Struggling

One would think I would be used to some of this grieving stuff by now, but there are times when something raises its head and I have to deal with it all over again. Just when I think I’ve got at least a partial handle on the reality of the way things are now, something comes up and pierces my heart.

This time it’s grandkids.

Two of my boss’s grown children have recently surprised him and his wife with announcements of additional grandchildren arriving in the near future. He is so excited to show this kind of thing to me. He’s so proud of the way his children announced the news to them. Fun, cute announcements. So excited for more grandchildren arriving soon. Can’t wait to play with them, be grandpa.

I’m happy for them, but I’m also really struggling with it right now.

While it’s true we have three grandchildren, it’s also true that it has not been the Norman Rockwell-esque scenario we were looking forward to – not by a long, long shot. From the beginning of their relationship, our (now) daughter-in-law has done everything in her power – I’m not sure whether consciously or subconsciously, although maybe some of each – to cause division and problems between our son and us, and to make sure Joe and I know of how little value and importance she feels we are to their family. She has also done a more-than-adequate job of communicating this sentiment over and over again in many different ways to our son and grandkids. I will refrain from saying any more, although there is much more I could say. It has been a difficult pill to swallow. Since we live all the way across the country, it’s also a very difficult sentiment to counteract.

It breaks my heart. We have done everything we can, absent moving back to Seattle, to show them how much we love them and how much they mean to us. I don’t know how much good it’s done or if it’s even registered. It’s hard to tell. Even if we moved back now, it would be too little, too late. At ages 20, 13 and 9, the patterns have already been set, opportunities missed never to return.

Joe is and has always been a great dad. I could not have asked for a better man to be the father of our kids. When the kids were little, he would come home from work and play with them, read to them, play board games, take them swimming – all after a long day’s work. He’d make up games or change up the rules to games to make them more fun or different. He’d read books backwards, just to make the kids laugh. When the kids’ friends would come over, they would beg Joe to play “swamp monster” with them, to which he would happily oblige. As they got older, he always had time for them. He even helped our daughter and her friend dye their hair. He really was looking forward to doing the same with grandkids. He told me once that he could just imagine grandkids running around our house and it made him so happy.

I had my own vision of grandkid fun – baking, crafts, exploring, drawing, painting. Before we moved from Seattle, I tried to take our grandson places and plan fun activities as much as I was “allowed” to do so. Once we moved, those opportunities were gone.

Our daughter doesn’t want kids at all. She has said that exact same thing since she first took a babysitting class at the age of 12. We have come to the realization that she meant exactly what she said. It’s certainly her choice and we respect her wishes.

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Jason and our grandson Michael – Summer 2001

Jason was my hope – my hope for a daughter-in-law that would be glad to be a part of our family, for grandkids that we could love and spoil, who would be happy to see us and love us in return. The whole Norman Rockwell thing. I was looking forward to being that kind of grandparent, as was Joe – REALLY looking forward to it. Some days the realization of what we have missed because of Jason’s death hits us square in the face, right in the heart. And it hurts.

I’m happy for friends I know whose children have gotten married, had grandchildren, bought houses, etc. I see their photos and announcements on Facebook or wherever, and I’m truly happy for them. But my heart hurts that this part of our future died with Jason. He would have been a great husband, a great father. He was so fun, loving and kind. He loved kids. He loved us. I know he was looking to all of those adventures. We were, too.

And it makes me sad. Just being honest – I’m really struggling with this today.

~Becky

© 2019 Rebecca R. Carney

 

 

Living with regrets

When they are born, children don’t come with manuals. As parents, we are left to do the best we can with the resources we have. Some of us have better resources than other; some of us have to do the best we can with what we have and the what we learned from our parents.

My family means the world to me, and I tried to do the best job I could to be the best parent I could be. I would do anything for each of them. My heart is so full of love for them that, at times, I feel like I can’t contain it. But, I know that, in some ways, I failed miserably as a parent. And no matter how much I love them, it doesn’t change the fact that I have regrets and wish I had done some things differently.

Some things that I thought were so important when my kids were small have proven over time not to be that important. I wish I could go back and do some things again, knowing what I know now. More patience, more fun. But, we never get that chance. Never. Ever. One shot. That’s it. I can never make the wrongs right. And, when a child dies, the opportunities to do better or to make new memories are gone. When I remember those days when I didn’t do such a good job, the regrets weigh heavy.

I hope my kids remember the good things more than the bad. How I got up every year at 3 a.m. to make cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning. The looking for weeks for the perfect things to put in their Easter baskets, and then getting up at 7 a.m. to put them together so they would be waiting when they got up first thing on Easter morning. The way I tried to keep our refrigerator and pantry stocked with things they and their friends liked so they would always have their favorites to eat. Keeping lots of things in the house for crafts so they and their friends would always have something to do. Glue, glitter, fabric paint, paper, pens, stickers. Baking, picking strawberries. 4th of July celebrations. Making Halloween costumes. Christmas morning traditions. Birthday parties. Ice skating lessons, roller blading. Sewing a birthday gift outfit from scratch for one of Jenna’s friends from a sketch she drew when she was 5. On and on. So much of what I did, I did with them in mind. I hope they know that.

