Monday, October 16, 2017

The Others

I cannot protect my children from everything.  It’s a hard lesson I learned when my son, Harrison, died at the tender age of 16.  I am the mother of 4 beautiful children and I honestly believed I could keep them safe.  I told them I could keep them safe.  I trusted the four walls of our home were safe.  How life proved me wrong and a liar will haunt me for the rest of my life.

We believe we are safe at home. Our four walls, for the most part, keep the outside evil, well, out.  The love within, the peace within, all the mushy stuff, protects us.  I always told my children they were safe, and nothing would harm them.  You know at night, when most kids are afraid of the night, the dark, and all the noises and such they worry about.  My standard answer would be the love and safety of our home would keep them safe.  It was asinine, foolish, crazy…all those things to think that way.  But it worked and we all believed that I, mum, would keep them safe and sound in our cozy house with the love we shared.  How wrong I was.

One night, in 2014, my second oldest child went to sleep and never woke up again.  Forever 16…

The world shattered for us all.  I knew this impacted my children greatly, but it is now 3 years later that I am starting to really see more of how this changed their world.  And I only see the surface as I am sure there is more they do not let me know to protect me.

Just a backstory, it took me 3 years to come to terms with my son’s death.  And when I say that, I mean to finally get my head back in the game of life.  I did not realize I wasn’t truly living and caring for myself and my children during those years.  I was on zombie mode during this time, just going through the motions.  I learned I could live again.  I found my smile.  I am living life, albeit with a broken heart, but living once again.

Since I was so delicate, for lack of a better word, my children took great strides to not burden me with their issues.  Talk of amazing people.  These are not old children either: 9, 12 and 24 as of now.  For them to be most concerned about me and my well-being, to put their needs aside to help me cope with my loss.  And I made mistakes and such.  Their capacity to forgive, understand, accept and love unconditionally.  They set the bar so high, I can only hope to be half as wonderful as they are in life.

But now I see it and the impact.  Death came into their safe place and took a loved one unexpectedly, without warning, quietly in the night.  There’s no safe place and their mum could not do anything to stop it!  She was wrong…I was wrong…deadly wrong.  And nothing would ever be the same again.  The concept of death is all too real for them.  They know a child can die just like that, where as other kids their age don’t necessarily have that knowledge.  They know some medical issues can cause instant death, without warning. They know their mum is not the strongest, most perfect person in the world.  They know death causes their entire world to turn upside down.  Makes people stare at them and ask a million questions about what happened.  It causes financial issues sometimes, work issues, family issues that can impact everyone negatively. 


All this to say it is astonishing the ENORMOUS impact a sibling death has on children of all ages.  A child dying is wrong in the universe on all aspects of the spectrum.  I have been tremendously blessed with children with amazing qualities allowing me to heal and now it’s time to focus on them.  I could not have made it this far without them.  They are my reason for living and loving.  I am totally and completely, head over heels in love with them.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

What Not To Say?

First, let me say thank you to those who shared such personal stories from their painful journeys.  I appreciate it tremendously.  I know it is not always easy, and can be painful to share.  And for those not on this journey, I ask you read this with an open mind and heart.  Some of the items on here are not necessarily hurtful to all of us grieving; some items can be found comforting.

It’s not always as much as what is said, but how you act to our response.  For example, when I was told, “He’s in a better place,” I responded with, “No, the better place is with me!”  The person appeared astounded.  I wasn’t trying to be rude, but at the very moment, my arms seemed like the best place for my son to be.  I know people are trying to comfort me.   Some are uncomfortable themselves, looking for anything to fill the silence. 

Then there are times when things are said which are completely and utterly irresponsible!  Like someone carrying a loaded, emotional gun and firing it off whenever they so choose. These things are blatantly obvious on the list, and shocking!  What person says such heartless, cruel things to a grieving parent is beyond me. 

When you read through this list, please don’t feel guilty or ashamed for something you’ve said that has made the list.  Some days, certain things affect us differently.  This is a journey in which we’ve no instruction book, no rules, no guide… We are walking though, in the foggy dark, hurt, sad and painfully aware of the great emptiness left when our child(ren) died.  There’s no true right or wrong.  

Hell, we don’t even know what’s right or wrong.  We only know what hurts at that moment.  Please don’t shy away from us; help us find the words.  We don’t know what they are either, to be honest with you.  It’s all new to us, too.

