The Will to Live

The other night I had what I think was an esophageal spasm. They present just like a heart attack. I had an episode back in 2014 and although the stress test was positive for blockage, the subsequent thalium stress test and ultrasound of the heart was inconclusive. They left it as ” possible esophageal spasm” because I didn’t want them to look further into it ( I’m in the military and if I had a problem with my heart it would end my career).


Fast forward to this weekend : it wasn’t as severe as the one many years ago, but as I lay there gasping ( breathing hurt) feeling the pain spreading across my chest and up into my neck and jaw, I literally felt at peace with it and was more than ready to go if it was indeed my time. We were camping in the middle of no where so going to a hospital wasn’t even an option. The spasm eventually passed and obviously I lived to see the mornings sunrise.


I believe that all living organisms have a natural instinctual reflex for survival : it’s why I don’t kill spiders or creepy crawly things or anything for that matter. I truly live with guilt for eating something that I knew was once alive. But it appears that my own survival instinct is gone after the loss of Sam.
While I am not out chasing death by any stretch of the imagination, I’m certainly not afraid of it should it decide that my time is up. Had Sammy died any other way, I would have been devastated but I feel like my instinct to survive his loss would have been stronger. Knowing that he was in that much emotional pain .. it’s just too much. As a parent, living with the knowledge that I couldn’t save him is simply more than I can wrap my head around.


I’m not suicidal….but I’m grateful at the end of each day knowing that I’m one day closer to joining him. I have 3 surviving children who I love more than life, but I feel that this pergatory I walk now doesn’t let me be present in their lives as I should be so what good am I? I can’t force it . I wish I could.


Why did life play this cruel fate on my family? It’s so unfair. I know that death is as natural as birth and that we all must face it at some point. But why? Why my family? Why my son? Why did Sam jump ahead in line? A parent is not supposed to bury their child. Its supposed to be the other way around. My family needed Sam in our lives. . I need Sam in my life. I wasn’t remotely ready to say goodbye. 😦

It’s been 9 and a half months.

………………………………………………………

I read this earlier today and it struck a chord. So I’m sharing it here on my page. I share it in hopes than my own grief becomes softer to carry one day. I still have so much to want to live for, but I’m broken beyond what many can comprehend unless they have lost such a huge part of themselves. Our children are as much a part of who we are, as we ourselves are. To lose that big a part of oneself is something that you just can never fully come back from.

Sharing.

I did not write this. My words could never be so eloquent. But I wanted to share this. Her words speak for every parent who has lost a child. It doesn’t matter the age, or how they died: Something dies in us when we lose a son or a daughter. Life is never the same, nor should it be expected to be.

I am a mother.
I am a bereaved mother.
My child died, and this is my reluctant path. It is not a path of my choice, but it is a path I must walk mindfully and with intention. It is a journey through the darkest night of my soul and it will take time to wind through the places that scare me.

Every cell in my body aches and longs to be with my beloved child. On days when grief is loud, I may be impatient, distracted, frustrated, and unfocused. I may get angry more easily, or I may seem hopeless. I will shed many, many, many tears. I won’t smile as often as my old self. Smiling hurts now. Most everything hurts some days, even breathing.

But please, just sit beside me.
Say nothing.
Do not offer a cure.
Or a pill, or a word, or a potion.
Witness my suffering and don’t turn away from me.
Please be gentle with me.
And I will try to be gentle with me too.

I will not ever “get over” my child’s death so please don’t urge me down that path.

Even on days when grief is quiescent, when it isn’t standing loudly in the foreground, even on days when I am even able to smile again, the pain is just beneath the surface.

There are days when I still feel paralyzed. My chest feels the sinking weight of my child’s absence and, sometimes, I feel as if I will explode from the grief.

Losing my child affects me in so many ways: as a woman, a mother, a human being. It affects every aspect of me: spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally. There are days when I barely recognize myself in the mirror anymore.

Grief is as personal to me as my fingerprint. Don’t tell me how I should or shouldn’t be grieving or that I should or shouldn’t “feel better by now.” Don’t tell me what’s right or wrong. I’m doing it my way, in my time. If I am to survive this, I must do what is best for me.

My understanding of life will change and a different meaning of life will slowly evolve. What I knew to be true or absolute or real or fair about the world has been challenged so I’m finding my way, moment-to-moment in this new place.

Things that once seemed important to me are barely thoughts any longer. I notice life’s suffering more- hungry children, the homeless and the destitute, a mother’s harsh voice toward her young child- or an elderly person struggling with the door.

There are so many things about the world which I now struggle to understand: Why do children die?

There are some questions, I’ve learned, which are simply unanswerable.

So please don’t tell me that “ God has a plan ” for me. This, my friend, is between me and my God. Those platitudes slip far too easily from the mouths of those who tuck their own child into a safe, warm bed at night: Can you begin to imagine your own child, flesh of your flesh, lying lifeless in a casket, when “goodbye” means you’ll never see them on this Earth again?

Grieving mothers- and fathers- and grandparents- and siblings won’t wake up one day with everything ’okay’ and life back to normal. I have a new normal now.

As time passes, I may gain gifts, and treasures, and insights but anything gained was too high a cost when compared to what was lost.

Perhaps, one day, when I am very, very old, I will say that time has truly helped to heal my broken heart.

But always remember that not a second of any minute of any hour of any day passes when I am not aware of the presence of my child’s absence, no matter how many years lurk over my shoulder, don’t forget that I have another one, another child, whose absence, like the sky, is spread over everything as C.S. Lewis said.

My child may have died; but my love – and my motherhood – never will.

