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Breathe

I still have days where all I can do is assess the damage, look at the devastation and ruins around me. Sometimes I’m too tired to get up out of it. Things that used to be effortless for me still take hard work and concentration even after nearly 3 years. Please won’t You take the lead? Can’t You insist on prying the reigns from my hands? Just tell me what to do, where to go, what to think. I don’t want to make anymore decisions. Free will is overrated. I’m tired. I want to rest my mind. A respite. A reprieve. A day where I don’t cradle my head in my hands.

Suicide grief is complicated. Sometimes I wish I could adequately explain it. But that desire for others to understand it is just for my benefit. I can’t help but to wonder if my friends think I’m stuck in my grief. And I can’t have anyone thinking I’m not grieving perfectly can I? Geez – we take pride in the strangest flippin things. And I certainly can’t let anyone know how fulfilling it is to be serving others who are bereaved by suicide either. What would they think of me as a Mom?

I can understand why suicide rates are higher for those bereaved by a suicide loss. It’s complicated. Survivors need each other’s encouragement. It’s so flippin lonely sometimes.

Getting a notification today from FB that Drey Meine had tagged me in a picture was torture. Thanks spammer rayban idiot fucknut. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what I’m in the middle of – I’m thrust unexpectedly into facing this grief head-on. I go from happy and smiling to deep sorrow within seconds.

I cried – but this time not for me or you. 

I am not blessed with the gift of mercy. I’ve become more attentive and sensitive to others situations since you died – but still mercy is not my strong suit. 

So this evening as I find myself crying for a friend and a situation that has nothing to do with suicide, it feels foreign. I’ve done that very few times since you left. Finding myself wanting to comfort and make things better for someone other than myself is giving me a peaceful feeling. I love my friend.

So you and I live our lives separately now. You’re in heaven where there is no pain, no tears. I’m here with plenty of pain and tears. Is it okay with you that I’m learning to live again? That my tears aren’t always because I miss you?

Oh… Never mind. A movie just came on that’s pushing me back into the pain of you. Remember? We saw it in Cincinnati at your soccer tournament. It was nice to spend a whole weekend just the 2 of us. Everyone says that in time the memories will make me smile, not cry. Hmmm. Not so much. Not yet.

A suicide survivors vacation

Tomorrow I leave on a week-long vacation with a friend. I will rest. I will laugh. I will relax. But first I have to get there…

First I have to get out that suitcase. (The one with the Orlando tags on it from our last vacation). 

First I have to pack those travel-sized toiletries. (But try to ignore Drey written on one of the toothbrush handles).

First I have to go to the bank. (And use that same bank card I’ve used for years).

First I have to hear the engines roar, and feel the pressure as I’m pushed against the back of my seat at take off. (But try to forget the look on Drey’s three-year-old face on his first flight).

I have to try to forget the 18-year-old that slept on my shoulder on our last flight together. For Drey, I was his home. He slobbered on my shoulder while he slept. I was his safe space. Didn’t you know I was here with open arms and shoulders no matter what? Why couldn’t I save you?

I know I had plenty of happy times before you were born. So why can’t I just try really hard to focus on what made me happy back then? I’ve done it before so it’s only logical that I can do it again. If I could just live without the pain for one day. Suppress the memories of your life. Forget how you chose death. 

The stupid mind games I try to play with myself are pointless. Sometimes I have to experience the intensity of the pain. I have to cry it out. SCREAM it out. My son is dead. My son is still dead. 

God how I wish I could hold you.

Family vaca May 2012



49 and 3

My birthday. 

You’ve even tainted that. Which is damn hard to do because I’m a princess that loves attention. 

Each birthday is now a remembrance of how many years it’s been since you and ally surprised me with a cake.

The tears flow freely.

The confusion remains.

How was my love not enough to choose life?

I live. I take steps. This new life of police academy visits, sharing at twhs, and suicide scenes.

“What did you do in the war?”

“Before or after 8.8.12?” Those are very different answers. Very different times.

