Tag Archives: grieving the loss of a child

THE OTHER SIDE OF GONE

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You are open air flying through the canyon chasing bliss.  Rushing water plunges and swirls around misplaced boulders, pursuing its destiny to the sea.  Low autumn light catches the spray of sparkling white caps, each drop effervescent as it leaps for freedom before being swallowed once more by the river.  Sometimes your life felt like that.

Red canyon walls rise stoically above you, echoing wisdom of ages. Their shadows play hide and seek with the sun.  Its flickering warmth kisses your face a thousand times as the wind tosses your hair to and fro like a kite in a thunderstorm.  If this was a small taste of bliss, what did he feel, silence roaring in his ears, as he sailed through the atmosphere?

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You constantly cautioned him.  He had been born too sensitive, too brave; and his pain too deep to mask.  He always seemed illusive, like an unattended balloon floating aimlessly through the sky.  An old soul, one day he calmly looked you in the eye and said, “If you can’t feel truly alive, why be here?”  Today you agree; but back then you were always afraid for him.  Or, were you just scared for yourself?  Your courage was the timid kind that said prayers.  Sometimes prayers weren’t answered.  Sometimes it wasn’t the answer you wanted to hear.

Funny how time marches along, randomly changing lives without notice or permission.  True love ephemeral, unplanned babies, broken bones, amazing careers, raging fires, hurricanes; and always, if you lived long enough, losing someone you have no idea how to live without.  After the perfect storm blew over, you found yourself standing alone in the aftermath, wondering how this could have possibly happened to you.  And, why?

“Why?” was the question you chased around the world.  The voices of many Gurus rang true; but they could never tell you what you needed to discover for yourself in your own time.  Through it all, he was there, your best teacher.  You thought of him now.  In your mind’s eye, you see him grinning, like it was yesterday.  You swear you can hear him laughing as you fly through the canyon.  His is an infectious laugh; and you could always read his mood by the color change of his blue eyes.

There had been so many teachers since.   But it was he who stuck in your mind like glue, like a well-worn shoe that fits just a little too tight, but you wouldn’t even dream of ever throwing it away.  Subconsciously, you step hard on the accelerator.  The speed of the sports car is addictive as it lurches forward.  Purring in obedience it handles the curves with precision.   You know he is loving it as he watches you fly by, shaking his head knowingly with a crooked smile.  He thinks of you as amazingly Jedi; and sometimes more like a yard sale, all over the place.

Happiness, flamboyant yet fleeting, had always been a powerful and addictive elixir.  Entitled, you had chased it for years like a hungry dog, insatiable.  With practice you were eventually able to hunker down in the small moments of quiet that elude a busy mind.   It is where you finally found the grace of peace, maybe for the first time in your life.

Bliss is different from happiness.  Whimsical, yet all in, it gives you wings.  You own it in the small moments as you watch one white line, and then the next, until they become a blur.  Bliss, ethereal, cannot be bullied.  Requiring complete surrender, it is simple but not easy.  Choosing it’s time carefully, it slips in quietly.  A deep Zen-like peace washes over you.  You catch an elusive glimpse of true being, an all-encompassing and expansive oneness, an alert stillness so profound its palpable, so soundless, it can only be heard within.

Wide eyed with wonder, you found bliss only in the truly magical moments at first. The miracle of childbirth and holding your baby in your arms for the first time; or falling madly – puppy dog, head over heels – in lust with the love of your life.  Eventually, awe found bliss in the simplicity and candor of nature as you humbly lay witness to a thunderhead rolling across the ridge, crashing waves on a rocky shoreline, the cry of a hawk on the wing, the enormity of a sunrise over the Himalayas or a sunny marsh where cattails wait.  Here wonder replaces words.  These moments are enchanting and rare when Ego, like a well-behaved dog, rests obediently by your side- once an overbearing master, now servant to your heart.

Never again would you take an innocent goodbye for granted. Years after the police told you that hikers had come across his body, you had finally suffered enough.  Life sang your song back to you; and you knew you could never go back the way you had come.  With nowhere else to run, bliss was kind, waiting patiently for you to fall to your knees one last time, a place where you could finally hear its subtle whisper.   And, like that hidden image in a painting, once you saw it, you couldn’t un-see it.  And once you had felt the brush of its gossamer wings, you would always know its touch.

