Reflections on a New Year

There are specific times of the year when I find myself thinking, “I can’t believe I’m facing another year without Jason.” Each of them has the significance of marking the milestone of another completed year. Jason’s birthday is one of them – he would have been 30 years old this year (though in my mind he will forever be 19). March 3rd is another (it’s coming up on 10 years since Jason died), as is the time period surrounding and including Christmas and New Year’s Day. I can’t believe Jason has been gone 10 years, that I have somehow managed to live my life for 10 years without him. I didn’t think it was possible. I didn’t think I could survive such a loss.

I can only imagine what Jason would have accomplished in the past 10 years had he not died. I can only imagine that he would have fallen in love, married, and had children. I can imagine that he would have… But that’s all I have – whatever I can imagine. I know he would have done things well, to the best of his ability, and that he would have made a difference in this world. It was in his character; it was who he was. He was such a gift to me and made a difference in my world every day. I miss my boy.

My process, as 2011 turns into 2012, has been to look back over the past 10 years since Jason died and ask myself these questions: Have I grieved well? What have I done that is noteworthy? What progress have I made? What could I have done differently? Would Jason be proud of me?

I guess I can’t really say that I have grieved “well” – if there is such a thing. I picture “grieving well” as forward progress over an acceptable amount of time. There have been too many other losses besides Jason’s death (friends, house, home, mom, moving multiple times, etc.) and too many complications to say that I have grieved particularly “well.” I have made forward progress, but it has been a difficult and circuitous route with many obstacles. Just when I felt I was reaching the possibility of a “new normal” or a more solid ground, I found that the earth was moving once again…and again..and pieces I thought were in place were knocked out. These earth-moving events or circumstances put me back to a place where I had to begin again in many areas. They created more wounds and scars. Although I hate labels, I would have to acknowledge that too many changes and events have made my grief somewhat “complicated.” There are many things that I wish had been different or that I had done differently. They are history, though, and something can always be learned from history.

On the other hand, I think that there can be an artificial expectation or standard of “grief journey” or “grieving well” that others (or we, ourselves) think we should live up to or attain – a path of progress from “crushed” to “back to normal” we should walk at a certain pace or within a certain time frame. We are expected to “grieve well” – to take our heartbreak and over time turn it into a success story. We are expected to recover quickly, to be strong, and to triumph over tragedy. I think this may be particularly true in the community of faith – it seems Christians who don’t bounce back quickly enough (suffice it to say I had very little “bounce” in me 🙂 ) are judged to be lacking in faith/trust or to have a problem in their relationship with God.

Have you ever noticed that most books and movies concerning grief are of the “tragedy to triumph” variety? Either that or they are analytical in nature. Those who struggle for a “longer-than-deemed-necessary” period of time with grief (for varying reasons) rarely write a book or talk publicly about it – no one wants to read it. We all like success stories. We want to BE one of the success stories.

I know this about myself – I have high expectations and I am hard on myself. I am learning that grief is whatever it happens to be for each person. It is affected by support or lack of support. It is affected by other losses and many other things along the way. Where I am now is where I am. I am who I am. I have walked through the experiences I have walked through, and they have made me who I am. The question is: What do I do about it now?

As I look forward into 2012 and beyond, I want to take what I have learned and experienced, and do something positive with it. I want Jason to be proud of me. I want to live a meaningful, purposeful life. I want to make a difference and I want to do the best possible job of it. I haven’t quite figured out how best to go about that. I have an idea that has been germinating in my heart for many years – a resource to help bereaved parents – but I don’t know how or when to get it up and running. I feel that it’s nearing time to take a giant step forward. (If you are of the praying variety, I ask that you keep me in your prayers as I contemplate this project.)

Anyway, enough reflections. I wish you all a Happy New Year. May your year be filled with the peace of God, may you feel His comforting presence close. May your journey be accompanied by those who stay by your side as long as needed and apply the salve of love and kindness to your heart and life.