Priorities have been rearranged.

Pace is slower. 

Mercy is no longer a foreign spiritual gift.

Dependence is no longer weakness, it is strength.

House isn’t as clean. 

Bank account’s not as fat. 

Marriage is stronger. 

Vacation more often.

Pain deeper than I ever thought possible. Surely no suffering can be worse than this heartache, can it?

Don’t kid yourself Denise. Things could always be so much worse. Drey knew You. I am blessed. 

To hold you. To hear you laugh. To scratch your back.

Learning to live with the pain brings out a strength. 

And the strength brings joy. 

The joy fades and turns to quiet peace.

Peace that lives alongside the pain.

I have no choice. You took that from me.

Here I go again…

I wish I were just singing a Whitesnake song but that’s not the case…

I’ve decided being the leader of Cornerstone of Hope Grief Counseling Center is in conflict with my passion around suicide awareness advocacy… Specifically LOSS. When I accepted the position of ED at Cornerstone we thought it was clear how I’d support – how I’d lead – both organizations. But questions have been raised.

Better now than 6 months into the role, right? Whatever.

Unfortunately my self-talk platitudes aren’t helpful.

And now I’m reminded all over again that my son is dead. No – I didn’t forget. But something was happening with my grief when I joined Cornerstone. A purpose for the pain? in a visible way? In a worldly way perhaps?

But now I’m back to “just volunteering.” There’s far more to it than that… Anyone who’s talked to me about the LOSS team for more than 1 minute can clearly see my passion. But I guess I just need a day or a week or however long to be sad. Sad that things didn’t play out the way I thought they would. And sad that I’m even in this situation. My son is still dead.

Yesterday – the same day I resigned from Cornerstone – I received a thank you card from a Mom who’s child died by suicide. I was there with another volunteer that day as LOSS team volunteers. Feeling awkward. Answering her questions – the family’s questions. Not sure if our words were helpful. Quietly praying for God’s comfort. And now a thank you card from her that brought me to my knees. The timing of it. A thank you card on the day I resigned. On the day I choose to stick with LOSS. I’m humbled by this precious gift and I am confident that some day I’ll be able to share with this Mom the impact she had on me.

And still through all of it my son is dead. He is still dead. I am sad. I have self doubt. I doubt God. I doubt my ability to discern Gods will for my life. These doubts and feelings seem permanent – but they are not. It’s just for now. One foot in front of the other regardless of my feelings. But still, just damn.

Living with guilt after suicide

It’s year 3 and there are still no Christmas decorations. Robbie didnt take issue with it until last weekend. He announced that next year we will decorate. When I consider the idea of it I’m not sure which is more gut wrenching – seeing, experiencing, feeling memories that I haven’t faced yet or living with the guilt of celebrating any resemblance of a “normal” Christmas.

There are parts of my life that have continued forward. Actually I can say at this point most aspects have continued forward. Yes, with pain learning to coexist with joy, but still forward movement. But there are some things I am just not ready for – like Christmas decorations in my home. It wouldn’t even matter if they were all brand new. And fixing my car mirror hasn’t been an option either…

The day you died I drove like a maniac to get to you. I didn’t know you were already gone. When I “parked” my car I hit the neighbors mailbox with my passenger side mirror. I’m not sure you can call what I did “parking.” I’m pretty sure my feet hit the pavement before the car had stopped moving. That first winter Robbie would scrape the ice from the window for me so I wouldn’t have to be reminded of that day. I scrape it myself now but my breathing is heavy and self-talk is a necessity to get the task done. But I’m not ready to get it fixed. How could I? How could I just drop it off for a few hours, pay someone a few hundred bucks, then get back a new mirror – like nothing ever happened? That seems so wrong. I have no choice but to leave the mirror as it is. Why the hell do I feel that way? Because it connects me to you? Because I don’t deserve to have it repaired? It feels like my own personal scarlet letter. I’m not ashamed of you baby. I’ve not felt that way at all. I’m still prickly when someone even hints that they might be angry with you. I’m still mom and I’ll always protect you. My shame is my own. Why didn’t I know you were depressed? How could I have missed it? What kind of mom was I? I’m not God. I wasn’t a perfect mom. My human attempt at parenting was riddled with screw ups. But I didn’t have to be perfect. Christ paid the price for every single imperfection. I am living with this pain by the grace of God. And you are living in His presence by the grace of God. I miss you. I love you.

