Robbie

It’s hard to be a stepdad when your wife’s child died. But I can’t help but to wonder if it’s even harder to be a loving husband.
Last week, about a week before we were scheduled to leave for a Hocking Hills Christmas, I was feeling down. It doesn’t matter how many years it’s been. Drey’s my boy. There’s a Drey-sized hole in my heart and nothing can fill it.
I told Robbie I was feeling anxious about Christmas this year. He muted the TV and looked at me. I told him I was sad – more sad than the past few Christmas’s – and I was afraid I was going to cry while we were gone. My husband is a thinker… he doesn’t usually just spit out a response. But this time he did. He looked at me quizzically and said, “So?” I couldn’t have asked for a more loving response.
I can’t fully understand what it’s like to walk in his shoes. I just know what it’s like to be the recipient of his ongoing gentleness and his unselfish love. 
Robbie has stood by me, held my hand, sat in silence, and on occasion he’s cried with me over these past several years. He’s never expressed that he was tired of me or tired of that look I’d have on my face as I watched him come in the back door from work. He’s never gotten frustrated when my light hearted laughter quickly turned to silence after a song, a word, or a smell sent me into a sudden abyss of sorrow.
Doing “normal” things felt wrong on every level after Drey died. Time was standing still for me. I wanted a do-over so bad. I didn’t want to move forward. The first time we were intimate after Drey had died, Robbie held me while I sobbed. (No… the sex wasn’t bad. Just sayin). I cried out to God often – in ALL circumstances. I cried until I gagged. Robbie was able to stand by me and make me feel safe – in ALL circumstances. He didn’t try to fix me. He knew there were no words. He knew he was helpless to make things better.
We would go out to eat and I would have my head down the entire time. I would cry through the meal. He sat silently – no doubt praying without ceasing – again and again. He sat in sorrow with me.
Robbie patiently supported me even as I was drawn to grieve with Drey’s dad. We spent our wedding anniversary driving all day to attend my ex’s dads funeral. Robbie never complained.
Robbie navigated caring for David  – we shared custody – after Drey died. David was just 13. Should he spend more time at his Moms or is it good for him to be around us even though I couldn’t stop crying? How could he best show his love and concern for David in front of me when I didn’t have Drey any more? How was Robbie going to be part of important events when I couldn’t bear to step foot in the school – the same school Drey had attended? He took David on a vacation – just the two of them. He attended football games and concerts alone. He attended David’s graduation with a friend from home church – not with me. He was never angry with me for not going. He was and still is so gentle with me.
So while I sit here in Hocking Hills on this strangely warm Christmas Day thinking of past Christmas’s, I’m also thanking God for Robbie. I thank God for caring for me through him. I don’t know how he does it – continues to care for me so patiently and unselfishly. I am truly blessed. I love you Robbie. Merry Christmas.

Somethings gotta change

I read the news today. It happened a while ago but I wouldn’t have known. Broken relationships. Shit decisions. Selfishness. That picture of the 3 of you – so precious. Now 2 of you are gone. It’s wrong.

I’m angry. Angry at this world. Angry that we value money, possessions, personal comfort, pets, and dozens of other things above relationships. Relationships with hurting people – even with our own family. “I deserve _____” is our mantra. I deserve personal peace. I deserve to be appreciated. I deserve that new home. I deserve to be respected. And on and on it goes. People are hurting all around us. People are dying for Gods sake! Is there nothing that can break our selfishness?

God I feel so helpless. I don’t want to spend another 30 years in this broken world. Somethings gotta change, right? I know You’re loving, I know You’re present, but it feels really shitty right now. God please give me wisdom, perseverance, and an eternal perspective. Empower me to value others more than myself. Humble me. Teach me. I want my life to count. I want to be exhausted when I get to the finish line. I want give away every good thing You’ve given me to give. This isn’t heaven. God help me to remember that more consistently. You told us there would be suffering and trials so why am I surprised?

“… in the world you will have tribulations. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

You’re all that matters.

https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/die-to-yourself-without-losing-yourself

Suicide Prevention in Youth

I’m not sure how long it’ll take to figure out or how effective it’ll be but it’s encouraging to read about the possibility of predicting suicide in youth. Think about it. Thousands of 15-24 year olds are dying by suicide every year. Even the slightest increase in predictability could save hundreds.

