Tuesday, November 30, 2010


I had a dream about DJ last night. I woke up this morning after holding his hand in my dream. In my dream I was holding his hand against my hand and was measuring to see how big his hand was compared to mine. This is something I actually did when DJ was in the hospital before he died. I wanted to know, I wanted to never forget how big his hand was since I was never going to get to hold it again. In my dream it was just like it had been in the hospital, his hand was just slightly bigger than mine-barely but just. Funny it was also grubby, DJ's hands were always dirty because he was outside grabbing toward the ground at his skateboard so much all the time Also in the dream I was sitting in a circle and told DJ to come sit next to his brother. The rest is muddled but the importance is that I dreamt about DJ, I can even recall rubbing my hand on his back to touch his skinny back and shoulders.

The importance of all this to me is that I have not dreamt about DJ in four years. I have not been able to see him move since he passed away.

Many parents dream about their child all the time. God gives them this gift--I believe it is a gift! I know of a woman who has a dream journal because she dreams about her son so much.

My husband dreamt about DJ a lot right after he passed away. Was I envious of this?--you bet. I wanted to hear his voice again, I wanted to see him walk again, hug him again-even if it was just in a dream.

Why didn't God give me dreams? Did it make me feel bad? Yes. Did it make me feel like I wasn't worth the gift of a dream? Yes. Did it make me feel so incredibly sad? Yes. Did it make me wonder why God would not let me see my boy at least in a dream? Yes. Did it make me grieve that I couldn't dream of him? Yes.

Will I dream about DJ again? I don't know but today's blog isn't just about me dreaming about DJ. It is about the fact that some of us never dream of their child and it makes us feel unworthy.

Don't feel unworthy if you don't dream about your child. Try not to be jealous of someone (perhaps your spouse) that does dream about your dear, dear child. Don't feel that God is punishing you by not allowing you to dream-this is from the enemy to make you angry at God. Do not despair that someone else gets to see your child again while you wait for years and years. Do not be angry at God----

Most of all remember that someday you will again be able to see your child in heaven and that you will never be seperated from them again. Have this hope when their seems to be no hope. That is a dream that will come true and will last forever!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Different Christmas Traditions

Today I bought a Christmas tree for DJ's grave, I picked out some ornaments that made me think of DJ. I bought gingerbread letters that spelled out his initials-D and J. I bought a chocolate looking Santa ornament because he absolutely loved chocolate. Today sucked.

It did however remind me that after you lose a child, old traditions go away and different ones come about. I don't say new traditions because "new" means something exciting, something that someone wants. This change to my traditions I never wanted, they were thrust upon me because the old ones were just too painful to continue.

I now put our Christmas tree up as late as I possibly can, if I didn't have children at home I probably wouldn't put one up at all. We now put our Christmas tree in a completely different room. It is too painful to remember seeing DJ in his red boxers digging under the Christmas tree in the living room looking for gifts. It has to be somewhere that I do not see him over and over again in my memory.

Every year I would buy the kids their own ornaments and then they had their own tree to put up and decorate. Up until this year (the fourth since DJ's been gone) I have always bought all three kids an ornament but this year I only bought Em and Jake one. I saw no sense in buying DJ one. That sucks too.

We now celebrate Christmas on Christmas eve, eve. I tell people who don't really care that we do it because then you can take gifts back with no lines on Christmas Eve-and that we get to just relax on Christmas Day-little stress that way. The truth is that I cannot wait for Christmas to be over and this way it gets shortened up--celebrate it early and be done early.

People I have interviewed do many different traditions now as well--many families go out of town altogether during the holiday season--they just don't want to be home! People go to other family's homes, again leaving their house completely. People get rid of all their old ornaments and buy new ones--no memories attached to the newest tree. Some don't put up any trees or some go the other way and decorate like crazy so they can fall asleep in exhaustion during the holidays.

I have different traditions now, are they better? No. Are they worse? Yes because I have them because I have lost a child. I would much rather have the old traditions and my son. I wish my tree and my son were both in my living room.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Say my child's name

Say my child's name. It is that simple. To continue to be in my world say DJ's name. Do not be afraid to speak about him. Tell me stories. Remind me of silly things he did.

