Happy New Year 2023

Another year in the books. As a parent whose child has died, I think I look at the year ahead differently than most people. Since Jason died, I feel like I always have somewhere in the back of my mind a dread, a feeling like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop, for something else to go wrong. I used to be naive and believe I was protected or immune from such disaster and trauma. Now I know the most horrible thing I could think about can happen.

The last year has been difficult, much more difficult than I ever could have anticipated. We started off the year with my husband coming down with COVID on New Year’s Eve. Having had a heart attack, he was considered one of the high risk groups and I was really worried when that COVID test came back positive. Thankfully, he recovered very quickly and, after having one day of fever, was out sweeping the patio the following day.

The year proceeded with me losing one of my jobs and accompanying financial adjustments, Joe being required at his job to work outside in really hot weather and getting really sick from being overheated, watching difficult relationship struggles that broke our hearts and feeling unable to help, ongoing health issues. We still haven’t seen our son and his family in nearly four years. Our grandchildren continue to treat us as irrelevant and we are lucky to get a grunt “hello” when we talk to them.

In recent months, I have lost my older half brother and two cousins. Although I wasn’t really close to any of them, it’s still sobering to have those family connections gone. Death brings such a finality to relationships, no matter how close or not you are. The similarities between the death of my brother and the death of my mom were eery and mind boggling. It made me realize that, having died in the shadow of Jason’s death and the deep, traumatic grief I was experiencing, I really have not dealt with Mom’s death. On and on it goes.

As the year proceeded, we were so excited and looking forward to finally having a home of our own. It represented hope, something to look forward to, a place to settle and put down roots for now. It’s been a mixed bag of good and frustration, a process that has been super glitchy and a punch list – six months in – that still is not completed with no end in sight and words/concerns mostly falling on deaf ears. My expectations were not realistic. I guess needed this to be easy and it hasn’t been. I think I wanted someone to be able to see the great pain inside of us of the things we have walked through and help create a place where I can sort through the physical mementos I have had in storage from Jason’s life and put together some things to honor him, a haven where we could possibly heal a bit. No one can actually do that for another person. No one can heal your grief for you. Life doesn’t work like that.

I am thankful for what we have. I like our house and I am thankful for it. I know that there are people struggling and hurting so much more than we are. Although I struggle at times with feeling hopeful, I know there are those who feel like they have no hope whatsoever.

It took me a while took me a while to get into the Christmas spirit. Christmas always hurts my heart. We ordered a new Christmas tree for our new house. It was missing the wall plug when it arrived. They sent a new plug which was the wrong size. Then they sent an entire new tree. We pulled out Christmas decorations and ornaments that we haven’t seen in so many years. I’m not going to lie – putting the angel on top of the tree that was always Jason’s job reduced me to tears. By the time we got the new tree and got it set up, Christmas was almost here and we barely got it decorated in time for our daughter to arrive for a few days to celebrate with us. It ended up being a good Christmas together.

On this last day of 2022, I peer over the edge into the new year with some trepidation. It’s always difficult to think of starting a new year without Jason. It’s easy to sit and reflect, looking back over the years at broken dreams and how our lives would have been so much different had Jason lived. I’ve always been a hopeful, positive person but feel like I’m running out of years and experiencing diminishing hope.

We’re going to spend today taking the Christmas tree and decorations down. We want to set up a small in-home gym area in the garage and will work on that today, too. Organizing, planning and doing the best we can planning for a healthy, good year ahead and hoping for the best.

As always, missing you, my precious boy, with all my heart. Another year without you, but another year closer to seeing you again.


© 2022 Rebecca R. Carney

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.


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.


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.



© 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.



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



© 2017 Rebecca R. Carney