Denying Myself

How many of us do this daily? We walk around with a smile on our faces while in reality all that we really want to do is cry. Because we are dying on the inside missing the hell out of our loved ones.

Look, people mean well. They want you to feel better, they want you to move on. Even those closest to you. They want you to be happy. How much of our happiness is derived from someone else’s needs?

I have children, so my grief sits somewhere in a back corner. When my son died my daughter didn’t want us to sit around crying. We did, everyone did for the first few weeks and then slowly it became less and less. I still cry, in the shower, in the car, putting the toddler to bed, in the pantry. My lovely private places.

Why the hell can’t I show this to my kiddos? I have no problem showing them anger, happiness, why not show them sadness? Why not show them that grief can be handled healthily? Why do we hide our sadness?

I’m legit asking. I wish I could explain why vulnerability is bad. I wish I could understand when I was taught this concept. Maybe it’s a coping mechanism I’ve picked up. Who knows?

One of the only places that I can be my true grieving self in at my grief groups. I can be real with my anger and sadness over my son’s death. And it’s ok. It’s my ‘Benny time.’ And I look forward to it all month because it’s like offloading so much that has been stuffed down deep inside.

And here obviously. Here I am still in my protective bubble. And I know that most anyone reading this gets it. And even if they don’t, they can empathize. Because wearing this mask is exhausting sometimes.

#thisischildloss

The Next Right Thing

**Spoiler Alert for Frozen II**

Clearly I am on a Frozen II kick this week! If you don’t have little kids, or haven’t seen it, you have missed Disney getting grief right. I know that I’ve posted other songs/lyrics from the movie, but this one was a gut punch. I have never been so bowled over by a scene/song in an animated movie before. And I was prepared!

It all started when my oldest came home one day to tell me that Olaf the snowman dies in Frozen II. I knew we would be taking the kids to see it, so I needed to be prepared. We love Olaf over here (I swear my 4 year old son is part Olaf), so I was worried how my kids would handle this. I was concerned it would be triggering for my eleven year old, who is the only one to know her brother before he died.

I reached out to a friend, who reminded me that this was a Disney movie (in other words , everything ends well), but that that scene was sad and Anna sings a song about loss. So I knew what was coming. And I sat in that theatre and I cried my damn heart out.

I watched Anna hold Olaf as he was being reduced to snowflakes and my God it took me back to the last moments of holding Benny and saying good bye. And the lyrics to the song that Anna sang during that scene were probably the best description that I have ever heard of how to handle early grief.

This is cold
This is empty
This is numb
The life I knew is over
The lights are out
Hello, darkness
I’m ready to succumb

I follow you around
I always have
But you’ve gone to a place I cannot find
This grief has a gravity
It pulls me down
But a tiny voice whispers in my mind
You are lost, hope is gone
But you must go on
And do the next right thing

Can there be a day beyond this night?
I don’t know anymore what is true
I can’t find my direction, I’m all alone
The only star that guided me was you
How to rise from the floor
When it’s not you I’m rising for?
Just do the next right thing
Take a step, step again
It is all that I can to do
The next right thing
I won’t look too far ahead
It’s too much for me to take
But break it down to this next breath
This next step
This next choice is one that I can make

So I’ll walk through this night
Stumbling blindly toward the light
And do the next right thing
And with the dawn, what comes then
When it’s clear that everything will never be the same again?
Then I’ll make the choice
To hear that voice
And do the next right thing

I’ve seen dark before
But not like this

Nearly seven years later I’m still stumbling around trying to do the next right thing. Some days are easier than others. Some days there just don’t seem to be any right things.

I guess that’s all we can do when we are confronted with such a huge loss, is realize that the life we knew is gone and try to figure out what is next. And that can seem very overwhelming.

Anna reminds us to measure time slowly at first, break it down to make it more manageable. You shouldn’t try to figure it out all at once.

But we always must go on. Even though we don’t want to and the grief is so heavy. We must make the choice to keep moving. And keep doing the next right thing.

#thisischildloss

Damn it, Facebook!

So it’s a new year and I’m scrolling through my Facebook feed loving all of the great New Year ‘intentions’ when a memory pops up. Hit me square in the gut. Or more likely, the heart.

I cannot believe that this was 8 years ago. How happy and carefree we were. How excited we were!

I can start a new year, a new decade, hell I could change my name and move to a new country and this would still be my reality. I would still have lost such a huge part of my heart the day my Benny died. Two steps forward and five steps back. Such is grief.

I just know now to roll with these sucker punches when they happen now. I smile and try to think of my little guy. I hug my babies a little tighter, smile at a stranger, make sure that the ones I love know it. There’s a calm in being able to control the few things that I can.

I don’t like the word ‘resolutions’ so, I will talk about intentions. This one about sums it up for me.

Happy New Year to my fellow loss friends. May this year be a good one for remembering our children.

#thisischildloss

Grief & Social Media

I lost my mother at the age of 16, back in 1996, during the birth of the internet. She died before you could share her obituary on Facebook and receive condolences from across the world. There was no GoFundMe started to help our family cover her medical costs associated with breast cancer. There weren’t any support groups for me to join online where I could meet other motherless daughters. It just was.

Fast forward to 2013. I was removing my 17 month old son from his car seat, when I reached in to turn off my car. We were both hit. I survived, he did not. This story was covered in the news, incorrectly over and over again, ad nauseum. But this wasn’t 1996. The news wasn’t only on television.

When we got home after saying good bye to our son for the last time, there were reporters everywhere. They followed us to a neighbor’s driveway as we tried to see our daughter. We had to sneak into our house through our neighbors yard, into our back door to avoid them. One of the first things we did was take down our Facebook pages. We did not want the press to have access to our family photos. We did not want anyone to find out on our social media accounts about the accident. It didn’t matter. It happened anyway.

