Tuesday, October 25, 2011

God has a way of putting people in my path where I least expect them...

Last week my youngest son Jake had some volunteer work to do.  I am a parent driver so I was also volunteering.  The first home was that of an older woman and her husband and we vacuumed and dusted as she requested.  As I was finishing up I saw a display case of butterflies and somehow I just knew this woman had a story.   I commented to her about the collection and she showed me a precious figurine as well, as we talked she told me she had lost a son 36 years earlier.  His name was John and he had fallen in a construction sight and passed away due to injuries. She told me that her and her husband made a point right after the accident to continue living their life, they even took polka dancing classes.  What was so difficult to hear though was that a traveling Pastor took her husband to lunch shortly after the accident, he had heard about the death of their son and wanted to talk to him privately.  The result of the meeting was that this man never went back to church after that.  He would not share with his wife what was said but it was evidentally the completely wrong thing because he still has not returned to church in over 36 years.

Again last week I was at a play practice Jake was having and began carrying on a conversation with another parent.  They told me they had a patient that was 88 years old and she had lost her daughter over 40 years ago.  This woman was still angry at God, was not speaking to God and that she would never forgive God for taking her daughter.  Wow, that is a lot of anger and sadness all rolled up into one.

The point  I want to make is that there is so much pain with losing a child and I do not want to be angry and bitter for the next 30 plus years.  Are you that person?  Are you so angry at the words someone shared with you that you have walked away from God?  Or maybe someone said the right thing at the right time that helped keep you strong in your faith?  Are you blaming Him for your child's death or are you thankful that you know where your child is and cannot wait for that reunion?

People say and do the wrong things all the time, especially when it comes to death.  People are stupid and sometimes heartless, but I say "There by the grace of God go they" because they don't "get it" and I truly wouldn't want them to understand 100%--for if they "got it" then they would have also lost a child.  Do not let the ignorance of other's change your faith, change your direction, change who are.  The entire reason I wrote my book Flower's on a Child's Grave, Now What? was because a close friend compared the loss of her dog to the loss of DJ and I didn't want other ears to ever hear that if I could help it somehow.  I took that stupid (but meant well) comment and created something positive out of it.  Don't let others hinder who you really are.  Don't let others make you feel more pain than you already do.  Be strong my dearest friends, rely on friends, rely on God do not take on other people's words and pain.  Again, there by the grace of God go they, and there by the grace of God go we.

Sidenote--I would like to thank all the people that came to my latest book signing.  It is always a pleasure to meet you and you all definitely minister back to me.  Lisa--forever DJ's Mom

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A year in retrospect

Yesterday was DJ's 5th anniversary in heaven.  It caused me to think about the last anniversary-the 4th.

On the 4th anniversary my daughter was having a terrible time, she had medical issues I think that were caused by the grief of DJ's anniversary.  She wasn't handling the loss well at all (not that any of us do but it was causing her to make some very poor decisions personally).  She had moved out and was barely getting through school.  She flat out was a mess.

On the 5th anniversary she is having a great time on a vacation with a friend.  She is done with school, she is on the verge of getting a great job at a hair salon.  She is becoming a little more reflective and I am hoping she is beginning to make better choices in friends and friendships as well.  She is happier.

On the fourth anniversary we were in a home we no longer loved, we were barely thinking of doing much more than going to work, pay bills and start all over again. 

On the fifth anniversary we have moved into a home we love, we have actually given ourselves permission to be happy again.  We have a few goals, a few desires of things to do in the future, we can see beyond our pain.

We still miss DJ badly, but we are on the road to having a "different" life, not a better one-the only way for a better one would be if DJ was alive and here.  All that said if you are new to this terrible grief journey realize that there will be a day when enjoying life is okay, you will find a time when getting up out of bed isn't such a struggle.  Life does go on, it doesn't mean we ever stop loving our children---never, no how!!!!  But someday you will be five years, ten years down the road with a different life and that's okay---be kind to yourself today! 

Sidenote--I want to thank all of you that came to the book signing at the Bookworm yesterday.  It was a pleasure to meet new friends and see old ones!!  Flower's on a Child's Grave, Now What?  is continuing to reach out and help bereaved families and those that love them and want to help them.
Ifyou care to read about me or the book you can check out my site at flowersonagrave.com

Saturday, October 8, 2011

I used to like October

October used to be one of my favorite months.  I loved the changing colors of the trees, the fall smells.  Oh and yes my birthday is in that amazing month as well--well it used to be amazing, now the month just sucks.

