Mother’s Day 2022

It started this morning with a hug from Joe for Mother’s Day. I was holding together pretty well until then. We ended up sitting on the couch, holding each other with both of us crying. We miss our boy so much. Joe looked at me and said, “It’s just not fair.” One lesson we have learned well is that life is not fair.

It never ends. It never goes away. The grief, the reminder of broken dreams, the longing and empty arms. Most days we get up, carry on, keep on doing the best we can. We are thankful for what we have. But there are times when it hits us like a ton of bricks. And right now it hurts.

~Becky

© 2022 Rebecca R. Carney

Brokenhearted Mother’s Day

As Jason’s favorite classical piece, Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, came up on Pandora this morning, I found tears welling up in my eyes and I started crying. I am just so brokenhearted. Another Mother’s Day without Jason. Another Mother’s Day with no family close by. I miss my boy so much. He made everything so much better.

Mother’s Day is another stark reminder of his absence, a reminder that I wish I had treasured every single moment so much more than I did, a reminder of all we have lost. We take for granted our kids will be around for the rest of our lives. We take for granted we will have another chance to make more memories, to share more hugs and celebrate holidays. Even after 20 years, there are days when I just don’t know how to do this life without my boy. Mother’s Day is one of them.

I guess Mother’s Day exposes those cracks in the facade I try so carefully to maintain and to hide, allowing a bunch of feelings to flood to the surface. Mother’s Day just really gets to me. We’ll be alone again this Mother’s Day. I know that I am still a mother even though Jason died, but I feel so incomplete and empty. I wish I could skip Mother’s Day entirely and wake up on the other side.

I miss you, my beautiful precious boy. My Mr. Sunshine. You made me happy when skies were grey. I love you with all my heart.

~Becky

© 2022 Rebecca R. Carney

Easter 2022

This is one of the first Easters in a long time we’ve been asked to do anything. Our landlord/neighbor upstairs (we are staying in an apartment while our house is being built) asked us to go to church with her and to join them and their family for Easter dinner later in the day.

We have been alone for so long and are so guarded that it was a big deal for us to say yes. Because of COVID, we don’t really know them well at all. We talked about it some before we responded. It was not an easy thing for us to do.

We – Joe and I – tend to do everything by ourselves any more. We don’t ask for help unless we absolutely need it. We would rather give than receive – financially, emotionally, supportive. When needed, we figure out a way to do everything on our own, if at all possible. We’ve always been independent, but being so deserted after Jason died – and some other things we have walked through during the years – has made us very cautious in relationships. We are not as open as we used to be. We’ve gone it alone for so long that it feels strange to do anything different. It’s hard to make a change.

But being so cautious in relationships can lead to loneliness. Always giving can deplete you so much that pretty soon you have nothing left to give – not even for yourself. It’s not a sustainable way to live. I’ve always thought of people of having a reservoir of energy – whether it’s to work a job, sustain relationships, help people or any number of things that require draining that reservoir in some way. You can only drain from that reservoir so much before it goes empty and you have nothing left to give at all. You have to find some way and take some time to fill up that reservoir, whatever is a meaningful way to do that. That could be any number things that refreshes your soul/spirit and fills up those reserves again. Spending time with a good friend is one way to do that.

Our daughter and I were recently discussing new relationships/friendships. I told her that I have always been of the mind that it takes two to tango, so to speak, when it comes to friendships. There has to be a desire on behalf of both parties to actually want or be open to a new friendship. And it takes the willingness and consistency to make the time and take the effort to make the connection. She is making an effort to be open to new friendships, and I am trying to follow suit. As I said in an earlier post, I’m hoping to make some new friends once we move into our new house. Time will tell.

The wall I have built around myself so I don’t get hurt again is high, thick and strong. It’s been in place a long time. I peer over the top at people and activities, unsure if I want to tear the wall down. It will take a lot of effort and vulnerability for me to do so, something I’m not sure I have the energy to do, energy I’m not sure I have to heal should things not go well. I don’t want to be hurt again. Jason’s death and the ensuing years depleted me in ways I don’t know that I will ever recover. I keep trying – cautiously, but I keep trying.

At times I am comfortable in my fortress – perhaps too much so. But it’s also very lonely. It’s been made lonelier recently by one of my bosses (I had two jobs, two bosses) “restructuring his business” and restructuring me right out of one of my jobs. I still work remotely part time for my favorite boss, so I’m thankful for that. He’s awesome. And we had already qualified for the loan on our home, so I’m thankful for that, too. But it’s been an adjustment to spend so much more time alone and to reconcile to a more limited income.

