Tag Archive | gratitude

Prom, Pain and Peace

I trace the outline of your face in your prom picture. There’s a pic I remember from that day… Of you and me. I’m looking at you with overflowing pride and joy. You in your tux and me in my Mickey Mouse tee shirt from our last vaca. I’d like to see that pic but it’s with so many other memories that I can’t unpack yet.

God what happened? What the hell happened? That was a happy day. How’d we go from that to such intense pain? One decision. One phone call. One instant and it was gone. Life as I knew it was over.

Jesus God give me the strength, hope, wisdom and courage to fight till the finish. To perservere. To experience joy with gratitude. To praise You continually. Thank You for all I’ve learned and continue to learn about You since Drey died. I have faith and hope like I’ve never experienced before. Even when – especially when – I have mornings like this. The peace that overcomes me as I write, read, cry and rest is unexplainable. I know I’m a walking miracle and I say that in awe of You. You are God. I’m just a person. David wrote, “…to know that You are mindful of man…” I get slivers of understanding the awe and overwhelming gratitude and humility David may have been feeling when he wrote these words. And You preserved those words for such a time as this. Holy shit! I can’t help myself! Even in my deepest sorrow I must also praise You! And I know this desire to praise You is coming from You – not me – and that makes me want to praise You all the more! God I bask in these moments when You turn my deepest wails into peaceful tears of gratitude! 


Be grateful for today

Happy celebration with friends! Ed & Sue 20 year anniversary!

Happy celebration with friends! Ed & Sue 20 year anniversary!

I was visiting a friend last week and she shared this picture with me. It was from her and her husbands 20th wedding anniversary.  My immediate reaction was sorrow…

“Oh look – I was so happy.”

I immediately started calculating in my mind how old Drey was when it was taken – cuz that’s the lens life is still viewed through. He was 13.

13. Was I a good mom then? I look stress-free. Is that an indication I was a good mom?

Life was so much easier then. Ed was alive. Drey was alive. We were all so happy to be with our friends celebrating this special renewing of Ed and Sue’s wedding vows. Ed had once again set the standard very high for all the other husbands!

As I look at the picture again this morning I can see it through a different lens… Was I feeling especially grateful when Drey was 13 or was I complaining about his attitude? Was I grateful for all those wonderful friends around me? Was I grateful for Ed? Was I grateful for my job or was I feeling unappreciated – struggling to find “balance” in my life? Did I have any clue how massively different life could look just a handful of years later?

I am moving into an office space today. LOSS has outgrown my dining room. I will take pictures. It’s a big day after all! I can be grateful for today. Grateful for the blessings God has continued to pour out on me. Grateful for my wonderful family, friends and amazing husband. Grateful for the love God has given me for other people. Grateful for our dogs, our wonderful Franklinton home. Grateful for heaven.

I’m sure I was grateful for a variety of things before Drey died. But when I get my focus where it should be I’m certain that gratitude pales in comparison to today’s. I am sad. Nothing can fill the Drey sized hole in my heart on this side of heaven. But I’m also blessed to have been to the school suffering. I will see you again, baby boy. I love you. ❤️

This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

Outreach to survivors of a suicide loss.

Vaca was wonderful last week. A sweet time to enjoy good food, the ocean and a super slow pace. I knew I was coming home to a busy week. Busy from a time commitment perspective but also emotionally busy. I’ve taken steps to prepare. I’ve gotten up early to talk and listen to God in spite of the required hour for rising. I used to get up at 5:30 regularly. That seems like a very long time ago. Most mornings are harder now. We all wear our grief differently. Maybe if my son hadn’t taken his life in the morning they wouldn’t be as hard? Who knows. It doesn’t really matter now.

Yesterday was national suicide prevention day. I did nothing to recognize it in spite of its importance. And that’s ok. It doesn’t mean I’ve “moved on” or don’t do other things to honor Drey (she says silently reassuring herself). One person can only do so much in a week.

Over the last 3 days I’ve met amazing people. People who are dedicated to serving others. And unlike last years LOSS conference I couldn’t easily divide the attendees into 2 general groups. The first being the clinicians and the second being survivors of a suicide loss. The lines were more blurry for me. But someone made a comment towards the end of the conference mentioning they could see 2 separate audiences – so the makeup of the group wasn’t different this year. I just wasn’t as aware – I wasn’t as sensitive to it. This is God at work In a miraculous way! For me to not take notice of the clinicians unique language, questions, or approach is a miracle. I’m not the prickly survivor I was last year. The survivor that was irritated by their textbook knowledge but lack of personal traumatic experience. My quills are smooth and controlled along my body now.