After a child dies people are often afraid to say our child's name. People are worried that it will make us sad. Silly, silly people. Sadness is always there, it is just hidden. It is masked beneath our smile--that Mona Lisa fake smile. If we are having a really good day it could be miles away from our thoughts and deeply stored away. Some days the sadness is a dark cloak over us that people can see and one that we don't wish to remove. The sadness is always just a thought or memory away.

I had a girlfriend that would text me after DJ passed away. She would tell me she was worried about me and ask me how everything was BUT she would never say DJ's name. I hated getting texts from her because she would talk about everything, would want to know everything but would not say DJ's name. I am no longer friends with this person.

Don't be afraid to say our child's name. Do not worry it will make us sad because again, sadness is just a hop and skip away. It will make us sadder if our child is forgotten, as if they never truly lived. And that to us is a horrible gut wrenching pain. Far worse than to hear their name is to not ever hear their name! Far worse is that they are forgotten.

Tell us stories--I remember when DJ would get in trouble at school because he would take food out of the trash can. It appalled him that someone would throw away a perfectly good bag of chips-he couldn't stand the waste. The staff eventually had to tell him to quit doing it.

I remember when DJ would make taco hot dog cheese wraps--yuck but he would eat them.

I remember hugging him and feeling his bony shoulders-I cannot wait to feel them again.

I remember listening to Johnny Cash songs with him and blasting them in the car so he could get charged to skateboard with Luke and his buddies. Hey, hey get Rhythm!

I remember driving him to Salvy, to Roberts, all over town to skateboard with his buddies.

I remember his constant smile-the one he was born with, the one that was always on his face!

I remember him asking to hear stories, he loved to hear about other's people stories-like he was storing them.

I could go on for hours with memories but I bet some of you have more that you could share--if not with me than with another friend that has lost a child--

My challenge to you all today is to remember our children and not forget to say their names.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The first and fourth Thanksgiving

I still remember the first Thanksgiving--no not the Pilgrim's and Indian's Thanksgiving- No, the first Thanksgiving without DJ. It was terrible-it was only 6 weeks after his death. I can still remember going to the in-laws and seeing the table without DJ sitting at it. Seeing all the other long legged young men and not DJ. I remember my husband not going, not being able to sit at the table and pretend to be thankful for anything. I remember how quiet it seemed at the dinner table that Thanksgiving. I remember getting up early from the table to go into the other room, away from where my son should have been sitting. Away from the pain--or atleast three feet away from the table. The pain did not go away.

Now four Thanksgivings later I see a different one coming. I see one where I am thankful for my husband-that we have survived this tragedy-that our marriage is still intact and I still love him with all my heart. I see one where I am thankful for my two children that are safe and under my roof. I am thankful that they have come so far in the last four years yet it still breaks my heart that they have so far to go.

The in-laws want to take family pictures of everyone this Thanksgiving--I have already told my mother in law that we no longer do family pictures. We are missing a huge part of our family and there is no way we will do one--we haven't done one since DJ died. I see a Thanksgiving where we are more thankful than four years ago but I also see one that is forever changed and different.

Don't forget to be thankful for the really important things this year--and remember they aren't things-- they are people and relationships and those that you love. That is what I am thankful for and longing to see again.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Okay so many of you know that I try really hard to not watch the news on television. Too many stories about too many children passing away. Too much pain all the time.

So I watch a television show today about brides to be buying their wedding dresses. Sounds like a safe show right? Yay right...A young woman talks about how she is trying to find a dress that will symbolize her sister who had passed away a year prior. Then one of the consultants starts speaking about how he had lost his sister when he was 12 years old and how he still carries that with him everyday for the last 30 plus years.

This brings about two facts---

One---DJ's friends are going to be getting married someday and I am going to have to pretend that I am happy for them. This has already happened to some of the people I have interviewed and usually the women end up crying during the service. They aren't crying for the joy for the couple but for the fact that their children are not there. It becomes so evident during these kind of events that their child is gone. It is too much of an expectation for some families to be happy during the weddings so many just don't go altogether.

Second---my children will be getting married someday and DJ will not be present for them. I had a friend who's brother passed away when we were in college and she represented him in her wedding with a special candle and a remembrance in the announcement. Is this what DJ's life is going to be summed down to? A sentence and a candle? That sucks.

