Holidays: Not a Time of Cheer for Everyone

Expecting one, who has lost their legs in an accident, to get up and walk like they use to, is ridiculous. They cannot do it – even with all the best wishing in the world – because life for them has been altered forever.

The same is true for every.single.person. who has suffered a tragedy, no matter what it was, or when it was; time makes no difference. Loss from disease or accident, expected or sudden – it does not matter – it’s all the same terrible.

For me, my tragedy is the sudden, unexpected death of my son to an overdose, eighteen months ago. I am altered for life – not just for a time, or a season; Life for me will never be the same. I walk around with a weight that bears down and a hole that has blown through my heart.

The trouble with holidays is that the expectation for everyone to be of good cheer, be happy, and enjoy the season is rampant.

And for some, it is very hard to embrace the holidays where “family all together” carving turkey at the proverbial Norman Rockwell table is thrown in our faces by ads, movies, and the general chatter of the holiday season.

While I am blessed to have a large, living family still gathered around, my momma’s heart weighs heavy… there is still one empty chair, one forever missing in the “family” photo, and one less child eating the traditional Christmas cookies – specifically, the butterscotch ones.

WHAT. TO. DO……?

That’s a question with a two-fold answer.

What to do if you are the friend, or family member, of someone who is not full of cheer and suffers with a broken heart this holiday season: 

  1. Be patient and do not judge when they do not want to attend a christmas tea, or the cookie swap, or even put up a tree.
  2. Extend the offer of conversation, a listening ear, and willingness to just be there alongside; try to understand; allow their feelings to just be.
  3. Do a practical help if possible – doing life is hard under normal day-to-day circumstances when a heart is broken – even more difficult during the holiday season, getting out of bed, some days, might be the total accomplishment for the day.

What to do if you are the one suffering from a tragedy, the same or different, as me:

  1. Have faith, God knows your pain and heartbreak; Trust He will provide all you need.
  2. There’s no way around the holidays – we just have to go through them;  even if you have nothing but tears – let yourself feel what you feel – be true to yourself, but be kind to those around you – it’s no ones fault.
  3. Don’t turn away from well intentioned acts of love; allow God to work in you, as well as in the well intentioned.

 God has not forgotten me, nor has he forgotten you;

“God is close to the brokenhearted.” Psalm 34:18a

So yeh – Holidays: not a time of cheer for everyone – but I tell you the truth, there is something even better than good cheer, it is knowing that you are loved by God with an everlasting love, no matter what…and in that, there is  HOPE – there for the taking, for everyone.

Be authentic in this season of holidays, Jesus loves, you just as you are.

Are you suffering with grief of one sort or another?

Are you local to the Pioneer Valley?

If so, I invite you to “SONGS for the NIGHT”

(click above, on Songs for the Night, for details)

 

My calendar is marked, is yours?

“Grief; Get over it and Move on…”

Grief; get over it and move on…” This statement, sometimes accompanied by the coy-inpatient look, even without speaking the exact words, is both feared and despised by those of us who have lost a son or a daughter to a substance, overdose death.
You don’t know, until you know.  So don’t presume to know when someone should get over their grief and move on.
The fact that this mom is even out of bed and moving at all, is an accomplishment on some days…
…because GRIEF, never goes away.
This is my battle with grief; this is about my son.

I am in the egg that sizzles in the pan with a pop and a splat;
I am among the crumbs left strewn across the counter with drips of hot butter trailing off the counter.
When the moon is heavily misted, on a cool night, I am there in the exhaled puff of your breath,
And in the rise of tiny goosebumps.

I roll in your mind like the ocean tide that breaks on the pebbled beach,
tossed over and over and over.
As the farm supply truck passes by,
And the bearded friends walk past, I am there too.

I am in the lulls and quiet places; Always in the holding bear hugs.
In the chuckles and giggles…
In the cannonball jumps…
In the flipping of the anticipated burgers, and the crackles of the bonfire, I am present.

Body, mind, and heart remember me.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
Another day,
each day,
today;
I am always as close as the warm, sweet, milk breath of an infant sleeping on a momma’s bare breast.

