to sing to her.
This question plagued me for days. And then the other day ‘her song’ came on the radio. We were in the kitchen making dinner and I looked at her and said, ‘This! This is your song! This is what I used to sing to you when I put you to sleep!’ How could I ever forget?? Such an appropriate song if you know my daughter too!