It’s a lengthy list as our turmoil, ache, grief, pain and more are everlasting.  I collected over 500 comments and compiled a list spanning many pages of legal pages.  My heart breaks for every parent who responded.  Here are those remarks:

  • ·         They wouldn’t want you to be sad/want you to move on
  • ·         They are in a better place/better off/not suffering
  • ·         I’m here if you need anything (and then not be there)
  • ·         I know how you feel because I lost my _______  (grandparent, sibling, cousin, spouse, etc)
  • ·         I know how you felt when my dog died
  • ·         I’m tired of your grief
  • ·         It gets better in time/time heals
  • ·         You have other kids, family/thank goodness for your other kids, family/other kids, family need you
  • ·         “You can’t be certain he’s in heaven! That’s left to God’s mercy! It’s in the Bible!/maybe they are in       heaven
  • ·         I know how you feel because: my kids moved, in prison, don’t talk to me
  • ·         Get over it/let it go/life goes on/it’s been a long time now
  • ·         Why is your family sheltering you?
  • ·         I pray hard for my kids so I don’t lose one
  • ·         Just stare at his picture
  • ·         You can have more/you have enough/you can have another/you can replace them
  • ·         Snap out of it
  • ·         If he wasn’t on drugs…
  • ·         Get it out of your mind/don’t think about it
  • ·         He took his life so he’ll never go to heaven
  • ·         Everything happens for a reason
  • ·         This too shall pass/gets easier
  • ·         I think you really need counseling/are you getting help/you need extensive therapy
  • ·         Are things starting to get back to normal/are you better yet
  • ·         So, how are you/are you ok
  • ·         Psychiatric Professionals: What are your goals? What do you hope to get out of therapy?
  • ·         You can’t dwell on it
  • ·         Try not to memorialize your child
  • ·         It is what it is/it’s was meant to be
  • ·         You have to be strong
  • ·         HR person stating psych services can be used for things like if you have “a teen you want to bury in      the back yard”
  • ·         You’ll be a great mom someday
  • ·         God doesn’t give you what you can’t handle
  • ·         TRY AGAIN!
  • ·         The baby was bad/would have a bad life/something was wrong with the baby
  • ·         God needed him more/needed an angel/needed a flower in His garden
  • ·         At least he wasn’t/didn’t (murdered, overdose, etc)
  • ·         Nor your fault/nothing you could have done
  • ·         BE STRONG!
  • ·         Just be there for your family
  • ·         STOP CRYING!
  • ·         You’re being selfish
  • ·         You’re doing so well/looking better
  • ·         Stop posting about it/posting bothers others/making other people uncomfortable with posts
  • ·         You’re too sensitive
  • ·         What exactly happened/how they die
  • ·         You are so strong/how do you do it
  • ·         Forget the past
  • ·         God will reward you in another way/God has plans for you
  • ·         From another relative: We are getting over them too!!
  • ·         At least you had them for a while/hold them
  • ·         Watch what you say so we don’t have another suicide, etc
  • ·         I’ll be praying for you/him/her
  • ·         Stay calm and carry on
  • ·         Time to get the tubes tied
  • ·         He wasn’t yours forever
  • ·         People don’t like to see you sad/you make people uncomfortable
  • ·         You’re not the only woman/person who has lost a child
  • ·         My problems are worse than yours
  • ·         Their time to go/it was their time
  • ·         I knew they wouldn’t make it
  • ·         Complaining about their own kids
  • ·         “Because she was a child she will always be pure in heaven…can’t say you’ll ever get there”
  • ·         Soldier’s mother: why was he in that God awful war anyway?
  • ·         You’ll get through/you’ll do better than most
  • ·         Don’t be overprotective of other children, family
  • ·         Leave it in God’s hands
  • ·         It’ll be okay
  • ·         You shouldn’t have more children/stop trying
  • ·         It was just your adopted son/daughter
  • ·         They are in heaven looking down on you
  • ·         They are always with you
  • ·         YOU should have expected it
  • ·         Losing your (spouse, sibling) is harder
  • ·         Glad to see you’re happy again
  • ·         Pretend they are away on a trip
  • ·         I didn’t call/attend/show up because….
  • ·         “Glad she is dead…” focus on [me] more
  • ·         Everyone has to die
  • ·         Maybe something is wrong and they are going to hell
  • ·         A punishment to the parent/I am a better parent as my children are still alive
  • ·         Child is turning in their grave
  • ·         After their child’s homecoming in heaven, parent can plan family reunion in heaven
  • ·         Only the good die young
  • ·         How many kids do you have? And then question our responses
  • ·         When are you going to have another baby?
  • ·         Lucky he wasn’t ______________ (older, younger, etc)
  • ·         Keep your head up
  • ·         Thankful you had time with them
  • ·         Death is easier than dealing with a handicapped daughter
  • ·         You baby went to hell because…
  • ·         Get a GRIP!!
  • ·         Something worse could happen
  • ·         Now you have your own angel
  • ·         Now you have a ton of money from the insurance
  • ·         I can’t come over because I can’t handle the death/can’t call/can’t talk/can’t help/don’t like funerals
  • ·         You’ll see them again in heaven
  • ·         It’s the same as when DHS took my children 

