Still Missing My Boy

I hate when the calendar turns from February to March, and I hate March 3rd. Perhaps I just hate the significance of that day.

The first year after Jason died, I hated the 3rd of every month. I absolutely hated them with a passion. I know it’s just a day of the month…well, perhaps in ordinary circumstances it’s just a day of the month, but to me it marked off the number of months we had lived without Jason. Each month marked so many “firsts” we had to do without Jason, so many struggles, so many heartaches, such long and lonely hours trying to figure out how to survive in a world without our boy. Now each March 3rd represents the ending of one year and beginning of another full year that Jason has been gone.

As February ends and it is inevitable that the calendar turns to March, I start to notice an anxious restlessness from deep within me. There’s nothing I can do about it. It’s like my whole being subconsciously knows that March 3rd, the anniversary of the day that Jason died, is approaching. I’ve learned to recognize where this restlessness comes from, and I have learned to do the best I can to navigate emotion-filled waters. Sometimes it’s easier than others. Usually the days leading up to March 3rd are more difficult than the actual day, perhaps it’s the anticipation of the arrival of that day.

I’ve been doing pretty well with managing the restlessness as it arises this year. But tonight, as the day was drawing to a close and the house quieted for the night, I felt like sitting down and crying. Another year. How can another year be gone? How can we have lived another year without Jason? It just doesn’t seem possible. It’s easier than it used to be, but it still hurts more than I let anyone know. I still miss him so much.

© 2013 Rebecca R. Carney

The Siren Trigger

I hear sirens rush down the road this morning and I cringe. It feels as though I am at the dentist and he has touched a nerve with his drill. That’s the best way I can explain how I feel sometimes when I hear the screaming sirens of emergency vehicles. The sound touches a nerve and the zing of pain and panic goes straight through me. If my family is not close by or I don’t know where they are or if they might be in harm’s way, I feel like I curl toward the inside of me and start to pray earnestly and urgently for their safety.

Somewhere inside of me, on some level and after all these years, I am still that mother, grabbing my keys and running down the stairs to the background of screaming sirens, heading to the site of a bad car accident. I am right back in that place of panic where I am driving towards the unknown, heading directly toward the sound of those sirens, praying with all my might, “Oh, God, please NO! Please, God. NO!! I need him!!” It just couldn’t be Jason…he HAD to be all right. My family had to be safe and okay. But they weren’t. Jason wasn’t safe and and he wasn’t okay.

I no longer feel that my family and I are “protected” and that a huge tragedy such as the death of a child or close family member happens to “someone else” and not to me. I feel vulnerable. I am that mother whose precious son died in a car accident – through no fault of his own – but because of the actions of someone else. My family and I are the ones who have had to walk through a lot because of the actions of someone else. A drunk driver broadsided our son’s car at more than twice the speed limit, and Jason and Alina died instantly. Jason didn’t deserve to die. He was a good kid, making good decisions. Of all people, Jason deserved to live, to marry, to have kids, to live a long and full life. He was one of the best. When I hear them, those sirens are a trigger that reminds me that my family and I am not immune from tragedy. No one is immune. We are all vulnerable, whether we know it or not. Tragedy can – and has – touched my life. It has taken something incredibly precious from me that can’t be replaced.

The other day, as I headed home from work, the road to our house was blocked by emergency vehicles. All I could see was a little gray car (similar to Joe’s) and a young woman who looked very similar to our daughter standing next to the crumpled car. I felt myself tense up and take in a sharp breath. I reached for my phone to call Joe to make sure they were both safe at home. I had to know that they were both safe. They were safe. But I am no longer a curious onlooker to the tragedies along the roadside and to the sound of passing sirens. They have touched my life and made a deep and indelible impression, one that still zings whenever the nerve is touched by the sound of a siren.

And so I earnestly pray for the protection of my family whenever I hear sirens or see emergency vehicles. It’s not that I don’t pray for their safety at other times; I just feel an panic-y urgency to pray for the safety of my family whenever I hear those sirens go screaming by. If I know my family is safe, I pray for the people who may be impacted by what the emergency vehicles and screaming sirens represent.

Oh, God, please protect my family. I pray for your hand of protection, for your mercy, for your gracious favor and blessings to rain down on them. Be close to those whose lives may be impacted by the sound of screaming sirens from emergency vehicles. I know what those sirens can mean and how much they can impact one’s life.