When I read this article I thought about how Drey used his phone to communicate his thoughts, his goodbyes, an argument with a friend, and so on in his last hours. My stomach still twists into knots.

It’s amazing how excited I get about advancements being made while simultaneously feeling devastated these came too late for Drey. I suppose anyone who has lost a loved one can relate to that. So many new advancements in treating cancer, heart disease, etc. On average people born in the early 1900’s didn’t make it to the age of 50. Now we’re living well into our 80’s and longer.

I don’t know. Maybe what’s frustrating is how there’s still stigma around suicide. Many people still believe that someone who kills themselves is selfish, taking the easy way out, and that they had a choice. “Choice.” I’m sure some people who die by suicide did make a “choice.” But most are experiencing huge feelings of hopelessness and despair. And they don’t believe it’ll ever change. Suicide is the only way of ending their pain and relieving their friends & family of the perceived burden they think they’ve become. It doesn’t take much digging to find this kind of thinking. My anger shoots from 0 to 10 in a heartbeat. I’ve learned to steer clear of online comments that are posted in response to a suicide.

Thankfully I can make choices. Not just a choice to live but a choice about what I think about. I don’t take that for granted. My emotions carried me 100% of the time in the first few years after Drey died. It’s nice to be able to chose what I think about again. Freedom, joy, peace.

Doubt and doubt

I’ve been too busy with my life to spend consistent time with God in the morning. I say that sarcastically and with shame. Nothing is more important than prioritizing time with the lover of my soul. When did I become so awesome and strong that I didn’t need His strength and direction? I know the shame I feel isn’t from Him. But you can know a thing and not feel it.

I have a presentation in a few weeks that is, well, simply humbling and unreal that I’d be considered for. I don’t have a bunch of letters after my name – what do I have to share or even teach these professionals? I knew when I was asked to do this it was from God. I knew all along it would bring me back to my knees in dependence on Him. I’m grateful but I’m fearful too.

I’m fearful that because I’ve hardly prayed about this presentation, because I haven’t given Him enough thanks, because in my arrogance I’ve prepared the presentation on my own – that I’ll fail. I’ll be exposed for the fraud that I am. God plans to teach me a huge lesson in humility in front of everyone.

I know in my head this isn’t true. God’s motivations aren’t twisted like mine can be. He loves so deeply. And most importantly I know that if I do “fail” – He’ll use that for good! But the knots in my stomach are yelling louder than this knowledge in my head about who God is.

How did suicide stuff become my career? Am I “using” my son’s death for my own gain? Where the hell are these thoughts coming from?

I believe these next few weeks leading up to to this presentation are going to be insightful and I pray they’ll lead to deeper intimacy with my Father. I pray I will continue to learn the importance of depending on God every day. But if I didn’t learn this after Drey died… if I went back to my old ways of telling God, “I got this,” what will ever break my prideful self? It’s good to feel my brokenness on a deep level. Good but scary. But perfect love casts out fear, right? Breathe. Just breathe.

 

Being Present to Others

 

Seven years, 11 days and five hours. That’s how long I’ve lived without Drey’s physical presence. I spent a lot of time reflecting at the five and a half year mark and I’m finding myself revisiting these same thoughts. I re-read some of my blogs and I have been more deliberate and mindful as I have faced “mile markers.”

Last year LOSS hosted a CALM (Counseling on Access to Lethal Means) train the trainer workshop. That was a mile marker for me. I took that exact training in the Fall of 2015. It had been just over three years since Drey had died. I do not remember what I learned. Some things are vaguely familiar – like asking for my group’s role play to involve something – anything – other than a firearm scenario. Apart from this I remember very little. Clearly there has been continued healing, but unless I deliberately reflect on this I miss it. I miss the slow, steady movement from surviving to thriving.

Without taking time to occasionally reflect on these past grieving years, I also miss out on opportunities to be more present to others. My desire is to be mindful of each survivor and where they are in their journey. I don’t believe I’m naturally an overly empathetic person. I’m too busy much of the time doing who knows what. So unless I take the time to deliberately reflect on how God has brought me through these past seven+ years, I miss opportunities to be fully present to other suicide loss survivors.