What do you say? What are the right words?  There is an overwhelming agreement that a hug and allowing us to talk, cry…just grieve in the way we need to, help more than one may ever know.  

Support us on our journey.  We will find a new normal for ourselves.  Forcing us to “get over it” and “be done” because it is more comfortable for a non -grieving parent does not help. Instead, it hinders our journey and takes us on a path we shouldn’t even be able to go down. 

Many of us, if not all, want to have a sense of new normal as well.  The pain is unbearable and we would like to smile.  We do appreciate so much more than you may think.  Our tears and sadness are not due to our inability to have pleasure; but due to the inability to hold our child(ren) again.  Please don’t confuse the two.

And please, think just a moment before you say or don’t say something.  Sometimes, saying “I don’t know what to say,” is a perfectly ok response! We don’t always know what to say to each other either.  We do, however, give a lot of hugs to each other as often as possible.


Monday, June 19, 2017

Yin and Yang

Today I went to see Harrison and the wave of sadness, horror and grief overcame me.  It always seems to amaze me how it feels just as painful as the day I lost him.  It doesn’t get easier as people would like to believe or wish it would.  You think you’re tired of hearing it? I get tired of feeling it.  A heart can only break and be broken so long.

I live my life daily with the pain of being without one of my kids.  I adore my children, so in love with my children.  And to not have one around is torture, pure torture.  But what can I do? 

I live. I wake up every morning, grateful my eyes open.  I say a quick prayer, sometimes I don’t even realize I am thanking someone for my morning. I take in the beautiful sunrise, even when it is the wee hours of the morning. I appreciate my health, house, food and all.  I don’t take these things for granted. 

And then I hear them…  I see those faces…  My heart melts like ice on a summer day.  And I know, I know why I live, what makes me happy, why my heart sings every day.  Regardless of the smile or frown I get from the grump heads, I can’t wait to be around them.  Big and small, young and old, it doesn’t matter.  Add in a daughter in law and a granddaughter, and I feel my blessings daily.  Warm, fuzzy and loving every day is a joyous day with them. 

I am sure it sounds silly or even overboard, but if you’ve seen me with my children, you know the love for them pours out of my being.  They amaze me, thrill me and, most of all, love me.   So, when I think of not having Harrison around, it naturally kills me. 

It’s the yin and yang of life.  Extreme joy and extreme pain, co inhabiting one heart, every day, without fail.  I can feel warm from a wonderful, loving memory and be crying, uncontrollably, missing my baby all at once.  It’s an experience I have a love/hate relationship with that I never 
encountered before his death.  But I can say it’s made me treasure the memories more than ever.


I know this entry is a jumbled mess.  It’s just my heart pouring out emotion today.  Never an easy day, but I know I am loved.  But even better, I love!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Warning: Brutal & Graphic!

Warning: Brutal and Graphic!

It has been brought to my attention there are rumors about me floating around, mainly about my mental health.  This is the only forum I have in order defend myself now.  I apologize to those I may offend.  Tender heart…don’t continue reading.

Please do not judge me and the journey I walk for you do not know what it is like for me.  Not even Harrison’s father is on the same journey.  He and I experienced different things on the worst day of our lives and have our own personal demons to battle.

