grief, RECOVERY

Side Effects of Tremendous Loss

Grief sucks.

Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash

I’m going to go over a little bit of what happens when you have to say goodbye forever to someone you love. First, a bit of context.

Shock.

I lost my kid.

Well, I didn’t exactly lose him.

Horror.

I know where he is. I hardly ever go there. There’s something disturbing about standing on a bit of cold ground while your flesh and blood decomposes beneath your feet.

Unrelenting Pain.

Even more devastating is the crushing sensation in my chest when I drive up to the cemetery. It doesn’t just happen in that moment though. It comes unbidden in unsuspecting scenarios for the rest of your life.

I mean, you know the holidays will be hard. That’s expected. And birthdays. Dates of departure are devastating, but you know those days are coming and can kind of half-ass prepare for them.

It’s those other days, days when things are good. You’re happy and laughing and….

Guilt.

How the hell could you possibly laugh when your child is dead? What kind of monster are you, anyway? Thoughts like these come to your mind and even though you know they’re irrational, you think them anyway and you can’t help it.

And it hurts so bad. Worse, you know it always will. The lump that you keep choking back in your throat is always going to be there. You’re never not going to cry when you hear the song that YOU chose for the funeral because it was a favorite.

Hopelessness.

You can’t fix this. The very idea of that is overwhelming. You feel helpless because you ARE helpless. Looking down the road at life you wonder if you even want to go on at all. Several times you decide that you don’t.

Sometimes you can count on one hand the reasons to stay. I’ve been there.

A few years ago, a young man in the town next to mine committed suicide. It wasn’t long after that his mom laid across his grave and did the same.

Heartache.

I spent an entire day grieving for her, even though I didn’t know her. Or maybe I was grieving for me. I knew what drove her to it. I live it every day.

Isolation.

When it’s your kid who dies, you separate yourself from other mothers. The ones who have never lost a child. They don’t know. You don’t want them to ever know.

You can pick out your worst enemy on earth, and you won’t wish this on them.

This grief is something you hold close.

But you DO want to talk about your loss. You want to talk about WHO you lost.

It doesn’t take you long to realize that people are tired of hearing it. They’re also AFRAID to hear it.

It’s as if the whole world thinks that talking about death means it will come to call.

Maybe it does.

Cold Loneliness.

I always hear the gravel fly from under my truck tires on that final stretch to the stone. I remember walking that road a hundred times. I also remember always ending at the cemetery and not being able to walk back. Someone always had to come get me.

Numbness.

How can everything be so intense when I’m so numb?

It’s like standing under a tree hearing a leaf fall without being able to move to try to catch it.

Photo by Keenan Constance on Unsplash

Reality can’t be real when you bury your baby.

Insanity.

Looking back, I realize I’m lucky. I walked through the woods so many times with a gun in my hand. Utterly crazy. Hunters would come down from their stands and lead me out. They didn’t seem to mind that I interrupted their hunting. I don’t know for sure. We never talked. I only talked to Mikey.

One day I stumbled upon a skunk. I was carrying a .22 rifle that day. No matter how crazy a person gets, you always know you don’t want to smell like a skunk.

I realized it was either him or me. He fell over like a cartoon character. I walked around him, probably giving him more space than he needed.

It felt good to kill something.

Then I found the couch. It wasn’t hidden very well. I would have done a better job of it myself. Something like that, you don’t leave to chance.

We called those woods the “forty.” It was forty acres of good hunting land. Full of deer, squirrels, and mosquitoes. Apparently, it had the occasional skunk as well.

The first thing I saw when I came through the pine sapling thicket into the clearing was that couch.

 It had been in my living room just a month before when I found my son on it, face down and stiff. Already starting the rigor process.

Anger.

I unloaded my gun on the couch. Killed it dead, the way it killed my son. My thought process wasn’t lining up with reality. After I shot it, I laid on it and cried myself to sleep. That’s how they found me later.

The couch was burned and buried after that. I never saw it again. It’s a good thing. I would have killed it again.

Disbelief.

You should never have to find your child’s body. It should never be cold and stiff. Your child should not die. It’s a travesty. It’s an injustice. It’s the worst thing that can ever happen to a Mama.

I feel all of this again as I pull up to the cemetery.


Tinnitus.

My ears have been ringing since the day the keening started. The doctors call it tinnitus. I know it’s the echo of my own voice screaming for the life of my child.

Another side effect of a morphine overdose I didn’t take.

Flashbacks.

Call it PTSD or call it whatever. I have flashbacks. Who wouldn’t? Not as many as before, but they still come. Usually when I’m driving, which is inconvenient at best and life-altering at worst. I don’t drive to the cemetery much.

