Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween Haunts

Halloween can be tough on parents who lose children--tough for the what if's and tough for the what was. What if he was still here and what was once...

What if--what would my child be this year?
would he be trick or treating this year at all?
would he be hanging out with his best friend or would they have grown apart?
would he be taking his younger sibling out for some fun?
would he still love chocolate more than any food group?

What was--scaring neighbor kids with my husband
terrorizing the neighborhood with masks and fog machines
wearing my black slacks as part of his outfit-he was so skinny
elaborate set ups in the entry way
hay rack rides
bags and bags of chocolate stored away in his room for later

As a family we don't celebrate Halloween like we used to. We no longer scare little kids in our neighborhood, we don't even trick or treat in our neighborhood anymore. The first year after DJ was gone our family went to another town to trick or treat. We couldn't stand the thought of seeing any of DJ's friends walking along and getting candy without him, the chances were too big. It was best to go somewhere no one knew us. My husband no longer cares to be home at all for Halloween, it has become a difficult holiday for him even 4 years after DJ's death. He and DJ loved to scare the kids, loved to decorate the house, loved to watch the kids leave our entry crying. They loved to terrorize, they loved to go big on Halloween.

Now we just go away, we don't stay home, we don't hand out candy (though I leave a bowl for the kids that may show up), we don't do anything similar to our past.

Halloween is full of fun and full of candy but often to the parent who loses a child it is full of haunts of old memories. So if you see a parent that has lost a child during Halloween be extra kind, it may not seem a big deal to you but to us someone is missing and we are missing them.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A tail spin and thankfulness all in one

I was watching a morning show the other day and an author was being interviewed. He had questioned nurses and doctors that had worked hospice care for many, many years. I don't know all the details of his book or the title but I believe his last name was Kessler if anyone is interested in reading it. I however won't be able to because I am sure it would send me into a depressive tailspin. The reason I am telling you all this is because there was something he said that really touched me and made me cry my eyes out while I was taking my (almost) daily walk.

The author hadn't believed in the after life before his interviews. He believed most things could be explained like the bright light/tunnel because of excessive medications given to patients at the end of their lives, etc. However before the author's father died his father was acting miserable and was full of despair (apparently he was ill for a long time) but then one day he was full of joy and acceptance. The man asked his father what the change was and he said he had been visited by his wife who was already in heaven and she told him that she and others that loved him would be waiting for him after he died. So okay, I am still good with all this, no tears yet.

The next thing the author states is that the doctors and nurses told him that people about ready to pass away would almost always look to the left corner of a room and see their mothers. That the mothers seemed to almost always be the ones that were being seen and awaiting the loved ones. This is where it started to get hairy and heart wrenching for me because I realized my son DJ did not have me or anyone that he knew in heaven awaiting him. His grandfather-my dad Augie-had died when DJ was just over one years old but DJ would not have known him. This is what caused the tears while I was walking (some people cry when they drive, I am good at crying while I walk).

But after all the tears and awful searing pain to my heart God reminded me of my letter from my friend (see blog about best birthday present ever). God is good and he brought back to me the memory of Jesus sitting next to DJ. Who better could DJ have been greeted by? There is no one on earth who loved him more than Jesus and DJ knew Him and knew His voice. DJ may not have seen me, I may have not been there to greet him but Jesus was and for this I am thankful. Someday I will get to see DJ and he will great me and for this I am grateful. What a reunion it will be!

Sunday, October 24, 2010


I never really thought too much about numbers before DJ died other than balancing a check book or the cost of groceries. Now however numbers have a totally different meaning...

The first time our family went to church after DJ's death we were asked "How many?" It was the first time I had to say we were a family of 4 instead of 5. 4 has become a terrible number.

Today is my youngest son Jake's 13th birthday. He is now almost older than DJ was when he passed away. By next May (when DJ would have been 18) Jake will officially be older than when DJ died. He will pass his brother up. This bothers me but I tell no one especially Jake. I don't want him to realize this-though he may have already. I don't want him having to carry the burden of 13.

Today Jake will blow out candles for his birthday-a 1 and a 3. These are the same candles that DJ last blew out. When I touch them today I will be touching something DJ and I had shared over 4 years ago. Still 4 years later there are things that come up that I can share a memory of about DJ. Where I can almost touch him again.

Songs parents shouldn't listen to--Three Wooden Crosses
Holes in Heaven both by Randy Travis

Friday, October 22, 2010

How to describe the loss

I often have people say to me that they can't imagine the pain of losing a child. And I usually tell them in a very quick reply that I am so glad they don't understand it! If they understood it then they too would have lost a child. This is something I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy, ever!

