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 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.
Today was a great day with my family. We carved pumpkins, watched football (yes, that’s very odd for us), worked on Halloween costumes and just spent time with one another.
This has been a rare day for us because Autumn was crazy. Parker traveled a lot for work, school started back up and so did dance, girl scouts, etc. I welcomed this opportunity to be home with my family.
Darcy and I ran to Target and AC Moore to get the finishing touches for her costume. We had to drive across the parking lot and she asked if she had to buckle up, to which I said yes. We had just recently talked about how her booster seat in the car isn’t going away just because she’s 8. She’s just as serious about vehicle safety as I am.
I swear, there are times when I can feel it coming, when I know she’s going to ask questions about the accident. It’s been nearly 3 years and it’s lessened some, but it still gets me every time. I cannot describe it, it’s like feeling a ghost, because I just know.
She asked if I remembered the accident as we drove across the parking lot. I told her yes, bits and pieces. She asked if Benny had been run over and I answered honestly. She said, ‘I thought so.’
She asked me if I dropped him. I tried so hard to explain that it wasn’t on purpose. At that point we were getting out of the car and she started to tell me how she would have held on tight and hopped out of the way. To passersby it probably looked like she was doing a dance as we walked into the store while she described how she would have handled it.
I forget she was only 4. She knew what we told her. She’s nearly 8 and has had plenty of time to process and look at the situation from her 8 year old perspective.
I looked at her and said,’I don’t think we ever told you, but the police came over to the house with my car and reconstructed the accident. They timed how long it would take the car to get from the top of the driveway to the bottom. It was 6-7 seconds. I ran and the car door hit me and knocked Benny out of my arms. There just wasn’t enough time to get out of the way.’
She got it. I think it gave her a clearer picture of what happened. Her response was, ‘oh, well yeah, a car is much heavier than you. And now you park the other way so it won’t happen.’
It just seemed like something clicked with her, that she had a better understanding. In that moment, she seemed so old. Here’s a little girl that believes in Santa and the Tooth Fairy, yet I felt like I was speaking to an adult.
I never really thought about her looking at our situation as she grew up. It must be like watching a movie as a child and then seeing it as an adult and being able to identify the adult humor or situations.
I’m glad that she is giving me the opportunity to speak frankly. I’m so happy to have open lines of communication with her.
I’m so lucky to have this child in my life. She carries our Benny memories with her. She’s what keeps us going, she’s what makes us want more of everything that life has to offer.
Of utter and complete happiness. My daughter, my amazing daughter just found out she was cast as a mouse in the Nutcracker in the Hanover Theater. This is a big deal!
For weeks it was all that she could talk about. How she wanted to get a call back. I cautioned her that the competition would be fierce and told her that I was so proud of her for even trying out. I told her this was the first time she had ever done anything like this and tried to present realistic expectations.
Then tonight happened and we jumped on her bed and danced around her room. This little girl whose confidence used to worry me blows me away. I think back to 3 years ago, when her world fell apart and she was still so little learning the worst lesson about how unfair life is.
I remember the year and a half of therapy. I remember all of the tough questions and accusations. I remember the struggle with her and her peers. I remember how tough it has all been for her and how much it tore her down. Thinking of it all overwhelms me.
But today I look at that and I am floored by how confident this little girl has become. She didn’t get there alone. She is so very lucky to have some of the best, kindest and caring people in her life. Some of whom were strangers before Benny died and have become lifelong friends. Her aunties, her uncles, her cousins, her ‘San’s’ and her friends. She is where she is today because of them. Because these people have loved and supported her to no end.
It’s incredible to look at how far she’s come. I don’t often stop to think about it, because it’s so hard. Thank you to everyone that has helped to shape this confident little lady. I’m one proud mama tonight!
We are deep into the second week of school. Darcy has very hesitantly entered the third grade. I’m not sure how she grew up on me so quickly.
School scares me. She’s had good teachers and she’s had great teachers. She’s not just another kid in that classroom, but someone that needs extra attention. We’ve struggled with our love for school when her teachers just don’t get it and her emotional needs are not being met.
I understand that classroom sizes can be huge and with IEP’s and grading papers, there is a lot of work for teachers to deal with. What I don’t like is an unresponsive teacher and a child who doesn’t want to go to school. A child that I know is hungry to learn and create and become a part of her classroom community.
Darcy’s a great student, a huge classroom helper and takes direction well (from her teachers), so all that I ever hear is what a joy she is to have in class. She’s one of the easy ones and sometimes that causes her emotional needs to be overlooked.
So I am sitting here right now with the HUGEST feeling of relief because we are 8 days into the school year and I have heard from her teacher twice already. Nothing bad, just trying to test the waters and see where Darcy is at with things. There’s nothing better than knowing that she is willing to reach out at the slightest bit of trouble. This woman has no idea how much better I already feel about third grade.
And guess what? This must translate into her teaching style because Darcy is LOVING school! She comes home happy, excited to share stories and of course some drama from her day. She’s feeling confident again and it’s so nice to see her excited for school.
And all it took was a little communication.