“For Grieving Mothers”
Wonderfully written by Dr. Joanne Cacciatore ❤️❤️❤️

Always

I was driving to work early this morning. As my car rounded the bend of 1st St, I said aloud ” I miss you so much Sam”.

Within 2 seconds ( I kid you not and no exageration) the song ” Always” by Killswitch Engage started to play. This song is on my Spotify playlist but I have over 4000 songs on that list, and this song rarely plays.

The lyrics go as below :

“In these moments of loss and torment
When the vast skies don’t seem to call to you
When the weight of this world bears down
And the stars have fallen like tears

I am with you always
From the darkness of night ’til the morning
I am with you always
From life until death takes me

Monuments built in remembrance of me
But monuments fade, erode and decay
The memories are all that remain (all that remain)
As far as east is from the west, remember

I am with you always
From the darkness of night until the morning
I am with you always
From life until death takes me

When hope seems lost down and lowly
I am here with you always

I am with you always
From the darkness of night

I am with you always
From the darkness of night until the morning
I am with you always
From life until death takes me

I am with you always
From life until death takes me”.

Our loved ones are always with us and they hear us. When they can, the give us signs.

I really needed this one today. Thank you my sweet Sam. I love and miss you.

Camping

We are camping at Sointula : a beautiful island called Malcolm Island near the north eastern tip of Vancouver Island. It is a quaint little place where wildlife is abound and the Orca are known to scratch their bellies on the pebble shores. It’s a beautiful paradise three hours away from our home.

I needed to get away from all of the reminders that make me sad. Of course that is impossible but falling asleep to the lull of the ocean is almost meditative and I slept better than I usually do at home.

I awoke this morning and I had a sense that all was good in the world and for a moment I was tricked into thinking that I was finally waking up from the nightmare. In the earlier days, when I awoke (well on the nights that I actually slept) I would have a moment where I could almost forget that Sam had died: where it felt like everything was normal. But then I would remember. For a brief few seconds, this morning felt like life was normal. I lay here refusing to look at the memorial tattoo on my wrist which always brings me back to reality. But I didn’t need to look. I loved those few seconds though. I relished in them.

We ate a breakfast of French toast and pure maple syrup (a camping tradition ) as we listened to the sounds of the ocean and CBC radio. I usually enjoy listening to the stories but this morning it was all about the mass shooting in the US earlier in the week. 21 dead. Heart breaking. There was a time when I would think ” those poor families: I can’t even begin to imagine the parents anguish at losing their child”. But now I only wish that I couldn’t begin to imagine. I have no idea of the horror of what they went through in the hours waiting to find out about their loved ones…nor do I have any idea how it feels to lose a young child in such a horrific violent way. But I do know first hand, what it feels to lose a child. And I wish I didn’t. 😦 I can’t help but to wonder about the parents of the shooter. How conflicting their emotions must be because for all the horror their son inflicted on the lives of those who he killed that day; their families; and the survivors of his rampage : they also lost their son and right now, he is probably one of the most hated men in America. How will they grieve? Under the circumstances: how will they even be allowed to grieve?

There is just so much wrong in this world. Every day the news is filled with horrible things and atrocities and it just never gets better. Will it ever get better?

But just for tonight, I’m going to try to fall asleep again to the lull of the north Pacific. And tomorrow, I will awaken into a world where I just don’t know where I fit anymore.

The loss of a child

I’ve had many parents say to me, ” I don’t know how I would survive the loss of a child. I’d want to die with them”.

I’ve been told that I’m very strong to be living with this.

I don’t know about being ” strong”. Because I’m not. I’ve been resilient through out my life because I’ve had to be. But I wouldn’t say I’m strong. And this time, I wouldn’t even say I am resilient either.

Being a mother to four children, my biggest fear in life was something happening to one of them because I didn’t know how I would survive or how i would be able to be there for the surviving three. In fact, like any other parent: I would want to die. I didn’t though: I’m still here.

There are many days – most days in fact that I wish I could just let go and free fall into the whatever there is after this life. I’d be content if I found out I had cancer tomorrow. How fucked up is that? It’s not that I want to leave my surviving children : I love them more than life. It’s just that the pain of loss oftentimes is more than I can handle.

I’ve never had a favorite child although I have been told many a time by my children that I do. I hated it when they would say that. None of them ever said Sam was my favorite though. Poor Sam : he lived his life always feeling like he just didn’t matter as much as the others. He did though. He meant everything to me. Just like his siblings : each one meant/means the world. All of them are my whole universe. My role in this lifetime was to be their mother. None of the other stuff matters.

I talked to Sam alot in the last few years. He would often call me on his way home from work (when he was married he wasn’t “allowed” to call me from home so he would call on his way home). In the last year of his life he called me almost daily – sometimes twice a day. He always seemed to know when I was headed to the store and we would chat on the drive; often times he would call me when I was driving home from the next town. I have a hard time driving alone now. I miss hearing his voice over the speaker. I was never sure if he called because he worried that I was lonely, or if it was because he was lonely. I know that I am lonely now.

I miss him.

Strength and resilience : I have neither. I just keep going. Another day, and then another and another and another. I feel stuck: as I have said before, I feel like I am in pergatory. Just like any other parent – I have said in the past that I wouldn’t want to survive the loss of one of my children. I can honestly say that didn’t change after I lost Sam. Like any other parent, I still don’t want to survive the loss of my child.

Nine Months

Nine months today he left us. Nine months has passed so quickly. I carried him in the womb for nine months and 3 days : in 3 days he will have been gone longer than I carried him in my body.

I carry his pain with me now. But if that means he can be at peace, then I will carry it for him for the rest of my life : it’s the last thing I can do for him.

I was blessed to be his mom and I’d do it all over if I had the chance.