© 2013 Rebecca R. Carney

You Can Help a Grieving Heart by Alice J. Wisler

This is such an excellent article that I wanted to pass it on verbatim. Although these suggestions may have been published in other, various forms, it never hurts to read them again.  As the article says, “You can be informed so that you will be able to reach out to a friend who has lost a child.” Please visit http://www.lifetoolsforwomen.com/f/grievingheart.htm for the original article.

Becky

You Can Help A Grieving Heart Practical ways for helping bereaved parents

By Alice J. Wisler

We talk about the best cold medications and if cherry cough syrup tastes better to kids than orange. We can recommend preschools and sneakers. But the hardest part of parenting is the often the least discussed. The toughest aspect of being a parent is losing a child.

Then we clam up. We don’t want to hear. We are threatened. If her child died, mine could, too. What can we do when parenting goes beyond the normal expectations? “What do I say?” friends ask me with a look of agony in their eyes. “I feel so helpless. I can’t empathize, I haven’t had a child die.”

You can help. You don’t have to stand there with a blank stare or excuse yourself from the conversation. You can be informed so that you will be able to reach out to a friend who has lost a child.

“Jump into the midst of things and do something,” says Ronald Knapp, author of the book, “Beyond Endurance: When A Child Dies.” Traditionally there are the sympathy cards and hot casseroles brought over to the bereaved person’s home. But it doesn’t end there. That is only the beginning of reaching out to your friend or relative who has recently experienced the death of a child at any age.

Here are 15 tips you can learn to make you an effective and compassionate friend to your friend in pain:

  • Listen. When you ask your friend, “How are you doing today?” wait to hear the answer.
  • Cry with her. She may cry also, but your tears don’t make her cry. She cries when no one else is around and within her heart are the daily tears no one sees.
  • Don’t use cliches. Avoid lines like, “It will get better.” “Be grateful you have other children.” “You’re young, you can have another baby.” “He was sick, and it’s good he is no longer suffering.” There will never be a phrase invented that makes it all right that a child died.
  • Help with the care of the surviving children. Offer to take them to the park, your house for a meal, to church. Say “May I please take Billy to the park today? Is 4:00 okay with you?” Don’t give the line, “If you need me, call me.” Your bereaved friend may not feel comfortable asking for help.
  • Say your friend’s child’s name. Even if she cries, these are tears that heal. Acknowledging that the child lived and has not been forgotten is a wonderful balm to a broken heart.

  • Give to the memorial fund. Find out what it is and give, today, next year and the next.
  • Buy something special. Some mothers start to collect items that bring comfort after a child dies; find out what your friend is collecting and buy one for her. My son liked watermelons and we have many stories of watermelons and him. Therefore my house now has assorted watermelon mementos – a teapot, kitchen towel and soap dispenser. Many mothers find solace in rainbows, butterflies and angels.
  • Send a card  “I’m thinking of you is fine,” but stay away from sappy sympathy ones.
  • Go to the grave. Take flowers, a balloon or a toy. How honored your friend will be to see what you have left there the next time she visits the cemetery.
  • Don’t use religion as a ‘brush away’ for pain. Stay clear of words that don’t help like, “It was God’s will.”
  • Don’t judge her. You don’t know what she is going through each day; you cannot know of the intense pain unless you have also had a child die.
  • Stay in touch. Call to hear how she is coping. Suggest getting together, but if she isn’t up for it, give her space.
  • Read a book on grief. Focus on the parts that give you ideas on how to be a source of comfort for your bereaved friend.
  • Don’t expect her to ‘get over’ this loss. Know she has a hole in her heart, a missing piece due to the death of her child. Holes like these never heal so accept this truth.
  • Let her know your love for her – as well as God’s love for her – is still the same. Remember that that with the death of her child, a part of her died – old beliefs, ideals, etc. Her life has been forever changed.

Even as you participate in the suggestions above, you will still feel uncomfortable. It has been three years since the death of my four-year-old, Daniel, and even now when I meet a newly-bereaved mother, I am uncomfortable.

Talking of the untimely death of a child is never easy for anyone. However, avoiding reality does not bring healing. You will provide many gifts of comfort along the way when you actively decide to help your grieving friend. When my friends and family acknowledge all four of my children, the three on this earth and the one in Heaven, I am honored. Each time it is as though a ray of warm sunlight has touched my soul.

