RECOVERY

The Day I Chose to Live

The day I chose to live was easily the worst day of my life. I guess it happens like that sometimes. Finding my son dead was a horrific experience that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Mr. Main (my husband) says that people don’t even like to hear or talk about losing a child, because they’re afraid if they do then it might happen to them as well. As if talking about it is inviting the devil in! So I don’t say much about that part of my grief. I keep the horror to myself most of the time.

Most things that happen in this world have a definable reason. Maybe the only thing that we can never get a full understanding of is death. One thing you do grasp rather quickly is the absolute FINALITY of it. And it’s that knowledge which forces you to confront your own mortality, whether you’re prepared for it or not. Then, at some point in the consideration of death and all that it means, you realize something that you may have never thought of before. You, as an individual who lives and breathes on this earth, have control of your own life. You can choose whether you can live with the loss or die yourself, alleviating all of your mortal suffering.  

Losing Mikey was a deal breaker for me. I was finished. I looked at the world and what it held for me. I looked at my life as it was and knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was not willing to be on this earth anymore. I had spent most of my life grieving anyway, and I was sad before that, as if somewhere in my innermost being I knew what was coming.

My entire childhood was spent longing for an elusive place that I called “Happiness.” I knew I couldn’t find it and thought somehow that if I did, all things would be made right. I wrote songs and poems from a very young age about death and suicide, even though I wasn’t consciously contemplating either one. It was a part of me from the beginning, this grief that I carried in my heart, like a foreshadowing of things to come.

So, when tragedy after tragedy struck, I wasn’t even surprised. It was as if I expected it. Like that was my life, and I better learn how to live with it. And I did okay with it, to a point. I won’t pretend that at any time I came to an understanding of death or even life. I didn’t know why I always seemed to be a target. I thought I must be receiving punishment from God for my sins or someone else’s.

The human mind is incapable of providing a rationale for death. It just is. We are broken people living in a broken world where we have no control of things as small as the actions of others or as big as death. We are only humans after all. We were forced out of the garden so that we could not eat from the tree of life, even though we could finally understand the existence of evil and how it seeks to destroy both the guilty and the innocent. How unfathomably unfair!

So, I looked at my future, and I could not accept what I was seeing. Life without my son was incomprehensible to me. I had already buried so many people—2 babies, my father, my precious aunt. How much could a heart take before it shattered completely, and for that matter, how much could a mind take before it did the same? Now God was asking this of me, to live my entire life without my child, and I said, “No.”

I woke up from a necessary drug-induced sleep and said the words aloud—to myself more than anyone else. Just to have them out there. Whether I said it to state my intention or my certainty, I don’t know. I just said it. “I don’t want to be here anymore.” And I knew I had made the decision to end my life. To not face the future without my son. It was over, and I was okay with that. I didn’t have to deal with death or life anymore. I was done.

I was done.

But I didn’t consider the other people in the room. Of course, I didn’t! I was alone, locked inside myself with my pain and the loss that I knew there was no escaping. When I said the words, I wasn’t talking to anyone but myself. And maybe God.

But Nic heard me. Nic was my first son to take a breath as a living person in this world. I had a son before him, but he died before he was born. And when Mikey was 8 years old, I buried my second son, Samuel. Now three sons were gone, and Nic was in the room with me when I realized that I had reached the point of no return. So was my daughter, Tiffany. And my best friend, Martha.

And when I said, “I don’t want to be here anymore,” without hesitation, Nic said, “You go, I go.” Silence roared in my ears and all other noise stopped at that moment. I was in shock. There was nothing else in my life but that statement, and the realization that he meant every word of it.

Then Tiff said, “You go, I go,” and Martha said, “You go, I go.”

And I became angrier than I had ever been in my life. Angrier than the angry of losing my babies, and my father. Angrier than I was at God for taking them. Angry, because in that moment, everything changed. I was ready to die. I had no desire to stay.

But I had no choice. Not then, not now, not ever. And it hurts, but not near as much as it did that day, the worst day of my life.  

That day, I chose to live.

It would be a long, long time before I chose to have a life. That day I was only capable of making one choice.

There is only one thing that trumps grief. Only one thing that’s bigger than the worst loss. One thing that is undeniably monumentally ENOUGH, even in the face of the most insurmountable tragedy ever to befall a Mama—the loss of her child. That one thing is LOVE.

The day I chose to live, I chose their lives over my own. Knowing that I would never smile again until I drew my last breath on earth, the time God set aside for me to die, I CHOSE LOVE. To choose love, I was forced to choose life. I chose to keep my remaining two babies alive on this earth for as long as it was humanly possible for me to do so. My selfishness was not bigger than my love for my two children and my friend. I was forced to make the choice to stay on this earth for them.