Shortly after DJ's death though I came up with an analogy, a visual that I hope really kind of helps people get what it is like to the smallest degree. I don't want them to get "it" so they can understand my pain but to get it so they can help someone else in the same place.

My analogy:

Losing a child is like being in a terrible car accident and you have lost a limb. You learn how to live- deal without that arm-leg but you miss it everyday and think about it everyday even though it is no longer there.

As a parent who has lost a child it is like I (and everyone else out there) have been in a tragic accident. The loss has the same impact of a car crash, the searing pain and ripping of metal is the same of that pain and ripping of our hearts. The loss of the limb is just like our child being ripped from our hearts and souls. Never to be seen or used or touched again. The intense ripping of the limb results in scars and change that we will have everyday for the rest of our lives. These scars are just ones that people do not see on the outside, they are hidden below the surface but are still there none the less. That child is missed everyday and never, ever do we forget about them.

We as parents learn how to live without that limb/without our child. We learn how to do the basics again like putting on a coat or a pair of pants. We learn to take life steps with the help of crutches, friends, with the support of others. We learn to live again even when we don't want to.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Prayer Part II

Prayers have been answered after DJ's death. The Pastor who did the service gave people an opportunity to accept Christ as DJ had when he was young. People came to the Lord at his funeral, he had classmates that accepted Christ and someday they will see each other again. Jake was able to reconnect with a friend specifically because of DJ's death and this friendship has been an answer to prayer and support for him. Our family has survived this tragedy which by all accounts is from the many prayers of friends and families throughout the years. I have had people tell me stories (after 4 years) of how they heard about DJ's death and immediately prayed for our family. It is my complete belief that these prayers are what have kept our family together, it is Christ's power through these prayers that have kept my family intact.

Even with all this knowledge though I forgot about the power of prayer a few months ago and can honestly saying I was on a big downhill slide of disbelief. Things in life are hard, as for any family and when grief overcomes you things just seem to multiply and seem harder. Well, I saw an evangelist on television who said to ask God for a sign, that it was biblical and He could handle it. I had never done that before, I kind of felt it was like challenging God but I had nothing to lose so I decided to pray and ask God for a sign---what kind of sign? I didn't pray for specifics, I knew God knew me better than myself and if He wanted to answer this prayer and give me a sign He would do it perfectly. My husband and my son Jake also decided to pray for a sign. We all only prayed "God give us a sign".

A few weeks passed and we were all still praying and asking for a sign and believing that God would do it if He wanted to. Well... all three of us were golfing one evening, Jake and I were in a golf cart and I looked up at the sky and saw a PERFECTLY SHAPED E in the clouds. This was not a mild, "maybe it's an E", it was not a "guess it could be an E". It was a perfectly, right angled capital E. (if you have forgotten, my last name is Epperson). It looked as if it was just written by the hand of God and it was. I asked Jake if he saw it and he did, I asked Donnie to look behind him and look up in the sky--he saw the capital E and just after he did it evaporated.

Well, okay--that was an E, did it mean anything? Yep, then as we were putting our golf bags away into our car we heard someone yell into the full parking lot "DJ". Perhaps some of you will feel it was all coincidence but for us it was God's incidence. If He can give me a capital E in the sky, if He can have some stranger yell DJ's name in the middle of a crowded parking lot then He can answer my prayers regardless of what they are.

I now have peace that God is hearing my prayers, that He is more than capable of hearing them and answering them. He sees the big picture and knows what is best. He showed me if He can give me an E, then He is in total control. That my prayers are truly important to him and that He does listen and answer them.

Does He always answer them the way I want them to be answered? No. What child always gets their way? God knows me better than I know myself and even though He has taken DJ to be home with Him, it is His plan. I have to believe that God knows best in all areas of my life, even when I don't agree with Him.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Things we hang on to

I got an ipod for my birthday this week and of course quickly got it loaded with songs. I have an entire section titled DJ's music. It has been over four years now but I cannot let his music that is saved on itunes be removed. I love some it like the Johnny Cash music and can't stand the screamo Christian music that he had downloaded. But I will never remove the music from my system, it is something that I will always hang on to. I have a box of chocolate crunch wafers of DJ's that we found stashed in his room that are saved in our fridge and no one is allowed to eat them. I have shirts of DJ's in my closet that I will keep forever and occasionally wear when I am missing him. I have hung onto lots of DJ's things and will never get rid of them.

Many of DJ's things are useless and worthless to the outside world but they mean alot to me and someday my remaining kids will have to decide what to do with them when I am gone--I will always have his things-his fireworks stash, his star war guys,the tech deck dudes he played with for hours, some of his goofy movies that I couldn't stand but will never get rid of. His skateboard that I bought for him three weeks prior to his death for doing so well on his grades at school, the list goes on and on.