Further Recommended Reading:

“When A Child Has Died: Ways You Can Help A Bereaved Parent”. Bonnie Hunt Conrad. Fithian Press, 1995.

“When Your Friend Is Grieving: Building A Bridge of Love”. Paula D’Arcy. Harold Shaw Publishers, 1990.

“Beyond Endurance: When A Child Dies”. Ronald J. Knapp. New York: Schocken Books, 1986.

“Slices of Sunlight, A Cookbook Of Memories”. Alice J. Wisler. Daniel’s House Publications, 2000.

Alice J. Wisler writes for various bereavement publications and is the founder of Daniel’s House Publications, a site of comfort for bereaved parents and siblings. She is the editor of LARGO and Tributes. Her recent book, “Slices of Sunlight, A Cookbook of Memories: Remembrances of the Children We Held” stresses the importance of recalling those children’s lives who have died through recipes and food-related stories. To learn more, visit: www.mindspring.com/~wisler/danielshouse.html Alice can be reached at wisler@mindspring.com

http://www.lifetoolsforwomen.com/f/grievingheart.htm

A Bereaved Parent’s Christmas

Christmas…

I’ve been sitting here, listening to Christmas music, and thinking about our Christmases since Jason died.

The first Christmas when I was so numb, hurting so bad, and at a total loss on how to “do” Christmas any more without our precious boy. Finding a chair in the corner at a Christmas party and trying to figure out how not to be the “wet blanket” at the celebration…and trying to be social so people would quit avoiding me – I failed miserably at both of those attempts. Sitting all by myself in the midst of the Christmas decorations strewn all over our family room floor, crying my eyes out as I tried to figure out whether it hurt more to put up or not put up the stockings and decorations we’d collected over the years. The friend who stopped by to pick something up while I was sitting there on the floor, surrounded by decorations and grief, and who couldn’t get out the door quickly enough after she collected what she had come for. When absolutely everything about Christmas emphasized Jason’s missing presence and pierced me to the bottom of my very soul. Picturing Jason helping pick out and put up the tree. He was the one who put our angel up on top of the tree every year. I was supposed to teach him how to make my “famous” Christmas morning cinnamon rolls and I added my heartbroken tears to the dough that year. Everything about that Christmas hurt to the core of my being.

The Christmases when I tried to shop, but couldn’t figure out how to pull up any enthusiasm, and left the stores empty-handed and trying to keep my emotions and tears in check until I could get into a private place. The ones when I fought down panic as I tried to shop for presents. The one when we couldn’t travel to extended family and they couldn’t travel to us…and no one had time amidst their own holiday hustle and bustle to do anything with us. One gal told me they would have time the week after Christmas. That was a bad Christmas.

The ones when I drove by brightly-lit houses as families or friends arrived for some type of Christmas celebration, watching people hug each other with the joy of the season…while I felt like an outside observer to the warmth, welcome and celebration of the whole season in general. The warmth and glow of the season seemed like it was for others and not me. Ours used to be the home brightly lit and welcoming, so full of family, love and laughter. I used to look forward to Christmas so so much excitement. It seemed as though I “used to do” many things that no longer applied to me. I struggled for many years as I approached so many Christmases with dread…wishing I could just skip over the whole thing, knowing how acutely and painfully I would miss Jason’s presence. Some days it was more than I could bear.

Christmases are hard for bereaved parents. The memories of what “used to be” are ever present and everywhere. I miss the pure excitement of a Christmas without the shadow of loss.

Christmas doesn’t hurt as much as it once did. I wish I could say it didn’t hurt any more, but that wouldn’t be honest. It’s been a process over the years to make new traditions while not totally scrapping the old. I haven’t gotten up at 4:30 a.m. to make cinnamon rolls from scratch for years – perhaps I will sometime in the future. We have started some new traditions and have started a new collection of Christmas tree ornaments. We try to make Christmas a special and meaningful day and season as best we can for those we love. We try to notice the small things and don’t take anything for granted.

We will always miss Jason every day, and especially during the Christmas season feel his loss acutely, wishing he were celebrating Christmas with us. I’m sure every bereaved parent would say the same thing about his or her own child…

Merry Christmas to each bereaved parent who may read this. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

© 2012 Rebecca R. Carney

Of Precious Memories and a Chocolate Orange

Have you ever purchased something almost as a way to give yourself permission to “live” in a memory for a while?

