Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Guilt Is A Cruel Master

  

Not only is guilt a cruel master, but for those of us who have lost a child,  guilt becomes a very unwelcome, constant acquaintance. I felt terrible guilt after my son died. I thought I had committed the greatest sin possible. God had given me this child and I failed to protect him. I literally felt I was walking around with a scarlet letter, "F" on my back because of my enormous failure. I was sure everyone one knew what I had "done."

It took a lot of therapy to cope with this. I felt I could have or should have prevented my son's death. I failed to realize what danger he was in. I should have been able to rescue him somehow. I had told my son, Chris, not to return to see this young woman he had just broken up with.  And not to return at all to the town where she lived. 

I actually told him, "Do not go back there. I feel your life is in danger." He replied, "Don't worry Mom. I can take care of myself." Yet he had told me, "If anything ever happens to me, I have all her cards and letters in my bureau drawer." I have to admit I was not only bewildered, but very distracted. My husband, Chris' father, was quite ill and in a nursing home. He was getting worse and there was no hope for his recovery. I thought after his passing, I would have more time and energy to devote to Chris' needs. Since Chris' involvement with this young woman, he had become secretive with me and for the first time ever, began lying to me. I truly did not know what evil I was up against.

Then it happened. I had had a tremendously busy day in the inner city high school where I worked as a school nurse. I hadn't had time to call Chris. I arrived home to find a note on the kitchen table that he had fed Amber, our dog, and taken her out. No other information. This was shortly after 3pm.

I started calling Chris, but he never returned my calls until about 7:30 pm. I asked him where he was. He said in a nearby town. I didn't believe him. I asked, "For four hours?" I don't remember what he said. I asked him if he would be home by later tonight and he said he would. I thought well, as long as he comes home, he will be all right. We ended the call. A fatal mistake on my part. I was at the nursing home at the time with my husband. I remember telling my husband, "Something is wrong. Chris didn't sound right." He replied not to worry. Chris would be all right. I think I tried to call again, but Chris did not pick up. My mind was not settled, but I didn't keep trying to call him. Another fatal mistake.

I went home, changed into my nightgown. Amber and I fell asleep on the couch while watching TV. We were awakened by the doorbell ringing at 1:00 am. I said to Amber, "Who could that be? Chrissy must have forgotten his key." I opened the door and to my shock, two police officers were standing there along with one of my neighbors. They all came in and one officer gave me the terrible news. Chris was dead. I couldn't believe what they were telling me. It seemed all wrong. I kept thinking how could I possibly tell mu very ill husband?

A lot of time has passed since that fateful night. No one was ever charged with Chris' death. I still wonder if I could have done more? If I should have done more? Why I didn't realize how distraught he really was? How much danger he was in? And what extent would this young woman's father go with his political influence to protect her? The whole thing happened about six hours away from where I lived. My husband would get in a terrible state if I didn't visit him daily. And I didn't know what evil and corruption I was up against because of this young woman's father. Chris died because of her. Chris never got any justice. This has been a very bitter pill to swallow. I am sure many of you can sadly relate. 

I would say I was in a fog for several years. I could not listen to any music in the house because it reminded me of Chris playing the guitar. It took one to two years to get over that.  I was also in a fog because of all the morphine I was taking due to the pain of my radical cancer surgery and a previous cervical fusion. I was taking the morphine as it was prescribed. I eventually had to conclude on my own that this was a very high and unsustainable amount of morphine. It frightened me. This cancer hospital knew about managing pain, but nothing about addiction. 

After prayer, I found a drug rehab center in the yellow pages. Who knew they had phone books in heaven? To make a long story short, I checked myself into drug rehab in Palm Beach Florida for a month. I was astounded to learn that I had the equivalent of a $200 dollar a day heroin habit. This upset me. I called the hospital pain clinic to inform them of my situation. My primary care physician was very angry. In every letter the Pain Clinic sent him, they reported I was doing well on the medication and showed no signs of abuse. Well, I wasn't abusing it, but I was still addicted. 