All signs point to the Franklin County LOSS team launching very soon. I am guilty of continually looking forward at what we haven’t yet done instead of celebrating how far we’ve come. We started this work just one year ago – and now we’re about ready to launch. Wow. I never could’ve imagined it as I walked into last years conference not knowing a single person. God has opened so many doors and has given me the strength and wisdom to be obedient and walk through them.

So this September I once again won’t collect that big, fat bonus I used to get as a result of all the hard work through the year at marketing, leading and serving customers. Instead this September I’ve collected a team of amazing, sacrificial people who have raised their hand and said, “Yes. I want to help people who are facing a tragic loss to suicide. I can sit with them in silence. I can give them resources to leverage when they’re ready. I can even cry with them. I want them to know they are not alone.” I am grateful to this team of volunteers. Survivors, clinicians, hotline volunteers. We are all so different but share the same passion. It will be amazing to see what unfolds over the next year. And maybe maybe maybe some day soon there will be no need for a LOSS team.

So many sacrifices I’m grateful for

So many people have made sacrifices in the spirit of helping me emotionally since Drey died. I wonder if other survivors of a suicide loss have had the same experience. Everyone’s situation is unique…. I have a stepson. My husband is Drey’s stepdad. Just today he got David up at 6:00 a.m. to go to band practice. No – practice isn’t that early. But both Robbie and David know it’s too much for me emotionally to take David to band this “anniversary” week because practice is at the high school. So many memories and triggers. So they don’t even ask me. They just know.

The changes in our movie and tv routines. Perhaps small in others eyes – but are a big deal to me.

The first time the three of us went to the zoo together. I had to stop, sit on a bench, and just sob several times. David had just turned 14 but even then he was able to just sit there until I was ready to start walking again.

The sacrifices my friends and my parents have made are numerous too. I’m not even aware of most of the sacrifices. And knowing that I don’t know makes me feel that much more loved. I hope I could be as giving as my friends and family are and continue to be.

So for now, the 2 year anniversary of my son’s last day of life, I am feeling blessed and grateful. Even if only for the hour.


Lessons from my first Mother’s Day as a bereaved Mom.

Well here I am already…. My second Mother’s Day since Drey died. I’m grateful for how fast time seems to be flying by. Every day brings me closer to seeing him again.

Everyone handles grief their own unique way. Sometimes I hear people say Mother’s Day makes them sad because their Mom or child is gone. And they try not to think about it – they try to stay busy. Others can’t get out of bed. Others do something that reminds them of their loved one. And others don’t put any kind of forethought into how they’ll spend the day. That was me last year… Robbie and I didn’t decide what to do until that morning. We were having breakfast with a close friend – who has also lost a son – and he asked what our plan was for the day. “Uh – we don’t have one.” “Well you need one. And it needs to be something you haven’t done in the past for Mother’s Day. You need to create a new memory.” John is direct like that. He just tells you how it is. So we decided we would go to the zoo.

Lesson #1: have a plan. Even if that plan is to pull the covers over your head.

Lesson #2: have a second plan (thank you Connie). Options are important especially during intense periods of grief. Have a friend or family member on “stand by.” “You know, I thought I wanted to be alone today but now I just really need to get out of the house. Let’s grab lunch.”

Lesson #3: consider who you’ll be around when deciding on your plan. The zoo for year one was not our best choice. There were Mom’s and children everywhere.

Lesson #4 didn’t arrive until Father’s Day… Drey is/was my only child. Robbie is Drey’s stepdad and Robbie has a son, David. So when Father’s Day arrived and the typical, “where would Robbie like to go to dinner” questions bubbled up in my mind I got pissed. Like REAL pissed. Not at Robbie. The same reality was hitting him at the same time…. Am I supposed to make sure he gets a card, dinner or a gift like always? So he still gets to celebrate but because my son is dead I don’t? We try to just shove Mother’s Day out of our minds? Gross! Screw that! Not only am I still a Mom – but quite frankly I am surviving the unimaginable as a Mom! That makes me a badass Mom! We will not ignore Mother’s Day next year!