Destiny has a way of turning a perfectly good life upside down.  Like a rag doll, it shook you, nearly to death, testing your resolve.  Yours felt like a painstakingly slow return from insanity where you had vacillated between feeling too much or feeling nothing at all. What if you had suffered through it all, and never got the point?  What if there was no point?  It was a fine line when you had to choose.  Simply fade away, drifting like that untethered balloon or intentionally seek all the things worth fighting for.  You chose life.

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If it is true that suffering is optional, you summoned the alchemy of unimaginable pain to transform like the Phoenix rising – victim to Intrepid Survivor.   You were stronger and more courageous now, even without prayers.  Once blinded by grief, with tears of gratitude you could finally see that your loved ones had never deserted you.  They stood with you in the fire.  Theirs were the footprints in the sand.

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Bliss feels like happiness on drugs as gold, red and orange leaves skitter erratically across the road, crunching beneath your tires. You close your eyes for a dangerously long moment inhaling the musky smell of earth.  Oh how you love fall, a final goodnight kiss before winter’s embrace.  Surrendering to a passionate presence welling up inside, you fall in love with life all over again, nature your solace.

He had been born into sadness.  You thought of the early months when he was a baby.  For weeks he cried each night, kicking his little legs in anguish as you tried helplessly to comfort him.  It was always with a sigh of relief when he stopped hurting and you could lay down with him.  Placing him on your chest, you could still feel his soft breath against your face as he slept, his little heart beating in rhythm next to your own.  These special moments were indelibly imprinted in the timeless spaces.

Intuitively, you take one hand from the steering wheel, placing it over your heart.  In the glow of the sun, a smile plays at your lips as you remember all those years, the psychics, self-help books, friends, family and Gurus, a cast of thousands who lifted you from the mire.  Ironically, it had been here all along, his precious heart beating within yours…just patiently waiting for you to notice.

You had only touched the edges of bliss, a place you one day hope to live.  There you can feel the expansive love of pure essence as it whispers, calling out to you.  In your grateful moments, you are able to appreciate the gifts that have come from such sacrifice, his and yours, knowing that the people and things you love most will always live on in your heart.  Because you know that nothing can ever hurt that way again, you begin to savor a life lived as if there is nothing left to lose.  He lived his life like that, his legacy to you.  He is right here beside you, as you learn the art of flying in the face of fear, even when it feels like falling at first.

Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms– “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places…”

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Everyone is different, and grief takes as long as it takes. Yet when I look back, I wish I had learned sooner, the tools that were so useful for my “healing”. With so much pain and grief in the world, I’m hoping that by sharing the things that have helped me survive; I can make a difference for someone else trying to navigate through the process of grief. Watch for my forthcoming post concerning what I’ve learned along the way on my difficult trek back to life – “From Pain to Bliss- Returning from the Dead”

SUICIDE

The following are just a few sobering statistics relating to suicide, which is how my son died in 2004. The crisis is only getting worse according to statistics, most of which are still dated 2016. It appears that the age groups most at risk are also changing since 2016, further exacerbated by the more recent Opioid and social media related suicides. I would expect 2018 figures, relating to the Opioid addiction, Millennial media/social interactions, and population isolation, to soar even higher. No longer able to boast about rising life expectancy rates, (largely due to increasing suicides), the US rates have declined for the third year in a row. Why are things getting increasingly worse instead of better?

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US (123 suicides per day-51% involving firearms). For our youth, 10 – 24, it was the second leading cause of death increasing more than 30 percent (2016).

Statistics are understated due to the stigma of suicide, unreported suicides and attempted suicides. It is estimated that for every death by suicide, there were 25 attempts nationally. In 2016, 7 of 10 were white males and 3.5 times more often men than women.

Colorado ranks 9th (since 2016) in the U.S. for suicide, (6/11/18 Becker’s Hospital Review) 20.5 per 100,000 with our Colorado teens dying at nearly twice the national average rate in 2017. According to Colorado Public Radio News 9/6/18, the statistics for our young now surpass death from car accidents, with overall young people of Colorado now the highest suicide statistics in the nation.

Eagle County statistics (Vail Valley) have always trended even higher than Colorado state statistics and well ahead of the national average with 12 deaths so far in 2018 (23 per 100,000 versus Colorado at 20.5 per 100,000).