I love you Sam. I miss you.

Is Suicide Selfish ?

My father asked me how my family is doing with Sam’s death. I said that we all struggle.

He had had a few glasses of wine. Sadly, my father can only talk about deep feelings when he has had a few glasses of wine. It’s liquid courage. In fact, the first time I ever heard my father tell me that he loved me, he was drunk. But I understand. I believe he was raised in a very emotionally stunted family and he was never allowed to talk about his feelings. My father has done a lot of things; said alot of things while under the influence and while these things hurt to even think about, I know that he was raised in an emotionally fucked up environment, so I try to bury his words and actions and just go forward in forgiveness even though they are insidious and they do creep into the frame of my own mind from time to time.

He said to me as the fourth glass of red wine began to slur his words, ” my brother committed suicide and I think it is selfish. Suicide is selfish”.

I was taken aback, not because it shocked me that he said this, but because I had to address his comment and I didn’t want to. But I told him that Sam was not selfish and that suicide is not selfish. I told him that someone must be in a lot of pain to end their own life: that someone has to be really struggling to believe the feelings of worthlessness that are filling their head. There is a natural instinct to survive that every life force has ingrained into them from the moment of conception. To be able to go beyond such a strong instinct there has to be a real darkness responsible. I was 18 when my uncle died by suicide. I can never forget those days that he was missing, and inevitably found. He was a brilliant man but there was an air of instability around him for as long as i could remember. Ironically he was the head of the psychology department at a prestigious university. My father had to identify his body and my uncle had used a shotgun to end his suffering so I’m sure that my father, with his instilled inability from a young age to talk about things struggled for years to come after that day. In fact, he only forgave his brother in the days after my son’s funeral after seeing the closeness and the outpouring of love for Sam by so many. I hope that my father sees things quite differently now after we talked.

There is such a stigma around suicide. There is so much misconception around mental health and I don’t know if it will ever end. The numbers seem to just keep rising, or maybe they aren’t rising: but maybe more people are just sharing their loss.

In a bereavement group I belong to, there is an aunt who lost her nephew to suicide and his own parents refused to have a funeral because they said he didnt deserve one. He was quietly buried without anyone there to give him a final send off. The aunt was trying to have a headstone erected but the parents threatened her with legal action : they wanted him in an unmarked grave. Again, they said he didn’t deserve to have so much as a marker. I’m not sure of their reasoning but it felt like they wanted his life to just be forgotten. I can only imagine the life he did have. I can’t imagine feeling that kind of animosity towards any of my children. My heart hurts for that poor boy.

I have struggled for most of my life with depression and I have been to that point where the worthlessness has brought me to my knees : a point where I just wanted to end the pain. I can tell you that my feelings weren’t selfish : the pain was so overbearing that it blotted out any sensibility. I just wanted the pain to end. The thoughts and the words that reverberated inside my head telling me that everyone would be better off without me; the voices inside my mind telling me that I would be forgotten very quickly and that everyone would go on quite easily without me. There is nothing selfish about the agonizing pain that brings a person to believe those lies inside their own head: they don’t choose to feel that way on purpose. Why in God’s name would anyone choose to be so depressed and to feel so unworthy of goodness and life? They would have to be crazy to want that! The reality is that the chemical imbalance makes it harder for some to move past the negative experiences in life that we all face. Rather than learning from experience and moving on, they bury it inside their mind until the point where there is no more room to bury anymore. And then the voices inside their mind convince them to go.

Suicide is not selfish. A selfish act usually has an outcome that a person will gain from. I suppose peace could be considered a gain. But as we don’t know what waits for us just beyond that door to the afterlife, the great unknown doesn’t guarantee us anything. Maybe it’s a whole lot of nothingness. A selfish act is not seeking ” nothingness”.

I do believe that there is more though. I need to believe that. I feel that my son found peace. I know that he has found an eternal all consuming love that waits for all of us at the end of our journey. I only wish he could have found it here within himself instead of the darkness that filled his mind. My family now takes the pain he left behind and we carry it. I just hope that it doesn’t get so heavy for my other children that it puts them in that place where he was in those early morning hours where his self perceived worthlessness took him from us.

You were loved Sam. You are loved. And where ever you are now, I know you feel it. I know you are at peace and that you will be here to greet me when my journey comes to and end. But I sure wish you were still here. There was so much more living that we all had to do with you. There was so many more adventures waiting to be fulfilled. The voices you answered that morning were all lies. You shouldn’t have listened to them. I wish you hadn’t listened to them. I wish you were here. I will carry your pain so that you no longer have to but it is very heavy. And I wish you had been able to think about that before you left. You were sooo loved.

Grief is not linear. It’s all over the frigging place like an erratic heartbeat on an ECG chart. Its jagged like the mountain tops of the Rockies . Where I can one day laugh and converse with others as if my life was somehow restored, the next day ~ sometimes, the next hour ~ may find me curled up in a fetal position crying as if tomorrow isn’t going to come. It’s in those moments that I actually wish it wouldn’t. For me anyway.

It’s been almost 9 months. By the grace of God, the only thing that works in my favor is that time is passing so quickly. I wake up, and before I know it the day is done and that is one more day behind me : one day closer to closing my eyes for the last time and one day closer to joining my son and other relatives and friends who wait in the afterlife.

I have never felt so alone.

I miss my family but I rarely see them anyway unless I travel to them. They see one another often enough but no one wants to make the trip out here to visit me. I used to dream about one day bringing my family out here to visit so I could share the beauty of the islands and the mountains and the amazing sunsets with them. I used to fantasize about exchanging vows with Randy before them at sunset on Hornby Island on a hill that I love that overlooks the ocean. But alas, that is never to be. With my son gone I don’t know that I will ever feel joy again so going through the motions seems pointless anyway. I don’t want to marry again: it just wouldn’t be fair. I have nothing left of myself to give.