I will just say, my drug rehab was a very profound experience. I became addicted and it opened up a whole new learning experience. I knew nothing about addiction lifestyles and this whole new world. I thanked God that I had had a life and would not be returning to a world where all my associates would be doing drugs. This saved me from a  life of destruction. I also realized, that addiction is a symptom of a deeper psychological problem or trauma. Which is why people relapse. Because by the time addicts come to this realization, they are out of treatment time---usually 28 to 30 days. When insurance runs out, addicts are suddenly "cured." Nothing could be farther from the truth.

I think the drug rehab experience brought me to the point of accepting what had happened to Chris. That I was powerless to change the events of what happened. That it is not possible to control the actions of an adult child. That a parent could intervene, but control and decisions are up to our adult children. I came to a point of acceptance. This may seem impossible to many of you at this time. But we have to come to terms with what has happened. We have to work through the the guilt and anger to come to acceptance.

 Acceptance is the key to moving forward on the very challenging grief journey. No amount of guilt and anger will bring our children back. What guilt and anger does is destroy us as parents, as a person, as a spouse, as a parent to our living children and all the others living around us. We have to take a look and see who and what we have left in our lives. This does not negate the absence of our deceased children, but it allows us to keep living. This is a conscious choice and decision all of us must make: destruction or a life. It is not an easy decision. It is not an easy path back to a life. We must way our alternatives.

Acceptance helped my guilt and anger. But I still wonder what I might have done differently. But the difference is now I can live with these questions without overwhelming, even destructive, feelings of guilt and anger. I have prayed to Chris to forgive my shortcomings as a parent. I know he has. Chris knows above all things, he was always loved and we were there for him as parents. That is all we can possibly do in our human existence.

I see this young woman's picture on facebook. She has not aged well. She looks like she is abusing alcohol. That would not surprise me. God forgive me, I take a perverse pleasure in seeing how she went from a very pretty young woman to a puffy faced, overweight, middle-aged woman. She is unrecognizable from who she once was. I suppose secrets, evil and lies can do that to a person. I messaged her on facebook and advised her she needed to get her life right with God. Frankly, I believe she has suffered because she knows what she did resulted in Chris' death. IMO, she deserves to suffer for her lack of remorse. 

I don't know if I have forgiven her, but I am not the one who needs to forgive her. God does. Which is what I told her. She has escaped earthly justice. No one escapes divine justice. She should bear the guilt, not me.

                  Serenity Prayer: God give me the courage to change the things I can. To accept the                                      things I cannot change. And the wisdom to know the difference.


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Friday, July 8, 2022

HELL COMES TO BREAKFAST


Hell comes to breakfast. That is the reality for those of us who have lost children. Everyday brings the same reality. Another devastating day in hell has come because we are still without our child. This came to me when I was watching an old Clint Eastwood western, "Josey Wales." Josey had come to rescue his friends from some evil marauders. One of Josey's friends upon seeing him, remarked, "Hell has come for breakfast." They were rescued. We, unfortunately, are not. No quick fixes in real life.

I thought how appropriate was this for many of our days. Another day awakening in a hell with so many questions swirling in our heads making our pain worse. How did this happen? Why did no one save my child? Could he or she have lived if they had gotten help? Why didn't the doctors save him/her? Why didn't I know? Why didn't I protect my child. Why didn't I do more? Why didn't I know he/she was in trouble. Who would do something so evil? Why aren't the police doing something. Why wasn't I there?

Many questions swirling in our heads. Some questions will eventually be answered. Some will not. Having to live with doubts and guilt making our pain worse are very bitter pills to swallow. It is like a big black cloud hanging over us.

We cannot go back to change the time or events leading to our children's deaths. We can raise public awareness to keep something similar from happening again. We can file lawsuits on behalf of our children. We can memorialize our children in a way that recognizes his or her life so they will not be forgotten.

Coming done to the bare facts, what we must do most, is find a way of dealing with our kids' deaths so we can have some measure of strength and acceptance. So, I repeat, it is not possible to change what has happened. This means at some point we must accept what has happened.