Check out some of the following links for more insights into cause and effect:

“…overdose misuse associated with the opioid overdose epidemic could be driving the suicide rate higher.” Another factor under consideration by CDC is the impact of social media. “Social media can exacerbate bullying, romanticize suicide and provide harmful content on suicide methods.” https://thehill.com/opinion/healthcare/409176-suicide-rates-are-rising-across-the-us-and-the-numbers-are-not-subtle

“There’s much not yet understood about the rise in suicides, but one finding of the CDC’s previous research was that it’s not necessarily linked to mental health: More than half of the people who died by suicide in 2016 had no known mental health problems. Instead, as Vox’s Julia Belluz reported this summer following the death of beloved chef and author Anthony Bourdain, researchers have found that the majority of suicides are related to problems with relationships, substance use, health, jobs or finances.” https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2018/11/29/18118601/suicide-rate-highest-decades-life-expectancy

“What is making so many Americans turn to alcohol and drugs and still others to take their own lives? Explanations will run the gamut. Usually, people will cite their own particular hobbyhorse, and I may be guilty of that. My obsession is family decline. Due to unmarriage and divorce, more Americans are living alone than at any time in our history. Let me quickly acknowledge that the steep rise in adolescent depression in recent years may have more to do with social media than anything else. Jean Twenge’s work suggests that girls are particularly vulnerable to online cruelty.” https://townhall.com/columnists/monacharen/2018/11/30/why-are-we-so-sad-n2536748

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A VIEW FROM THE EDGE – V

 

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 Finally I heard his truck at four A.M. and with tears in my eyes, I raced down the stairs and hugged him, and begged him profusely to forgive me.  He pushed past me and that’s when he said he nearly froze to death.  So no, I was sure he wouldn’t kill himself.  He didn’t even like being cold…

CONTINUED…..PART V OF VI

Over the next seven months that Chad was missing, the Sheriff on our case would become one of my closest friends. Jeff and I worked together daily, brainstorming and always trying to figure out new places, leads, and ways.  He was by my side and gratefully I leaned on him for hope and strength.  I knew that he had seen some horrible things during his previous job, under cover in a rock band.  After awhile, I respectfully asked him not to share those experiences with me anymore.

Finding Chad was challenging since he was nineteen and the privacy act would not allow hospitals, rehabs, or even homeless shelters to tell us if he was or wasn’t there.  The ironic thing was, while his brother had no problem travelling all over the world alone, Chad was not the kind of kid to take off on his own.  He must have been petrified; who wouldn’t be if someone threatened to kill you.  I had no idea where he would go; and I knew he didn’t have any money.

In my lone hours I wrote.  It was the salve for my soul, my sanity.  I kept a log entitled “Finding Chad.”  I knew someday I would, but I never dreamt it would turn out the way it did.  I also started writing a fiction story called, “Turning Left at Exit 140.”  I could only hope that even the smallest part would become reality.  I knew it was a fantasy, at best.  Ironically, we would find out later that Chad didn’t turn right.. or left… at exit 140, the exit for our home town.  He headed straight into the back country; a place so untraveled that he was sure no one would ever find him.  Or, as oftentimes speculated, maybe someone else took him there.

At Thanksgiving after a big ordeal, I finally convinced the telephone company to give me access to Chad’s voice mail.  Once I did that, he would not be able to receive any more messages.   I hated to cut off that lifeline but I had to see who was calling him and what they were saying.   The kid who turned Chad onto Crack had left several messages.  They were of the variety of, “Dude, where are you?  Can you pick me up?  Can I borrow your truck?  Call me.”  He never gave up on his self serving needs until voice mail was completely full.  Chad’s real friends left several messages, of course; and I even had to endure listening to the desperation and pleas of my own tearful voice.  But it was his step sister’s message that really c0ncerned me.  She seemed to know something I didn’t and she seemed terrified or was it just overly dramatic?  She pleaded with him, “Chad, if you will just call me and tell me you’re okay, I promise I won’t tell anyone where you are.  Call me! Please!”  There were no more messages and clearly no one had heard from him since he left.  My heart sank.

I stuck my head further in the sand.  I figured Chad needed to run and he was either high on drugs somewhere else or homeless.  I harassed  homeless shelters in Denver and sometimes I could even convince a compassionate soul to give me information even though legally he shouldn’t have.  In my fantasy, Chad had found a job and was lying low to escape the drug dealers.  In retrospect it seems so odd that there were always leads, some kid from out of town who said he saw the kid in the poster.  People who saw his truck somewhere.   A psychic who saw him living in his truck.  Most of the time, except in the dark of night, I had hope.  I couldn’t bear not to.