I kind of think that’s what I did last weekend.

Jason LOVED chocolate. Chocolate chip cookies (mixing, baking, and eating) and chocolate pudding pie with graham cracker crust were just a couple of his many favorites. One year for Jason’s birthday, we had chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, topped with triple chocolate ice cream and chocolate sauce. Did I mention he loved chocolate?

He also loved chocolate oranges.

I used to buy chocolate oranges once in a while as a special treat – to put in Christmas stockings, in Easter baskets, or just an “I’m thinking of you” time. I haven’t been able to buy them since Jason died. I just hurt too much.

There were lots of things I found that I couldn’t do any more after Jason died. For example, I couldn’t go into a scrap booking store. I’d have a panic attack and have to leave. We all loved taking and looking at pictures of family and friends, and I had been working on the scrapbook from Jason’s high school graduation when he died. I didn’t take pictures for nearly a year. I just couldn’t do it. I could hardly even look at a chess set or certain board or card games. I couldn’t watch certain movies.

I couldn’t make chocolate chip cookies or chocolate pudding pie because they were his favorites. I couldn’t buy apples or Jason’s favorite snacks. I couldn’t make french toast for quite a while. I couldn’t buy Pillsbury Orange Sweet Rolls with icing, another of Jason’s favorites. I couldn’t listen to any music by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra or Collective Soul. You see, we used to crank up the CD player in the car to “A Mad Russian’s Christmas” by Trans-Siberian Orchestra or “Heavy” by Collective Soul. Jason would play the Trans-Siberian Orchestra well past Christmas, because…well, because there is no season to great music. We’d drive along and rock out to music together in the morning as I took Jason to catch the bus to college.

I couldn’t, I couldn’t, I couldn’t do so many things. There was so much overwhelming grief from Jason’s death and all of the secondary losses/issues that I didn’t have the resources to handle things so very closely associated with Jason. They hit me too painfully right in the heart. They took my breath away, made me feel panic-y, made me want to collapse on the floor and not get up again. I had to deal with things in stages over time. I could only handle what I could handle at the time, and I avoided some things for a while. Some things just hurt too much to do for a long time, and there may even be a few things I will never do again.

But, this past weekend I saw dark chocolate oranges on the shelf of a gift store, and so I bought one for the first time in over ten years. There was no conscious thought process to it; I just bought it. When I got home, I opened the box, rapped the orange foil-wrapped confection on the counter to break apart the segments, unwrapped the foil, and put one of the chocolatey-orange segments into my mouth.

That was when I realized I was just sitting, staring off into space, remembering a long ago time when the small things like sharing a chocolate orange and just being together were some of the most precious times – something I may have taken for granted at the time, something that I will never get to do with again with Jason. Maybe buying that chocolate orange gave me permission to sit, wrapped in that precious memory for a while.

I miss those times. I miss my boy with all my heart.

© 2012 Rebecca R. Carney

Happy Birthday, Precious Son

Dear Jason,

You would have turned 30 today. 30 years old. It’s hard to imagine you being 30 years old. You will forever be 19 in our memories.

If you had lived, what would you be doing now? Would you be married? Would you have kids? Would you still live in Washington or would you have moved to another state? What would you do for a living?

We’ll never know. You never had a chance to find out. You never had a chance to make those choices with your life. You never had the chance to find the love of your life, ask her to marry you, or to know the incredible joy of holding your newborn child. You never had a chance to graduate from college, move into your first apartment, buy your first home, or hold a full-time job.

There are so many, many things that you never got a chance to do.

I do know this, though. Whatever you would have done, it would have been with the integrity, empathy, kindness, and caring that were such a part of you. You would have loved with your whole heart and lived a life bringing sunshine and love into the lives of those who knew you.

I’m so sorry you didn’t get a chance to live your life to 30 and way beyond. I’m sure you would have lived it to the fullest. I’m sorry you didn’t get a chance to get married or have children. You would have been a wonderful husband and father. I’m so sorry that you were taken from us. The hole you left in our lives is huge.

But, I’m SO GLAD you were born into our family. I’m SO GLAD you were OUR boy, our precious son.

I miss you, my precious Mr. Jay. My Mr. Sunshine.

I love you…always. I miss you. You are always in my heart.

Happy birthday, Jason.

Mom

© 2012 Rebecca R. Carney