Silent Grief – The “Aloneness” of Grief

Our Western culture has inadvertently conditioned us to avoid death and grief. Our society tends to isolate those who are struggling with illness, pain, death and grief — hoping that if we don’t see their pain and struggles, the pain doesn’t exist, and won’t alter our tidy and predictable lives.  We tend to behave as if death and pain are contagious diseases, ones that if we stay away from, we can avoid contracting ourselves.

I don’t believe this insensitivity is intentional. Society has not prepared us for how to deal with pain and loss. We are brought up to believe that life will remain predictable and under our control. Then when the unexpected, death or illness, does happen in our lives, we are ill-equipped to deal with the emotional pain, and upheaval, that it brings. Society subliminally sends us the message that we are expected to quietly bear our pain, while still maintaining our daily lives, ‘getting over’ our grief in a timely manner, while not unnecessarily disrupting anyone else’s life.

Unfortunately, for those grievers who are experiencing these life altering challenges, this unintentional alienation by those we were looking to for support, only further increases our suffering. The griever’s life is in pieces and we have no idea how to start to put the pieces together again.

Society’s expectations of the griever are unrealistic. For a griever who has lost a loved one, who was an integral part of their life, nothing will ever be the same, and the pain will always be there. Life is turned upside down. Learning to live with pain and grief is a process and one that cannot be forced.

https://theothersideofcomplicatedgrief.com/2016/02/10/grief-in-western-society-why-we-feel-so-alone/

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

…Some of the details…are often kept quiet and hidden, our ‘silent grief’, as if these feelings are somehow shameful and aberrant. I have found that when we keep the details in the dark we are left feeling even more alone, isolated, and often doubting our sanity.

http://stillstandingmag.com/2014/01/silent-grief/

 

The promise of spring

 

img_8491

After Jason died, my husband, daughter and I had to drive by the crash site nearly every day on our way to wherever we were going – work, school, mall, etc. It was an incredibly difficult thing to do, an in-your-face reminder of the horrific event that happened at that very site.

In an effort to bring beauty into the darkness that spot represented, I bought daffodil and crocus bulbs and planted them on the side of the road – varieties of bright, yellow daffodils for Jason and purple crocuses for Alina. Alina loved the color purple, and bright, yellow flowers have always seemed to me to represent Jason’s bright, sunshine-y spirit and kind heart. That first year, I planted bulbs among the remnants of shattered glass from the cars that collided there.

Crocuses and daffodils bloom early in the spring, very near to the anniversary date of Jason’s and Alina’s deaths. As March 3rd approached, I watched for the promise of spring, for those bulbs to push through the ground with hope and beauty.

I wish I could say that beautiful daffodils and crocuses thrived and came up each spring as a symbol of new life from the harshness of death, as symbol of the hope of spring after a dark winter, but they didn’t. No matter how many times I planted the various bulbs or how much I tried to prepare that hard soil on the side of the road, they did not grow well or flourish. One year, though, a few plants pushed their way through the ground and the blooms actually opened on March 3rd. I gave it my best effort in trying to make beauty out of the ugliness.

My husband and I were out at the Biltmore Estate this past weekend, and I saw these flowers (in the picture above) – one little purple crocus looking up at a group of bright yellow daffodils. It reminded me of my efforts to bring the beauty of new life from the ugliness of death.

sc005b3ea6

Jason loved to giving flowers to the people he cared about. When he was in the play “Our Town,” he brought a rose to every girl who was in the show on the night of the final performance. He gave flowers to me, to Jenna, to his sweetheart. He gave daisies to a friend for her birthday. As a little boy, he would pick dandelions and bring them to me.

img_3605

Jason loved the movie “You’ve Got Mail.” When Joe Fox (Tom Hank’s character) brings Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan’s character) flowers when she was sick, he brought daisies and she said, “They’re so friendly. Don’t you think daisies are the friendliest flower?”  Yes, they are friendly flowers, indeed. They remind me of my boy and the kindness of his heart.

img_2131

Beautiful, friendly flowers remind me of you, my precious boy. I miss you. I love you.

~Mom

© 2017 Rebecca R. Carney

All photographs are specifically owned by Rebecca R. Carney and may not be copied or saved without permission.

Photographs and Memories

 

“Why are the photographs of him as a little boy so incredibly hard to look at? Something is over. Now instead of those shiny moments being things we can share together in delighted memories, I, the survivor, have to bear them alone. So it is with all the memories of him. They all lead into blackness. All I can do is remember him; I cannot experience him. Nothing new can happen between us.”

Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son

 

~Becky

© 2017 Rebecca R. Carney

See You Again

 

I realize this song can mean many different things to many people, but, to me, it speaks to my heart of how much I miss Jason. I know I will see him again, just not on this earth. I know that my emotions are close to the surface right now; this song really made me cry tonight.