Acceptance does not mean we must forgive the persons who may be responsible for our children's deaths. Acknowledge they did what they did. They are responsible, not us. Accept there was little if anything we could have done to prevent what happened. If we believe we could have done more, we may find it helpful to ask our child's forgiveness and God's forgiveness or speak with a spiritual counselor. We need to come face to face with the reality that we are not perfect. We live an imperfect, even evil, world. We must take only those actions that are within the law and that will help us. Understand no amount of money or publicity can bring our children back to life.

What is comes down to is a choice. It is very basic. Do I want to get through this terrible loss or let it destroy me? Do I want to go through the rest of my life as a bitter, angry person and alienate my living family and friends. Instead, is there something I can do so another parent does not suffer this same loss? Is there something else I can do to help other parents in my same circumstance. Should I get help coping with this journey called grief from a support group or counselor?

Grief, especially for a child, is a narrow, but winding road. There is no straight course or highway. There are stops. There are steps forward, but then steps backwards. Hold on tight. Faith and prayer have helped me to hold onto hope and strength. They can lead to acceptance and some measure of peace at last. It can happen.

People speak of closure. I am not sure what closure is. Perhaps psychobabble. I have not experienced it despite the losses of both parents, a husband and a son. How is it possible to close the book on any life? The loss of our children is like an unfinished book with many missing chapters. Closure does not happen.

We need to focus on God and who and what we have left in our lives. Even if we have never gone to church or never prayed, now would be a good time to start. We need to reach out to God in faith and hope to get us through our tragedies. He has our children now. We may not understand this. We may be angry at God because our children died. This is normal. Pray anyway. God hears you. God loves you. He knows your pain. God will help you to find strength, resolve, acceptance and peace at last. That has been my experience. I hope and pray it helps other parents. 

Hell can come for breakfast, but does not have to stay.  Love, Rosemarie

                               "Comfort, O comfort my people" says your God.   Isaiah 40: 1



Monday, June 20, 2022

FATHER'S DAY BRINGS PAINFUL MEMORIES

 

Time can dull the pain of losing a child, but nothing can erase painful memories. This came to me yesterday on Father's Day as I painfully recalled the death of my late husband, Fred. He died six weeks after our son, Chris, was tragically killed. Fred had been ill for a long time. He had all the major complications of Type1 diabetes. He was only 57, but had been diabetic from a young age.

He was quite visually oriented as he had been an art school graduate and graphic designer. Then a a VP at a small advertising agency and finally, a corporate  Executive Art Director. He was probably one of the most respected art directors in the large city in which he worked. He had won many awards. He treated his employees well. In an an industry known to have its share of verbal abuse and sexual harassment. He was extremely social, funny and ethical in an industry also known to have its share of kickbacks from vendors anxious to land advertising projects. Plus, an industry with a lot of stress which I believe adversely affected his diabetes.

Life is perverse. By the time he died, he could hardly see, was on kidney dialysis three times a week, had lost both legs and three fingers. He was pretty much helpless. And abandoned by most of his family, most of his co-workers and all but three friends. Life is hard and unjust when you suffer with a long term, chronic illness. There are people we come across in life we don't wish harm, but if something happens to them, we are not terribly sorry. Fred was definitely not in that category. I remember thinking at Fred's funeral, where is so and so and this one and that one. The things we remember. Fred was truly a good man, a good husband and good father. I am crying while writing this. Of all people, Fred never deserved to suffer. Life is truly not fair.

About a week after Chris died, Fred asked me to take him back to the cemetery. I had purchased three graves and was planning to purchase one headstone with our three names on it. Fred asked me what grave he would be in. I told him the middle one. He seemed satisfied with that and said, "Let's go." I knew then he would die soon because he wasn't so much giving up as letting go. He had been through thick and thin, but now finally was at peace, knowing that Chris was at peace. I believed and he knew his time was at hand.

When Chris laid in his coffin, I held his hand at the funeral home before visitors arrived. I told Chris how I loved him, how much I missed him, but he had a job to do. I told Chris his job now was to bring Dad home to heaven. And Chris did. He helped bring Dad to peace at last. His suffering was finally over. My Aunt told me she had a vision of heaven. Chris was playing the guitar Fred was in front of an easel and painting.

