A family shaken, forever changed

Please take a few minutes to read this poignant post.

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Once a Mom, Always a Mom

The sixteenth anniversary of our son’s death arrives on March 3rd. As the calendar turns to a new year, my mind instinctively acknowledges the approaching day with memories, bittersweet smiles and tears. Just because the number of years since then increases doesn’t mean that pain of his death decreases proportionately. I hope you will take a few minutes and read the excellent post written by Jude about the approaching nineteenth anniversary of her son’s death.

I will always be Jason’s mom. I will always love him and miss him with all my heart.

~Becky

Bereaved Parents

In approximately two months, the nineteenth anniversary of my Son’s demise will arrive. Nineteen years, yet in many ways it feels like yesterday. There are still moments when the pain grips my heart so fiercely, I think it shall cease to beat another beat. My chest tightens as I once again struggle to hold back the tears from falling, an impossible task for sure. I have to remind myself to physically exhale.

A few years ago, when I had to undergo some outpatient surgery, I awoke with amazement afraid to move. When they brought my daughter back to the recovery room, she saw tears running down my face and immediately asked me: “What’s wrong?” with great concern. As I looked into her eyes, in almost a whisper not believing what words I was about to utter, I softly replied: “There’s no pain”. Because of the medications they had given me…

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A New Year

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Surveys regularly show up on my Facebook. You know the kind – what will your tombstone read, what color is your aura, what color best matches your personality, can you pass an 8th grade science test? I rarely respond to them or to those “do something or other and pass this on and good luck will come back to you” kinds of things. Sometimes, though, I take a survey just out of curiosity.

This one (above) came up yesterday. I clicked on it and this is the response I got – “This year will be your year. 2017 has given you a hard time, but you stayed strong through it. All your hard work and kindness will bear fruit this year.” My response on Facebook is written at the top of the photo.

I don’t give these things much weight at all, and I don’t give much weight to this one, but I have to admit it got it right that 2017 has been a tough year. Not nearly as tough as the year Jason died. Absolutely nothing could compare to that year by a long shot.

But, there were a couple of things in 2017 that hit me hard, went deep, and profoundly affected me. Both times, I felt like the actions of others hit me in vulnerable places, weaker places in this facade I have carefully pieced together following Jason’s death.

I feel like I put forth a facade, one that protects people from seeing this broken person that hides behind it and protects me from being hurt again. I’ve gotten the impression over the years that people are uncomfortable with my grief and with brokenness, an impression that specifically goes back to the way people reacted to us after Jason died.  I learned how to answer the question, “How many children do you have?” and many more things that only a parent who has had a child die has to deal with. I think a lot of parents who have lost a child would agree that they have to hide the depth of their grief in order to make it palatable to those around them. I recognized this early on and put up a facade to deal with it.

An empty shellThese events in 2017 felt like arrows that went straight through that facade, shot right into my soul, piercing the facade so that it all broke away, leaving only emptiness. I felt like a shell with nothing left inside and nothing on the outside to protect me, like one of those canoes that are stood on end to be used as bookshelves, except without the shelves or anything else in it. Empty. I can’t tell you how many times this year I stood in the shower or sat up during the night crying. I feel things deeply – I always have – and these events went deep. I don’t complain a lot about what I’m going through and I don’t let people see the pain in my heart. I don’t let people close to me. The thing about being vulnerable and allowing people to get close to you is that they can hurt you. They can shoot arrow that goes right into your heart. I guess that’s why I tend to be so guarded.

I wrote this in my journal following one of the painful 2017 events:

I trusted you with my broken heart,

this heart shattered by pain I still cannot bear.

Intentionally and carefully, you shot your arrow

of words straight at my broken heart.

You knew my pain and brokenness, yet you shot anyway.

Your words – that single arrow – cut through the

thin veneer that holds me together.

Deep into my broken heart it went,

tearing  pieces I have worked so hard to mend and

damaging places before not broken.

You have had your say, you have let the arrow fly.

You move on, thinking I should get over it and do the same.

 

I am broken. I am weary. I am an empty shell.

I feel more deeply and heal more slowly than before.

There are so many things I wish I could do over,

things I wish I could change.