My sadness doesn’t go away. Every day it’s just relentless. But I played hockey today after lunch and I actually almost enjoyed it : the adrenaline and rush in a slap shot felt like release and afterward the cold wind in my face as I rode my motorbike home felt cleansing. But with twilight the sadness returned. I’m in bed now and my mind is racing and it won’t let me sleep. I’m out of sleeping pills, so I’m stuck laying here in the dark with my thoughts. I wish I could sleep. There is relief in sleep. I’ll get more pills at the pharmacy tomorrow. There is a prescription waiting for me.

I have survived Sam’s death for almost nine months: at least in so much as my heart continues to pump the blood throughout my body : my lungs filling with air to feed my brain. But no parent wants to survive the death of their child: the mere thought is grotesque and unnatural. That I continue to live feels like a cruel joke played by the Universe.

Maybe tomorrow will be a better day. It’s my day off. I’ll plant some flowers if the rains hold off…. walk the dogs and find some way to get through another day. And then night will come and another day will have passed. One day closer.

Maybe tomorrow my grief will be in the lower peaks on the graph.

Ottawa

I’m on a plane flying west.  I have had a week at home to visit Sam’s grave as often as I wished.  It’s very difficult being so far away from him but of course even when I can sit by his grave,  he is still so far away. 

For the first time since Sam died,  I went to his grave alone.  Every visit until now I have had family with me,  or a friend but this time  I sat by his headstone alone.  I broke down.  I lay on the ground where he was laid to rest and I cried my heart out. I needed to do that and I needed to say the words that I needed to say out loud.   I needed to cry.  I listened to Rocketman as I sat there and as i sang the words to my son,  my voice broke.

It doesn’t seem to be getting easier for me as I suspected it wouldn’t.  In four days,  Sam will have been gone for 9 months.  In a week,  Sam will have been gone longer than I carried him in my body in pregnancy.  I don’t know how I have survived this long : I havnt wanted to.  I mean seriously – no parent wants to outlive their child.  But I live on for my three other children. And i live on for Buddy ( Sam’s dog). And for Abe ( my dog).  I feel dead inside though.  I guess that’s pretty normal for someone who has a huge hole in their heart. 

I met with Cait ( Sam’s girlfriend) and her little boy Eli and her mom.  We visited at the grave and then went on a little tour of the city.  We had so much fun.  We ate unhealthy food truck meals down by Dows Lake, and then we snuck Buddy into the Museum of Nature in Ottawa. We eventually got caught by a security guard when she saw Buddys nose sticking out from under Caits sweater in the baby stroller. But the head security guard was kind and acknowledged that Buddy wasn’t much of a risk since he is so old and just lay in the lower tray of the stroller. She let us finish our visit.  Afterwards,  we went back to the cemetary where we met up with my friend Margit and we ordered burgers to picnic by Sam’s grave. When I went into the restaurant to pick up our meal the song ” Rocketman” began to play.  I smiled through the song as I waited for our order,  but the tears came. 

Buddy is currently sitting on my lap in his carrier on the flight.  There is a bit of turbulence, and I’m hungry.  I’m also tired. The Covid seems to have done a number on my body and I am tired alot of the time.    I was so happy to have Buddy on this trip with me though.  He is old but he still seems to love adventures.  My son Matthew came up and spent the better part of a day visiting with us and he brought his little Corgi puppy with him.  It’s funny how the younger dogs seem to know that Buddy is so old and they are so gentle with him.  It was so good to see Matt.  I’m glad I had a few hours with him.   I wish I could see my other two. I rarely get to see my family. Sometimes it feels like they don’t want to see me.   

I learned on Wednesday that there were three more suicides in our military over the past two weeks.  I don’t even know what to say about that anymore.  The numbers just seem to be climbing higher.  Is there something they knew that we don’t?

I miss my son. 

We are going over the mountains now and the turbulence is getting worse.  I’ll buckle up and get through this last hour of flight hopefully without vomitting. I’ve never outgrown motionsickness.

Bye for now

I always end my calls to loved ones with ” bye for now”. It means that I will talk/ see you later. I never say goodbye.

My last call with Sam, just a couple of hours before he died, I said ” bye for now. I love you”.

If there is anything that has come out of losing him, it’s that it has put me in touch with my spirituality. I have never been religious: I tried when I was younger to find God through the Church, but it just never felt right: not for me anyway. I’ve never doubted that there was more, but I hadn’t really spent much time pondering it. I guess I never really had a reason to question it and to look deeper.

I was gifted with intuition. And empathy. Intuition I have never minded but the empathy not so much. It has made for a painful lifetime. My upbringing could have left me cold and embittered, but instead it has made me more aware of others suffering ; of others emotions. I’m not saying that I havnt hurt others: God knows I have and I live with guilt for those who I have wronged. In turn, I have also been wronged but inevitably, I have always forgiven : even those who I shouldn’t.

I have always felt the draw to something bigger than what we seem to be. I have felt guided during some of my hardest times and I feel blessed for it. But my darkest time is now, and in some ways, it feels that the Universe has gone silent on me. I know it hasn’t: it has always had my back but this time – how can it fix what is so wrong? How can it bring my son back to me? It can’t. At least- not in the way I want it to. There is no time travel. There is no back door. My son no longer walks this earth as we do, and yet: that’s what I want the Universe to do for me: I want them to put Sam back in his body so that I can see his kind eyes looking back at me ; hear his voice say ” I love ya ma”, and feels his big arms wrap me in the tight hugs he was so good at giving. But, the Universe says no. It’s just not possible. So, I continue to feel unheard in so many ways.