Regrets? NO. Not even one. Amazingly, life went on, and I did smile again. And I learned that even though happiness is temporary, joy is eternal. I learned to walk this road that God placed me on one step at a time.

For more of what I learned from grief, click here: https://moodyoops.com/12-surprising-things-that-grief-will-teach-you-that-you-actually-need-to-know/

Now, I look at the faces of those I love more than my own life and more than my own death, and I know I made the right choice.

And now my family has grown much larger than the three people it had suddenly become! There have been more losses, but also more births. It has also grown in other natural ways, by adding children and adults through marriage and through deep and abiding friendship.

No one can replace Mikey, nor anyone else who is lost to me, but no one needs to. Mikey had his own space in my heart, and it’s still occupied. He didn’t leave me forever. I will touch his face again.

But here on earth, I get to watch my grandbabies laugh and play. I get to teach them about life, and sadly, about death. Sometimes it’s a bittersweet joy and sometimes it’s a full-on beautiful, boundless joy that doesn’t exist because of my decision but despite my having to make it. And I enjoy more fully the moments that I have with all the ones I love, and those who love me back—especially the ones who love me enough to be willing to sacrifice their own lives if I cannot be in them.

When I wake now, sometimes I can’t help but to think about what I would have missed if I did not choose to live. When I look at my life, it is full of joy—and sadness too. One does not exist without the other. You can’t truly know the joy of life without experiencing the pain of death.

I don’t know what my childhood would have been like if I had known joy instead of the darkness of sorrow and depression. If I pass down anything to my children, I hope it’s not the despair that I was born with. I hope it will be a legacy of life. I hope I will have taught them to love as fully and deeply as possible for every single moment that God allows us. I pray that they will know always that He has a plan that ultimately leads to infinite joy. There’s no time to be searching for a place called “Happiness.” Life is way too short for that.

Happiness is a lie anyway.  In this world, it’s fleeting and superficial. Joy, however, can be had now (even amid grief) and experienced eternally. If you are going to strive for anything, strive to find joy. If you are going to choose anything worthwhile, let it be life.

Choose Life.

As for me, I am forever grateful for the lessons learned and blessings received because of the day I chose to live.

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RECOVERY

12 SURPRISING THINGS THAT GRIEF WILL TEACH YOU THAT YOU ACTUALLY NEED TO KNOW

Joy and grief grow in the same garden.

My first introduction to death was at the tender age of 18. This was before I knew the first thing about living, so I sure didn’t know how to process the fact that people could just stop doing it. Especially important people, like my Daddy. He was bigger than life to me, and his life seemed way more important to me than mine. I threw myself face down on the floor and began my first attempt to barter with God.  Apparently, God wasn’t interested in reversing the process and taking me in Daddy’s place, because I’m still here, and writing about it after all these years.

God has a way of giving us just what we need to survive at the time, and sometimes scarcely more than that. Somehow, I managed to get up off the floor and scrape together just enough of whatever it is that it takes to survive. I had to make a lot of hard decisions that I wasn’t ready for back then. It was like going from zero to sixty—I grew up fast. I didn’t have much of a choice.

The tragedies in my life have continued. I have not only buried my father; I have also buried three sons. Two of them were infants, one was almost 17 years old. I am forever changed. Some days I find the courage to talk about it and some days I don’t. It would be easy to wallow on the hard days, but today I choose to honor life by talking about what grief has taught me, in the hopes that it will help someone else when they go through the darkness.

THE TAKEAWAY                                   

  1. PEOPLE ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN THINGS.

This seems like a no-brainer. I can’t elaborate too much on the obvious, but if I have learned anything it’s to put the people you love and your relationships above material possessions and the pursuit of them. The Bible, in Mark 8:36, asks, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”

Don’t sell out your family for money or recognition. Don’t trade your time with them for anything that seems glittery and beautiful. You can’t get the moments that you lost back again. You can’t even get the moments that you spent back again, but at least you have the memories of those. Let your memories be full of laughter and joy when you can, but also go through the hard stuff with the ones you love. The darkest night spent with someone you care for is better than the brightest morning alone with your things.

2. WE ARE NOT IMMORTAL.

Surprise! Life here on this earth does not last forever. We die. Our forever is not going to be spent here in these bodies, doing this stuff. There’s really no need to save the best for last! Don’t keep your ideas to yourself. Use them! Get out your best dishes, wear your best clothes. Have dessert first if you feel like it (I don’t recommend this all the time though. It’s not that great for your waistline).

3. TAKE YOUR MOMENTS WHEN YOU CAN GET THEM.

Embrace the precious times of your life. You don’t know what the future holds! The Bible talks about this too (a very wise book), when it says in James 4:13 “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’ yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.”