The person I was is so different than the person I now am.

I don’t know how to fix this one, this broken mess that I am.

Once strong, now forever broken.

Things once right, now forever wrong.

The people closest hold the most power to hurt.

I have had to guard my broken heart so carefully.

I trusted and let my guard down and you have hurt me.

Too much pain, too much loss, too much broken trust.

People have not been kind with my shattered heart.

It takes an infinite amount of kindness to make up for the sheer lack of it.

It gets harder each time to get up again and keep on trying.

 

The children’s rhyme says, “Sticks and stones may break my bones,

but words will never break me.”

But it’s not true.

I don’t think people realize how much energy it takes to rebuild a life following the death of a child. Some people have more tools to accomplish this task a little easier than others, but it is by no means an easy task for any parent. Piece by piece, carefully searched for. Pieces that are missing, never to be found. It all takes so much time and energy. I don’t think people realize that, once your life has been so badly and deeply shattered, that it’s not that unusual for difficult things to break or to shatter and scatter some of those pieces once again.

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I had put so much energy into putting myself back together following Jason’s death. Then we left Seattle and moved to Oklahoma. To this day, no one could convince me that for me, personally, this was not a really bad move. It took me away from a place that Jason loved and from places where I felt connected to him, from familiar things, from our daughter, from our son and grandson, from the only true friend I had in the world. I felt like so much of the hard work I had invested into “moving forward” was gone, only to leave me many steps backwards. I went into survival mode. I pulled my protective shield around me and merely existed, an empty shell once again. For years, I merely existed. Driving home from work one day after living nearly three years in Oklahoma, I realized I felt absolutely no connection there. I really had no friends and hadn’t tried to make any. I really liked our house, but I never felt at home there. I hated Oklahoma. There’s a big difference between living in a house and living in a place that is home. I have never felt “at home” since we sold our house in Snohomish, “got rid of” so many things that made our house a home, and moved from the Seattle area.

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When we moved to North Carolina, I worked again at putting myself back together. And now, once again, I’m working on putting pieces of my life back together. I keep trying – and have been trying since Jason died – to put the pieces back together, but so many of them are missing or broken beyond use. It’s not an easy task. These two events from 2017 really took a toll on me. As 2017 rolled into 2018, I sat and pondered the year ahead. I want to have a healthy life, a life of purpose, a life that means something – if only I could figure out how to do that, really do that. I really, truly want this to be a year of healing, of meaning, of purpose, of good things for Joe and me and for our family. I want this to be a year when I can finally feel at least somewhat at home somewhere. They say hope springs eternal. As I said in my Facebook post, one can only hope.

My most sincere hopes and prayers for each of you for a good year ahead.

Hugs,

~Becky

© 2018 Rebecca R. Carney

I’ll Be Seeing You

As one year turns to another, it seems appropriate to post this song. It has been sung by many artists including Frank Sinatra, Kate Smith, Michael Buble’ and Billie Holiday. This one by Jimmy Durante is one of my favorites. It speaks to the wistful longing of missing someone who is no longer here.

Jason, I will never stop missing you…today and every day…You are in my heart and in my thoughts always. I love you, my precious boy.

~Mom

 

I’ll be seeing you
In all the old familiar places
That this heart of mine embraces
All day through

In that small cafe
The park across the way
The children’s carousel
The chestnut trees, the wishin’ well

I’ll be seeing you
In every lovely summer’s day
In every thing that’s light and gay
I’ll always think of you that way

I’ll find you in the morning sun
And when the night is new
I’ll be looking at the moon
But I’ll be seeing you

I’ll see you in that small cafe
The park across the way
The children’s carousel
The chestnut trees, the wishin’ well

I’ll be seeing you
In every lovely summer’s day
In every thing that’s light and gay
I’ll always think of you that way
I’ll find you in the morning sun
And when the night is new
I’ll be looking at the moon
But I’ll be seeing you

I’ll be seeing you
I’ll be seeing you

https://genius.com/Jimmy-durante-ill-be-seeing-you-lyrics

 

© 2017 Rebecca R. Carney

A Bereaved Parent’s Christmas

I wrote this five years ago, and find it still true today. Some Christmases seem to be more difficult than others, depending on what’s going on at the time or what we have walked through during the year. This year has been a difficult and stressful one for me, with some unexpected events or circumstances that have hurt me deeply. As a result, this Christmas has been a difficult one.