Jason, you are forever in my heart. The thought of you makes me smile; it also makes me cry. Memories call me back to a time when you were here. I try so hard to stay strong, to honor your memory. I miss you. I love you.

Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
Said goodbye, turned around
And you were gone, gone, gone
Faded into the setting sun,
Slipped away
But I won’t cry
‘Cause I know I’ll never be lonely
For you are the stars to me,
You are the light I follow

I will see you again, oh
This is not where it ends
I will carry you with me, oh
‘Till I see you again

Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
I can hear those echoes in the wind at night
Calling me back in time
Back to you
In a place far away
Where the water meets the sky
The thought of it makes me smile
You are my tomorrow

I will see you again, oh
This is not where it ends
I will carry you with me, oh
‘Till I see you again

Sometimes I feel my heart is breaking
But I stay strong and I hold on ’cause I know
I will see you again, oh
This is not where it ends
I will carry you with me, yeah yeah

I will see you again, oh
This is not where it ends
I will carry you with me, oh
‘Till I see you again
Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
‘Till I see you again (Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh)
‘Till I see you again yeah yeah yeah whoa
‘Till I see you again
Said goodbye turned around
And you were gone, gone, gone.

Songwriters
DAVID HODGES, HILLARY LINDSEY, CARRIE UNDERWOOD

Published by
Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

~Becky

© 2017 Rebecca R. Carney

Groundhog Day

We watched the movie “Groundhog Day” tonight on this February 2nd, the day celebrated in the United States as Groundhog Day. It’s a very funny and well-acted movie about a man who lives the same day over and over again, trying to figure out how to get out of that one day so he can move on to the future. He wakes up every morning when his alarm goes off at 6 a.m. to the realization that, no matter what he has done in the previous day, nothing has changed and he’s living the same day over again. He’s stuck. As the realization sinks in that he’s stuck living the same day over and over, his emotions and actions run the gamut from disbelief to frustration to doing stupid things to depression to suicide to trying to make himself a better person. After a while, he tries to learn new skills and to become a better version of himself, getting to know and care about the people around him.

Not to put a downer on a funny movie, but I had just a brief thought flash through my head as we were watching it. That’s kind of what it was like after Jason died. When my alarm went off, I woke up every morning from a sound sleep (a deep sleep from taking sleeping pills every night) to the realization that I was stuck in the same nightmare day after day. No matter what I did during the previous day, I woke up to the same nightmare every morning – the nightmare that Jason had died. As I went from that blissful, unaware state of sound sleep to a state of awareness and wakefulness, the horrible realization that our son had died hit me again anew each morning. There was nothing I could do to change the fact that Jason had died and I had to figure out how to make the best out of the day ahead of me without Jason. It took a very long time for me to feel like that nightmarish cycle ended and to see hope and future in a new day. I think there’s still a part of me that wakes to that nightmare every day, stuck in a world without Jason.

~Becky

© 2017 Rebecca R. Carney

My Life in Boxes

Last fall, we went to Oklahoma to get the last of our things out of storage and to move them to North Carolina where we now live. They’ve been in storage for seven years since we moved from Oklahoma. We spent two days repacking things into smaller, uniform moving boxes and and once again whittling down our earthly possessions. Again. Deciding what’s important to keep and what’s replaceable. Again. Taking boxes and boxes and boxes of household goods, kitchen items and clothes to Goodwill. Again. I’ve done this process too many times and it’s hard on me every time. If I never again hear the words “we need to get rid of” or the phrase “Are you really keeping that???,” it will be too soon. It seems I always feel pushed into giving away something that really was important to me or that I later wished I had kept.

The last remaining things of our life in Seattle. The last remaining physical items I have that connect me to Jason. The history of our lives. Photographs. Scrapbooks. Christmas ornaments. Momentos of our lives when the kids were little. Jason’s chess set. A few books. A couple of my dad’s Bibles. Tax records. Important papers.

Less than 50 12″ x 12″ x 18″ boxes. Less than 50 boxes is all we moved. That’s all we have left. Seriously, that’s all we have left that we can call our own (since moving from Oklahoma seven years ago, we have lived in rented, fully-furnished one bedroom apartments in both Florida and North Carolina, so we don’t have any furniture, etc.). Less than 50 boxes. It seems like such a small amount of things that reflect the busy, fun, full life we had before Jason died and the big house and home that was so filled with love and activity. Sometimes it feels like my life has shrunk so small since then.

But, those items in those boxes also are a reminder that physical things are just that – things. They are just things. I lived without seeing or physically touching those things for seven years. Although those things may remind us of Jason and the time he was alive, there is no way those flat, one-dimensional items can truly reflect the real Jason – the awesome person he was, his intelligence and humor, his beautiful blue eyes, the many facets of his wonderful and Godly character, and his truly kind and loving nature. Those are things that can only be held closely and fully in our hearts and memories.

Holding you close in my heart and in my memories today, my precious boy. I miss you and I love you more than words can say. I look forward to the day I can see you and hug the real you once again.