I know that they are listening though. I know that the Universe continues to guide me and I’m sure that it gets frustrated that I seem to be getting nowhere. I know Sam is out there and I know that he tries to let me hear him, or see him but my mind is just so full of noise that I can’t. My mind doesn’t work in images : I can’t picture things in my head, but rather I hear my own thoughts as words. I have been trying to silence the words in hopes that the images will come by attempting to meditate using binaural sound waves. I acquired a set of meditation beads yesterday in hopes that this will bring me closer still. Last week, as I drifted into sleep, I feel like I saw Sam’s face in my mind. It was fleeting : but there he was. An image which I’ve not been able to see before.

I used to say ” bye for now” because I thought it gave me a (false) sense of security . But I realize now: it was deeper than that. I don’t believe that there is a finality in goodbye anymore. We will all be together again. Our loved ones are just in the next room. And they are waiting for us. I will continue to say ” bye for now” but not with a false sense of security. I know that we will be together again soon.

I navigate through the highs and lows of grief and sadness and at every turn, I find myself lost.

My life was cut into two : first, the life we had with Sam. And then suddenly, life after Sam.

My first life journey began Jan 22, 1966. I was born; I grew up; I married; I had 4 beautiful children; they all grew up and started their own lives; and then on Aug 19, 2021 Sam died. That day feels like my life journey ended and since then, this new ” life”….this life without Sam, began.

I wanted my mom when he died. I wanted her words more than anything to comfort me : to assure me everything would be OK. But my mom is long gone. Dementia stole her from us many years ago, and where she used to have lucid days, now, the light in her eyes that was who my mom once was, has gone out completely. She lives in a home surrounded by many just like herself. I know that losing Sam would have ripped her heart to peices. There is kindness in dementia I suppose in that regard : being spared the cruel reality of having to know that someone that you have loved for all their life, has died in such an unthinkable way. Some days, I can’t help but to think it might be nice to have a little dementia myself.

I’m headed home in three days. I wanted a week to be able to go home and sit every day by Sam’s grave. By living 5000 kms away it means I couldnt visit the cemetary at Christmas; or on his birthday: it means I’ve not been able to spend any time at the place where I had to watch them bury my son, and then walk away leaving him behind in the final place he would lay for eternity. I have needed to sit with him there desperately.

I’m also going home to help my sisters start the process of emptying what used to be our family home. My father still lives there, but without my mother there, it doesn’t feel the same. God how I long to feel something ” familiar”again. But in this ” life after”….. everything feels different. The home that once was my safe haven from the outside world, is starting to be dismantled and it’s time for my sisters and I to steer our father towards assisted living. To that, of course he refuses. I can’t say I blame him. In some ways, I feel like this ” after” Sam life is just me staying behind, sweeping the stage and tidying up after a play. My life feels surreal these days. In a lot of ways I don’t think my life was set to resume after he died. I feel like I’ll walk in this purgatory until I finally take my last breath.

The past few days have been a real struggle. I just wish Sam was still alive.

The Many Faces of Grief

Every one is different. Everyone is allowed to grieve differently.

Some become angry. Some fall into a pit of despair and struggle to find their way out. Some accept and just keep moving forward.

There is no right or wrong way to deal with how you are feeling. And no one should tell another person how they should grieve. Life would be wonderful if somehow you could just wake up and decide you are going to be happy from now on. If only it was that easy. But the brain and the heart don’t work like that. Although our heart is just an organ like any other organ in our body, we tend to refer to it as our command post for emotions. The brain regulates everything else about us, but when it comes to the heart there is a disconnect. The brain may say, ” ok, it doesn’t make sense for you to still be hurting after all this time” but the heart has its own agenda and it will hurt as long as it will hurt. And to expect someone to just snap out of their grief is absurd.

Anger is one of the stages of grief. It is a normal response to facing a situation that you literally have no control over. Anger at the person who died may seem preposterous , but it is a natural reaction when one deals with the frustrations of a life and responsibilities once shared that now fall onto the survivor. This is especially true for the bereaved after a suicide. It feels like a slap in the face that the person who was so loved, could just leave like that without taking anyone else’s feelings into consideration. Of course, mental illness is not quite that simple but to the survivor left behind, it will feel like that from time to time. They might feel mad at others for any wrong doing that may have led to the decline in mental health. They might feel animosity at family; spouses ; the situation; the world. They may find themselves lashing out because someone didn’t offer condolences; or maybe they did but they didn’t like the words that were used. They will become angry because although they pushed family and friends away, they somehow feel abandoned. They may become angry because for others, the world continued to turn while they are left behind afraid to leave the moment their loved one left the world.

Falling into a pit of despair may lead to angry outbursts. It may also be the reason why family and friends start to stay away : it’s hard to be around someone who is depressed and down all the time. But it goes back to the inability to tell oneself to snap out of it: It just doesn’t work like that. It’s sad that friends and family stop coming around or calling, but that’s human nature.

Grief is complex. I remember back before we ever lost Sam, saying that I couldn’t imagine surviving the loss of a child. Just about any mother I know has said those exact words. But, when the unthinkable happens, we don’t ” just die”. Mind you, a big piece of me died that day but my body is still here : I’m still alive – or at least I still breath and I still have a heart beat. But the person who I was has gone away and I don’t know where to begin looking for her. I think she is buried with Sam to be honest. I’ve had friends tell me I’m so strong and courageous , and I’m really not sure what they mean. Strength and courage have nothing to do with survivability of losing someone you love. Either I live or I die : courage has little to do with either option. Courage comes with choosing to face something feirce: I certainly did not choose to face this. I had no choice.