A friend lined up a private detective for us and I was waiting to meet with him.  In the meantime I had checked in with a few rehabs to get a better picture of what they could offer so that we could be ready when Chad came home.  With the exception of a couple, I was not impressed with their statistics.  Every business knows how to manipulate statistics.  Rehabs always have a fall back excuse that goes like this, “he just wasn’t ready or he didn’t hit his bottom yet.”  The institution never fails, the patient does.

While this may be true, it seems unrealistic to expect addiction to go away in a month by sitting around in a support group talking about it.  I was searching for more than a ‘cold turkey/white knuckle’ approach. And what about long term behavior issues developed by years of dysfunction.  How would that be addressed?  What could be done to help mend the pre-existing as well as post drug chemistry imbalances?  Niacin/Niacinmide and a few vitamins?  Not even close!  And, then there is the real test.  What happens when a ‘recovered’ user returns home to memories and places once frequented?  He drives by a place where he had partied causing hardwired neuro-pathways to light up like a Christmas tree… calling out his name.  What happens when things are all going wrong and he just wants to say  “Fuck it” to the world?  Just this one more time!

My amazing psychologist told me about a kidnapper option.  These kidnappers had some good successes if they could just find the person, extract him from his environment; and then somehow manage the justice system so that a user was unable to get out of jail for several months, their price, $50,000.  Time was on your side if it was long enough for the recovering addict to be able to reason with a jonsing body that previously thought it would die without it’s drug.   I remembered the words of a neighbor who had travelled a similar path.  He said, “You have to get him away from the drug for at least three months.  Rent a cabin way out in the mountains somewhere.”  I was desperate and would have done anything just to know he was safe.  Anything!

Over the months, slowly it began to leak out from more than one source there was a primary drug ring from Romania that had been operating in this valley for years, at least ten at that time, maybe more.  Even the Sheriff’s office knew about it.  I was appalled.  These were the dirty little secrets of a resort town that didn’t want this, or information about drug usage, in our valley to leak out.  These drug traffickers had a couple of store front restaurants to cover their operation.  I wondered how this could be possible.  I never received a good explanation from the Sheriff’s office other than they tried to deport them from time to time but they never seemed to get the ring leaders.

Ironically one of Brandon and Chad’s friends who had troubles with alcohol ended up being jailed long term after several DUI’s. Our friend was our inside connection and with seniority was able to give us some feedback from users that frequented the facility.  He would remain in our local jail as drug dealers came and went like it was a revolving door.  It was a rough crowd and all but one white guy seemed to be from Mexico and/or Romania.  One night a guy came in with a slit throat.  That’s when I began to believe that these dealers were not just bluffing.  They were serious.  Chad’s friend was released from his long jail sentence the day Chad’s body was discovered.   It’s impossible to believe that the timing was some random coincidence.

Another extreme synchronicity occurred when I was asked to handle the real estate purchase of the community drug lord.   By now I knew him by name even though the Real Estate Broker involved had no idea who he “really” was.  He was paying all cash, naturally, for a piece of land and had not retained legal representation.  He was about to miss a deadline in his contract and his large earnest money deposit would have been at risk.  Every cell in my body screamed, “let him lose it.  He deserves it!”  But at the last minute, a small inner voice convinced me that I couldn’t do that professionally.  I later wonder if this was the voice of intuition.  Because I had saved him around $50,000, and he knew it, I got the idea later that I needed to go and confront him about the whereabouts of my son.

I gathered my courage as I walked up the steps to his establishment with Chad’s Missing Poster in hand.  I had been just a voice on the end of a phone line; so I introduced myself.  I held the poster in front of his face and said, “I helped you now I need your help.  Help me find my son.”  He quickly read the words and saw my son’s face.  “Please talk to your guys and tell me what they know.”  He didn’t even try to act like he had no idea what I was talking about.  We had transcended that conversation with a glance.

I couldn’t believe my ears when he said this,  “Crack is a bad drug.”  He put his hand on the back of his son’s head who was about three years old and hanging onto his daddy’s leg.  “I stopped doing that drug when he was born.”  I wanted to slap him….scream at him…”and, what about our kids?”  By an act of God, I was able to control my impulse.  “This is not the time, Jan”, I told myself.  I needed his help to find Chad.  He said he would ask around.  Counting the hours, a couple of days later I stopped by again.  He said, “they said he just went crazy.  They don’t know where he went.”  ….Could I believe him?