Lord Father God empower me to keep my eyes on You. I love You Lord.

For Such A Time As This

Hi honey. I think of you all the time but I don’t write as much as I used to. I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s the tears.

The LOSS team launched last month. It’s difficult to describe that experience. I hate that I’m there at a scene yet there’s nowhere else on earth I’d rather be. I hate that I’m qualified for this work yet I feel my life has more purpose and meaning than it ever has. The day you died… that indescribable horrible day… “For such a time as this.” I couldn’t get that bible scripture out of my mind. I’m still learning to live this new life. This life that in large part you choose for me. People say things like, “Drey would want you to be happy,” “Drey would want you to put up a Christmas tree” and so on. I frankly don’t give a shit what you would want, kiddo. Your choice not only set my life on a completely new trajectory but it also cut off any say you now get in how I move forward. The fact that you likely never intended for our family to be as devastated as we are is not something you have any say in. Your voice is gone. We’re left to pick up the pieces without you.

I start working part time on January 5th. I’ll be the Executive Director at Cornerstone of Hope Grief Counseling Center. I never imagined I’d be so passionate about something… I never imagined my passion and ministry would merge and they’d then become a career. Between LOSS and Cornerstone I’m quite busy doing something I love. Someone suggested that God calls on us to be good stewards with all our resources – and that includes our pain. For me being a good steward of this pain means having a voice for the bereaved when they can’t speak, only groan. It means helping them grieve in whatever way works for them. It means journeying together as we discover how to integrate this pain into our lives. This journey includes a lot of tears but it also includes learning to laugh again.

I think of you all the time. You may not have an audible voice in my daily decisions anymore but your final choice screamed loudly enough to last a lifetime.

So Merry Christmas, Drey. You are the love of my life whom I still delight in. And, well, you suck.

My selfish self

I don’t ever recall feeling as misunderstood as I do today.
Or more accurately stated… I don’t ever recall feeling such a need to be understood.

I’m tired of it. Thinking about myself, my life, how to integrate my boys life – and death – into my “new normal.” On the surface of this exhaustion I scream out to God and ask, “why can’t I be the old me?” But when I give it more than a few seconds of thought I know I’d never want to be “the old me.” Drey’s gone. And for me the hardest part about it is that he choose this. How could this not change a parent?

I don’t want to feel a need to explain myself. My mood swings, my desire – at times – for isolation, my intolerance towards selfish agendas – including my own, my joy. Yes, joy I experience over things that never brought me joy before. Joy I can’t put into words. Joy that satan tries to strip away by reminding me that the people closest to me can’t fully understand how I feel and that somehow that means I’m alone or that I can never have the same closeness I used to experience with them. Joy because I’m meeting new friends who I feel a bond with quickly. A desire to hear about them, who they lost, what kind of support they need. A concern for others I’ve never experienced before. This brings me indescribable joy!

And and and…
A deeper awareness of how black my heart is. Yes. Yes I feel more dependent on God than I ever have. Yes it is because of my son’s death. But it’s much more than that. This even deeper dependence on my savior has come about because somehow in spite of the most tragic event of my life I still try to do things my own way apart from God. If the violent suicide of my only child was not enough to once and for all force me to my knees, consistently humbled and dependent on God, NOTHING apart from Christ’s death and resurrection will free me from my selfish self. NOTHING.

The 3rd Halloween already?

Wow… this is the 3rd Halloween without you baby. That just doesn’t seem possible.

