As you read this, you may be wondering how you will survive the death of your child or how you have managed to survive so far. Difficult questions to answer. I suppose they have come to my mind as a week ago was what would have been my 41st wedding anniversary. My husband, Fred, died in 1999 six weeks after our son, Chris, died. I suppose I am feeling particularly vulnerable because I have been unwell for two months with mild Gullain Barre Syndrome. Now I am in terrible pain from an old cervical fusion and cervical disc degeneration.
With my inactivity and pain, my mind has been working over-time. I have been wondering how I survived so far and if there is comfort or wisdom in my survival for anyone else. How have I come to be able to write this blog and two children's books and starting a third?
First I believe my faith in God and devotion to the Blessed Mother brought me through the worst of times. I still rely on them both with daily prayer and regular church attendance. (If going to church makes you cry, go with someone to a different church or watch a church service on TV instead.)
Next I made two decisions: 1) Not to let these tragedies destroy me, but to go on with my life; 2) Not to become a bitter, angry person who would push away the very people who could love and support me. I think both these realizations brought me through my darkest days. My survival became a matter of choice. Of course, friends, family and neighbors stood by me. There is no way I could have gone on without them. I can never repay them. All I could do was not to give up on myself as they were not giving up on me.
I also wrote and wrote. I started with a letter to my son which I buried at his gravesite. Then, I wrote and wrote and wrote my feelings, my memories, my thoughts which filled several large notebooks. This got all my emotions, worries and frustrations out. I went out with friends and family when invited as I did not think isolation would be good. I retired from work when a favorable package was made available and took a religious tour to Italy with my church. I returned to work part-time six months later as I missed it.
I began to make jewelry and penned two children's books, the first dedicated to my son and the second to my husband. It gave me great peace to memorialize them both. For me, doing something creative was very healing. I also went for counseling and to a support group run by a nun trained in pastoral care. Was any of this easy? No, but I felt it all necessary to move through my pain.
Besides my faith, the one constant in my life was my dog, Amber, who I had gotten for Chris on his thirteenth birthday. She was always there with love, devotion, companionship, protection and healing. I based my children's book series on her.
This has been my journey so far. There is not an end to this journey, only constant evolution. I know there will always be dark days popping up with anger and non-acceptance That is just the way of it even as grief gets less intense.
I cannot tell you how to make your journey through your grief. If something here speaks to you, I say try it for yourself. One thing I can tell you is whatever you decide or try, it will take courage. More courage and determination than you have ever had to use before in your life. I have learned bravery is needed in the face of life's choices for survival.