I thought he’d come home for Thanksgiving but when he didn’t,  I knew without a doubt nothing would keep him from coming home for Christmas.   My hopes soared with each  passing day.  Brandon and I had been Christmas shopping and had some great gifts under the tree that I knew Chad would love.  As the afternoon turned to dusk, I remember being on pins and needles with every little sound, expecting to hear his truck drive up.  It was loud, just the way he liked it.  I played the entire fantasy out in my mind of seeing him walk to the door and peer in through the glass.  I could see that crooked grin of his.  The door opening.  And everything would be right with the world again.  No problem would be too big for us to figure out if we just had one more chance, more time.

I will never forget standing and watching from the big picture glass window by the front door. The rising moon hung over the mountains like a great beacon, a ray of hope.  Its existence contrasted the darkness of night that lay cold against the glass. Points of light in an expansive black sky twinkled through the atmosphere from stars that probably no longer existed.  I shivered. “Are you out there, Chad?  I can’t feel you.”   I began to lose faith.  The night was so cold and crisp.  I couldn’t bear to think of him freezing in his truck somewhere.  Tears slipped down my cheeks and I had never felt so alone or helpless.  In those moments, the cold hard reality hit me once more, just as it had when I listened to Chad’s message the morning after he disappeared, “Mom, ….I love you…..I’m soooo sorry.”   He’s not coming home.  My heart shattered.  I was terrified and I thought I was going to be sick to my stomach.

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Christmas 2003, Chad’s last Christmas

To Be Continued tomorrow….

A VIEW FROM THE EDGE-II

 

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Why would he have said that if he had no plans of trying?  Why would he have called his boss for a ride to work?  Why would he have stopped to buy cottage cheese for his lunch that day?  So many questions would never be answered….

CONTINUED….PART II OF VI

After the party, I woke up late the next morning to the sudden ring of the phone. Woozy and half asleep I heard my ex-husband’s voice on the other end, “Where is he?  Is he there?”  I heard something like accusation, frustration and anger in his voice.  Maybe all three.  I sat up in bed. “What!?  He never showed up?  What the hell?  Didn’t Valerie call you when he didn’t come over last night?”  He hung up on me, his usual way of handling things.

I was stunned as my brain scrambled to my rescue. What should I do first?  Should I call his best friends, Tyler and Travis?  These three boys had been joined at the hip from the time they were six and seven years old.   I clicked the button on the house phone and called voice mail.  Why hadn’t I thought of that last night?   There was a message, and with a sigh of relief, I realized it was Chad’s voice.  It’s funny how all of these moments, every word spoken, are frozen in my mind.

“Mom,? ….(his voice started to crack)…. “I Love you.”  Then I could hear him crying as his voice became more distorted.  “I’m soooo sorry.”  A click ended the call and my heart screamed.  What did he mean?  My mind rushed in to make sense of the message but my heart knew then what my mind could never accept.  It broke in half and I felt the pain, the darkness and an incredible fear.

Just for one second, I thought, “Jesus, did he kill himself?” But my rational mind answered quickly.  No, he wouldn’t do that.  Why would he have said he’d check himself in?  Last week when he nearly froze to death sleeping in his truck in the mountains, he came home and going up the stairs to his room said, “I almost fuckin froze out there.”  No, he wouldn’t do that.

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To be continued tomorrow….

A VIEW FROM THE EDGE

~Self medicating on adrenaline most of his life, my son, Chad, lived on the edge.   I would find myself on that edge more than once trying to save him~

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PREFACE

I have survived abuse.  I have seen the destruction of alcohol and addiction in many lives intimately connected with mine.  I was blessed with two very beautiful and sensitive sons with difficult learning challenges.  I fought like a mama bear as an advocate for their educational needs.  I learned about love, relationships and divorce the hard way.  I have had a broken heart more times then I can count; and yet I have learned how to walk through the ashes of grief, joining other intrepid survivors.  I’ve learned to trust Spirit when I didn’t believe in God for most of my life. Even though there were so many blessings, and great moments during my lifetime, it would be the challenges that would stoke the fires of alchemy that would change my life. While I may touch on many of my stories, the story that changed my life forever is the one I’m about to tell you now.

Part I of VI

It wasn’t until recently when at the Vail Symposium one night I learned of a similar circumstance. I never understood why I could see myself from a distance, like a spectator, one of many, the day I found out on June 8, 2005 that my son had ended his life.

