Slumberland

‘You have the dream you’re meant to have; we make sure of that. What happens next is up to you.’

Tonight we previewed Slumberland (spoiler alert). I had watched the trailer and thought it looked fantastic, albeit sad. It deals with death and grief. Seeing as how Fletch came to us tonight with his Dinosaur book in tears because the Dinosaurs all died, I figured this was something we should watch first. And I’m so glad that we did.

I bawled my eyes out through 40% of the movie. A PG childrens movie completely wrecked me. And I mean wrecked in the best way possible. It put into words how we deal with grief, how desperate we are to see our loved ones in dreams and how even when we are desperately sad, we can still find hope.

It touched on so many of my grief experiences. In the first few minutes of the movie, the main character dreams that her Dad died. I honestly believe that there’s a subconscious link between life and death. My Mom came to me in a dream to say good bye and moments later I awoke to our house phone ringing and I knew that she was gone.

The entire movie is based upon the main character wanting to find her dead father in a dream so that she can stay with him. My god, that is all that any of us grievers want. I sat there crying, begging for a good visitation dream. It’s been so damn long. And I miss my people. I want to find a pearl so that I can wish this dream into existence.

When that pivotal moment finally happens, when the main character can have her Dad back, she finds that she has to wish for something else. Something has become more important than her Dad. And it’s awful and beautiful all at once. Because she found hope. And in finding it she had to let go a bit. And that is really fucking hard.

I wish I could say that I thought this was a good idea for my kids, but it’s not. It’s too close to home. There are some scary parts too as well as a lot of drowning. We’re a little too sensitive over here and will have to wait a bit. But the overall theme of this movie is absolutely beautiful. Especially if you need a good cry.

‘Life is waiting for you, Nemo. It would be a shame if you missed that.’

9 Years ‘After the Accident’

It has almost been a decade since we lost our Benny. And so much in our lives has changed. And yet, somehow, things still seem the same sometimes. I can’t explain it, just like I can’t explain how surreal it feels to lose your child.

I gaze upon pictures of Benny’s face and it seems like it was just yesterday, and it also seems like a lifetime ago. There are moments when I wonder if any of it actually happened. And then I look at his picture and I remember what he smelled like, what the curves of his dimples looked like, what his little curlies felt like against my skin. His life may have been short but it was real.

I can’t explain what today is like. We used to have to leave town because I couldn’t deal with being in the house where he died. I used to want to crawl out of my skin because the reality of November 8th was just too much. The days and weeks leading up to this awful date used to send me into a complete tailspin. And I guess that’s not to say it still doesn’t, just in different ways.

It’s been 9 years of learning to live without my son. And I hate saying the word ‘learning’, because learning implies growth. No one should have to ‘learn’ how to live this way. So instead we move forward, slowly trying to figure out how to navigate what the hell this life looks like.

Now I usually find that I throw myself into projects leading up to November 8th and Benny’s birthday. Apparently I need some creative outlet, or some instant gratification to get through these feelings of grief. That’s how I’m built. I’m a doer and I need to get things done. If you look at the last 9 years of my life, my grief has physical evidence in the home renovation projects that I take on.

I’m not sure what today looks like just yet. We will go to the cemetery, maybe take the dog for a walk. Relax. Eat his favorite food, hot dogs, and just be. There’s a little less stress and angst surrounding today than there used to be. Sometimes I find that sad. Other times I think it means that maybe we have figured out this grief thing a little bit.

Missing my boy everyday, but today especially. Love you Benny ❤️🌻❤️

Dia Del Muerto

I first learned of ‘Dia del Muertos’ or ‘Day of the Dead’ from the show Jane the Virgin. Which consequently, if you haven’t watched it, it’s probably one of the best shows I have seen to portray grief. It’s also super funny and has some incredible female characters.

In any case, without giving anything away, there is a scene where they show the Day of the Dead. They portray the character dealing with grief during the first year, then the second year, then the third year, etc. She starts out sobbing and by year 4 she is able to tell funny stories and actually laugh again at those memories. They hurt much less as time has passed.