I’ve had a harder than usual time pulling it together – gift purchasing, enthusiasm level, etc. I still get the panic-y feeling that hits me the first time I walk down the Christmas aisle at the stores, and it hit me hard this year. My energy level and enthusiasm have been low. I’m doing the best I can, but still feel like it’s not enough. Not the same, as though it could ever be. Even as long as I’ve been at this, I tend to subconsciously have the misconception that it should get easier with time. It does, but it still ebbs and flows, rises and falls, hits hard and subsides a bit.

Hugs to all of you this Christmas.

~Becky

Grief: One Woman's Perspective

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…

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“A Date Which Will Live in Infamy”

December 7, 1941 was the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, the U.S. naval base at Oahu Island, Hawaii. Because of this action, the United States entered World War II. December 7th was designated as National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day by the United States Congress in 1944, and today marks the anniversary of that day in the history of the United States. Every year, including this 76th anniversary of that “date which will live in infamy,” Pearl Harbor survivors, visitors, family and friends visit the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument to pause and remember those who died on that day.

There are few wars that don’t affect someone we know. Henry, my husband’s uncle by marriage, fought in the Pacific in World War II, and died when his ship was sunk. He had lived in the Philippines (originally from Colorado), and his wife (Joe’s aunt) had died in a car accident a year or so before the war started. Following Henry’s death, Joe’s grandmother went to the Philippines to bring home Henry’s (and her daughter’s) twin children, then barely aged 2. While she was there, the Japanese invaded the Philippines. Joe’s grandmother and the twins were sent to the Santo Tomas internment camp, where they spent the rest of the war until they were liberated in February, 1945.

As I was driving to work this morning, I thought about the meaning of “a date that will live in infamy.” Infamy means being known for something horrible. We, as parents whose children have died, have our own date that will live in infamy. My personal date that will live in infamy is March 3, 2002, the day Jason died.

Similar to survivors of war, we parents have endured a specific horrendous event on our personal date that will live in infamy, one that affects us and changes our lives in so many ways, more than we ever could have imaged. We are changed so much we, along with our family and friends, don’t even know who we are any more. Some of us end up with PTSD. Some lose friends because of a lack of understanding about the struggle we are having or the path we now are walking. Some have marriages that end. For some, it’s a lifelong struggle. Some never recover. It takes years to recover any semblance of normalcy (if there even is such a thing) and rebuild lives.

We are all changed by our personal date that will live in infamy, the day our children died.

~Becky

© 2017 Rebecca R. Carney

“Who You’d Be Today”

Who You’d Be Today

Sunny days seem to hurt the most
I wear the pain like a heavy coat
I feel you everywhere I go
I see your smile, I see your face
I hear you laughing in the rain
I still can’t believe you’re gone

It ain’t fair you died too young
Like a story that had just begun
But death tore the pages all away
God knows how I miss you
All the hell that I’ve been through
Just knowing no one could take your place
Sometimes I wonder who you’d be today

Would you see the world, would you chase your dreams
Settle down with a family
I wonder what would you name your babies
Some days the sky’s so blue
I feel like I can talk to you
I know it might sound crazy

It ain’t fair you died too young
Like a story that had just begun
But death tore the pages all away
God knows how I miss you
All the hell that I’ve been through
Just knowing no one could take your place
Sometimes I wonder who you’d be today

Today, today, today
Today, today, today

Sunny days seem to hurt the most
I wear the pain like a heavy coat
The only thing that gives me hope
Is I know I’ll see you again someday

Someday, someday

Written by Aimee Mayo, William Luther • Copyright © Universal Music Publishing Group, Words & Music A Div Of Big Deal Music LLC
I heard this song this weekend, and it just spoke the words that have been in my heart. A story just begun. I miss you, my boy. I love you. “The only thing that gives me hope is I know I’ll see you again someday.”
~Mom
© 2017 Rebecca R. Carney