Nearly eight months before that, Chad, at my insistence left to move in with his father. Six Foot three, he leaned over to hug me like any other day.  “I love you,” he said.  I was late for work and have always wished I could have truly engrossed myself in that moment, the moment that I would feel his body against mine one final time. But how can we ever know.

In hindsight, I noticed and just as quickly dismissed little clues that happened that day. Chad had gotten up early, which was unheard of for him unless it was a night of drugs.  I saw him in the yard, and opening the door I found it curious on that cold November morning that he would be picking up cigarette butts that were lying around the yard.  I was touched.  Rarely would he think of something like that, not that he wasn’t giving and sweet.  He just didn’t think in a consequential manner.

I glanced at the pile of clean work clothes I had laid on the bench by the front door. Shaking my head, I thought, “just like Chad.”  I grabbed the clothes and walked down the two steps as I saw Chad loading a tool chest in the back of his pickup truck.  “Chad, you forgot your clothes!”  I said and then added, “why are you taking the tool box and what is with your truck?  Why is it running so rough?”  I don’t know he said, “I’ll run it into the shop today.”  Chad worked as a mechanic and loved his job.  He had called his boss for a lift into town that morning, as he often did.  “You better get going; Paul will be waiting on you.”

I handed Chad the pile of clothes and he put them in the seat beside him and climbing in, rolled down the window. He rested his elbow on the window sill and the thought crossed my mind that he looked just like he did in his Graduation picture, only the truck was white instead of red.

He bought this truck, a white Dodge Sports with red lettering because he knew I liked it. Everyone would like that truck.  After he left, I must have cranked my neck one hundred and eighty degrees several times a day as there were hundreds of white Dodges on the road….but none with red lettering on them.

With tears in my eyes I said, “Chad, why don’t you come home for dinner tomorrow night. Your dad and I have to go to the Slifer Awards Party tonight.  Maybe you could pick up a few more things.”

Chad nodded and I turned to lock the front door. “Mom,” he said.  “If I can’t work this out on my own, I’ll check myself in (rehab).”  I shook my head gratefully, teary eyed.

Why would he have said that if he had no plans of trying? Why would he have called his boss for a ride to work?  Why would he have stopped to buy cottage cheese for his lunch that day?  So many questions would never be answered.

TO BE CONTINUED TOMORROW…..

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In the Darkness

I would have traded places with anyone raised on love,

but how would anyone raised on love bear this death?

Sharon Olds, from “Wonder”

 

I’ve been working on a piece that I call “Writing about Writing”, an excavation process that I am using to uncover my truths and dreams of being or becoming a writer.  From this discovery process, while reading what other authors shared, I realized in the middle of the night last night that I was oftentimes writing for others instead of myself.  With the grieving process, I found myself crafting all of the pretty words to try to convince others, and perhaps myself, that it was all going to be okay some day.  Many times, I admit I was saying what I thought others needed to hear in order to instill “hope” instead of just writing my authentic truth.

The truth is that grieving isn’t a lateral process, at least not for me.  It isn’t a neat little contained package tied with a bow.  It’s messy and unpredictable.  I feel ashamed when I regress.   Others don’t understand. I don’t understand.  I’ve been to the classes, I’ve felt the pain, I’ve felt the love and I’ve felt spirit.  Why do I have to return to pain again?  Will it ever be over?  The following is about my dream last night.   I’ve decided to share because there just may be one person out there that needs to hear my authentic truth.  It might just be me.

DEPRESSION

In the Darkness

Far away in your consciousness, you hear a soft plop and then another plop on your pillow. “What is that?” It sounds like rain and you are confused.   “Where am I?” You slowly realize it isn’t rain because you feel it, warm and salty against your skin.   Another tear squeezes its way from the corner of your tightly closed eyelid, and traces a trail down the side of your face.  As your mind shakes itself awake, you realize you must have been dreaming. What were you dreaming? Another instant passes and the realization comes flooding back in pieces and sizzles like a hot branding iron to your chest. You are thankful it was just a bad dream until you realize that your reality is the real nightmare. You shriek, “My God, the dream isn’t true. Chad really didn’t come back. He is dead. He’s really dead!”