October 7, 2006--DJ, my beautiful 13 year old son,  fell while skateboarding and hit his head hard. 
                            The day I got a phone call saying "the ambulance was on the way"
                             The day that changed my life and that of my family forever

October 8, 2006--At 1pm on that Sunday DJ was declared brain dead by doctor's I didn't know and have never seen again.  On that day I told my son to go to Jesus because truly he was already with Him.

October 12, 2006--My birthday and DJ's visitation at the funeral home (I hate the word visitation, are we truly visiting the dead? No, it's just an exhausting day for the surviving family)

October 13, 2006--DJ's funeral and the last day I ever saw his physical body, the last time I touched his hand, the last time I kissed him, the last time I was able to touch his beautiful head of hair.

October 15, 2011--my father-in-laws birthday, he just passed away 3 months ago and I know ths is going to be a hard day for my mother-in-law.  It is a long list of "firsts" that she has in front of her.

October 24, 2006--my youngest son Jake's 9th birthday and all he asked for was for "his brother to come back, he didn't want any toys", that was not a "happy" birthday.

October 31, 2006--took DJ's sister Emilee and brother Jake to another town to trick and treat because seeing DJ's friends would have been entirely too painful

Every year since, every October since has sucked. It will always bring with it the falling of leaves, the array of pumpkins and the smells of bonfires.  It will always bring with it a million horrible memories that I wish I didn't have but do, a lifetime of memories and sadness.  I do not like October Sam I am, I do not like it!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A challenge to help others

My father-in-law passed away just three months ago.  He was an extremely strong man and fought to stay alive for a very long time, defying most doctor's speculations.  Hospice eventually came in to help with his care and they did an amazing job for the family.  They prepared my mother-in-law with lots of guidance and support.  The nurses told her the steps he would take, the reactions to medications he might have and also gave  her insight about her own eventual grief journey. 

After he passed away I remember commenting to her that "she was grieving".  She was experiencing something and I saw her reactions as grief.  Her words back were that "hospice had explained the grieving to her and she had already grieved his loss before he was gone"  Truly, hospice did an outstanding job preparing her for his loss.

Well, it is now three months later and she is realizing that she is grieving.  I don't believe in the steps of grief, I believe they are circular and one stage can come back quickly as we circle into another stage.  For my mother in law it is a bit of the angry stage right now.  She is getting upset quickly with people that she probably wouldn't generally.  This is not a poor reflection on her in any means she is just grieving and doing her very best to be strong. 

I am telling you all this because I can see her grief because I have lived it and still live with it since DJ's death.
I am telling you this because you too have been there and are going through it. 
I am telling you all this because there will be a time when you need to help someone through the grief process because you have been there. 

Who better to help someone with their loss than someone who understands it?  Would you hire a painter to do your electrical work on your house?  No probably not, but you would hire a person you knew who was qualified, who had been in homes doing the work, a licensed worker who had the experience.  We the bereaved are no different than the qualified electrician-we are qualified in grief whether we want to be or not.  A bereaved parent should get a master's degree from their local college just for surviving the loss of their child--we have experience up the whazoo!


Are you going to go to that Compassionate Friend's meeting and hold the hand of a newly bereaved parent?  Are you going to send a card to a woman who has just lost her son to suicide because of a bully?  Are you simply going to give a parent a hug at church because you know their child's birthday is coming up? 

There are endless ways to help one another if you just open your heart to it.  Perhaps you are too short in your journey to help anyone today, just know that someday because the world is extremely small you will meet another parent who needs your insight and your help--it is inevitable. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Grief is contagious

There is a saying "Smile and the whole world smiles with you, weep and you weep alone"

There is some truth in that comment---if you smile people will generally smile back.  Even if you are sad on the inside you can generally fake a smile well enough that most people won't catch it.  Those who know you really well might see that your eyes do not match your smile, that the sparkle in the eyes generally attached to the smile really isn't there-however most will not catch it.  In all honesty we the bereaved don't generally want others to catch our lack of smile, we just want to survive our days the best we can and as another saying goes we just "fake it till we make it".  Faking it one smile at a time, one day at a time often, one second at a time.