 

© 2012 Rebecca R. Carney

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29 thoughts on “Reflections on a New Year

  1. Rebecca, I don’t know how I stumbled upon your blog about a month ago. I can’t imagine, really, because topically I don’t have any reason to feel a connection. But I’m a mom, and I absolutely weep with you–I feel a genuine tug at my heart that is undeniable. I’ve “walked” with friends who have been right there in the same muddle you describe. Friends of murdered children, friends with children who died from illness or accident…and you’re so right. What would “good grieving” look like? But I AM a praying woman, and you have my new year commitment. I strongly believe in the power of prayer and I will hold you close. It would be a privilege. Debra

  2. I’ve been thinking about you, Rebecca. I was told in a passing comment on Christmas Eve, out of the blue, that it was “taking a long time,” for me to grieve mom. I wrote a post yesterday about arbitrary timelines that others impose.
    Although ten years may feel eternal, it is not a long time to grieve the premature passing of your son. My prayers are with you.

    • I’m so sorry someone felt the need to “rush” or “push” you in grieving for your mom…so unnecessary. When someone is in our lives and so deeply in our hearts for many years, it seems ludicrous to me to be able to get over his or her death in a short amount of time.

      For me, Jason was an integral and important part of my life for 19 years. Our lives touched in so many, many ways over those 19 years. When Jason was born, I learned to live with another addition to our family. When he was a baby, I learned what he needed when he cried, I learned what I needed to take with me for him when I left the house, etc. That was just the beginning. As Jason grew older, I continued to learn what he might need – how to support, how to encourage, how to give space, how to drive, how to make chocolate chip cookies, etc. – and our lives continued with many points of connection. I loved Jason so much from the minute he was born…and my love only grew from there. It’s only logical that it would take many years to learn how to live without Jason and how to integrate his death into my life.

  3. i lost my 19 year old son on 8/30/11, your blog is helping me, just to know that someone else has felt what I feel and lived for another 10 years. continue your quest to help others, you are already without realizing it.

  4. Rebecca I have missed your blogs! I was so happy to see a new one. I take so much from your writing.

    Everything you say is so true and so much of how I feel. This blog put so much into perspective and I hope that those that are supposed to support us (grieving parents) can read it and try to get a better understanding.

    You are already helping grieving parents but I know what you mean. Maybe you should turn your journal entries and new writings into a book and be that bereaved parent book out there that gives understanding and doesn’t make people feel they have to have the “happy” ending that is preached so much in the other books. That might be your start. Perhaps speaking at grief groups comes after …

    Lots of thoughts your way 🙂

    Tiffani

  5. Rebecca, this post was a gift to read. To have the presence of mind and determination to create your own “GPS” process as you move from last year to this is inspiring. And the four questions you have chosen are amazing. I think the nature and content of your post are evidence that you have “grieved well”. Any of us are at risk of judging ourselves “poor grievers” based on someone else’s definition of good grieving, time frame or comfort zone. In reality, our grief lasts a life time. Maybe grieving well isn’t about getting rid of grief, but of wrestling with it, embracing it, learning to live alongside it. You do all of this and more. Your voice and your experience will be a light for other fellow strugglers.

  6. I have lived for 118 weeks without my daughter. Your words say so much to me Rebecca. I have no idea what it will be like once 10 years have passed. We went to the cemetery yesterday and I forgot to take some pink stones that I had collected on a beach for my daughter. My husband said, don’t worry, we have plenty of time, too much time. And he is right; it feels like we have too much time to live without our child. It seems we will have to live for a long time without her and that we did not get enough time with her. Thank you for your posts Rebecca.

  7. Hi Rebecca, the end of another year in our lives without our children.

    After Nicholas’ death I did some really stupid things in an effort to evade the pain. I’m sure he was covering his eyes, not wanting to watch his mother stumble around, banging into things down here on earth. I was not grieving well.

    As the years passed I learned to walk, I even have a gimpy run, but I’m still a bereaved parent, different from the rest, and life will occasionally trip me and send me sprawling into the dirt.

    Lately, something is changing for me. It used to be his absence that made the passing time and events skewed, out of focus, off balance, and painful. Lately, every so often, it’s his presence bringing color, dimension, and solid ground to the events and days of my passing life.

    I’m lucky to carry my little guy deep inside my heart, close to every thought I have, dream I dream, and choice I make. The pain is thinning and now I can see Nicholas showing me he always wanted me to live well.
    Rebecca, we are holding each other’s hand,
    Susan B

  8. I found your blog through the comments section in TIME and I’m so glad I did. I just lost my mom to cancer in November and started writing to deal with my grief. It’s so helpful to read how others deal with grief. Like you said, there’s a certain pressure to sort of “get over” it. All my friends have said their well wishes, and still continue to ask how I’m doing, but it’s with less frequency. Everyone moves on, but you’re still stuck mourning. I am looking forward to reading more entries on your blog.