As the shades of night are pulled,
And when the dawn awakens with the song of the mockingbird,
I settle in upon e v e r y t h i n g.
In the trash piled by the backdoor,
In the gritty grind of the stones underfoot,
and in each clomping step up the bare wood stairs.

The measure of love is immeasurable,
unable to be weighed and counted because I am always pressing.
Grief matches the love.
I am in it all.
Especially when the refrigerator door is left open.

So, you see…
There’s no getting over my grief because memories are everywhere.

Move on? I do.

Every day I get out of bed and do life as it unrolls before me and I live; I live with the grief undergirding my experience of everything in my path, it has become part of my DNA. My way of living is forever changed and I may walk slower than before, I may forget the to-do’s and ignore the insignificant, I may choose a different path than everyone is expecting. Fact.

No. Grief never goes away. Even when I smile, or laugh, and look as if all is well, know…that at any moment, a lump is in my throat, a tear is trickling, or a good cry is on it’s way.

If you know someone like me, be patient, be understanding, and be ever so tender. Treat others the way you would want to be treated if the tables were turned. Just do me a favor, do not tell your grieving family member or friend to, “Get over it and move on…

The PTSD of Grief

Trauma’s experience comes back to slap you in the face and knock you down when you least expect it while you grieve; this is PTSD.  Sounds, visuals, and even the time of day can trigger the pain all over again. This is one such moment for me:

moon thru the trees

Stepping out into the night air

this late at night

when all is quiet and still,

a chill reverberates through my veins.

 

The moon is high

and the damp cool breeze

freezes the memory even as my breath exhales a cloud

into the starlit space.

 

Visceral memory awakens

and I shiver and shake

back to the side of the road

on the night of your accident;

my stomach knots into a square.

 

The lights flash yellow and orange and blue and blindingly white

as trucks and cars are askew and many

blocking the way for everyone except us, your dad and me;

only we were allowed in.

 

Fear like no fear I felt before

overwhelmed me more than my imaginings

anticipated…

 

Waiting was hard.

Seeing was hard.

Comprehending was hard

and the ground beneath me was hard

and wet

and consuming me in the farmers’ meadow

like fermenting dung, and it all stunk!

 

I breathed deep

because I think I just stopped

from the shock of it all.

Disbelief and amazement stunned me

when I realized how close to death you came.

 

Even now,

as I step into this night months and months later

fear overtakes me

and I can feel the damp and see the lights and hear the confusion;

You were almost taken by the angel of death,

if it were not for the angel of life that carried you thru those juxtaposed poles

as you flew airbone

down into the belly of the farmers meadow.

 

Slapped across the face I feel the sting again, and again, and again;

PTSD for me

every time I step out into the night air

this late at night

when all is quiet and still …

and a chill reverberates through my veins.

 

You weren’t taken then,

but little did I know

time would only be yours for just so many months more…

and then you really would be gone.

Forever gone from my earthly-momma-grasp;

No more cool, moon-lit nights for you.

 

Deep, deep, deep it sits way down inside –

my fear was fully realized.

What I did not know,

was that night

was just a prelude to the worst night of my life.

I just can’t shake it; PTSD.

Fear like no fear I felt before remains within my bones.

One viscerally locked memory flows into the next…

 

Son,

I miss you so much.

***

 

So the question remains, “what do we do with the pain that re-occurs; how do we deal with this grief induced PTSD?”

I will tell you,

I just allow myself to feel it.

The pain and tears are what they are;

The hour passes and I am still me and I know

that God has been holding my hand

the whole time;

“For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”  Isaiah 41:13

As I approach my first Mother’s Day without my son, Caleb, I anticipate pain and sorrow to be heavily pressing upon my momma-heart even as I take joy in my other children both near and far.  I will not fear because I know God will be helping me get through the day.

If you are a grieving momma, I say, put your hand in His and let Him be your help you too!

 

 

 

 

 

The Battle Against Giving Up

I begin by walking on two legs
Up and down, here and there, strong and steady strutting,
Even … just to stand, I am strong.
that’s how it is as the dawn breaks and the glimmers of the grays turn into blues and the mist lifts to reveal clarity caught in the sunlight’s path.
There is purpose. I declare.
He nods in agreement.