There are so many things I miss. I miss a more connected life, a more carefree one without the shadow of loss and grief. I miss my one and only best friend in my whole life, Mary. I miss the continuity of our lives. I miss my family. I miss my daughter and son. I wish we lived closer. We’ve missed out on all of our grandkids growing up years. I miss the home and life we had when Jason was alive. He made everything better.

I remember the year all the kids were off to college and my homeschooling days were over. It was a big change for me. I was trying to figure out what to do next with my life. Most of the other homeschool moms I knew were making changes, too, and moving on. One morning, all of the change overwhelmed me and I felt so incredibly lonely and disconnected. (I don’t think I really, truly understood loneliness and emptiness until Jason died, though.) Jason noticed I was discouraged and came over and gave me the best hug to let me know he cared. When he got to school, he sent me this sweet email.

On Easter morning when the kids were younger, I filled baskets with things I had collected and placed them outside their bedroom doors so they would see them first thing in the morning. It was fun to collect fun things to surprise them. I’d scour the stores for weeks ahead of time, waking up super early on Easter morning to put them together. It always included a cute stuffed animal. They’d bring the baskets down to the kitchen table to open together. It was so much fun.

I know that because of Easter and our risen savior I will see Jason again. I am thankful for that. We are doing the best we can in the here and now based on that hope, but we miss him.

Oh, how I miss my boy. Such an incredible young man.

~Becky

© 2022 Rebecca R. Carney

We see you. We care.

As many of you may have seen recently, a young girl in a bomb shelter in Ukraine has caught the attention of millions of people around the world for singing a song from the Disney movie “Frozen.” What an amazing thing to watch. It really puts a face to the Ukraine people and what they are going through. My heart just aches for them.

Young girl singing Disney “Let It Go” in Ukraine bomb shelter

The writer of the song, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, and the actress who sang the song in the original movie, Idina Menzel, responded to the young singer. Kristen Anderson-Lopez wrote, “My husband and I wrote this song as part of a story about healing a family in pain. The way you sing it is like a magic trick that spreads the light in your heart and heals everyone who hears it. Keep singing! We are listening!” Idina Menzel wrote, “We see you. We really, really see you.” This just really struck a chord with me.

Now, I’m not equating the loss of a child with what the people are going through in Ukraine. Not by a long, long shot. They are entirely very different situations. But, it crossed my mind that there is a lesson that can be learned from this particular exchange that can apply to the loss of a child and many more traumatic situations in everyday life. It’s about acknowledging that person and their loss or the circumstances of the trauma. It’s saying in some way, “I see you and I care what you are going through.”

A bereaved parent doesn’t want advice. It’s not about the words you say. They want someone to see them, someone to acknowledge what they are going through, they want someone to care. They want someone to remember, to acknowledge the tough days without prompting, to see the unspoken pain and unshed tears.

They want someone – either by their presence or spoke words – to say, “I see you. I really, really see you. I care.”

~Becky

© 2022 Rebecca R. Carney

20 Years

“And can it be that in a world so full and busy the loss of one creature makes a void so wide and deep that nothing but the width and depth of eternity can fill it up!”

Charles Dickens

Jason David Carney

7/29/1982 – 3/3/2002

I feel like I should be able to write something really profound about walking this difficult path of grief for twenty years. I’m not sure I know what to say.

As the ten year anniversary of Jason’s death approached, I wrote a couple of blog posts about the things I felt like I had learned in those ten years. In re-reading them, I feel like they are still good suggestions:

A Few Things I’ve Learned in the 10 Years since Jason Died

and

A Few More Things I’ve Learned in the Ten Years Since Jason Died

Perhaps a few more…

Grief never ends. Very early in this journey (just a couple of weeks after Jason died), I went to a Compassionate Friends meeting for mothers whose children had died. Although they were not particularly helpful to me, one thing has really stuck with me over the years.

As the meeting began, one gal started sobbing, saying it was the one year anniversary of her daughter’s death. Most other people surrounded her and comforted her, seeming to understand what she was going through. In my lack of grief experience, my thoughts were, “It’s been a year. Isn’t she over it yet? Shouldn’t she be doing better?” As I look back, I’m ashamed of my reaction. My goodness, did I have a lot to learn!! I was starting on a similar path to the one she was on, but I had no idea how long and hard it would be.