I returned to work with reduced hours one month to the day that Sam died. And I’m glad I did because I think it is the only reason why I have” dealt with my grief” as well as I have. I was back to full time hours by Christmas time. I still have struggles at work occasionally and my co workers have been supportive. I talk about Sam at work sometimes: reminiscing on memories and they let me talk. It means alot. I need to talk about him. Just like I need to talk about my surviving children: they are all a part of me and i am proud of them just as i was of him. Being on self isolation because I’m sick with covid has been hard because I have too much time to sit in my thoughts. I’ll be happy to return to work on Friday.

I havnt worn the anger side of grief thus far, and I don’t think I will. At least – I don’t see me lashing out at anyone or anything in the way that I see others do. I could be wrong – maybe it is yet to come. Hell, maybe I need to but I just don’t think it’s in me. Instead, I’ll just simmer in the sadness that I try to hide away from most people. I’ve heard that many mothers never really get over the loss of their child. And I don’t think I ever will.

The officer in charge of the military inquiry into my son’s death reached out to me the other day. I’m not sure how i feel about that. It was nothing bad, nor was it anything good: he was just letting me know that he had reached out to the authorities in charge to find out why he hadn’t heard anything back and that he was deploying for several months within the next few days. He was told that he would hear the findings in early summer and that, because he will be out of country, he will meet with myself and Sams father towards the end of summer with the findings.

I think in my heart I know already that they are going to blame Sams mental illness and that the Dr who prescribed an anti psychotic drug like Pez candy will not be held responsible for what led up to our loss of Sam’s life. I can’t believe that the drug Latuda would be prescribed so non chalantly without proper observation. While I don’t want anyone dragged through the dirt, I do want to know that this kind of gross blunder will not be repeated in the future: that this Dr will be held accountable for his misjudgement.

Meanwhile, I sit here one day further away from ever hearing my son’s voice ; one day further away from ever hearing ” love ya ma”; one day further from ever seeing his eyes smiling back at me. At least, not in this lifetime.

Most days I am doing ok. But in the days that I’m not, my own thoughts concern me. I don’t want to hurt anyone else but the agony of my heart some days is just bigger than all of me. I have long struggled with my own mental health demons and I still don’t know how I’m supposed to survive this. They say the worst nightmare for any parent is the loss of their child. I am living every day in that nightmare now. I’m living in shock and a state of denial that this even happened. And because of that, my thoughts are returned to reality with the words ” he is gone” on almost a daily basis.

A huge part of me died with Sam. I feel like I have not truly lived since the day he died. I love my three other children with every breath that I have in me. I love my grandchildren the same. I love my pets: God knows its Abes soulful brown eyes that tether me to the ground in the darkest moments when I’ve lost the capacity to reach out. What kind of life is left for me?

It’s rough being me right now. Randy and I are home sick with Covid. We need medicine and groceries but until we get through the mandatory isolation we are shit out of luck until tomorrow when the store can deliver.

May it be noted: I’m just having one of those bad days today.

Acceptance

There are so many words and terms around suicide. I’m not really sure why; whether it’s trend, or avoidance and denial of reality.

I read a line where one woman referred to her loved one as having died by ” s”. I’ve heard people use the term ” completed” , or ” transitioned”. ” Committed” is an older term which I think goes back to the arcaic belief that suicide is somehow a sin or against the law.

I’ve read from other mothers who simply can’t use the word ” dead” or ” died” because it sounds so final.

The grim reality is this: it is final. Refusing to use a certain word doesn’t make it any less real that our loved one is no longer here.

Our society has taken on such an unhealthy approach to death and grief. It is a reality that we all face one day. It is imminant. No one gets out alive. I believe that how we grieve determines how we heal. Denial will neither bring our loved one back, nor will it allow us to move forward in our own lives.

When I refer to my son’s death, I say ” he died by suicide”. Because that is what happened. He didn’t ” commit” anything, nor did he ” complete” anything. And he died.

By sidestepping around the reality, we serve only to feed the stigma around mental health and suicide; or to never allow ourselves to move forward from their death.

Grief is multi- faceted. There are many stages and they don’t necessarily fall into any specific order. Grief is the human body’s way of dealing with such a tremendous impact on our heart, and on our body. Grief is healthy, but when someone becomes entangled within it by refusing to accept the reality of loss, it can lead to many years of mental challenge, and even mental illness. I see so many struggling for years with their loss. And it’s tragic. I wish they could find the beauty in grief rather than all the denial. Grief means we loved. And I believe those who are gone would rather that we linger and hold on to the good memories of them rather than remember the heartache of their death. But I know: it is hard and some days not coping is just easier than facing it.

I have good days. I have ok days, and I have bad days. I’m beyond the bargaining and begging stage for him to be alive and be OK. Reality set in a few months ago and I have accepted that there is no coming back. Occasionally now, I will still wake up and wonder in the moment between awake and asleep if I am dreaming but a quick glance at the tattoo I had done for him is a quick reference that pinches me into wakefulness and reality. I often wrap my hand around the dragonfly pendant i wear around my neck that contains his ashes, to feel close to him. I no longer wait for the phone call that won’t come, or the text. I’ve accepted that they aren’t coming. I am grieving, but it no longer debilitates me to the point of being a puddle on the floor.

While I still cry, alot, I have begun to function as well as I did before Sam died. In someways, I function better. I don’t have the fears or the hesitation that I did before we lost him. I’m not afraid to speak out. I’m not afraid to be assertive. I don’t care so much what others think of me: I have learned to believe in my self and that has made me more outspoken. Not in a bad way of course, but I’ve grown spiritually and I see life differently now. The things that seemed so important aren’t so much anymore. There is a much bigger picture.