  9. I wish you the very best in developing your idea that has been stirring in your mind. Your triumph is that you help others in memoriam to your son, but I agree that the tragedy never goes away.

  10. I read a really good book by H. Norman Wright called “Recovering From Losses in Life.” read it twice in two morning book clubs. His words helped flesh out grief I was stuffing down–betrayals, loss of friendships, expectations, a move. I’ve lost many people close to me (through death) and when I think of what the next ten years hold, many more losses are coming. But because my losses in the past year weren’t deaths, I struggle with not being past the pain. And I regret time that was overshadowed with deep sorrow during occasions that should have been celebrated. I try to mask my sorrow out of discretion; I can’t share details with very many, but it seeps out and manifests in ways I didn’t expect–wanting to be anonymous, invisible. Thank you for your insights, taking time to sit with your feelings and thoughts. I’ve hardly dared to do that with my own. But soon.

  11. Your story is very touching and sad. Grieving someone has to take it’s time and nothing is right or wrong in that. I can’t see how you can grieve well or right, there are so many expectations out there for everything. I’m so sorry he wasn’t with you longer.

  12. Hi Rebecca. I just want to say that I’m sorry for your loss. Since Jon died, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it must be like to lose a child. Although I don’t have children of my own, I have a whole new perspective on what it means to lose a loved one suddenly and prematurely. It’s impossible to understand or comprehend until it happens to you. (And even then it’s not actually comprehensible.)

    I’ve only been grieving for five weeks, but at this point I can’t imagine it ever ending. Ten years certainly does not seem too long.

    Thanks for writing this blog. I’m sure you’re helping lots of people.

    -Heather

  13. Hello Rebecca. Thank you for visiting our House and liking Gabriel’s Touch ♥
    Thank you for sharing Jason with us. I wish you and your family never had to know what it was like to be without him. Thank you for sharing you with us, too. Your words really hit home and make me think.
    Take care ~
    Lisa

  14. Hi Rebecca. Thank you for stopping by my blog today. When I clicked through here and read about Jason, my heart broke for you and your family. Not only am I just a couple of months younger than Jason, but my little brother died in a drunk driving accident in March of 2006. I hate being a part of this “club” but alas, here we are. I’m glad you’ve found a space to share your words.

    I also wanted to tell you about my mom. She wrote a book about losing my brother. It was a labor of love, as she is not a professional writer, but her goal was to help just one person going through the loss of a child. The book has already reached many people, and I’d love it if you could check it out:http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/ill-cry-to-understanda-piece-at-a-time/17287642?productTrackingContext=search_results/search_shelf/center/1

  15. Rebecca, thank you for reading my latest post. I’ve been writing my son since he died this past summer. Your words provide both comfort and assurances that 1. I am not alone. 2. I can still share my son with the world even though he’s not here physically. 3. Grief takes time. Thank you for that…

  16. Dear Rebecca,
    The love of my life, my Darling Husband; Merritt dropped dead of a heart attack without warning when I was 35 yrs old. My heart was ripped apart. It took five years before the fish hooks in the belly pain eased. It has been 37 years since he died. I think of him every day. A sadness can come over me and tears follow and the pain is like scratching a scab off a wound. Fortunately, I have many happy memories of us and dwell on those and avoid the scab. My Mother died in her sleep at 73. It was a shock and I was not ready for her death. My only sister died in my arms of cancer at her home after a ten day death vigil. My Father hung himself at age 81.My oldest son died of a heart attack at the same age as my husband. I am skipping over Grandparents, precious friends and favorite cousins’ deaths. I know grief. There is no proper way or time limit. There is only surviving one day at a time. Trying to replace grief and pain with acceptance and the knowledge that I will survive and experience joy again. If you want to read about my journey dealing with these losses read my blog; http://marysfarmreport.com.
    “A star shines in Paradise; sisters and cancer”.
    “Mink Coats and Bum Checks”
    “My Son David Dies”.

    With love, prayers and compassion for you,
    Mary

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