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

It triggers me.

Anxiety.

I doubt it will ever go away. Terror has a strong grip on me. I wake up at night with my heart pounding and all I can do is call out to Jesus. No one else can help.

I’m afraid when my kids are out of my sight and I’m afraid when they’re with me.

He died on my watch.

My watch is scarier now. I will never not check to see if my kids and grandkids are breathing. I always think about it.

All night long.

Insecurity.

As a Mom, you think there’s an instinctive way that you’ll know when your kids are in danger. It’s hard to wrap your mind around the fact that instincts can fail you. I didn’t know. You don’t always know. I question my ability to be a parent and keep my children safe. I question my grandchildren’s safety when they’re with me.

Children can die. The headstone in front of me is proof of that.

Side Effects.

I’ve only gone over a few of them. I wish that life and death were an easier process, or maybe I don’t. What makes it so hard is also what makes it worth it.

Love comes with a potentially high price tag.

We don’t know how things are going to turn out. It would be less risky to never take a chance—refuse to love—but life wouldn’t be worth living.

It would be a simple choice to never have children or truly love another human being because of the chance you may have to bury them one day. To make that choice is to choose to live without the greatest gift of your life.

Even knowing what can happen, I will always choose to love. It’s hard to say it, and hard to know it, but it’s infinitely worth the pain.

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RECOVERY

How do you handle life when everything goes wrong?

Sometimes I wonder if it’s even worth getting out of bed.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Two flat tires.

That’s how my day started. I was driving to work on these fantastic Louisiana roads, and the best I can tell, I went in a pothole.

I’m not sure why it took out two of my tires on the sidewalls, but there were a couple of huge holes looking back at me. This is certainly not how I meant for my morning to go. I had higher hopes than that when I crawled out of bed.

It seems like bad luck comes in waves. First, I caught the hubs cheating. Okay, that’s awful—maybe not even comparable to a flat tire or two. In the end, that one will cost me a whole lot more.

This tire thing was just like icing on the cake.

For a few minutes, I thought about hurling myself into traffic and taking my chances with one of the eighteen wheelers barreling down the road. Luckily, I gathered my wits together and called a tire store instead. $421 dollars later, I was fixed up. They even gave me a ride to the office while they worked on my vehicle!

So, what DO you do when life gets crazy and overwhelming?

One answer (and not a very good one) is to isolate.

Isolating means to withdraw from other people and try to get through everything on your own.
It can also mean to withdraw from other people and AVOID dealing with anything.

Often when we isolate, we use distractions or substances to keep us from acknowledging our mountains and doing the work it takes to overcome. This causes more problems to pile up until our lives become completely unmanageable. That’s 12-step talk, for anyone who hasn’t been through it. Recovery is an amazing thing.

Isolation is NOT the preferred solution but it’s something I’ve tried and made bigger messes with before.

Another choice that you could make (and I’m guilty of this one as well) is VENT.

Everyone knows what venting is, but here’s an explanation anyway.

Venting is when you seek validation, approval, or sympathy by telling your side of a story (often with dramatic emphasis) on social media or to another person or group of people. This is my own definition, just like the definition for isolating, but it’s basically what venting boils down to.

Here are some ways that venting can be damaging:

  • Feelings often change, but once the spoken or written word is out there, it’s out there. You can apologize, but you can’t unsay it. Someone can forgive you, but they’re unlikely to forget.
  • You can hurt someone’s feelings. Maybe you mean to rage about someone and at the time, it doesn’t make you feel bad (even though it should). Collateral damage happens. That person may have children, parents, grandkids, or other individuals in their life that you just victimized unintentionally with your words. It hurts to hear bad things about people you love, whether it’s true or not. It isn’t fair to throw shade on everyone even if a certain person is shady and you want it known. Please think twice before venting!
  • Venting often damages the venter more than the ventee. I don’t think that’s proper terminology, but you get my meaning. It makes you look bad. JUST DON’T DO IT.

It’s okay to cry.

It may be hard to go through a bad time without crying. So, don’t. There’s a lot to be said for the cleansing and healing effects of a good, blubbering, crying session!

Get it out of your system.

Just don’t make it a long-term event. Cry, then stand up, wash your face, and move on with life!

Community.

Photo by Phil Coffman on Unsplash

I find it useful to plug into a community of like-minded people when going through the rough times of life. Ideally, you already have a group like that. If you don’t, seek one out. Look for people that you know or know about who believe like you do, worship like you do, and who will hold you accountable for getting your life back on track.

The truth is it’s YOUR LIFE!

How you live and whether you end well is ultimately up to you. You can hang your head in defeat and quit trying, or you can shake it off and get back behind the wheel.