Then there is the back side of the quote.  Weep and you weep alone.  To some degree that is true, we generally weep alone even if tears are not dropping from our eyes.  Our hearts and minds weep on the inside, alone in our own world--keeping those around us safe from the contagious grief.  This is where the above comment has some untruth in it---

Grief is contagious-absolutely and without a doubt.  I can be grieving without sharing a word or a thought about it with my husband and he will begin to grieve.  Grief is like a cloud of dust from a blanket just shaken-it scatters and lands on whatever it is around and nearby.  It can land softly upon your shoulder without you even noticing it or it can land hard, nearly knocking you over, but in the end it spreads. 

Is spreads like a virus. 

For some of us it over takes us like the flu.  We end up in bed with the covers over our head.  We have no energy or motivation to even lift our head up.  We close our eyes and stay in our own little world.  The chills come and go, the waves of grief come and go. 

For many it is a little cold that just won't go away.  It hangs onto us and no matter what we try to do it won't let go of it's grip on us.  We live with a Kleenex box by our side since we never know when the dripping eyes or running nose may start.

Grief jumps from us to those around us and before we know it our entire house has caught it.  The gloom, the pain, the lack of energy just hits us all and eventually there isn't any antibiotic that will cure us. 

But truly in the end there is nothing that will cure our grief.  The life of our child is and would be the only cure all and until we get to reunite with them we will always be sick.  Our house, our family will always be susceptible to grief, we are only a thought away from spreading it's virus.

There is one thought though that has just occurred to me--is there an antibiotic that can help take some of the symptoms away? Yes!!  Find something that gives you purpose in your life.  Find something that you can do to honor your child, honor the life they lived.  Find something useful to keep that virus from lingering too long--

I know people who have written books since their child died (myself included).  People have started grieving support groups to give their life purpose.  Parent's have formed entire organizations to make others aware of suicide, diseases, accidents that could have been prevented.  These are all big things to keep the grief away.  There is also the smaller, probably even more important acts that parents have done-they have decided to live more deeply, love more deeply, care for their families more deeply.  This is such an amazing way to honor our children's lives--by living one worthy of their memory. 

Smile and the whole world smiles with you, grieve and your world may grieve with you. Live and love and the world may become lovely again. 

(If anyone is looking for a speaker or for someone to hold a workshop I would love to offer myself to this, that is my antibiotic.  You can contact me at flowersonachildsgrave@gmail.com)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

What do you stuff?

People ask us the bereaved how we are doing...we say fine.  Seldom do we truly say what we are feeling--those feelings are too precious to give away to someone that doesn't really care anyway.  Most of us just stuff our thoughts, our grief, our words.

What I am wondering today though is how you are stuffing yours?

Is it with food?  We often stuff our mouths with foods of comfort.  It is easier to put things in our mouth than release the words not too many people want to hear.  Don't get me wrong, we all have the friends and family that will listen with ears and hearts of compassion.  We do have those people in our lives that we can talk to but in the middle of a day when we are alone in our own worlds, in our own grief it is easy to stuff our mouths. 

Is it with drugs or drink?  I have interviewed parents that have gone that route and it is a tough and painful journey back to civilty.  As one father told me "the drugs were a hell of their own." 

Is it with purchases?  Are you stuffing your shopping cart with purchases you don't really need?  Just something, anything to avoid the emptiness of our lives without our children?  It is easier to be at a store, among things that are meaningless than at home surrounded by our children's belongings that mean so much to us. 

Is it with work?  Are you stuffing your emotions away under the cover of work?  If we just keep working we won't have to think about our loss.  If we stay on task, whatever that may be then we won't have to worry about our brain going into the emotional painful world we can get to so quickly. 

Whatever your stuffing may be remember those televison shows with all the hoarders on them.  All those people have stuffed their homes with so many things that their families cannot even enter anymore.  Are you stuffing so much that your family is suffering around you?  Are you causing the loved ones around you to stay away, are you locking them out of your world?  Is your heart so full of STUFF that people are unable to love you, help you, be near you?

The people in those shows are often told to let go of the useless junk, the trash, the 16 volumes of 1960's maps and encyclopedias.  Is your pain useless junk?  Absolutely not. Is some of the pain we're holding onto holding us back from living a life with the living?  Absolutely. 

My challenge to you today is to decide what you are stuffing and if it is causing the people around you pain.  We all have so much pain after we lose a child, none of us truly want to give more, to cause more to those around us.  Be careful not to stuff so much, so far down that you no longer know how to share love with those around you. 

I will be having a book signing on Sat Oct 8 from 1to3pm at The Bookworm Bookstore in Omaha.  You can read about my book Flowers on a Child's Grave, Now What? at flowersonagrave.com