I love this idea of spending a few days to remember those that are gone. We mourn at a funeral, but what do we do to allow ourselves to grieve over time? The biggest concerns that we as grievers have is that our loved ones are going to be forgotten. I think the idea of being able to set aside some time every single year to tell funny stories, and remember those that we have lost would help all of our hearts.

We do this in my family on Benny’s birthday. And it’s become a beautiful tradition for my family. And all of my kids now know their brother, even though two of them have never met him. But I don’t know that we spend a lot of time talking about my mom and dad who have died. My kids really don’t know their grandparents and that’s very sad.

The Day of the Dead traditions include creating an altar for the deceased, eating their favorite foods, creating decorative skulls, visiting their graves and decorating with marigolds. Ironically, it’s also a day to celebrate the living with gifts of candy or poems dedicated to friends and family. This honestly sounds like something I can get behind! What a beautiful way to love and appreciate all those around you, both living and dead.

So I’m going to try it. We’ll see how it goes. This year Dia del Muertos is observed on November 1st through the 2nd. I’m intrigued to add another tool to my grief toolbox and see if it sticks.

Holiday Presents

Every year we lay out all of the kids gifts to make sure that the piles look as even as possible. We’re dealing with some crazy age ranges, but I try really hard. My son’s pile looked meh.

He’s 6 years old and I worry so much about him being overindulged. He’s our rainbow son following his brothers death. It’s kind of hard not to spoil him. I’m lying. It’s kind of hard not to spoil all of the kids. But the last thing that I want to do is create another entitled male in this world.

I really tried to reign in Christmas a bit this year. We went crazy last year because of Covid and experience gifts were not going to happen. My kids already have SO MANY TOYS. I didn’t want to add to that. I do a pretty good job of finding deals or buying second hand, so cost wasn’t really a factor. I just didn’t want all the stuff.

Until I looked at the piles. Mostly smaller items. And I got really sad. We tend to buy our kids more stuff because we don’t have much family. My kids miss out on so much with my parents gone. I grew up in a HUGE family with lots of cousins and Aunts and Uncles. So many traditions lost and so much time they never got to spend with my family. They never had the grandparents to spoil them. And it sucks.

We have a stocking hanging on our fireplace that we fill every year with notes. There will always be an empty seat at our table for 6. They are missing their brother. I have one less child to enjoy the excitement of the holidays with. And that sucks.

So here I sit feeling really shitty and really sad. I’m trying to compensate for something that my children probably don’t even realize they are missing. But I know what it’s like to look forward to big family gatherings. I know what it’s like to play with my cousins and grow up enjoying the holidays with them. Obviously, Covid complicates that too this year.

So I may have added a few things to my cart tonight. And I’m begging myself to not feel bad about it. I’m trying really hard to not spin out about if I’m ruining my kids by giving them too much. I’m choosing to look at it that they are only little once. And if I’m being over the top, so be it. I’m still trying to figure out this whole grief/life balance stuff. But I’m tired of feeling guilty about it.

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

When I was growing up, the holidays were magical. I have so many great memories of gathering with family, singing Christmas Carols, baking and of course, presents! For all of my Dad’s faults, he was super into Christmas. He was one of the rare men that actually enjoyed shopping and put a lot of thought into his gifts. Decorating our house was a huge deal every year. We would get the biggest Christmas tree and spend hours putting tinsel on it. We had a 4′ wreath that went on our chimney along with a plastic Santa. My Mom spent hours wrapping presents for us kids and desperately trying to replicate her Mother’s recipes (which I still find nearly impossible). It was merry and bright.

When my Mom passed, all of that Christmas Spirit seemed to die with her. My Father was a shell of his former self and we all just went through the motions. I remember that the first Christmas without her consisted of me shopping for everything and wrapping it all (including my own gifts). My sister and I had to take my Dad to the ER on Christmas Eve because he was sick (looking back, it was probably too much alcohol and a broken heart more than anything) and we were up late. No one got out of bed on Christmas until 5 PM. It was terrible. Gone was the magic.