I am re-reading this posting and realizing that it is not the news or the television that is causing me pain. It is life that causes me pain. It wouldn't matter if I was watching Sponge Bob or The Terminator. It wouldn't matter if I was reading a Sesame Street book or a Stephen King novel. Life is what it is and I need to bloom like the iris. I need to be strong and realize that life is hard and be prepared for it. Perhaps there will be one hundred purple irises at my children's weddings and you all will know why.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Birthdays suck for families that have lost children...

We miss our children, we miss the excitement of their day. We lose out on the enjoyment we had with them. We don't get to blow out candles any longer with them. We don't get to make them or buy them their favorite cake or go to their favorite restaurant. We no longer have the chance to tell them happy birthday one more time. We miss not being able to buy them something cool. We wonder what kind of gift they would like now-years later, we miss the future birthdays without them and the past birthdays we had with them.

We miss our children on our birthdays as well. Unfortunately for me DJ's visitation was on my birthday and he was buried one day after my birthday. Of course any day your child dies, any day that they are buried you remember but for me my birthday will never be a "happy" birthday.

We miss our children on our other children's birthday too. It is so evident during holidays, events, birthdays and celebrations that they are gone. It is so obvious that DJ is not here on our other children's birthdays. He is not here to take pictures with the video camera that was just beginning to use. He was not here to lick his fingers and put out the candles (just like Aragon in Lord of the Rings) on Emilee's 20th birthday. Jake has however found this thrill and does it every chance he can get, so in this way DJ's memory lives on.

DJ has missed four birthdays, four of his own, four of mine, four of his sisters, four of his brothers and four of my husbands. He has missed so much but we have missed him so much more.

We made a mistake on his birthday this year. In the past birthdays we had given the kids gifts and tried to make it a happy day for them. We would buy a cake and blow out candles in honor of DJ's birthday. This year though we decided not to do this new tradition. We bought the kids gifts but didn't do the cake and we didn't celebrate his birthday.

Instead we mourned him, we mourned his loss. We didn't realize any of this until the week later after his birthday and the entire family was suffering and in pain and depressed. We didn't see what we had done or what we hadn't done was wrong. Once we did see our mistake all the light bulbs went off--we then went out for dinner as a family, we bought a cake and blew out candles. This helped us process DJ's birthday, this helped us go from mourning him to celebrating his life.

What did I learn from this? I learned that the best thing to do is to celebrate DJ's life. Celebrate the child's life on their birthday, I learned not mourn that day.

My advice to anyone coming up to a lost child's birthday? First and foremost, the anxiety, apprehension coming up to the date is worse than the actual date. Secondly the day should be celebrated as best you can--your child would not want you to mourn them, they would want you to live a life and try to be happy during their day. Thirdly--do what is best for you and never feel you have to explain what you are doing to anyone. If it means staying in bed all day then do it. If it means buying your child a gift and putting it away in a closet do it. If it means going to dinner as a family and crying while sharing stories about them then do it. My point here again and this time I will say it louder--DO WHAT IS BEST FOR YOU, DO WHAT FEELS RIGHT FOR YOU AND CELEBRATE THEIR LIFE AS BEST YOU CAN!!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Would it have been easier not to have had DJ?

After a friend posted a comment about my blog it made me think about something parents that have lost children think but rarely say...

Would it have been easier to never have had our children than have the pain we now have? We probably have all thought it quietly but never said it aloud. And really why would we say it out loud? We can't do anything about it, it is a useless question to even ask but it does come to mind.

So I will answer it anyway...

Absolutely YES.

Everyone would take the pain that can nearly destroy us just to still have the memories of our children.

We would all rather have had the joy and privilege of having our children in our life than not having had them and having no pain.

Immense pain comes from immense love. Without the love the children had for us and we for them we would not have such great sorrow.

Absolutely yes is my answer. I would not trade the 13 years of having DJ in my life and the great overpowering grief that I can have now for nothing. I would rather have the pain of losing him than the pain of never having had him.

Husbands and wives grieve differently

Men and women grieve differently. It is one of the most constant facts I discovered when I interviewed people for my book.