Interruptions come when I don’t expect them like a sucker punch to the gut
And a hole blows through my center
Buckling and bending I trip and stumble as my head spins and whips around.
What now? And why, and winds up my thoughts…
Purpose, is there? I question.
He nods in agreement.

One after another, the unexpected warbling of words that wound, shatter my standing and I fall to my knees …
So hard is the floor,
the sound thuds and reverberates up my spine and my hands break my fall;
I am on all fours now and it’s primal as I groan and grovel from my gut.
No way is there a purpose! I cry out.
He nods in agreement.

I can’t take it anymore and I collapse on the floor – prone, with my cheek pressed into the floor…
Cold it is and the tears trickle.

The stillness is loud.

He stands.
He bends his knee, first one, then the other.
He slowly falls forward onto his own hands and gently relaxes next to me.
It’s cold for him too as his cheek is pressed as well…
He looks at me and grasps my gaze that overflows the sorrows and pains and hurts and reaches into my deepest of places with a cradling caress.
He sees me whole and it’s ok… and He invites me up.
Hard and heavy and hungry,
Together we lift the weight and brush off the dust.

With a firm and sound voice,
He compassionately says, “purpose.
I know he’s right.
I nod in agreement.
And I stand again,
ready to go on.

***

This.

The battle against giving up.

This, in the grief!

This is a very deepest and truest of loves.
For me, I would lose the battle against giving up, if it were not for my earthly husband, “He” is my steady and faithful, always at my side, meeting me no matter where I am and encouraging me, as an authentic reflection of the ONE who is the ultimate “HE” in my life; My Lord Jesus, who stands with me in every battle, leading the Way.  

Who, is your “He?

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First Moments with my Dead Son

In my battle with daily grief, I share my first moments with my dead son.

The Time to Let it Go

Walking by the stares that tried not to look, they kept looking…
but I was certain not to lift my eyes.
One step in front of the other,
I followed until the curtain was parted
and I stepped into the space that became enclosed as the curtain was let go.
A soft sway of the fabric gently moved, until the stillness was bigger.

Machines stood around me,
Entangled wires left to hang.
No beeps or whirrs or steady drones to hear.
Just silence echoed, bouncing in the space like a torpedo bomb looking for its target.
My sons body lay there, his long legs and muscled shoulders filled the table and stretched the sheet right up to his chin.

Was this really him?
I stared at his sleeping body as I had done so many times before, through all the years of nurture and care…
What do I do
but put my hand on his chest – no rise, no fall – and I feel the stillness and the silence as it stopped right here.

A tear trickles down my cheek, then another, and another,
and my voice, like a misty vapor, can only say:
God, have mercy on my son’s soul.
For the very last time I kiss his forehead and catch the scent of my son’s body
to savor as a memory forever…
The time to let it go,
Will be
when I meet him again
on the other side.

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This memory is ingrained in my mind and will never leave; the images, the smells, and the visceral pain rushes like raging waters breaking the dam, at any unexpected moment, without warning.

I cannot erase it.

I cannot ignore it.

It doesn’t go away.

I have been writing about the ongoing battles that my son, who died of an overdose, dealt with; I have shared some of the battles & victories that other friends in Recovery face; but today I share a little of the battle I face every single day, in grief.

It is common practice to encourage people to talk about their trauma’s in order to process and work through them. Experiencing the unexpected death of a child is a gigantic trauma; the battle with daily grief is real and not easily understood by onlookers and supporters, even though some try so hard.

How can you help?

Here are 5 ways:

  • Listen; we need to talk about the raw, unedited stuff sometimes
  • Be still with us and maybe hug us; we are lonely in the crowded rooms, and in pain.
  • Do not try to reason our suffering away with staid, trite phrases; we don’t want to hear it, and even if we did, our minds are so overwhelmed we don’t hear what you are saying anyway; I love you, is more than sufficient.
  • Be patient with us; it is scary to re-involve ourselves with life and activities that once were routine for us.
  • Pray for us; grief is a process and it weighs us down, sometimes just getting out of bed is the biggest accomplishment for the day; we need God’s healing.

 

Please share with those who may need to hear my story of grief, to know they are not alone,  or share with someone who can hear and then learn how they might help someone else in similar grief as me.