I want to paint a picture for you and explain why I may appear, as told to me, crazy, losing it, emotional, and whatever else a few select people have decided to say about me while I am not around.  And let me just say right now I find it cowardly to not just say it to me directly.  I welcome any feedback you may have for me.  I am a big girl and can take it; just expect a response back.

For those of you with children, imagine your child, motionless, breathless, yellow, gray, blue…

Imagine the feeling of just being told your child is dead, the idea of trying to wrap you head around this.  The idea of never hearing, seeing, smelling, hugging, touching, sharing, anything with your child again.

Feel the pain and heaviness in your chest and heart. The air being sucked out of the room and from your lungs.  I can’t even imagine finding my child like this, can you?  Imagine the desperation of trying to wake your child up and knowing in the back of your mind he is not going to ever wake up again.  Can you?  The fear, the terror, the anguish and the scream all coming to the surface.  The realization you have something horrible happening kicking in. 

Imagine having to call 911 and tell them your child is not breathing, not moving, has no pulse.  

Watching the paramedics trying to treat your child and then pronouncing him dead on the scene.  Talking about calling the coroner to come to the house.  Having the police kick you out of your son’s room until said coroner arrives to check out the scene.

Imagine having to call the mother of your son and say, “he’s dead” to her.  Can you?  How do you?  

Imagine trying to drive over to the house where you child is lying dead in his room, police standing guard not allowing you to go in and hug your child for one last time. 

Imagine trying to comfort your other children who have seen things they should never have witnessed in their lives, never experience. 

Now, imagine saying good bye, kissing your child before they take him away to the coroner’s office with the body bag around him, zipped down to his chest.  Imagine having to shield your children from seeing him wheeled out in a body bag and driven away. 

Can you?  I see the images in my head 24/7, without fail.  They haunt me.  Yes, I have issues.  Who wouldn’t.   If you want to judge me, go right ahead.  If you want to spread rumors, I ask for the courtesy of letting me know what you think about me and not just talking about me behind my back. 


Again, sorry if I have offended anyone.  Not my intention.  Just a dose of my reality.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

It Takes A Village...

It's an odd phenomenon what happens when your child dies.  You become an oddity to quite a few people.  People's reactions, statements and judgments are magnified more than one can imagine and can pierce a grieving parents heart like an arrow.

First, understand there is no rule book to guide us on this journey.  And since every parent's experience is different from the next, we can only hold each other's hand but cannot tell another exactly which direction to go.  Hopefully that made sense.  Although I am not alone, my journey is mine to walk alone.  Even Harrison's father is walking a different journey than I am.

With that said, we each handle how we live with our grief differently.  On my car, it states "My Angel: Harrison 11/97-3/14."  Why I felt compelled to do it I don't know, but I did it.  It draws attention and sometimes people will come up from behind and intentionally look inside my car, while driving, to see what I look like I am guessing.  At first I would become slightly agitated.  But I have come to learn I put it there and can expect people to react how they do.  Others don't have a rule book either.

Staring is common.  My daughters experienced it a lot in elementary school when Harrison first died. They felt singled out and like every one was talking about it.  My oldest daughter has learned to not mention it to anyone, even to a friend going through the same heartache of losing a brother. My youngest daughter doesn't mind sharing as much anymore.

People tend to shy away from a crying, grieving parent, like we might be contagious or crazy for that matter.  I had a doctor hardly want to touch me when he found out about my son. As a nurse, I found this one of the most offensive things to happen to me.  Although, words hurt more than actions.  Keep that thought in mind.

Crying, my friends, is as natural in life as laughing.  As I've said before, society does not like grieving parents to cry.  It's good for us to cry...healthy mentally and physically.  It doesn't mean we are weak, not healing, unable to function, unable to work, not living, etc.  It means we are on a journey of loss. The reality is we will never stop crying, tears are always just a moment away.  Certain things--a song, memory, smell--can trigger a tear.  It's not a step back, but a reminder of our love for our child. Please don't steal that from us.

Instead, support us.  Hug us, ask us for a memory, cover our job for a couple minutes, or just get a tissue.  Something, anything, but judgement, fear, staring, running, anger. I can assure you we already feel negativity for so much and don't need help in that department.  Most of us have lost family and friends when we started this journey and somewhere along the way.  Hard to believe but true.