Lesson #5: whatever works one year may not work the next. Grief is complicated and special days may bring out a different flood of emotions from one year to the next. Just because for this year – year 2 without Drey – I want to be known as a Mom doesn’t mean I won’t want to bury my head in the sand next year. That response is NOT a set-back. It just is what it is.

Lesson #6: be grateful and acknowledge you are grateful as soon as you are able. It’s hard to be grateful when you’ve suffered a tragic loss. And if anyone mentioned that I still had a lot to be thankful for they’d get the “don’t make me hurt you” glare. Learning to be grateful was and still is a private lesson that no one but God could help me with. I don’t remember if I called my Mom and wished her a Happy Mother’s Day last year. I’m sure I did… But honestly the day is a blur. I love my Mom dearly. I am grateful for her every day – including Mother’s Day. Her selfless love and concern for me is indescribable. I am blessed.

I got “caught” staring at a dude in a wheelchair…

I was at Panera recently. Hell I’m always at Panera recently. My mind was drifting as I casually scanned the restaurant. My eyes landed on a dude in a wheelchair. Young guy – maybe in his 30’s. I pondered the challenges he may regularly face and I quickly considered him very blessed. Like uber blessed!

I’m learning some of us are “blessed” enough to live with something very wrong, very tragic in the worlds eyes – and in our eyes. And if God has had His way with us we are also blessed enough to know eternity with Him will be unimaginably amazing. So the grid we view this life through is different from others…

Sometimes the view from where I am leaves me irritable and judgmental towards others and their so called “pain” (apparently I am now the queen of pain and can judge whether your response to your circumstances is justified or not!?). But other times the view from where I am gives me more compassion towards others. Yes, sometimes this view even frees me up to be more others-centered. The view from where I now am has set me free. I can be bold and move towards others – in love (or in harshness – yikes!) in a way I couldn’t before… Without fear of rejection heavily skewing my decision to speak or not.

So does the dude in the wheelchair feel “blessed?” “Blessed” to have been given this challenge because of the person it’s shaped him into? Do I feel “blessed” by what I’ve been through and am still going through? Ugh. No, of course not. That’s so flippin gross. But I can feel “blessed” by how God is transforming me, right? That’s not gross is it? As I’m pondering these thoughts the chick sitting with the dude in the wheelchair gives me a dirty look. I’ve been staring at him this whole time…

Grateful to meet Plumb

Grieving the death of my boy has been and continues to be indescribable.  And through the depths of this despair I have found God continually.  Loving me, comforting me, crying with me.  I’ve found Him through His Word, through friends, through running, through music. Plumb’s song Need You Now came out just after Drey had died. I’ve sobbed and belted out that song repeatedly. In my car, in the bathtub, everywhere. It is healing.
It’s helped me to be able to tell people how much they’ve helped me during this difficult 17 months and 13 days. In the depths of my pain I’ve also experienced a sense of gratitude that is so precious. Grateful to God for all of His provisions in the midst of this pain (I’ll save that for another blog). Grateful to my Mom and Dad for loving me, hurting with me, letting me stay with them and vacation with them. Grateful to my husband for his love and patience. Grateful to Drey’s friends who hurt and miss him and take the time to share that with me.
And last weekend I got to tell Plumb how healing her music has been for me. This picture shows her and one of her band members listening to me tell them about Drey, sharing a card with my blog on it, and showing them my tattoo of his name. Plumb was so kind to ask me questions about Drey. Thank you Plumb. For sharing your talent and the inspiration behind your lyrics. ❤
Got to tell Plumb how healing her music has been for me.



You look so sad.

“You look so sad.”
Do you say that because you don’t think I should be sad anymore? Perhaps you’re judging my grief?
Do you say that because you want to let me know you notice, you care? And you just don’t know what else to say?
Yes, I’m sad. The emptiness that’s left where my baby’s ornery laughter used to be will be with me until I’m in heaven. And sometimes the emptiness is on the surface for others to see.
But don’t tell me, “you look so sad.” It just isn’t helpful. I fight every day against thoughts that say no one wants me around because it’s too hard to see me. It’s too heavy to be around me and be reminded of the great loss. To be forced to consider “how would I handle it if it were my child?” I see the looks on peoples faces. And I know who avoids me. I can’t make it ok for you. That’s not my job.
It is my job to fight for gratitude. And when the bad thoughts form in my mind it is my job to tell satan to f-off. It is my job to surround myself with family and friends that recognize I’m in the fight and encourage me.
It’s not your job to say the perfect thing. It isn’t your job to always get it right.
It is my job to learn to forebear.
It is my job to say, “That was hurtful. That was hard to hear.”
Can you handle it?
These things are my job because I want them to be. Not because I have no choice. I have a choice. I choose gratitude over bitterness.