Generally couples don't grieve the same at the same time and this is a huge blessing. When one person is in a hole and depressed then usually the other help mate is not. The other is able to help the one grieving. When Donnie is grieving I am there to offer help and support. When I am in a hole he is there for me and keeps me going.

Often one or the other wants to talk about their child and express their grief while the other is quieter with their emotions. Donnie likes to talk about DJ and what memories he has. For me it is too difficult, I usually get quiet and don't talk much at all. For me the pain is always sitting their just below the surface and to talk about DJ too much is hard. Memories of DJ are always with me, they never leave me and I am just not able to talk about them as much as Donnie. Donnie doesn't want DJ's life forgotten and to talk about him keeps DJ alive.

Some people I interviewed expressed that the husband's would get angry and grumpy while they grieved. While the woman would get sad and cry.

Some men went to the gym to work out their pain and often the women ate to stuff their pain.

Parents drank, some did drugs. They would immerse themselves into their work and some would almost quit working.

It was almost completely universal that the men would take great care in the headstones and gravesights of the children. They felt the need to continue to take care of their children in this way. And they were all concerned about who would take care of their child in this manner after they too passed away.

With all this said I just want everyone to realize that it is okay for people to grieve differently. Fortunately it is a good thing that we do because if we were both grieving at the same time or both doing destructive behaviors at the same time we would not be able to support one another. Our remaining children would have more loss and devastation to deal with. Life has already been seemingly unfair and we don't need to burden our loved ones with more. This is God's way of protecting us all I think.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Why I don't watch the news

I try really hard not to watch the news since DJ's death. It is tough to watch it when I see so many children die needlessly and endlessly on the news. I make a point not to watch it, even after four years. However, this week I chose to watch it. I wanted to know what happened to the local 13 year old boy that passed away. I didn't watch it for the curiosity of the facts and trauma. I didn't want to gawk at the family's pain but because I have an understanding of the loss, I had sympathy for the family and wanted to know what was happening. I have a kinship and have great sadness for them. I feel the pain they feel for losing their 13 year old boy. It is a kinship I wish we didn't share.

While listening to the interview the mother says, "my son wanted to be a professional skateboarder, that was his passion." These are the exact words I said about DJ after his death in many interviews. Not almost the same words but the exact words. What are the chances? Apparently really good.

So all that said, I am not happy today. I am not celebrating the fact that another 13 year old is in heaven. I am not rejoicing that DJ gets to show him all the cool skateboard places in heaven.

I am angry that another family has this pain. I am angry that I have this pain.

I miss my son. I am spiraling and sad and I am not trying to get out of the hole. Let the hole have me today, today I jump in.

This is why I don't watch the news.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

When to offer support?

In the local news there is a story floating around that an older brother accidentally shot and killed his younger brother. Honestly I don't know if this is completely true or not. The one fact that I do know is true is that a 13 year old died this week and another family is suffering and in unimaginable pain. My husband asked me if I thought we should go to the family and offer any help right now. I said "No" but this is why--

This family is deciding where to have a funeral
This family is picking out clothes for their son to be buried in
This family is deciding on songs to be sung during the service
This family is trying to figure out where to have a dinner after the funeral
This family is selecting a place to bury their son
This family is figuring out how to pay for all this
This family is still numb with grief and shock
This family is putting on a "face" for family members coming in
This family is going through a hell that few people (including myself) can possibly understand- if the stories are true
This family is going through hell regardless because their child is gone

When to offer help? When to go to the families and offer support and some sort of comfort?

When the numbing effect of grief wears off (which unbelievably it does)
When the grief gets worse about 3-6 months after the death of their child
When the friends begin to back away because they don't want to "catch it" (death)
When family members become harsh and tell them "to get over it"
When people quit calling and asking how they are doing
When people only want to hear "Fine" when they are asked how they are
When people quit speaking their child's name because they don't want to make the family sad
When the family members no longer think they can live without their child anymore
When the family's pain is so strong they can only think to end their own lives and stop the pain
When the family is dieing it's own slow death while the world is moving around them

Right now this family is busy, right now they are surrounded by people and things to do. But soon, the house will become quiet and the pain will become worse. Soon when the world outside has forgotten their pain they will need their family and friends more than ever. Just because time continues to go by the pain does not get easier. The pain only gets easier to manage after years of practice. This family and all families need support beyond the "initial allowed grieving period the world allows."