I just recently signed back onto my own Facebook account after almost 6 long years. I couldn’t shake the feeling that people had access to our photos and could take whatever they wanted whenever they wanted. I honestly felt like I had to hide, I’m not sure from whom? Maybe being on social media again made it all the more real that my son had died. The whole mess with the media just felt like a huge invasion of our privacy and it’s taken me a long time to get over that.

Going back to social media came with some other pitfalls. Do I share my grief? How much do I share? Will people just roll their eyes at the mom whose still crying over her loss from 6 years ago? I mean, she had 2 other babies, can’t she just be happy?

I am happy, but I am also grieving. And boy do I share it. I never in a million years thought I would be able to allow myself to be so vulnerable. But here I am. Blogging. And running a Facebook group. And sharing my feelings on my personal page. Because grief is a huge part of who I am now. And as much as that sucks, it’s my reality.

One of the best things that came about from getting back onto social media for me was connection. I have met so many other moms and dads going through what I’m going through. Suddenly, I don’t feel so alone.

Hours after our accident, friends of ours started a ‘YouCaring’ (now GoFundMe) site. We didn’t even know thetr were fundraising platforms for our situation and had no idea this was even going on for several days. Then all of a sudden we were given access to not only money, but so much love. We poured over the comments from complete strangers. It made it a little less worse when we felt all of that love. We watched as our community reached far and wide and embraced us.

We were able to create a book with all of the beautiful comments shared on our sons obituary. We have every single thing written about him/to us from friends, family and strangers alike. It’s pretty amazing that we get to keep those sentiments to reflect on, because we certainly weren’t in a good state of mind to view them when it all happened.

It’s interesting how social media has shaped my grief process in the present vs. the past. I’m not saying it’s all good, because for me it’s certainly been complicated. All that access to information is bittersweet when you’re trying to deal with a delicate situation, such as sharing the news of the death of a loved one. But it can also be a platform to share memories too. I’m honestly not sure if I prefer my pre social media grief or not. I just know that either way, grief is complex. And it sucks.

I’m Not Ready

I’m still in October. I am not ready for November. It seems to have snuck up on me this year. How does that happen?

I’m still trying to wrap my head around Benny being gone for just 5 years and now on November 8th, it will be 6 years. Again, how did that happen?

Not being ready seems to be a theme with grief, so it’s a feeling that I know all too well. A very unwelcome feeling. I wasn’t ready to say good-bye. I’m not ready to accept that it’s been nearly 6 years.

So I’m not ready for Autumn, or possible snow next Friday. I’m not ready for Halloween to be over and November to begin. I’m not ready to admit to myself that yet another year has passed and it’s been almost 6 years since I held you or kissed you.

So if next Friday, would like to give me another month or 2 to catch up, that would be great. Because I’m just not ready to face November 8th yet.

Take Time

This is so very true. As a mom I put a whole ton of pressure on myself to do ‘all the things.’ All the time. It’s exhausting.

My brain is constantly swirling with my to do’s for work, for home, for my kids and sometimes even myself. I often joke that my brain looks like an internet browser with 30+ tabs open. Because, well, life. And that is a lot. All of the time.

Sometimes when you’re running like that all of the time you forget that you can stop. The Earth will not stop spinning and fall off its axis. Your to do list will still be there tomorrow.

When Benny died, the world paused for me. Those to do’s suddenly disappeared. Everything just stopped, it was almost as if time stood still. All of a sudden I wasn’t running, hell I was barely crawling.

Me, who always had a plan always knew the next step, had nothing in my sights. I was injured so I figured I’d be home for a few weeks from work. Well, a few weeks turned into a few months and then a year, and then a decision to leave my career. I walked away from a job I loved with people I adored. And it took me a year to come to that conclusion.

I didn’t drive for about four months after the accident. I couldn’t handle the responsibility of being in control of a motor vehicle, even though we were hit outside of my car. It all seemed like too much. It took me about 18 months before I would drive longer than a half hour. I still won’t go longer than an hour or two by myself in the car. And I used to sit in my car from 3-5 hours a day at my old job.

What’s my point? Be kind to yourself. Grief takes time, so take time for grief. You do not have to figure it all out today. One of the best pieces of advice we were given was to not make any big decisions / life changes during that first year. It may not work for all but it worked for us. It gave me a chance to get my footing back and decide what was next for us so that we could start walking towards what the future held.

Happy 7th Birthday

A little delayed…

Dear Bennett,

I cannot believe that you would have been 7 years old last May. I still picture you as a chubby and adventurous toddler. I’m at a loss at how to wrap my head around who you would be as a 7 year old.

I think of all of the first rights of passage that you have missed at this age. First day of school, first best friend, to name a few. It makes me so sad to think of all that you have been robbed of.

Every once in awhile I see a boy your age and I pause. I try very hard to see you, who you would be. It’s hard. There was a boy at the playground your age with your name right after your birthday. But I’m sure you already knew that.

If you were still here, you’d be enjoying your summer break and gearing up to enter second grade. That seems impossible to me. You’d probably play all kinds of sports and we wouldn’t know what to do with your fearlessness. My anxiety kicks into high gear just thinking about it.

It’s tough to watch your siblings grow and mature and only have those 18 months of memories with you. My mind cannot sometimes understand why that is. These 5 and a half years have really messed with my natural perspective on time.

It’s been rough. It’s hard to think of what it would be like because so much has changed. I have changed. When you died you took a piece of me with you and that’s ok. I wouldn’t want to be the same. I couldn’t be.

Keep sending those signs buddy and keep looking out for us. We need your love and guidance every day. Love you forever.

Love, Mom