I always say it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to bury a child.  No one should have to walk the journey alone.  We need as much support as possible to help us find a new normal. No we will never be the same, but we can live again.  Help us along the way instead of hindering us. Please...

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Flowers Forever

It's hard...

It's hard to go to the cemetery to visit Harrison sometimes.  I'm sad and embarrassed to say I may go a month or so without visiting him.  

Just typing that sentence breaks my heart for him. It's not right. 

Why is it so hard? Some days I understand my sadness and I forgive myself. But other days I cannot.  

Before the death of my son, I would think a mother would visit her child as often as possible.  I would have told people "I'd go all the time."  Being in love with my children as much as I am, it would of just seemed natural.  But that thinking is wrong, so wrong.

Just the drive to the cemetery is gut wrenching. That is not even including the thought of buying flowers knowing the purpose of the purchase.  Some days I just want to cry and tell the cashier why I have to buy them.  I want to release the pain and grief.  

I arrive and get my "cemetery bag" out: granite polish, garden shears and cleaning cloth.  I can't have my baby's headstone dirty...it's all I can do for him. Put water in the container, cut the stems of the flowers.  Busy work to keep from thinking about the reason why I'm there.

And then it hits me: Oh my God, my baby is dead.  I lay down on him, usually crying as hard as you can imagine.  On a couple of occasions, people have come over to check on me due to my crying.  I cry, and I play our favorite songs, songs that make me think of him.  

I apologize for not coming earlier. I repeatedly tell him I love him and how unfair it is and that I miss him.  I ask him to come home.  

But the hardest part, which I would never of imagined, is leaving him there. That's the hardest part.

I made him a promise yesterday when I saw him: he will have flowers forever from now on.  I will never not go to visit him.  He will never be alone again.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Sticky, Gooey Love

I never thought I'd be where I am right now.  Who does?  Life surprises us, jilts us, keeps us on our toes, and every other saying you could think of.  So I never thought I'd be here.  Where is here? Now what?

Here I am, 43, a mother of 4, mother in law and step grandmother. It is amazing how life goes; how life proceeds.  What did I think life would be? Where did I think I would be?  I am full of questions.

I am a mom, which I find to be the greatest gift, job and learning experience I could ever ask for.  Four beautiful children, each one different in their own ways. It reminds me of the end of The Breakfast Club, how one's a jock, one's a prom queen, and so on.  How could I even put in one word my thought about each child.

I know I have one I would simply refer to as "the gentleman." I stand in awe when it comes to his passion, compassion and coolness.  Relaxed and gentle just at the right times. When you hold your infant for the first few weeks, and wonder all the things your child will do and be...flash forward to today, over 20 years later.  And he is better than I wondered, imagined, hoped for in life.  And handsome, so handsome, but smart and witty as well.

My "wise, old soul."  Ah, just his presence felt majestic to me.  He could command a room simply by walking into it.  The gift of wisdom and the ability to converse with anyone about anything I admire in life.  Never afraid of speaking his mind and his truths.  And within, a compassionate, understanding soul which will never leave my heart.  To big to go under the radar.

The beautiful "queen bee."  Such a joyous time learning the ways of raising and loving a daughter.  The beauty in her eyes, her smile, can melt any heart in a matter of moments.  Such poise and grace seen from simply sitting and sharing a cup of tea, to the times when she is standing for battle on the field.  Her kindness makes her beauty all the more evident.  The beauty cannot be denied, and it is enhanced by her love for those who matter most.

My biggest surprise and "California princess" never ceases to amaze me in life. Those gorgeous, hazel eyes with hints of brown, looking into my heart to find the perfect words to say.  The fireball she is explodes wisdom and curiosity. But just as easily, calms to provide a soothing hug, overflowing with love. She never fails to amaze me with her smarts and kindness.  And her keen attention to detail for loving us.

I never expected to be here, 43, mother still madly in love with her children.  I felt selfish and self absorbed in my younger years.  And now I would give my everything, my all, just to see them smile.  Just to see their eyes light up. To hear a laughter from love so sweet, it feels sticky and gooey.  

That's what being a mother means to me.  A constant surrounding of dripping, fluffy, sticky, gooey love between me and my angels.  Love never ending, with arms strong and large enough to hug us all, even during out hardest times.  Our strength and love are challenged. But our love seems to always prevail!