Gratitude without guilt.

Journal from last year – October 27 2012:

I’m here at Cherry Valley Lodge with Robbie.  I had what I think is an anxiety attack this morning.  I miss you so, so much.  It began with remembering the 2nd grade field trip with Mrs. Morse to High Banks Park.  It was in the fall.  On the trail we saw the guts of some small animal – maybe a rodent of some sort.  Everyone was so fascinated.  I enjoyed going on your field trips.

Sometimes I think I’ll die from this pain.  How can someone carry this depth of pain day after day, week after week, and now month after month?

Can you see me, baby?  Can you hear me?  How can I live this life without you?  I view everything through you.  Memories don’t bring me comfort or joy.  They ache.  They bring tears.  When will that change?  Will there come a time when I look back on this journal?  What will I feel then?  What will I feel when I look back on this Cherry Valley Lodge weekend?  Will I wonder how I’ve survived?  Will I still be in the same depth of pain?  Will God use me somehow?  Will I experience peace in knowing God is redeeming this horrible thing and I’m playing a role in it?

Today:  I haven’t had a panic attack – or whatever I should call it – in about a month now.   I want to be grateful for the decreased frequency in panic attacks.  I want to be grateful that I don’t sob every day anymore.   But it’s hard to allow myself to feel grateful for God’s slow but tender hands of healing.  What kind of Mom am I if I’m feeling grateful for my life?   Some have said, “Drey would want you to be happy.”  Maybe.  But it doesn’t really matter because he’s not here.   

I remember last summer a motorcycle driven by a young man came flyin up on my butt when I was driving on 315.  I got out of his way and he sped by.  “At least I don’t have to worry about that anymore.”  Oh My God.  I couldn’t believe that was really the thought that popped into my head?!   Then I beat myself up in a major way… “Yea – lucky you.  Your son’s already dead so you don’t have to worry about him getting in a motorcycle accident.  How sick, Denise.  What kind of Mom are you?  Did you even love him?” 

I feel like there’s a war going on inside myself… there’s part of me that feels amazingly blessed and can rattle off so many reasons why I am blessed.  I’ll see my son again, I have a wonderful husband, I love my family,  I love my friends, I love God more than I ever have, I’m not paralyzed by pain anymore, I can spend time doing what I want to do rather than worrying about bringing home money for our living expenses, I’ve met so many people who are suicide survivors and am grateful for each them.  Then there’s part of me that’s disgusted with myself for not being crumbled up in a pile like I was last year.  Learning to live with Drey’s death is very hard.  It’s taking a long time to integrate this loss into my life, my circumstances, my being.

God tells us to be joyful in all circumstances.  To be continuously thankful.

What am I afraid of?  Why can’t I let myself be a little joyful and grateful without wanting to just die of shame for feeling that way?  Because I’ll forget Drey?  Because people will assume I’m “over it” and won’t pray and care for me the way they have been.  Because people will think I’m a freak because one day I’ll be joyful and the next I’ll be crying – so it’s best to keep the mood swings to myself.  Because people will think I must not have loved Drey – at least not as much as they love their children because they can’t fathom ever smiling again after their child died.   Somehow in my little world I’ve assumed everyone is watching me and drawing conclusions about how I’m handling things.  Because apparently I’m the most interesting person in the world?? 

God please help me to live before You and only You.  My audience of One.  Help me to live just today without concern for how I’ll be feeling or what mood I’ll be in tomorrow.  Teach me to direct my thoughts towards others.  My needs are met in You.  You have shown me that in miraculous ways this past year especially.  The fact that I’m still alive is a miracle!  I want to overflow with the love You’ve given me.  Overflow into the lives of others without regard for myself because You promise to continually love me, delight in me.

Teach me.