~Becky

© 2016 Rebecca R. Carney

I miss my life

I don’t know what’s going on with me lately. I’ve just really been struggling. You’d think after nearly fourteen and a half years, I’d have this whole grief thing down and be on a smoother, less rocky path.

I think I just get weary of the journey at times. Unless you’ve been there, I don’t think people realize how much effort it takes day after day, year after year to get up every day and face this reality, this life without our child, this life that is so much different than we had hoped for, planned for, expected. Some seasons or holidays take more energy than others. Birthdays, holidays, anniversaries – sometimes they’re hard-to-face, emotional times that require more energy and effort than other times.

I just celebrated my 61st birthday. I was 46 when Jason died. How can I still struggle so much at times after all these years? When Jason died, I remember writing in my diary, pleading with God for something good to come out of all this loss. I prayed that the positive impact of Jason’s life and his beautiful, loving spirit would radiate out like ripples from a stone being thrown into a pond and impact the people he knew for good. I prayed that something meaningful would come out of such a senseless death, out of so much loss. Joe and I always felt, from the moment of Jason’s birth, that God had a special purpose for his life. And then he died at age 19. My beautiful, wonderful boy. After all these years, I still don’t see the “greater good” or the reason for so much pain.

Sometimes the loss overwhelms me, especially around birthdays and holidays. They seem to be times of introspect and reflection. I look at my life and wonder what it’s all about. I see a woman who still deeply grieves the death of her son. I see a woman who is lonely and unsettled. After all these years, we still haven’t found a place to be “at home.” We sold most everything in our nearly 3000 square foot home when we left Washington, and, believe me, I mean most everything! We bought a 1700 square foot house and some furnishings when we moved to Oklahoma, but then sold it all again when we left there three years later. We rented a furnished one-bedroom condo when we lived in Florida and now rent a furnished one-bedroom apartment in North Carolina. Most of what we own is packed and stored in less than 25 boxes. We don’t own the couch we sit on, the bed we sleep in, vacuum cleaner we use, or most of the dishes we eat on.

It’s not like we haven’t tried to find a house to rent or buy or a place to “anchor.” We have.   Housing is expensive where we live, and we just haven’t found anything we can afford that we really like enough to move. I’m not sure this is the right place for us, anyway. We just don’t know where we fit. I feel adrift and have felt that way since we left Washington. And now, it looks like our daughter and her husband may be moving away from here. I don’t know what I’ll do without her. I know she needs to live her own life and I want her to be happy. She’s been through so much and deserves to be happy. It’s just that I’ll just miss her so much.

I miss feeling connected and confident, knowing the direction I was headed, knowing my family was safe and happy. I miss imagining a future that looks bright and full of possibilities. Sometimes I look at my life and can’t believe this is my life now. Things just haven’t worked out the way I thought they would. We are so unsettled, disconnected in so many ways. We struggle to make friends, to fit in. We work, but to what end? We do this and that, but sometimes it just doesn’t seem to have any meaning or dispel our restlessness. Our grandchildren live on the other side of the United States and we hardly know them. I expected to be one of those grandmothers who was involved in her grandkids’ lives, taking them places, doing fun things together, making crafts, baking. I expected to be wanted, needed, loved, hugged. Our relationship has never been easy with our daughter-in-law, so that makes it difficult as she does not encourage or foster our connections with our grandkids much, if at all, even when we visit them. It makes me so sad.

I was looking forward to Jason getting married and having kids. I could just imagine little Jason’s running around our house, along with our other grandkids. Joe has told me that he, too, expected us to stay in our Washington house for the rest of our lives, having a place for everyone to come home to visit, playing with our grandkids there. I’ve never known anyone so involved with his kids as Joe, someone who gets so much enjoyment spending time with his family. He’s a wonderful man with an amazing heart for kids, both his own and others. How do we put broken dreams to rest? I don’t know. What could have or should have been – it trips me up sometimes. The losses of what we no longer have trip me up sometimes, too.

My sister is coming to visit in a couple of weeks. As I was doing some cleaning this morning in preparation for her arrival, I got so frustrated with the less-than-adequate vacuum cleaner that is part of our furnished rental that I just yelled, “I miss my vacuum cleaner!! I miss my own stuff!! I miss my home!!  I miss my life!!!”

Silly to miss a vacuum cleaner, I know. It was just the symbol of the frustration, loneliness and sadness I’ve felt lately. I keep on trying. God knows, I keep on trying. Each new day, I keep on trying to find a purpose, trying to find meaning in the day, trying to do the best I can, trying to find the positive and good, trying to be thankful, trying to find a reason to go on. Sometimes it takes a lot of energy to keep on trying, and I simply run out of the energy reserves I have and get weary. I guess I’m just weary right now, needing something to go right.

Tomorrow is another day, and I will rise to try again.

~Becky