I did try. I hope they remember that and forgive the rest. I am not perfect – far from it. I can’t change the past, no matter how much I wish I could. And, so, I have to live with regret. None of us are perfect. I know that. I guess that’s where extending grace and forgiveness to ourselves and to each other has to be.

© 2017 Rebecca R. Carney

 

Poignant Days

There are days when I feel your absence so acutely,

Days that remind me of what was,

Days that remind me of what could have been,

Days that remind me of what I wish with all my heart had been.

This is one of these days, and I miss you so much.

I love you, Jason.

 

© 2017 Rebecca R. Carney

Question about Non-Profits for Helping Bereaved Parents

I have had a project in my mind for a long time – a non-profit for helping and supporting bereaved parents. I don’t want to duplicate what others have done, but I have wanted to do something to help. Whatever I do, I want it to be entirely relevant and workable.

What I have in mind is something that’s very ambitious – or at least could be in the long run – so I’m not sure if I have the wherewithal to do anything that ambitious, and I don’t think I can do it alone. My heart is telling me that now may be the time. I say that out loud with fear and trepidation, as I haven’t said those words to hardly anyone and I’ve never outlined what I have in mind to anyone.

So, my question is this: Do you know of any non-profit organizations that specifically help and provide resources for bereaved parents? If so, what is their focus, size, any other specifics? Could you please also provide a web link, if one is available? If you have started a non-profit, what has been your process/experience? If you don’t want to put anything public on this site, you can email me at onewomansperspective@hotmail.com.

Thank you.

~Becky

© 2017 Rebecca R. Carney

A Momentous Year

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Birthday letter to Jason July 29, 2001. The pastor read this letter at Jason’s memorial service.

The morning of July 29, 2001, I woke up really early, and I knew the instant I woke up that I wanted to write Jason a special note for his 19th birthday. I just had to let him know how special he was to me and how much I appreciated him for who he was.

We tend to think of milestone birthdays as those  more momentous than others and seem to carry more “weight” or reason to celebrate than others. It’s not that the other years aren’t celebrated, it seems that bit more emphasis tends to be placed on those birthdays than others. What those birthdays represent have a stronger meaning. Turning sixteen tends to represent being able to get a driver’s license. Eighteen represents becoming an adult and going off to college or some other type of independent step. For some, twenty-one represents being able to purchase alcohol. Latin cultures have a huge quinceañera celebrations when a girl turns fifteen. Jewish communities celebrate the milestone of a boy turning thirteen with a bar mitzvah. In my mind, as I wrote in the note, I thought it wasn’t one of the ones we typically think of as momentous.

IMG_2558Little did I know, at the time, how momentous that birthday would be. It was the last one we would ever celebrate here on this earth with him.

That year, we celebrated on Jason’s actual birthday with our family and some of his closest friends, and then we had a large joint birthday party at a local park for Jason and his good friend, Justin. Just looking at those pictures, I can tell he was happy and that he knew he was loved. He loved being with family and friends. He loved to have fun.

On July 29th this year, we would have celebrated Jason’s 34th birthday. I can only imagine what his life would have been like and what he would have accomplished by now. What would he be doing? Who would he have married? Would he have children? We’ll never know the answers to those questions.

I am so glad Jason was born into our family. He was 9 pounds, 10 1/2 ounces of pure joy. Kind, loving, thoughtful, empathetic, intelligent, funny. There aren’t enough words in my vocabulary to describe what a special guy he was and how much I love him. And no matter how many years go by, I will always love and miss my precious boy. Happy birthday, Jason.

 

© 2016 Rebecca R. Carney

A Better World

I dream of a better world

But how can there be a “better world” when you are not in it?

You made this world better and brighter

And it is so much less so now that you are gone.

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I miss you, my precious boy.

© 2016 Rebecca R. Carney

Worry

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the difference in the person I was before Jason died and the person I became after he died. There’s no doubt that I am a different person now. I don’t think people realize how much bereaved parents change and how their lives forever are affected by the death of a child. One thing that I’ve noticed is that I worry about things so much more than I used to.

I don’t remember having that many worries when I found out I was pregnant with our first son. I quit drinking coffee, ate healthy, went to regular checkups, had good reports about how my pregnancy was progressing, went to childbirth classes, prepared for the baby. Everything was peachy-keen and on schedule. Things don’t always go according to plan, though.