Saturday, November 13, 2010

No one is immune

A family I interviewed for my book lost their youngest daughter in a car wreck five years ago, she was only 15 years old. This month their oldest daughter was in a horrible car wreck and has been in intensive care for over a week. She is in a medicated coma because of all the injuries she has sustained.

No one ever thinks something this horrible can happen to them. No one ever has children and when they are born think that someday they will have to bury them. We all kind of live in a bubble of "it won't happen to me, it will happen to them..." (I'm not sure who "them" is but I was sure it couldn't be me)

But then you lose a child and you become one of them. You are the one that it happens to, not someone else. Your immunity wears off.

After losing a child I think there are two trains of thought as a parent regarding your remaining children...One that it could never happen again. Two that it could happen again.

In the case of this wonderful family it almost happened again. The young woman is still fighting for her life, she may never be the same again once she remains consciousness--so much is uncertain.

All this said their is one certainty I am aware of---parents need prayer. Parents who lose children need continued prayer even after 5 years, 10, 20-the need never goes away. But also parents who haven't lost children need prayer. Life is hard, life is very hard and we all need to be praying even harder for one another.

I didn't mean to challenge you all again but I guess I am-PRAY. Pray for those you love, pray for those you know, pray for your enemies, pray for your children, pray for our country, pray for whoever you feel led to pray for. As Nike says--Just do it!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Bloom like the iris!

I had a very thoughtful and kind of sad blog planned for today, life has thrown some things in the news this week and I had some words to share but......

Then I saw an iris. An iris blooming in Nebraska. An iris blooming in the shade in November in Nebraska. A beautiful purple flower that usually blooms in May was just standing up proudly along my walking path this week.

Why am I choosing this instead of the other topic? Because it was a great symbol of life. A great analogy of how we are supposed to bloom where we are. This flower doesn't know it is November, it doesn't know that it is not supposed to be beautiful right now. This flower doesn't know that it is supposed to be dormant and brown and bent over.

We live life and know that because of our tragedies in life, that because the world had taken away one of our most prized possessions in life that we should not bloom where we are. We know that we aren't supposed to feel beautiful or see anything beautiful now. We know we are supposed to be dormant and unhappy and sad and bent over like the flower is supposed to be.

But..... what do we really know? If this flower that knows nothing knows to bloom where it is and shine and be proud and just show so much strength then perhaps I should be learning something from it. I have had tragedy, I have lost my son DJ and life has thrown it's worst at me but I am going to chose to be like that flower and forget what I know and do what I need to do. I need to bloom, I need to live, I need to be strong and stand and shine and forget what the world wants me to do or what it thinks I should do.

I will be like the flower and bloom where I am not supposed to and shine when I shouldn't.

I challenge you all, whether you have lost a child or not to be like that flower, to do what you can't, to do the impossible and live your life. Not just let life live for you but chose to live life!

Side note--I just realized God is amazing because iris' are my very favorite flower! I am always so anxious when they start blooming in May and am so disappointed when they fade away. If it had been any other flower I would have not noticed it, it would not have gotten my attention. God got my attention!

Movie to add to "not to see" list---Cujo

Friday, November 5, 2010


Many people inherit pets from their lost ones. These animals can go into shock and grieve just like people.

Pets will wait anxiously at the door for their owners to come home not realizing that they will never see them again.

The animals often lay on the blankets and beds of their lost owners and refuse to get up.

They smell their loved ones smells and long to be touched again by their owners.

The worst part about inheriting these pets is that someday they will pass away as well. These animals are one of the last physical connections people have with their children.

I know someday DJ's dog will pass away and that I will grieve her and it will cause me to grief DJ again. Someday all these inherited pets will be gone and it will be another loss that the loved ones left behind will have to endure.

I know I have talked before about the loss of an animal being compared to the loss of a child and the bitterness and anger it causes in me -in this case however; it is another connection, another loss, another pain that causes great pain in us. To the new owners of these dogs we do not want to see them go, to see them go is to lose our children all over again.