I’m sure there are people who look at me and think, “It’s been twenty years! Isn’t she over it yet? Shouldn’t she be doing better?” To them I now would say, “Deep grief is the price you pay for deep love. You don’t just ‘get over it.’ Grief never ends.” As you walk the path of grief, the burden lessens somewhat over time, but you also get stronger and more adept at handling the weight of grief. (I hesitate to use the word “stronger,” as it may give the wrong impression of bereaved person being stronger than normal when all we do is try to find a way to survive.) But it never goes away.

Their friends and other people move on. The world doesn’t stop. Kids the ages of our kids who died keep on growing and their lives change. They grow up, go to college, get married, have kids of their own. No matter how much we wish the world would stop while we grieve, it doesn’t.

I’m not gonna lie. It’s a little difficult at times to hear other people talk about their grown children’s accomplishments, the most recent grandbaby, the blessings for which they are so grateful. Please, please, please don’t misunderstand me. I’m truly, honestly, genuinely happy for them, but I get a twinge of wishing it could be me, too. I wish Jason had lived to experience those things, too. Jason was a great student and would have gone a long ways. He would have made a terrific employee. He had a wonderful, loving heart that would have made a great husband and father. I was so much looking forward to seeing what he would accomplish, to seeing him married to the girl he loved, to having his kids run around our house.

Both Joe and I absolutely adore little kids and we were so looking forward to being grandparents. Yes, we have three grandchildren, but through circumstances beyond our control, those relationships have not developed into what we would wish. Most days it doesn’t seem like we have a relationship at all. It breaks my heart. It takes effort, encouragement and a desire for a relationship by all parties, especially when long-distance relationships are involved. I really tried to keep/establish connections when we left, sending “care boxes” for nearly every holiday and stuff like that. It’s hard to do. We wanted to be connected to our grandkids, even though we were not close any more. What do you do when so many of your dreams turn to ashes? I have no answer to that one.

You’ll still have sad days and you’ll still cry. I guess this goes along with the whole grief never ends thing, but I’m talking about days – particularly around “event days” such as birthdays, holidays, etc. – when you are just really sad. I’m talking about times when you just have to cry – not the silent tears running down your face, but sobs that come from the heart.

People who have not lost a child will have a hard time understanding. People will always say dumb things or tell you things like they understand your grief because their dog or great-aunt or whoever died recently. They will be thoughtless, like my boss did this afternoon when he proceeded to tell a client who was standing at my desk about his friend who recently almost died in a car crash. Yes, today of all days. He did apologize later, but it was difficult to listen to him at the time.

You’ll look at things differently. Both Joe and I have a really hard time listening to parents who crab at their children for something or other. It’s usually a small thing, like the kid isn’t listening to the parent in a store and the parent gets frustrated and starts ragging on the kid, yanking them down the aisle. It’s particularly awful to hear some parents berate their kids over something small. I would just like to say, “Stop and think a minute. If your child dies, is this – your actions or reactions at this moment – something you’ll regret?”

I wish I could go back and change so many things. It’s easy to be frustrated when you’re running late and trying to get three kids out the door to someplace or trying to get them to do their chores or whatever it might be. But, if I had it to do over again, I’d let some of the things I thought were important go. Because, looking back now, a lot of what I thought was so important at the time just isn’t. I’d play that extra game instead of rushing around to get dinner ready. I’d read that extra book at bedtime. I’d cherish every minute. I didn’t know I’d run out of time to make those moments count. I didn’t know I’d run out of the opportunity to make memories that included Jason.

Easy, carefree moments unshadowed by grief are not the norm any more. Yes, there are moments of fun and joy. I have found, however, that Jason’s absence and the cloud of grief are not too far away, especially on holidays and special occasions.

One other thing that I have struggled with – and still do – is the concern that something is going to happen to another family member. Once you have lost a child, there is a deep understanding that no one is immune from the death of a child. Never in my wildest nightmares did I ever imagine that a drunk driver going more than double the posted speed limit would broadside my son, killing him instantly.

I try not to worry when our daughter drives the four hour journey from her home to ours and back again. I try not to worry that my husband will have another heart attack. I try not to worry about our son and his family with all of the violence and shootings that seem to be pervasive close to where they live in the Seattle area. I pray for their safety, but, then, I prayed and prayed for the safety of my family before Jason died, too. I don’t think I’ll every solve my crisis of faith here on earth. I’ll always have questions about why God didn’t protect Jason. I don’t pray for as many people as I used to. I don’t tell people, “I’m praying for you,” unless I really mean it. I don’t have that absolute confidence any more that He hears me. It’s more like a wish or a hope that He does.