Love on your family. Stare at your children. Watch them breathe. Take a moment to revel in their smiles. Say all those words you’ve been holding back. Just in case this is all you will ever have; make it the best moment it can possibly be!

4. IT’S OKAY TO LIVE AGAIN.

You are not betraying anyone by going on with your life. Continuing to breathe is not a curse, and you have no reason to feel guilty for it. God has appointed each of us a time to be born and a time to die (Yep, that’s from the Bible too). If you are reading this, it wasn’t your time to die. It’s hard and it hurts and it’s unfair and all of that. But it’s the truth. Oh, and you aren’t God. It wasn’t your choice. You can let go of that now. Keep breathing. Keep going. Keep trying. Make it a great life. Do you know what the absolute best thing is that you can do for the ones who have stopped living? For you to keep on living, and to lead a victorious life.

5. LAUGHTER REALLY IS GOOD FOR HEALING.

Don’t feel guilty for finding enjoyment in your life. Let the joy come back. It doesn’t mean there isn’t still heartbreak. It doesn’t mean you have forgotten. Joy and pain can inhabit the same house. Let them.

6. GOD KNOWS YOU’RE MAD AT HIM.

He can take it. This is His world. Nothing happens without His knowledge and permission. It’s a hard pill to swallow. Everyone dies. Also hard to get down, especially when that someone is your child or parent, spouse or sibling. Or grandparent. It doesn’t mean that you are insignificant to God that He allowed it to happen to you. It also is not a small thing that He gave His Son to die, knowing that He would ultimately beat death. I mean, that was the point. He kicked death’s ass so I could see my kids again someday. Yeah, I was mad at Him for a long time. Sometimes I still am. Then I remember that, and I get through. I know where my hope is.

7. WE AREN’T MEANT TO DO THIS ALONE.

Don’t isolate and expect to get through it all on your own. There’s no need in it. If you don’t have friends or family who will walk through your grief with you, find a recovery group. Celebrate Recovery is a great place to go. If not that one, then another. There are moments when you need to shout, cry, fall apart, and vent. You might just want to share some funny old memories. You might not know what to do with your anger and unforgiveness. That’s what these groups are for. People are better than things and substances for helping you to get through. They need you too.

8. LIFE IS A MIRACLE.

Do you know why you are still here? Neither do I. It’s a miracle. Treat each breath as the gift that it is. Embrace the fact that you are alive and go dance in the rain.

9. ALL WE LEAVE BEHIND IS WHAT WE GIVE TO OTHERS.

No accomplishment, no amount of money, no possession will matter after you are gone. When people think of you, let it be because they remember what an impact for good you made on their lives. Stand up for what is right. Fight for those who can’t fight for themselves. Love everyone the same. Don’t discriminate because of color, social status, or wealth. Give everything you can give to other people. You can’t take one thing with you where you’re going anyway (no matter which direction that is).

10. IT’S OKAY TO CRY.

You can grieve for as long as you need to grieve. I believe that there are some losses that you will always grieve for on this earth. The loss of a child is one of those. If you need to cry, don’t let anyone tell you that you should be “over it.” Your grief is your grief. Feel it and live your life anyway.

11. YOU DON’T HAVE TO SPEND YOUR LIFE TRYING TO MAKE THEIRS MEAN SOMETHING.

Their life was not in vain, and neither was their death. It has already taught you so much! You have precious memories to hold forever. Their lives already had meaning, and they always will. Don’t spend your whole life setting up foundations in their name, donating to causes in their name, furiously trying to immortalize them. Let them rest in peace. You don’t have to make their life mean something. The best thing that you can do to honor them is to make your own life mean something! Work on that. Take responsibility for you. Get better so you can help other people.

12. THE NEXT “YOU” WILL BE DIFFERENT.

This journey that you are walking through grief will change you. That’s okay. You might think that you were meant to be that other person who was never touched by loss. Things would have turned out another way. Perhaps you can make a case for that, but I doubt it. Life, death, and God did not steal anything from you. Remember that everyone’s time is appointed to them. That means that you are meant to be the person touched by loss. The question is “why”?

Use the things you have learned to help other people. Sure, you are different, but you’re not lesser than. You have a world of experience now that was very hard-earned. Don’t let it go to waste. Use it for good. When the opportunity comes, take it.

These are some of the surprising things that grief will teach you that you actually need to know. Somewhere down the road, you will have the chance to share them with someone else in a way that helps their heart. Doing it will help your own.

just a doll that looks like Samuel…

RIP Samuel Allen Dowden, born dead, July 17th, 1998

Happy 21st