Is this unusual? Absolutely not! We as parents need to keep things our children touched, things they had their hands at and smells on. I have some of DJ's shirts stored in plastic Ziploc bags to try to keep his smell in. Of course I won't open them up because his smell could escape and it may already have since I don't check it out for fear of the smell of him disappearing (vicious circle).

I have talked with many people who have taken their children's shirts and made quilts out of them and others who can't even seperate with the clothes long enough for a quilt to be made. Some people have made shrines of their children's belongings above the family fireplace. I know people who still have their child's hats and coats hanging up on a coat rack after years of the child being gone.

There are so many things that we hang on to because we cannot touch our children and this is as close as many of us can get.

If you have recently lost a child or know someone who has tell them to take time with their children's belongings, don't be too quick to make decisions about getting rid of things. I have interviewed people who were quick to get rid of the belongings and reqret it shortly after. Take time and decide, pack things away for a few years and get back to them if you want. Do what is right for you!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Why do I blog?

Why do I blog? I was talking to a close friend today that reads my blog, I don't ever really talk to anyone that reads it-I know you're out there but I just don't talk about my blog much. Anyhow we began discussing it and she was appreciative of how honest I am in my writing of it. I asked her if she knew why I started writing my blog or even the book and she didn't know which made me realize that most of you probably don't so here is the scoop...

I had a very close Christian friend of mine compare the loss of DJ to the loss of her dog a few months after his death. I couldn't believe she of all people was saying it to me. She had been my spiritual mentor for years, she was a strong mature Christian, she already had great loss in her family and knew what it was like to lose an actual person-not just a dog. I just had to walk away from her when she was talking and try to tune it out, I was dumbfounded by her ignorance. I know many of you are dog lovers so please don't get angry with me or tell me about the great love she had for her dog, etc. You all know I have too many dogs in my world and yes even though I pretend I don't, I do love them all but I would never consider them to be of equal importance to that of my children.

No parent should ever have their child's death compared to that of an animal. It is painful and hurtful. The pain is not the same as losing a child as that of a dog--they are not even close. As I have interviewed people I have discovered that this happens often and people say very stupid and hurtful things out of ignorance. Can you tell I am still angry about this? It so upset me that we are no longer friends.

Anyway, I didn't want another parent to hear those words, I didn't want pain to come out of people's ignorance. Please don't get me wrong, I have said stupid things to people at times of loss, I didn't mean to say stupid things but no one told me any differently.

With this blog and with my book I want to first and foremost help families that have lost children, help them survive this new and different life that they now have without their child. To help them with new horrible challenges they will have to face that they aren't even aware of yet. I needed a book after DJ passed away with real things that I could do with his clothes, etc and real information on how this was going to affect every aspect of my life forever. But I also do this so friends and family members of these grieving families learn how to help and support them and to have better understanding of what is really going on in their loved one's world.

I don't ever want to hear another loved one's child's death compared to the death a dog.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Best Birthday present

I meant to post this yesterday on my birthday but was birthday busy and didn't have a chance.

DJ's visitation was on my birthday in 2006. I hate the term visitation, we are not visiting the dead, we are viewing the dead. When I got home from the funeral home late that night I had a note taped to my garage door. This single piece of paper is one of my most prized possessions, I would be sick if I ever lost it. I should probably put it in a safety deposit box-it is the best birthday present I have ever received, this is what it said--

Lisa, Wednesday I woke up in the middle of a dream about DJ. I tried to go back to sleep so I could see more but I couldn't.

It starts with DJ sitting on a curb near the commotion in the street. He's talking to Jesus who is sitting on the street beside him. DJ knows instinctively who he is. He says, "Oh man, that's it? But that was such a short ride." (I had the impression he was talking about his life not skating)

Jesus: Don't worry DJ there's a better one ahead. You ready?
DJ: My Mom and Dad are gonna freak.
Jesus: Don't worry DJ I'm sending them angels to help them.

I woke up.
I wasn't sure if I should mention it but I thought it was comforting. It was weird to me because I always imagined angels coming after people but who knows?

I wanted to do something nice for you for your birthday but somehow I doubt you're in the mood to enjoy it. Happy Birthday

Your friend, Rieta

Another movie to add to the list--Blind side-great movie, heart wrenching because I no longer can hug or save my boy

Monday, October 11, 2010

Grief has a high price tag!

I haven't blogged for awhile. I have been thinking about it the last few days and haven't been able to figure out why I can't think of anything to write. I have lots of information in my head about surviving the loss of a child, of my DJ. I have lots of great quotes from the families that I have interviewed for my book but somehow they are all in my head and not able to come out.