You will always miss and love your child. I miss Jason. I wish he were here. I miss his smile, his hugs, his beautiful giving spirit. It’s not easy.

I miss you, my precious boy. I can’t believe you’ve been gone twenty years. I am heartbroken and can’t stop crying today. You are missed. You are remembered. You are loved.

~Becky

© 2022 Rebecca R. Carney

Trepidation

March 3, 2022 is just around the corner, really only a couple of days away – the 20th anniversary of Jason’s sudden departure from this world. I can tell the day is getting close, as I can every year. It’s like I have an internal clock that reminds me, even though I don’t intentionally remind myself. I don’t need a calendar. I feel it in every fiber of my body.

All of a sudden I feel like I’m having a panic attack. I can’t breathe. I want to escape somewhere or to run to some place, but I have nowhere to go. There is no place without the pain of grief. Or a song comes on and tears spring to my eyes. This is generally not uncommon for me, but it happens more so this time of year. My emotions are much closer to the surface – not only grief, but all kinds of emotions. My patience is short, I am more easily frustrated or on edge. Out of the blue, I find myself incredibly sad. Situations that occurred during that time in our lives come to mind more often, even in dreams.

I dreamed the other night that two people – a gal in our homeschool group that I considered to be a friend and her daughter who was a friend of our daughter – had decided that they needed to write letters to me to apologize for the way they had acted when Jason died. They kept trying to give me their letters, but I was still so hurt by their actions (or lack thereof) that I was unwilling to read them. At the same time (in my dream), our landlord – the one who so unceremoniously kicked us out – drove by. His vehicle was full of other homeschool people we knew. With our landlord being the loudest, they were all leaning out the windows and yelling over and over, “I’m sorry!!!! I’m sorry!!! I’m sorry!!!” And then I woke up.

Over the years, I have worked hard on forgiveness, even though with one or two exceptions there have been no apologies, no acknowledgement of anything. At the lowest and most vulnerable place in our lives, we were left so alone for a lot of the time. I have written about some of what we all went through, but I am not at liberty to share all. I have to keep my mind from going to certain places. If I want to (and even sometimes when I don’t really try to), I see things that happened during that time so clearly in my mind and can step back into that time so easily. I don’t want to be a bitter person. I’ve read other bloggers who talk about incredible support. I’m happy to hear about bereaved individuals who have support, but, as you know if you’ve read any of my writings here, that necessarily wasn’t our case. It’s been a long, rough journey. There have been some kindnesses, to be sure, but a lot of loneliness and a lot of residual secondary losses/grief.

We watched a movie the other day called “Free Guy.” It’s a comedy starring Ryan Reynolds, who plays a character in a video game. It took a little while to get into the movie and decide whether we liked it or not, but, in the end, we enjoyed it. As we were watching it, I kept thinking, “Jason would really like this movie.”

Jason liked playing video games, even learning to play his favorite game of chess on an Atari game console when he was little. In college, he took a video game programming class. His professor wrote to me several years ago, saying he still had a copy of the game Jason developed and got it out once in a while to play it. It’s nice when people remember…and tell us about it. They say moms – family members, too – are the keepers of the memories.

I’m looking forward to getting our things out of storage when we move into our new house. We don’t have much left. About half of what we have in storage are photographs and momentos. My goal is to put together a scrapbook in memory of Jason – things that I saved from his time here on earth. Swimming awards, Awana Bible memory awards, things he’s written, pictures he drew, photographs, little everyday things that represent who he was. They are poor substitutes for Jason himself, but they are what I have, along with my memories.

Oh, my precious boy. I can’t believe you have been gone twenty years. I’m so incredibly sad you aren’t here. I miss you so much and I love you without end.

~Becky

© 2022 Rebecca R. Carney

Home

We recently closed on a house that is being built. It’s been a long time coming. It’s a small house – 1100 square feet, two bedrooms, two bathrooms plus an office and a sunroom. It will have a walking track, lawn maintenance and is about a half a mile from a cute, small town. It’s in a community of nice homes with people who seem friendly. I’m hoping we can make some friends there.