The dreams are reoccurring but less frequent now.   You know it’s just your subconscious trying to work out a solution to a reality that your consciousness can’t accept. Maybe it never will. Sometimes the dreams are of a younger Chad and you somehow know, and even seem to accept in that dream state, the fact that he won’t survive his childhood. The happy dream version is when he finds you after you thought he was dead. He drives up or walks in the door and you are so ecstatic that he is alive after all; that is until you wake up. That is the cruelest dream of all because awaking plunges you back into the full primal emotion of a hell that at least, overtime, had become blurry around the edges.

You lay in the darkness in shock, feeling helpless. There is no way to run from it, nowhere to hide in the darkness. You feel the pain swelling in your heart and your heart naturally begins to contract in order to save you; just like it always has before. You tell it not to this time; to stay open.   By now, drowning in your tears with snot dripping from your nose, you get out of bed to get a Kleenex. You coach yourself to just let it go. “No one is in the house”, you tell yourself. “No one will hear. So many times you’re not in a place to let it all out. This is your chance.   Open your heart, and let it weep.” You let out a wail that would wake the neighbors if you had close neighbors. You bawl like any mother or animal that has just lost her baby. You wonder how many more times you will have to suffer the loss.

Tears run down your cheeks and you can’t breathe as your mind paints you a picture of hell, dragging your heart with it as hostage, kicking and screaming. Your heart recoils from an altered universe that only the Ego knows. You see imagery of your son fighting for his life at the end of a rope; all alone, no one there to help him or to hear the echoes of his cries. It’s all wrong! It pries your heart wide open and you cry so hard the muscles in your face begin to cramp; and then you cry some more. You tell your mind to stop. No more pictures, they’re just lies it made up. You weren’t there. You don’t know. But, you do know.

Alone in the dark, you hear the whisper of Spirit. You reach for a pen and paper; it’s your connection, your lifeline. Writing is how you extract the poisonous arrows from your heart. Your mind isn’t evil; it just needs to be heard, to warn you and keep you safe. You learned this while you were very young, when it was never safe to live in your heart space.   You learned how to quickly close your heart; how to rationalize your feelings so you didn’t bleed to death. Once the words are on paper, your mind relaxes; its job done.

You think of your son the day he was born and how happy, proud and relieved you were when he belted out his first cry, filling his lungs with a gulp of air. You were with him when he took his first breath and you should have been there when he drew his last. It all felt so wrong. How could a mother even bear to witness her child dying; yet so many do.  You wonder if somehow you knew. Did you pause in that exact instant when his spirit flew from his body? Did a shiver run down your spine?

Human life can be unfathomably cruel. You no longer cry for Chad but grieve a beautiful life lost. You grieve the life that you lost. You cry for the little girl who finally felt love as a young woman only to have it stolen from her. You’re grateful for the opportunity to have known and loved your son and you pray that it’s all true; that you’ll be together again one day. You whisper into the darkness, “so long, Chad, I’ll be seeing you.”

Chad-Graduation

Grieving the Loss of a Child

Grieving the loss of a child is a subject no parent wants to face.   It seems obvious when you look around, or watch the news, that there are a lot of reasons to feel grief; and I now know that there a lot of reasons to NOT feel grief.   I would like to share what I have learned about transmuting the heartache of losing a child so that perhaps your journey may be a little easier.

Losing Chad, and finding him again, only in a different way, was the most transitional experience in my life spiritually, mentally and emotionally.  It changed everything about me and everything about why I thought I was here.   I learned that if we don’t deal with our grief, it’ll stalk us.  If we can’t surrender, we’ll run for the rest of our days.  “Clean grief” helps us to navigate through life’s pleasures and challenges with more freedom.  A lot of very serendipitous and incredible things have happened in my life since my son died.  It just took me a very long time to open my heart wide enough to see.

For years I’ve been living circles around the subject of grief.  It’s difficult to imagine how we can be expected to survive the loss of a child, a beautiful soul that we have no idea how to live without.  For me It’s just been one day at a time and by the grace of God.  We have all heard that “time heals all wounds” but I believe my friend, a father who had just lost his eighteen year old son, said it best; “it’s not that time heals those wounds as much as it allows us a grace period so that we may learn how to cope with our loss in our own way.”

How can something so right go so wrong?

How does something so right turn out so wrong?

Loss of a Child – My Experience

One thing that I know is that many times life drastically changes our direction and one way or another; we have to go with it. My life back then, when I first learned of my son’s death,  felt more like two separate lives; the one before I lost Chad and the one afterwards; the latter, a place I didn’t want to live.  I wasn’t there with him, although I wanted to be in those first months-one of the legacies of suicide-and I wasn’t here with me either.