I finally got a hold of it this evening. Grief takes away your creativity. I know this, I have had to deal with it a long time but I forgot. It will come back to me again, maybe even in a few days. Grief takes away lots of things silently. It takes so many things away and steals things without your knowledge. And ironically it can add things as well. For my husband his creativity flourished after DJ passed away. He is an amazing artist, he can paint, sculpt, draw--it all comes relatively easy to him. After DJ's death he drew to escape and eventually all of his grief turned into a book series titled Captain Tag. Would he have done it without the grief, I believe the answer is a definite No. He needed to draw to escape the grief so in this way it gave him the creativity. It's a wierd circle. I know people who got heavily into music, others who got into photography and writing. So I guess it adds but it has an absolutely horrible price tag!

Tomorrow is my 43rd birthday, DJ's visitation was on this day 4 years ago. He was buried the day after my birthday-tomorrow I will share the best birthday present I ever got and suprisingly it was on DJ's visitation day from a dear friend.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Bright clothes

I wear bright clothes when I am depressed. Today I have on a bright turquoise sweater that I usually never wear. If you see me and I am wearing turquoise pants with giant flowers on it then I am most likely in a hole. I do in on purpose because when I feel bad I need that extra ooomph, that extra brightness so people don't see it. Ofcourse now you all know it and will probably check on me when you see my bright pants coming but I don't really care.

4 years ago today my13 yr old son DJ was in intensive care with severe head trauma from a skateboarding accident. I was in a dark hospital room asking the nurses if they had known anyone with such severe trauma coming out of it and they told me no. I was standing against a wall as a doctor was telling me that my son didn't need any pain medication because he wasn't feeling any pain, that cold white wall was the only thing holding me up. I was taking calls from DJ's friends and their parents and had to tell them it wasn't good, that what they all had heard was true. I was listening to myself telling DJ to go to Jesus because he was not with me anymore. I was putting my hand against his to see the size, his were just slightly larger than mine. I was looking at his doodles on his right hand of dice and a star--he was always doodling. I was feeling his hand begin to harden because his body wasn't working correctly anymore. I was listening to my daughter scream in the hospital room for her brother not to leave her. I was listening to my younger son whale as he told DJ goodbye. I was crying in the halls where no one could see me, I was planning the songs I wanted at his funeral. I was answering questions about DJ's sexual history to the organ donor people--he hadn't even kissed a girl yet. I was sitting and sitting and sitting next to his bed watching all the tubes keep him alive. That was my life four years ago today, I never left his side though he eventually left mine.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Hallmark doesn't have it

I have a relative who is dying. He has been sick for years but will probably finally succumb to everything that is wrong very soon. Hospice has been called.

I went to the card store to find something to give him that didn't necessarily say Get Well because that isn't going to happen, but something that let him know that I was envious that he will get to hold DJ and hug him soon.

Hallmark doesn't carry a card like that, maybe I should start a line of them---

Front- "So glad you get to go to heaven" Inside- Wish it was me
Front- "Wish I could take your place" Inside- I would hug my son
Front- "Hug my loved one for me" Inside- Wish it was me
Front- "Tell my son I miss him everyday" Inside- Wish I could do it in person
Front- "Wish you weren't there" Inside- Wish I was
Front- "Congrats on your newest destination" Inside- Wish I was going instead
Front- "Congrats on your heavenly departing" Inside- Wish I could go in your place

I don't have a death wish, I don't want to leave my husband or two kids behind to have more pain or grief but I am envious and jealous and wish I could hug my boy! He will have to do it in my place till Jesus calls me home. He will get to kiss his cheek and hug those bony shoulders that I miss. He will get to see those beautiful green eyes that sparkle when he smiles. He will get to see that wonderful smile that DJ was born with, the one I miss everyday. He will get to touch his hands that were just a smidge larger than mine when he passed away.

There wasn't a card there that I could buy so I bought a blank one and wrote that I was envious and that his best adventure will be starting soon! Wish it was mine.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Death brings Death

I am in a continued angry mood. Just got a call from a friend who's son passed away years ago. The daughter tried to commit suicide today and almost succeeded. I am tired of the continued fall out for families! I have friends who's spouses have gotten cancer since the death of their child. Two friend's spouses have died. I have friends who have spouses that have had heart attacks and passed away since the death of their child.

Please continue to pray for families that lose children because it doesn't matter if it has been 2 days, 2 years, 4 years or more the fallout continues to happen and families are losing more family members, the grief is building and things are not easy.

Death sucks, lose of a child sucks but it seems the fallout never stops and people's lives do not stop being changed.

Death brings death