We had looked around this area for a place to buy off and on since we moved here nearly ten years ago. We considered moving to an area where we could be closer to our daughter or son and grandkids. It’s difficult to have people you love and want to be around on two separate coasts. With health issues (Joe’s heart attack and me being in the hospital twice last year with UTI’s that went septic) and COVID, we haven’t seen Eric and his family in more than three years. We haven’t seen our grandkids in more than three years. It’s a difficult thing for me not to be able to see my family on a regular basis. Although our daughter no longer lives near us, we are able to see her more often as she lives only four hours away. We still miss having her close. Housing costs in both areas were prohibitive for us, especially since I would have to give up my job to move either place and we wouldn’t qualify without my income. There’s no easy solution. This opportunity came up and we decided to make the commitment to once again try to make a house feel like our home.

After Jason died, we had a hard time figuring out where we belonged. No place felt like home any more. Everything was changed; nothing felt comfortable and easy. The house that was busy with activity and people before Jason died was now so lonely and quiet that the silence literally hurt my ears. It hurt my heart even more. Every corner, every place was a reminder of Jason’s absence. Every time we left the house and had to drive by the accident site, which was often, the reminder of that horrible day and his death stared us in the face. Some of the people we knew were uncomfortable with such deep grief and avoided us like we had something contagious. We became the people that other people pointed to from across the room, the ones whose son had died, the ones people ducked down the grocery aisles to avoid. Most people had no idea what to say to us. It was difficult, to say the least.

Joe and I struggled horribly. I felt like I was crushed to nothingness, an empty box with both ends cut out. Increased noise sensitivity and a flight-or-fight reflex whenever I felt trapped or cornered in any way were just some of the things I dealt with on a daily basis. I couldn’t sit still for very long. I was antsy and restless. My doctor prescribed sleeping pills so I could get some sleep. We didn’t want to stay around the empty house on weekends, but we didn’t have much of anything to do. It was hard to find the enthusiasm and interest to do anything. I kept going to school and Joe kept working.  It’s as if we thought that if we just kept moving, maybe it wouldn’t hurt as much.

We eventually sold our house in Snohomish and most everything we had and moved to Oklahoma. We purchased a home and bought some furniture. I got a job. Instead of feeling at home, I found that I pulled inside myself and went into a survival mode there and, although I worked full time, felt like I mostly just existed to make it through the day so I could go to bed. While it had been difficult to live in a place that screamed of Jason’s absence, it was even harder to live in a place where he had never been, around people who never knew him. My sense of connectedness was gone and I felt adrift.

After deciding that Oklahoma was not the place for us, we once again sold our house, along with all of the furnishings we had purchased a few years earlier. The things we wanted to keep, such as photos and momentos, went into storage until we knew where we were going to land. Since then, we have lived in furnished rentals in Florida and North Carolina, trying to figure out where we fit. We still have the few belongings we have left in a storage unit. I currently work two jobs – one for 30 hours a week and one on a contract basis. Joe, never one to sit still, has found odd jobs to keep him busy in retirement and in pocket cash. We really don’t know where else to go. You really can’t outrun grief. No decision is a decision in itself and it’s time we have a home of our own.

I am, at the same time, both excited and filled with trepidation at this purchase and such a large commitment at this stage in our lives. It hasn’t helped that rising inflation costs and supply chain issues are affecting building materials and things we need to purchase for our home.  We need to purchase most EVERYTHING for our home – from pots and pans to appliances to a bed to sleep in – and everything in between. I have been working gradually at purchasing kitchen items – with the help of my sister who had a virtual “housewarming Pampered Chef party” for us a while back and family who bought items for the house at Christmas. We are working on the big-ticket items, but need to have the house to be done enough to be able to have delivery there, all while trying to work through rising prices and backorders. It’s a bit overwhelming at times.

I’m hoping we finally can feel “at home” in this house. As I said earlier, I haven’t really felt “at home” any place since before Jason died. Carrie Underwood sings a song called “Temporary Home,” one with which I feel an affinity. I know that we are all travelers just passing through this life on earth. This is our temporary home. I believe that one day we will see Jason again in our final destination, our home in the heavens. I look forward to that day. Until then, we will do our best to be people of whom he would be proud and try to find joy and contentment where we can in our new home while we are here on earth.

The anniversary of Jason’s death is one month from today. It has always been a difficult time of year for me. Grief ebbs and flows, but it never ends. As of this year, he will have been gone longer than he lived. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around that. We will find some way to honor Jason in our new home. He is always in our thoughts and in our hearts. We take him with us wherever we go.

~Becky

© 2022 Rebecca R. Carney

(edited slightly for clarity)