Fred died on November 2nd. That is a significant holy day in Catholicism. It is when we pray for all the deceased souls to enter paradise. Perhaps, it was God's message to me that he knew Fred was a good man. And now he was at peace with his son. Their suffering was over. Mine would go on for some time yet. I was 53 and both a bereaved parent and widow. Yes, life is indeed hard. We take our blows with our bows.

I was so overwhelmed by Chris's death that it was impossible for me to grieve over Fred. I would think of Fred and say to myself, "Fred died." Then go back to grieving over Chris. Fred's death was like a blip on the radar screen. I couldn't process it until two years later when a good friend suddenly lost her husband. Somehow, I felt the time was right. I took her to the bereavement support I went to when Chris died. I finally was able to open up about Fred.

I think today, while writing this, was the hardest I ever cried over Fred. Perhaps, because I have been in terrible physical pain for the last five months from trigeminal neuralgia and a cervical fusion from several years ago which never fully fused or solidified. I have been praying to Chris and Fred to get me through this and guide my treatment decisions. Maybe, I can finally let go because I am happy with my new kind, loving and supportive husband.

I know he has the same painful memories of caring for his very ill wife. She was even on a ventilator. He found himself alone as well when caring for her. Family and friends said, "Let me know if I can help." We both experienced that. When we called, they were suddenly "busy" or little, if any, help if they did manage to show up. It is hard for either of use to talk about these painful memories. It cannot change what happened. His late wife was good and kind woman. They raised six children together. I know he loved her as I loved my Fred. We both understand what the other has been through. We both honor commitment. We are no longer alone in our distress. I believe, we have a deep and abiding love which has been enhanced by loss. Maybe, if we have loss in love, we love harder. 

I think we both understand each other's past without words. There is no point in hashing out the details. We listen empathetically to each other if this topic does comes up, but neither of us wants to dwell on it. We accept if either of us wants to go to the cemetery, has sad moments or days and keeps old photos. Our pasts will always be our pasts. We cannot erase memories and walk away from love. We will both always have feelings for our late spouses. The is the cycle of life---old, new and renewed. God bless.

                        Love is patient; love is kind.....Love never ends.  1  Corinthians 13:4-8

If you are a bereaved parent who wants to join your deceased child or thinks your spouse would be better off without you, please get HELP immediately from your doctor, 911 or the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-TALK (8255) 24/7.

Love, Rosemarie    

Sunday, June 5, 2022

MASS SHOOTINGS CAUSING PERVASIVE FEAR


I woke up this morning to the news of another senseless shooting in the US northeastern large city nearest to me. Four people were killed and fourteen were injured in a senseless act of violence towards people enjoying the night life the city has to offer. Innocently walking around, listening to music, shopping and eating. 

Now there are four sets of parents, four families in mourning. Another set of fourteen parents and families hoping and praying their children and loved ones will recover and not be disabled by their injuries. No doubt all these parents and families are asking: How did this happen? Why did this happen? How could this happen? Did my child or loved one suffer without me there to help? Did they say anything? Did they think of me? Did they pray? Could more have been done to save or help him or her?

I know how you feel. I have walked in your shoes. My son, Chris, bled to death in the backyard of his shooting assailant while she calmly stayed on her back porch. He was seven hours away from home. She went nowhere near Chris to aid or comfort him. My Chris, who she knew well and said she loved. When she called the police, she said my son was a drug overdose. Toxicology screens later revealed he had no drugs in his system. He was not a drug abuser. One of many lies she told. She was known in the community. She had strong ties as her father was a politician, a powerful local official and past officer in the miner's union. A union with past rough and dangerous leaders. I believe her father fit in that category.

The hospital never called me. The local police came to my home to notify me. I tried to explain to them that there were many holes in their explanations. All to no avail. Then, all I could think of was how I was going to tell my husband, Chris' father. He was in a nursing home. He had all the major complications of diabetes. He was not expected to recover. He died six weeks later.  

