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



Shower the People You Love with Love

[The title of my blog is borrowed from one of James Taylor’s songs – Shower the People You Love with Love]

We visited a new church on Sunday. Can’t say that we’ll be going back. We’ve had a hard time finding a church that “fits” us since Jason died. Some of the things that make up the organization and practice of churches seems so trivial any more…but, that’s a topic for another post.

Anyway, at one point in his sermon the pastor said, “You can’t live your lives for your kids.” Now, by the time he got to this point, I had pretty much checked out mentally. I can’t even tell you how he got to the place of saying that line in his sermon. He went on to say how he has four kids, but doesn’t let them run his life. I think he was trying to emphasize spiritual balance and the importance of putting God first in your life. Honestly, he was so all over the map, I couldn’t really tell you for sure the point of the message.

Now, I agree that one must have balance in life. If one area of our lives takes up much more of our time than it should or becomes of greater importance to us than it should, other areas can suffer and our lives can become out of balance. If one area has much greater importance than it should, the more out of balance our lives can become. It can get to the point of being unhealthy or to the point where we lose something we love.

Any area can cause our lives to be out of balance – work, hobby, television, video games, relationships. A person who is a workaholic can lose an important connection to his or her spouse or significant other. A parent who focuses an inordinate amount of time on the children can cause the other parent to feel unimportant. Focusing too much on activities or friendships outside of the family can cause our families to suffer. Even church activities, done in the name of God, can cause an imbalance. Growing up as a preacher’s kid, I’d have to say that we kids all knew where we fit in the whole scheme of things, below God and the church. [It’s fairly common for preachers’ kids to feel second (or third or fourth) place to “the church.”]

Perhaps you only can’t “live your lives for your kids,” but we can certainly cherish them, listen to them, spend quality time with them. Our children are our greatest gifts. They grow up so fast; before you know it, they are grown. These times never come again. And if your child dies, all you have are memories of bygone times with your child.

I read a blog this morning that really touched my heart. The author lost her son to pediatric cancer when he was three. Her encouragement to cherish your children is so poignant. On this day, his 6th birthday, she writes:

I miss the days where I lived carefree and unaware.  I miss going to the party store and picking out candy and balloons.  I miss living a life where I didn’t even give a thought to pediatric cancer.  But more than any of that – I miss watching my son, for 3 years now, blow out the candles on his birthday cake.  I miss crying out of joy instead of sadness.  I miss Tanner.  More and more with every passing second.

So, log off, put your phones down, and enjoy the moments you have.  You may have only one.  You may have a million.  You need to relish them, you need to be present in them, you need to be so full with joy that you can’t keep the tears in your eyes.  The greatest gift I ever had gave me that, on his birthday.


© 2013 Rebecca R. Carney

I Can’t Make Anything Change

From my journal dated December 14, 2002:

My kids have brought me so much joy – and I wouldn’t have traded that for anything! I love them so much! I want good for them! The flip side of that is now I’m in so much pain. This huge pain of losing Jason; the pain of seeing my precious girl suffering the loss of her brother and everything else that has broadsided her this year; the agony of watching Eric struggle so. We’re all struggling so much! I feel powerless to change anything. I can’t MAKE anything change!!

© 2011 Rebecca R. Carney


From my journal dated June 13, 2002:

Jenna and Jason

Jenna and I were talking yesterday about who she could invite to go to the beach with her today. It’s supposed to a beautiful, warm day. It dawned on me how many times, in situations like that, it really didn’t matter who else was available. Jason and Jenna would take off and do things together. They didn’t need anyone else. Sometimes they would ask other people to come along. Sometimes it was just the two of them. Whenever they were together, it was enough. They always had each other, no matter who else was around. They could depend on each other.

Jenna and Jason

They planned so many things over the years – parties here, spur-of-the-moment meeting for movies, Super Bowl parties, going to the beach, hanging out here, going to the park. One Sunday afternoon on the way home from church, they decided to have a party at our house…and just like that – spur-of-the-moment – they had at least 25-30 people at here.

What a huge hole he’s left in her life…in all our lives.

Shhhh…he’s sleeping

From my journal dated June 6, 2002:

Oh, wow! I was getting ready to go to school this morning, closing my bedroom door and the door to the computer room. I realized I was closing them quietly so as not to wake up whoever might be left sleeping. Then I realized I was closing them quietly for Jason – he would have been the only one not up yet on a normal day!

Thinking about my kids, taking them into consideration – it’s what I do. They are all so much a part of my heart that it just made me feel…well…amputated isn’t quite the right or strong enough word or concept…skewered through the heart, that’s for sure. I automatically think about each of them and their needs.

What Really Matters

From my journal dated June 5, 2002:

I think sometimes of all the things I realize now with Jason gone – the one that keeps coming back to me is of how little importance “things” are. When the tree fell on the house we were renting in 1993 and we had to move everything out in a day, I thought I learned then that “stuff” wasn’t all that important. I was so glad the tree hadn’t hit any of us. I was so glad we were all safe. We moved on…bought a house…accumulated more things.

Now none of it matters to me at all. I would give everything away if I could only have Jason back! Before the accident, I was concerned about paying the bills, getting the house fixed up, having a decent car to drive. How easy it is to get caught up again in stuff that doesn’t matter. I would live in a hovel, work my tail off, walk everywhere just to have him back again. None of it matters except the people you love. So many things I thought important just aren’t.

What matters is character quality, how you treat those you love and people around you. We get so caught up in false things these days – like those who have more money are more important than those who don’t. What’s important is doing something for someone even though there’s no reward or recognition. That’s what’s important; that’s what Jason did. What he did was just go about his daily life, not judging people. He valued those around him for who they were.

Oh, my precious boy

From my journal dated May 5, 2002:

Oh, my precious boy,

Joe, Jason and Jenna

It seems like you should walk in the house any minute. I miss you so much! We’re just not the same without you.

We went to Jared’s Spring concert today, and it just seemed like you should be there, too, cheering him on. You should have been there talking to him after the concert congratulating him on a job well done, going to dinner with us. You should be doing all those things with us.

It just doesn’t seem real. I look at pictures, and your love and life look back at me. So full of love and life…you just shouldn’t be gone.

I still look down the driveway every day to see if you’re home, if your car is sitting there. It’s automatic…you’re supposed to be coming home. It’s so empty without you..and it’s going to feel that way for a very long time.

I was in the grocery store yesterday – whenever I’m shopping I subconsciously think of what I need to get for my family. And, as I passed by the apples, my very first thought was whether I needed to get more apples for you. I had to just stand there and concentrate on not falling apart on the spot. Such a small thing…such a big hurt.

Jenna doesn’t want to go to church with us any more. She says it’s too painful to go there – it’s where we always went together…and it’s where your memorial service was. Sunday was always our family time – church together, out to dinner, enjoying each other’s company, doing something fun. I understand how hard it is for her.

Going to church is so hard for me, too. Every time I walk into the sanctuary, I look up at the big screen and envision your picture from the memorial service there. I hear people joyously singing and clapping…and it feels like another world to me. I picture you the Sunday before the accident, singing with your hands lifted to God. But you’re not here any more.

How I wish you were here!! My heart cries out for you to be here. We miss you so.

I love you with my whole heart. My precious boy; my beautiful, handsome boy. Beautiful – inside and out. Beautiful blue eyes. Great hugs.

You deserve to have a life.

How can you be gone? I just can’t comprehend it.