I have dozens of Halloween memories…

Last year was nice – Robbie & I sitting out on the front porch passing out candy. I was more prepared than I had been the previous year…

2012 Robbie came home from work and found me on the kitchen floor holding a large bowl of candy. I was crying. The doorbell was ringing. I wanted to die. How silly of me to think less than 3 months after your death I could look at cute little trick or treaters.

I don’t remember which Halloween was what. But I remember you smashed pumpkins and when I found out I made you go back, clean it up and apologize to the home owners. Do you remember the woman with the arm in a sling? After you apologized we got back in the car and I asked how you were. You said you felt bad because you didn’t know she’d be “elderly.” It was very sweet. I remember you being the grim reaper, the Scream dude, a ninja – 2 years, right? A kangaroo (okay – you were just 2 then), an Indian (aka Native American), a knight, a firefighter, what else was there baby? Surely you were a Mario brother at some point weren’t you? Or Pikachu? I hate that I can’t remember. It makes me feel like a shitty Mom. Some memories are supposed to be locked in… and since you died I HAVE to lock them all in. They have to be safe and secure and immediately available when needed because there won’t be anymore. I have to replay the same ones over and over. Just 19 years worth. I’ll be 80 and you’ll still be 19. I’ll still just have the same stupid memories. I want new ones but you’re gone. I want new ones but I’m not ready to look at pictures and remember.

Does Jesus tell you I love you? I miss you? Sometimes I ask Him to tell you that. Sometimes it’s peaceful knowing you and I can both talk to Him. We still have that. We always will. But sometimes even that doesn’t help the pain. So I cry it out until I get that sickening headache to match the heartache while I ask all the “why” questions over and over. I replay our last lunch, our last conversation, the last back rub I gave you, the last pair of shoes you talked me into helping you pay for. What didn’t I see? What didn’t I say? How could you have been in so much pain and I didn’t know? What the hell Drey? I put you ahead of everything – Robbie and even God. How could you not have known that? I flippin delighted in you. Maybe you did know that but it didn’t matter. There are no answers. But sometimes I still have to ask all the questions till I exhaust myself and fall asleep.

Lord I pray for all my grieving friends tonight. Lord help us rest in You.

Insensitive

Sometimes the pain is hard to bear.
I’m very tired tonight.
This blog is for me. I share it for other survivors to read and hopefully interact with it. I have to remind myself of that… That I shouldn’t hold back because everyone that knows me will worry about me.

Friends sometimes say things that seem insensitive. I’ve been learning to forbear. I’ve been learning to be more realistic. I am blessed to be surrounded by so many loving people. How can they always know what the right (“right?” According to whom? Me apparently) thing to say is and more importantly what not to say? Their only child is not dead. How could they know? And even if their child was dead how could they know? The world does not revolve around me. Everyone is different. Everyone. They have their lens they view the world through. I have mine. Mine is no more right than theirs is wrong. So how do we get along? How do I respond? I can think of plenty of partial scripture verses that help answer that. I’m too tired to search for them in order to make them complete but I can let You lovingly challenge me nonetheless…

Let us regard others as more important than ourselves.
Banging (or is it clanging?) cymbals… All those gifts that mean nothing without love.
Jesus washing the disciples feet.
Bear one another’s burdens.
Encourage one another, forgive one another, serve one another… Lots of “one another’s.”
God told Job to pray for his lame ass friends. (Perhaps to keep his heart from becoming bitter towards them?)

I want to be free from all these rules I live by and I expect others to live by. The rules are an ongoing dialogue all on their own pinging around in my mind. Sometimes I’m not even aware of them until one is broken. It’s been like this to varying degrees for as long as I can remember. A new layer of complexity was added when Drey died. Now there’s the frequent dialogue that assesses if I’m grieving “right” or if my friends are supporting me “properly.” “How could they say something so insensitive. Don’t they know how they’re making ME feel?!”

I am so eager to pass moral judgement on every decision, action or comment. Why is everything always right or wrong? How sweet it’d be to just embrace some things simply as they are without giving them a pass or fail grade.

My friend was not deliberately trying to be hurtful. And I am not “wrong” for being hurt.