For me, the most important thing I can do is lean on God.

He’s my constant whether things are going good or not so great. He’s my shelter in a storm and the rock I’m standing on. No wind will blow me away, and no waters will drown my soul if I cling tightly to His hand.

My faith isn’t what gets me through; it’s the One I’m faithful to.

This is why two flat tires and an impending divorce didn’t defeat me today.

There will always be potholes. And there will always be God.

RECOVERY

A Closet to Myself

I want to thank you for cheating on me.

Photo by Adam Nieścioruk on Unsplash

All that glorious room!

I especially want to thank you for doing it in such a crappy way. Now there’s absolutely no chance that we could ever get past it.

At least as a couple…

I’m planning how I’m going to reorganize my clothes.

Oh, and the fact that you did it so openly, in such a humiliating and public way, means that although I can and do forgive you, I will NEVER take you back.

Thank you for including all YOUR friends in your lies. It makes me feel great to know who can be trusted. I feel awesome when I think that everyone knew but me.

Shoes on that shelf, boots on the other.

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

Knowing how many of the ones I called my friends were lied to behind my back and fell in with the “let’s fix that poor girl” plan infuriates me. I may be broken, but not the way you said.

My brokenness comes from the sorrow of losing a child, not the pettiness of a twisted relationship.

But I kept my head held high and pretended I didn’t know about the lies you told and how my own friends believed and validated your truth.

You did me a favor.

I can hang my caps on the right, scarves on the left.

I never realized how much time I spent tending to your life instead of my own, until I didn’t have to do it anymore.

I made sure your clothes were picked up off the floor, washed and folded them, put them away. I gave you the top bar because you’re taller than me. I always used to joke and ask if you knew you were way too tall for me.

I already moved all my shirts to the top. Color coordinated.

I made sure all your bills got paid on time, fielded phone calls, and reminded you to pick your phone and debit card off the restaurant table.

The credit rating that you now enjoy was a gift from yours truly. You’re welcome.

I also set up all your accounts, including your online accounts, and kept track of all your passwords because you kept forgetting them and refused to write them down. That’s what you had me for, you said.

My jeans will hang nicely on the bottom bar.

I can only surmise that you took the plane down in flames on purpose, realizing that I have access to EVERY SINGLE ACCOUNT, including all the social media accounts you own, SINCE I SET THEM UP!

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

I like to color coordinate.

Sometimes I had to tell you when you didn’t quite match, but I always tried to do that in a respectful way. I knew you were colorblind. It wasn’t really your fault.

I also made excuses for your behavior to my friends and family.

“He was abused when he was a kid,” or “He didn’t really mean it,” and “His bark is way worse than his bite.”

When you started getting physically aggressive, I found ways to blame myself for that, just like you did.

After all, I’m not the perfect wife.

I could probably cook more or clean better. I’ll always lose the comparison game you play, because you never explained the rules.

My clothes aren’t always the latest style, but they’re always my style.

I don’t know how many times it’s been pointed out that I’m “not from here,” so I’ll “never really fit in.”

Photo by Camila Cordeiro on Unsplash

It’s true. It’s not just my clothes that are different.

I don’t place value on status, possessions, or money, and I couldn’t understand your obsession with all three.

So, when you tried to control me with money, it wasn’t ever going to work.

I could see it for what it was—a last ditch effort to gain the upper hand in a relationship that should’ve been a loving and giving partnership, not the competition you always tried to make it.

I hate shopping, but my clothes will fill this space nicely.

I’ll never forget the day you waved your hand across our living room and said, “I love what you’ve done in here. It looks like something from a magazine.”

I was stunned.

Before I could stammer my thanks, you pointed to my desk in the corner and my art on the wall and said, “We just need to get rid of everything like that.”

Everything of me.

You wanted a perfect, storybook cookie-cutter kind of wife, and you ended up with me.

It seemed like it became your main goal in life to squash everything about me that you loved at first—my openness, my artistic nature, my free spirit. To kill all my dreams so I wouldn’t try to outshine you.

Or maybe that’s not why you didn’t want me to shine.

If the light was on me, it couldn’t help but also fall on you.

You didn’t want to be seen.

Maybe you’re content in the dark, with someone else fighting your battles and matching your socks for the rest of your life.

Perhaps you want to crowd out anyone who might make it seem as if you aren’t living up to all YOU can be.

I don’t know.

I just know I have all this space now.

I’m sure that your old (and now new) girlfriend has zero expectations of you. You can just go through life half-ass forever, never striving to do better, be better, learn better, or reach beyond what you can see.

That’s okay with me.

I’m glad you cheated. I didn’t even have a decent space in the closet.

Now I have the whole thing.