Once I moved out, I vowed that I would create my own Christmas magic. When I had my own apartment, there was always a live Christmas tree. I started making my own Christmas traditions. And even though I spent some Christmases alone, nothing was as brutal as that first Christmas after my Mom died. Until my son died.

It’s really hard to get through the holidays when your heart is so heavy with grief. My Mom died 25 years ago and my son 8 years ago. I’ve celebrated more Christmases without both of them then I have with them. And it still guts me. Every. Damn. Year.

The first Christmas after my son died was a stumble. I honestly felt like a puppet as others pulled the strings and I went about the motions. I had no idea what the right thing was to do. Do we hang his stocking? His ornaments? Do we keep our family traditions? How do we honor him?

That whole day I smiled on the outside while I silently screamed on the inside. Christmas shouldn’t still come without my son. The days shouldn’t have kept creeping by and time shouldn’t have been in motion. My world had stopped on November 8th and anything where we grew further from that date made no sense to me.

It was really hard to watch her opening gifts, knowing her brother should have been there too. It was hard to enjoy the cookies, knowing how much he loved his sweets. It was hard to take pictures, thinking he should be in them. It was hard to recognize that this was our ‘New Normal’.

I’ve written about a few things that we now do previously https://sunshineangelsandrainbows.com/2021/12/03/my-christmas-grief/. The only thing that I vowed that first Christmas was that it was still magical for our daughter. The magic had completely died for me at that point and that was ok. But by god, it had to be over the top for her. She needed to find something to look forward to, something good to believe in, and something hopeful that she could carry with her. And if that came in the form of presents and food and togetherness, then I was ok with that. I was ok with anything that would help us get through that first Christmas.

And that first Christmas turned into our second, third, and now eighth Christmas without our son. And I miss him so very much every single day. The holidays are still brutal, but I find that doing stuff to honor him helps to heal my broken heart just a little bit. And as much as I hate to admit it, I’ve even found a little Christmas magic again myself. The grief and missing are still very much there, but the love that I have for my Mom, my Dad and my son have become my puppeteers during the holiday season.

AITA?

AITA-Comparing Grief

AITA Original Post: ‘She said, “Now I know what it felt like for you. Losing a kid is so, so hard.” I’m 26M, my girlfriend got pregnant at fourteen and I was a father at fifteen. He was the best little boy ever and I was in love with him. I had a job and her parents kicked her out so she moved in with mine and by the time I was 19, I was happy and me and her moved into an apartment together.

But when the next year, when he was five years old, he got hit by a truck and passed away. It’s been six years and I still think of him every day.

I told her, maybe a little insensitively, “You didn’t lose a kid.” She looked taken aback and said she did and something about how “fur babies” were kids too. I said losing a kid is nothing like losing a dog and she started getting angry and told me she raised her dog for way longer than my son.

I got mad, and yelled at her to never talk about my son again and then I stormed out.’

The comments section on this is nuts. It made me koo koo bananas reading it, so I had to stop. I know everyone is entitled to their own grief and there are no comparisons. Everyone feels differently and is built differently and is a product of their experiences.

However, if a friend ever said to me that they ‘understood’ how I felt about losing Benny because their dog died, that would be it. And to follow that up with ‘I had my dog longer than you had your son.’ Nope. Absolutely not. Just stop talking.

Sorry if this makes me a horrible person. As I see it, this woman made the comparison when she had the gall to say that she ‘understands’ what it feels like to lose a child. I’m so angry that I can barely type.

Guilty

Ok. So this. I am so guilty of this. It’s this feeling that if you just keep moving and keep busy, things won’t fall apart. If I keep balancing all of the balls up in the air, I can add a few knives, and a flaming stick. I won’t drop any of them if I just keep moving. Then I get overwhelmed. Then I get frustrated. Rinse. Repeat. Welcome to my grief.