I started to ride my motorcycle more now that the warmer weather is here. I was nearly sideswipped the other day. Literally, the woman just decided to change lanes at the last second: no indication, and probably no mirror or shoulder check. Her car came within mere inches of my front tire and my leg and I had no time to react. I was astounded at calm I was. Normally, I would have jerked the handlebars to avoid the collison and that probably would have put me on the ground itself. With a car behind me, it would have been messy. But I just carefully steered out of the mishap as she quickly ducked back into the lane she came from ( she too was lucky not to be hit from behind). The old me would have been heart pounding and yelling and possibly gesturing her obscenely, but instead, I accept that people make mistakes every day: no one is exempt. I hope she didn’t lose sleep over our near miss, but I hope it will make her more alert so that she is more careful the next time. But who knows : maybe the near mishap caused her to yell obscenities and gesture obscenely toward me as she drove to where ever she was headed. But my point is this : we are all on a journey and at some point , that journey ends and we transition to the next place. Staying angry and upset about daily tribulations serve us nothing in the big picture. Everything happens for a reason. Forgiveness, kindness and understanding serve us by far greater. That is the lesson I am taking from my grief: we are all sentient beings underneath all of who we have become throughout our lives, and how easily it was to lose site of this over time. But the empathy is in all of us : some have a harder time finding it, but it is there. It’s who and what we were before we were born. And we still are : it’s just buried deeper in some than others.

And The Sun Will Shine Again….

It’s been 8 months and 4 days since I lost my son. The gaping hole in my heart that was left behind will never heal. But, I do have moments of lucidity from my grief : moments that aren’t filled with an all consuming sense of doom and sadness.

I never thought I would get this far into this grief journey: I honestly thought I would die of my broken heart. And I still don’t know if I will survive this: God knows I don’t want to. But I feel blessed to have been given the 31 years of being Sam’s mom : nobody else was bestowed that honour and I feel lucky to have been picked to bring him into this world and share in his life story.

His story is over : at least his story amongst the earthbound anyway. I have no doubt that his life went on in the next world, where he will greet myself, his father, his siblings and his dear friends when it’s our turn to join him: one day we will all be together with Sam. But in the meantime my story continues as it has to because my lesson here isnt finished yet. I have more that I’m supposed to do.

I have grown so much in my spirituality from his death. I have learned even more compassion and empathy and I know that this is all a part of my journey. It is the most painful lesson I’ve ever had to learn. But I know our separation is only temporary and that he has just gone on ahead where he waits and helps me from the other side.


I do things to honour him here: to keep his name alive. And although I would so much rather have him here than just his name…it brings me happiness knowing that his name lives on in the happiness of those who I help in his memory.

We will all see our loved ones again one day: of that I’m sure. Until then, talk to them because they hear us. And they see us. Their love never died: they never died. They are very much alive and they wait for us just on the other side.

The Sun Will Shine Again One Day

I know how much it hurts, 
And that every day you cry.

I know that sleep brings peace,
But how tears return with the morning sky.

I know that grief surrounds you,
And suffocates your dreams.

How life’s gone on without you…
You were left behind, or so it seems.

But one day the sun will shine again,
And a smile will cross your face;

Memories will bring you back,
To a special time and place…

Where you can speak their name again
Without falling down in tears.

A time to reflect on the life they had
Without remembering your fears…

Of living life without them:
A path you feel you walk alone.

Except they’re always there beside you,
And they’ll be there, to take you home.

Our lives here are but a flash in time
So finish out your days,

In honour of their memory
For them, live it big in many ways.

They want you to be happy
They want your chalice full

Until that time when they come to you
To take that final walk home.

Some days are OK.

Alot of days are not OK.

But special holidays? They are hard.

It’ll never be the same. Nothing will ever be the same. The emptiness; the hollow. No, nothing will be the same again.

Time will bring healing . Time will realize a new normal. They say. What’s a new normal in not normal world? Who are they anyway?

Some day it won’t hurt as much. Wrong. It will hurt this much forever. For my forever. For those who love him…their hurt doesn’t go away.

For a brief moment in time, he was here. And then he was gone. And we that are left behind, try hard to go on….in a not normal world.

Some days are OK. Alot of days, are not ok.

Easter Weekend

It’s another special holiday weekend : one that holds memories of easter pastel colored baskets and my children’s father and i staying up late to hide chocolate eggs around the house. Each of our four children would have a special spot in the livingroom where there would be chocolate easter bunnies and treats, a toy, and usually a spring outfit brought by the Easter Bunny. There was usually a Laura Secord egg waiting for me that i would always eat throughout the day to the point of feeling sick. But the day was amazing for all of us. This tradition went on well into my childrens teen years. The chocolate egg hunt was always my daughter’s favorite thing.

We would have a ham or maybe a turkey. Even though they had gorged themselves on chocolate, the dinner was the highlight of the day. The house was filled with the aroma of the cooking and chocolate. Having a four day weekend was my favorite part : being able to spend that time with my children was better than all the chocolate any bunny could ever bring.

Randy and I have chosen to ignore the holiday this year. It’s just the two of us here anyway, but trying to celebrate it would be more than I would be able to cope with. God knows, most normal days i struggle to cope at all, but a holiday of memories of my four children laughing and racing around the livingroom trying to find the most eggs is just too much to think about right now. If we hadn’t lost Sammy, it would be a different story. But we did. And now memories just haunt me.

We are just days away from the eight month anniversary of his death and it is not getting easier. I try to show my best face forward around everyone but when I’m alone, I cry. Or I just sit around looking at walls thinking about how much I want to go back in time and bring Sam home with me.

