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.
So many movies and tv shows reference suicide – either as a storyline or in casual conversation. There are conversations at work, with friends, even in public with strangers inappropriate things are said. Social media, songs, you name it. We’ve even heard comments in church. The comments are everywhere. “I have the worse migraine ever. I want to jump off a bridge.” “If I have to do that one more time I’m going to off myself.” “If I hear her say that again I’ll kill myself.” It’s especially lovely (I say with sarcasm dripping off each word in the sentence) when someone holds a pretend gun to their head and shoots themselves. Jesus, really? That just happened to me last week during a conversation. Do you understand where my mind goes when you do that? I know, I know. They just weren’t thinking. They didn’t mean to be hurtful. I get that, truly. But that doesn’t change the impact it has on me.
In the beginning I didn’t know how I thought about these comments because I was too consumed with trying not to puke. Then I started to get angry – with myself. I thought I had to toughen up. Then I started to get angry – with everyone else. I thought they were being insensitive. I remember the first time I took a stand – it wasn’t pretty but in hindsight it was what I needed. I was at work and a customer had donated a bunch of clothes for the teen mom babies. Before I unloaded all of them in the teen mom room I asked someone where the Director was keeping the clothes these days. Before answering my question the person said “She will probably want to shoot herself in the head.” She knew my circumstances… But that wasn’t on her mind when she said this to me. That day, that comment, I didn’t hesitate: “That’s the cruelest thing you could ever say to me.” She immediately burst into tears and apologized profusely. I felt bad for her. I knew full well she didn’t mean to be hurtful… It was just one of those off the cuff remarks that had crept into her vocabulary over the years. But I felt worse for me. And on that day – about 7 months after Drey had taken his life – I had had enough. So I let her know. I resumed putting the donation of clothes in their proper place and afterwards sought out my friend to see if she was okay. She wasn’t. She was still crying and felt horrible. I hugged her and told her I knew she didn’t mean anything by it. But I didn’t tell her I was sorry for snapping at her – and I wasn’t sorry. I had heard – and continue to hear – those comments regularly. And on that day I let someone else carry a small little bit of the emotional burden for a change.
So how bout now? More time has passed. I can “handle” the comments I suppose. They impact me and I still have to pray myself through. Sometimes I’ll say something to the person and over time I’ve learned to be more polite. But still sometimes I won’t say anything.
With all this said I definitely don’t want anyone to be afraid to talk to me. I don’t want to be avoided for fear something hurtful might slip out in conversation. Anyone who knows me knows I can say some pretty stupid stuff myself! If you realize you’ve made an inappropriate reference to suicide – anytime really – but especially in front of someone directly impacted by it – just acknowledge it… “That was an insensitive remark. I’m sorry.” Then just keep talking. A simple acknowledgement means a lot to a survivor of a suicide loss. And it makes it clear to everyone around that it’s hurtful to talk about something so tragic in a careless way. No other words are needed.
I’m a runner and have a subscription to Runners World. I was reading the latest issue just yesterday… Terrible choice of words Steve Prefontaine…
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.
Neither my words nor my tears adequately express how much I miss you. You weren’t just my son you were my friend. We laughed together. We shopped together. We listened to the same music. I know I embarrassed you sometimes – okay a lot. I became your friend as you got older but my role as Mom was always top of mind for both of us. I was home. I was safe.
You can see my pride in every picture of the two of us. I loved to watch you. Not just playing soccer, walking across the stage to claim your diploma or whatever. But just to stare at you. Sometimes when you were sleeping. Or when you were typing away at your laptop. It’s a Mom thing.
Do you remember how much fun we had getting your senior pictures taken? Well, I did anyway! I had fun watching you. Do you remember me dancing like a fool behind Kama so she could steal just a few pics of the real, genuine big smile? It worked. God how I miss that smile, that laugh.
This picture means a lot to me. I remember exactly where we were. I remember acting like a fool. And I remember the feeling of accomplishment when I succeeded in getting the real, carefree smile from you.