When you’ve been dealing with trauma as long as I have, I think the busy just becomes a coping mechanism. I don’t mean to make my life so crazy and hectic, but it happened. Anytime you have little kids life is crazy anyway, so maybe it’s not all my doing. But I knew what we were getting into. Sometimes the chaos just makes the pain so much easier to bear. If that makes any sense?

If I’m busy and tired, I don’t have the time to acknowledge the terrible things that have happened. Sometimes it’s easier. It’s a break from the grief reality. It never does truly work for long, because grief always finds a way. And I know this. Yet I carry on and grief and I pretend to ignore each other for a bit longer until he shows up again, unannounced. It’s a game we play.

And then I do slow down. And it’s a grief slap like no other because I actually allow my mind to wrap around my reality. And it sucks. I sit and allow the grief to hollow me out once more. And I’m tired.

I wish I had answers. I wish I had a healthier grief relationship. I do know that admitting this and acknowledging it makes it easier to carry. Because I know I’m not alone.

The Great Benny Dog Search

Sometimes you just need a girls night out. And when you have a friend with a daughter that you and your daughter love equally, sometimes you need a girls overnight in Newport. At a fancy hotel. So you can relax and just decompress with your bestie and revel in some good old fashioned girl time!

This is exactly what we did last week. After the last year of remote learning and following all of the Covid guidelines, it felt good to celebrate our vaccinations with a trip! We had so much fun relaxing by the pool, riding bikes and eating out. My soul just needed the break.

Now that I felt recharged and zen, it was no surprise when Darcy came up to me at 10 PM the night we got home to tell me that her Benny Dog was missing. She couldn’t remember if she had packed him or accidentally left him in the room. She tore apart her bag and I looked through mine with no luck. At this point my husband and I started to panic.

You see Benny Dog isn’t just any old stuffed animal. When our Benny died people set up a memorial on the street and dropped off loads of flowers and stuffed animals. People who were complete strangers to us. The day before his services we decided that we’d have the kids each choose a stuffed animal or ‘Benny Bear’ to take home with them.

Darcy chose a chihuahua looking dog who became known as Benny Dog. There were stuffed bears there the size of her and surprisingly she chose this tiny, unassuming little dog. We have no idea where he came from or who gave him to our family, but Benny Dog became Darcy’s lovie. A complete stranger had given Darcy some comfort at the hardest moment in her life. Benny Dog has been to every sleep over, vacation and adventure we have had in the subsequent 7+ years.

I calmly called the hotel and was told to call back in the morning. So at 9 AM the next morning I called and was told to email housekeeping. I sent a pleading email, hoping someone would look for Benny Dog. I heard nothing. I really began to panic 48 hours after checkout. How could they not have found this little guy yet? My husband was ready to drive to the hotel and look. Darcy was eerily calm through all of this. I think because she knew I was not going to let this go until her Benny Dog was found.

I called and finally talked to housekeeping and was told they would call the linen company and check the room. They had nothing in lost and found. I just kept hoping that he would show up. Meanwhile, my bestie was chatting with a friend about our trip and let’s just say this lady has connections! All of a sudden the Great Benny Dog Search of 2021 commenced at said hotel! There were meetings with department heads and this little 8 inch pooch became a priority.

Within 3 hours I had a phonecall from housekeeping! A very thorough search of our room found him wedged/crammed between the nightstand and the wall. He probably would have lived the rest of his days there until they changed out the furniture had they not looked. I cried in relief that he was coming home via FedEx.

Once again, a complete stranger had saved us. I’ve never met the woman who put the Great Benny Dog Search into motion, but I am humbled by her understanding of our loss and her willingness to go right to the top to make sure that he was found. She saved my family from another huge loss and poor Benny Dog from years of being crammed between a wall and a nightstand. Thank you. ❤️

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