Slow down. Breathe, love, laugh. Be content by simply being and not doing. Find joy in longer than planned on conversations. Take time to discover and even marvel over the courage and healing newfound friends are experiencing. Celebrate special occasions. Laugh together. Cry together. There are still blessings in every single day. Thank You God.

Fighting for Joy

I don’t call it my grief journey anymore – it’s just life. I guess I’ve sort of settled into that. Or I’m at least trying it on for now.

I miss Drey but now I’m not sure what I miss. I mean… I miss what was but what should’ve been continues to be further out of reach. Would he be married? Where would he be working? Would he still be living in Columbus? Would he still be solid muscle or would he be sportin a belly yet? How can I miss what I don’t know. Instead I miss my 19 year old dude.

In learning how to simply live again, the fight to not feel sorry for myself can sometimes be an uphill battle. True confessions: “what’s the point?” goes through my mind just as often now as it did in 2012/2013. I’m sick of just getting by. I want joy. Real Godly joy.

Fighting for joy. It’s a theme in my life right now. Praise God He’s been chipping away at my hardened heart.

Currently my fave Christian song is Joy by King and County. Give it a listen.

The book I’m currently reading is When I Don’t Desire God: How To Fight for Joy by John Piper.

I know there’s nothing unique about what I’m feeling. Many of us go down this path at different points in life. “This world is ugly, what difference am I even making?” But I don’t think we have to stay there. I truly believe God wants more for us.

I pray that I would desire You God more. That I would feel the tension of real joy that has nothing to do with my circumstances and fleeting happiness that this world cannot sustain. I know if I’m not actively feeding myself quality time with You then I won’t experience joy. I have to choose against being busy with unimportant things, binging on Netflix (Dark Shadows is the current obsession), and apps (Simons Cat game is the current addiction). I also have to actively fight against “I deserve” thinking and chose joy.

I’m smiling. Lord Jesus thank You for loving me!

The Last Dance, The Best Laugh

I completed my certification in death and grief studies in 2016. Now I’m studying to become a certified Thanatologist. Whatever I do I go full steam ahead – I’m not always sure why.  But at least I’m consistent. So there’s that.

I’m studying tonight about funerals and body disposition (good times) and as I’m reading I can “feel” the picture on the wall behind me. I don’t want to look at it, I’ll cry. I just want to finish my studies. But I know it’s there. Me and Drey at Discovery Cove in Orlando under a waterfall laughing. He was 9. That was such an amazing vacation. One of my favorites – just me and my dude for a week doing whatever we wanted. We laughed so much that week. These are precious memories but they can still be bittersweet. My mind still goes to the dreaded, “when did things go wrong?” question. “What did I miss? Baby, I thought you were happy. When did it change? When you were 10, 13, 18?” There’s no answer to that question other than the Lord patiently and lovingly saying to my soul, “do you trust Me?” Always the same question I get in response to my questions. Yes, Lord, I trust You. I am confidant You loved and continue to love Drey more than I ever could. So much so that You came to earth – the perfect man God – to die for him. Even if it were just him that needed to be saved You still would’ve done it. You love him that much.

Study, study, study… “Linking objects” – any physical object or image that serves to connect a mourner in a comforting or constructive way with a deceased loved one. Some writers express the view that linking objects are a “chain” that should be broken. WHAT? Morons that think they are “grief experts” saying it’s not healthy to have linking objects. Others say, “…the use of linking objects in remembrance rituals can help individuals move from  maladaptive to an adaptive style of grieving. In effect, it is a form of directive mourning therapy that allows grieving survivors to take symbolic leave of the deceased.” If someone asked me how I was doing after Drey died I wish I could’ve told them I was embracing a directive mourning therapy using a linking object to take a symbolic leave of Drey. That’s just funny imagining the looks I would’ve gotten with that comment.

Okay… I made it through my reading. Now I can look at the picture that’s been “staring” at the back of my head the past few hours…

Look at that dude. We were so happy and carefree. What a great vacation. My heart. God how I love you Drey.

Denise & Drey Discovery Cove 2003

The Last Dance, The Best Laugh