As I resisted feeling the pain of loss, my heart contracted causing me to feel separate and alone; all the while crying out, “Why God?”   I felt like I stood on the Platform of Limbo Station literally for years in some sort of time warp.  I was lost.  I wanted to catch the first train out of there but I really had no idea where to go or even how to buy a ticket.

In those first days, which turned into months, and then into years, I felt like a zombie. The busy-ness of life buzzed all around me but I couldn’t feel it.  The problem was I felt dead inside.  Even my friends laughed again when I felt sure I never would.   I could hear the voices of well meaning people trying to reach me – sooth me with platitudes that felt like bullets against my protective barrier of pain and shock.   Somehow, through it all, my body continued to put one foot in front of the other and to lift an occasional fork to my lips.

I was fortunate to have friends who were unrelenting in their care for me.  I continued to work, which was also a blessing in disguise.  I remember marveling at the fact that I was able to bring life and a smile to my voice when, in fact, I felt none in my heart.  Even though I was willing to seek help, believe me when I say, there were plenty of times I procrastinated, made excuses, and played victim.  Friends and family became weary and just wanted me to “get over it” and I became weary from the effort of trying to convince them that I had.

After seven years, I thought – HOPED – that I had already gone through the hard part of grieving the loss of my child.  Even now when my inner voice says, “Slow down” or when I feel pregnant with emotion and I just need a good cry; my first instinct is still to run.   I have learned the hard way that just because you kick and scream, experiencing all of the physical, mental and emotional symptoms of feeling helpless, anxious, irritable, angry, depressed, foggy, indecisive or apathetic for your own welfare, doesn’t mean that you have gone through ‘clean grief’.

If I Knew then what I know now

Even though grieving is an individual journey that few people will escape; like most learning experiences in life, everyone will find their own unique way of moving through it. Grieving just takes as long as it takes and going through this process is much like peeling away the layers of an onion. In this human experience, I find that we’re more alike than different even though we are wired in dissimilar ways mentally and emotionally, have our own coping abilities, our own unique relationship with our child, and diverse spiritual and support systems available to us.

This web site is now reaching people all over the world.  I feel your fear, confusion and frustration in the words with which you search this site and I know you are desperate for answers.  My desire is that I may help others travel through some of the roadblocks that keep us stuck in hardwired thought and emotional loops, repeating our song of suffering like an old scratched record.

I know that my answers won’t necessarily be your answers but my hope is that you will allow me to heal myself in serving you and that the words that come straight from my heart will provide honesty, comfort and faith so that you don’t have to feel so all alone in your journey.  Grieving for the loss of a child will not be the same for any of us but I’m hoping that I may offer some suggestions that will allow for the reinvigoration of your soul.

Coming Back from the Dead

 “If love has no boundaries, maybe I can reach you there, across that veil, in the swirling mist.  I’ve sought you in the crisp, inky night skies filled to the brim with magic diamond stars twinkling.  I can’t see you, even when I soften my gaze.  I breathe into my heart and listen intently to the quiet and hope desperately that I will hear your voice there.  My nerves are alert for the gentle wisp of your touch on my face.  I know your touch, different than before.  Is it real? How do I know it’s you?  With no time or space continuum, you are reachable but how do I find you?  You send signs, imprinting my mind so that I recognize them.  One moment I’m smiling and the next, the shadow of doubt crosses my heart.  You send stronger signs, crazy stuff that makes me laugh out loud in wonder.  I can almost hear you laughing with me.  I speak your name.  Then my mind shakes its head and tells me I’m gullible and desperate.”

———Sail———-

Nike Says
Nike Says

This video sent to me by Chad a few years ago is so indicative of how he lived his life.   Were the lyrics a coincidence?  I don’t think so!  I have no doubt that he’s still Sailing…just in a lighter body!


Jeb Corliss ” Grinding The Crack”
“Sail” by Awolnation

This is how I show my love
Made it in my mind because
Blame it on my ADD baby

This how an angel cries
Blame it on my own sick pride
Blame it on my ADD baby

Sail!

Maybe I should cry for help
Maybe I should kill myself
Blame it on my ADD baby

Maybe I’m a different breed
Maybe I’m not listening
Blame it on my ADD baby
Lalalala
Lalala
Sail!