I still go to bed every night and pray to the Universe to give me a glance of my boy… just a moment in time to see his smile and maybe hear his voice. But I don’t remember my dreams so if I do see Sam, I sure don’t remember it. I don’t think I dream of him.

While I remember the laughing of children as they filled their baskets, I try to fight off the sadness that such memories bring for me now.

I don’t think there is a new normal waiting around the bend for me. I don’t know how much more of this I can cope with. How many more birthdays, and special days to come will I struggle to try to enjoy: knowing that I can’t? How could this happen to my family? Every family who loses a younger member asks the same question. If there is something for me to learn from this other than heart ache, I’d love to know what it is.

Anxiety

I’m feeling on edge tonight. It started this morning actually: walking around at work doing DIs ( daily inspections) on our support equipment, and getting irritated with members of the other trade I work with because they always seem to be sitting in the canteen while the rest of us are getting things done. I’ve never actually spoken out loud but today I did. I’m not a very outspoken person. I think it caught others off guard.

When I came home the dogs were being dogs and it was really getting under my last nerve. When Randy came home from work, it was no better.

I feel very unconfortable today: mentally. I feel like I’m sitting in a dark place and it’s an awful place to be. It’s not depression: it’s just an uncomfortable, dark place and I can’t explain it more than that.

I feel like I might explode or implode: I’m not sure which. The messiness of the house is getting to me. The unkempt yard is getting to me. The weather; the laundry; my hair; my skin…. just about everything i could pick apart. And I don’t like the way this feels.

I came across a video of Sam yesterday. As I was driving home I was talking to him, as I often do when i drive and I told him I just needed to see his face and to hear his voice. Badly. When I opened my Facebook shortly after I got home, there he was: his brother had shared a memory that came up and that memory was a video of Sam playing his guitar and singing. I had looked up the song just two weeks ago because it was a song that Sam really felt…a song that we had talked about in the past. I broke down: I broke down hard. But at the same time, how beautiful it was to see his face and to hear his voice. It brought him back to me for a few precious moments. It was a gift. But it broke my heart all over again if that is even possible since my heart is already in tatters. There are a few videos that Sam gifted us over the past few years. But I’m not yet able to watch them. It just hurts too much. Yesterday caught me off guard: I wasn’t expecting to see him. Yet, I asked him to let me see his face and hear his voice, and that is what I got. And I am grateful. But it hurt.

It gets frustrating when I feel like I’m making progress in my grief but then I fall down. I thought I would be in a better place after a good night’s sleep but I only slept 4 hours: I had to get up at 0330 for work. I have to do the same tomorrow.

According to society, I’m supposed to be moving forward from the grief but I’m stuck. All the psychology appointments; all the outreach phonecalls; all the charities I support in Sam’s name: nothing is helping me to accept this reality. Sam is gone. My heart is not getting past that. My children are an extension of me: they are a part of me and with one missing I just can’t be whole again.

I need to feel a shift in the Universe. I need to feel alive inside my heart again.

An excerpt…..

I didn’t write this, but it is beautifully written. I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by love and support, but I have spoken to others not so lucky. Apparently a grief counselor wrote it and I applaud them. Read on.

🌹 💐 🏵 🥀 🌹 💐 🏵 🥀 🌹 💐 🏵 🥀 🌹 💐 🏵

A widower / grief counselor wrote this.
John Polo
🌹

Serious question: Is your child six feet under? Oh wait, are they a pile of ashes?
No?
They aren’t?
Wow.
Ok.
Cool.
Then, sit down.
And shut up.
Once a grieving parent. Always a grieving parent.
No, this isn’t a plea for sympathy.
No, this isn’t even an angry post.
This is an honest post.
This is a passionate post.
This is a real post.
Sit down.
And shut up.
Unless you watched your child die. Unless you buried your child.
Sit down.
And shut up.
Do not tell a grieving parent how they should be living.
Do not tell a grieving parent how they should be acting.
I am sick of seeing grieving parents bashed for trying to pick up the pieces of their lives.
I am sick of seeing grieving parents shamed for trying to find their way.
Hell, for trying to find ANYTHING again!
We are lost souls. On a journey to find our self again.
And YOU want to judge?
You?
Do you know the courage it takes to go back out there after your child has died?
After you watched them die of cancer. Or a massive heart attack. Or suicide, car accident etc….
After you watched them fall to their knees. And clutch their chest. And take their last breath.
After you walked in on their body. Dead. Because they took their own life.
You have no idea.
Do you have any idea how badly the loss of a child messes with your mind? With your heart? With your soul?
No. You don’t.
So sit down.
And shut up.
You are not allowed to judge.
You are not allowed to pass judgment as you drive home to your children.
You are not allowed to pass judgment as you eat dinner or have the ability to call your children.
You are not allowed to pass judgment as you cuddle up on the couch with your child.
You. Are. Not. Allowed. To. Pass. Judgment.
Sit down.
And shut up.
Stop judging.
Stop thinking that you know what the hell you are talking about.
Because you do not.
Your life wasn’t ripped from you.
Your future wasn’t destroyed.
Sit down.
And shut up.
This was not our choice.
This was not the loss of a dog. Stop comparing.
This was not their time to go.
This was loss of one of our babies no matter how old.
If that place is so much better, send yours there and send mine back.
Sit down.
And shut up.
The next time you see a grieving parent try to be a little kinder.
You have 2 choices.
You can either sit down and shut up.
Or,
You can give them a standing ovation.
For their heart. For their courage. For their bravery.
Those are your two options.
And your ONLY two options.
Because.
You. Do. Not. Know.