My blood pressure went up too high four weeks or so before my due date. On doctor’s orders, I couldn’t continue working and immediately was placed on total bed rest. At the time, we lived in a little house in Southern California that had no air conditioning. That year, we just happened to have an unseasonably hot June, even for Southern California. It was so hot!! We would open all the windows and turn on the fans during the night to cool off the house, and then get up first thing in the morning to close all the windows and blinds to keep out the rising heat. By noon, it didn’t matter; it was as hot inside as it was outside. Once again, I would open all of the windows and turn on the fans to move the air around while I lay around, waiting for Eric to be born.  I was really looking forward his birth, partially because I would be able to have a few days of air conditioned comfort in the hospital!

One week before my due date, I drove to my doctor’s appointment, which was 40 minutes away. As I said, I was really looking forward to delivering the baby, but the doctor said he hadn’t even dropped yet. She expected that, not only would I not deliver the baby early, I would probably go a week or more past my due date! I cried all the way home, imagining two or three more weeks of being hugely pregnant and miserable in the boiling heat. I begged God to have mercy on me. Much to my and my doctor’s surprise, I went into labor in the early hours of the very next day.

Although we had planned to have a “normal” delivery with Joe in the delivery room as my coach, fetal monitors showed that Eric’s oxygen level dropped every time I had a contraction. The umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck, so I was prepped and rushed into surgery for a Cesarian section. Joe wasn’t able to be in the delivery room with me, and I didn’t see Eric right away because of being under anesthesia for the delivery. Fortunately for me, because I was so well rested from being on bedrest, I recovered very quickly from the surgery. The baby was healthy. I was healthy and recovered well. My husband was thrilled with our baby boy.

Because of the C-section (along with my desire NOT to have another one) and my high blood pressure during my pregnancy with Eric, both pregnancies and deliveries with Jason and Jenna were considered high risk. V-backs (natural delivery following a C-section), as they were called at the time, were a fairly new thing. After discussing it with my doctor, she decided that she was willing to try the births without another C-section if the baby’s estimated weight didn’t go over 8 pounds. At birth, Jason weighed in at 9 lbs, 10 1/2 ounces, and Jenna weighed in at 8 lbs, 10 1/2 ounces. Both of them were born without having to have a C-section. We had three happy, healthy children.

With each pregnancy, though, I became more aware that things don’t always go according to plan. I was much more aware of each twinge that didn’t seem quite right during pregnancy, and those twinges worried me a bit. I worried about having a healthy baby. I wasn’t consumed with worry, but I was certainly much more aware of so many possibilities of things that could go wrong.  I was aware that miscarriages sometimes happen and babies don’t necessarily live until birth, but I learned the real impact of not carrying a pregnancy to live birth and healthy baby when our fourth child died in utero at 19 weeks. As I said in an earlier post, that was a very black year for me.

With the birth of each child, I also was much more aware of potential dangers to my children. I discovered that my kids might get hurt no matter how much I tried to protect them. We did everything we could to keep them safe. Even so, I worried about my kids as they got older and moved toward their independence, out from under our protection. I prayed and prayed and then prayed some more for their safety, and I felt God heard and answered my prayers. I felt very blessed to have three healthy children and a husband who was crazy about them and me. Life was pretty good. And then Jason died and my world view shattered. I shattered.

After Jason died, the stark realization that I am not immune to something absolutely-beyond-belief-horrible happening to my family and to those I love went deep into my very being. Tragedy struck our family. It wasn’t someone else’s family; it was ours. I felt incredibly vulnerable. I felt raw and exposed. I felt deserted by God and man. I felt like I didn’t know where tragedy was going to strike next, like I was waiting for the next shoe to drop.

Because of some PTSD-like symptoms, I was hyper-aware of sirens. If I didn’t know where my family was when I heard a siren and thought they might be close by to whatever tragedy was happening, I would get anxious and start to panic.  I would immediately try to call to make sure they were safe.

One night about six weeks after Jason’s death, I heard a lot of sirens close by our house. Jenna was long overdue arriving home after attending an activity and I couldn’t reach her for hours. I was practically beside myself and nearly out of my mind with worry as the time inched on. My mind went into overdrive trying to figure out where she was, why I couldn’t get ahold of her, and what could have happened to her. She was fine and got home safely, but that didn’t dispel the worried agony I had felt.

Vulnerable. Unsure. Worried.

That feeling of vulnerability has never entirely gone away. Sirens still worry me, and sometimes I still call to make sure Joe and Jenna are okay when I hear them. I worry about things, sometimes a lot more than I should. I imagine the worst in many situations…because I know that the worst CAN happen to me. The worst CAN happen to people I dearly love. I miss the Becky that didn’t feel so vulnerable so much of the time. I miss the Becky that didn’t stress out and worry about things so much. I don’t give my heart or friendship very easily any more, but when someone has a place in my heart, I worry about them because I want the best for them. I want them to be safe and okay. I need my family to be safe and okay…and I worry about them.

© 2016 Rebecca R. Carney