There were some irregularities and delays in the actions of the EMT's who were called. There were even more irregularities in the actions of the medical examiner. And a stubborn county solicitor who refused to look at all the facts. After many requests, the medical examiner agreed to send the results of his autopsy to my personal physician. I went over it with him. To my horror and profound sadness, he told me Chris should have survived his injuries. He did not get the proper emergency care. There remained unexplained delays. 

Due to her father's influence, there was never any media coverage of my son's shooting. Nor, was there ever any inquest. And much resistance from the police to investigate Chris' assailant and to properly investigate the scene. The sum total of this was Chris never got any justice and never will unless someone comes forward with the truth. My only hope is someone one day will spill their knowledge to the police in return for leniency for themselves. But will the police even want to hear it or act on it? Not so long as her father lives.

I suppose all these recent shootings prompted me to think of this young woman and her parents. I wanted to ask her if her parents were still alive. If not, I wanted to tell her I hoped they were in hell where she will one day join them to finally get the punishment she deserves. No one escapes final eternal justice which is far more terrifying than earthly justice. I take comfort in that. Sometimes that is all we have when a perpetrator escapes earthly punishment and corruption abounds. She robbed Chris of his life, but I will not let her destroy mine.

As William Faulkner said at the end of one his novels, "They endured." And so we do as bereaved parents. Parents whose children were snatched away by unexplainable gun violence. Often shot by a person with an illegal gun. A person with the past history of violence and felonies who never should have had a gun. A person who is severely mentally ill and therefore dangerous in their delusions. Another person who should have never gotten a gun. 

As bereaved parents, whose children were victims of crime, questions persist and swirl in our heads. I found it helpful to write a letter to my son to express all my feelings, all my regrets and ask him all my questions about really happened. I buried the letter with him at the cemetery. To put to rest all that was swirling in my head. I then put the same issues on  individual scraps of paper  in a small box at home. When concerns started swirling in my head, I said to myself they were safe at the cemetery with Chris and in the little box. God would reveal all in His good time. This helped tremendously.

Yet, here we again burdened in the US with the thought that more kids could be shot in school, shot on the way to and from school or when just playing outside or going to the mall, to church, at a club or enjoying a night on the town. And as adults we are not safe either. With rising crime rates, I am fearful for my new husband and myself. I am terrified to go into the above-mentioned city. We have a new car. My husband went into the super market , yesterday, while I stayed in the car and listened to music. It occurred to me that this was unsafe. That our car could be hijacked with me in it. Can't wait in the car again.

The loss of my son to gun violence and the steady rise of more crimes involving guns has made me ponder my own safety and mortality and that of my husband's. I am sure many of you may be having the same thoughts and fears. I know people in the city I mentioned say they are afraid to leave their homes for fear of being shot. I also must mention the spiraling number of drug overdoses and the hundreds of thousands of parents dealing with this grief.

Is America not better than this? Can law and order not be returned to our streets to preserve lives and prevent endless grief? Can we not provide more readily available mental health services? Addiction services? I believe illegal drugs are at the heart of many of theses crimes. Can we not better identify people who pose risks and take appropriate interventions to prevent tragedies? Can we not be realistic that there are evil people who will do harm and therefore should be separated in jail from the rest of society? Can we not elect responsible district attorneys who will enforce the the law and punish criminals appropriately?

Whatever your beliefs may be on these subjects, if you are in a good enough place, I urge you to call or write to your state and federal legislators to express your opinions. To tell your stories of personal tragedy. Bring it home to them. The phone number for the US Capitol building in DC is 202-225-3121. Just task the operator to connect you to your Representative on Senator. Give their names. Sometimes a staffer will answer the phone or you may get a recording to leave a message. Or call their local offices. Usually you can speak directly to a staffer there. If you look on the internet, you will find their websites and email addresses. You can send an email if you don't want to write a letter or call.

I have a plan to address school shootings with better school security to prevent a shooter from gaining entry to a school. And recommendations for the legal steps to be enforced for school/mass shooters. If you care to read it, it is on my other blog at www.ordinaryamericanview.wordpress.com. The title is "School Shootings Can Be Prevented." I hope you find it helpful and reassuring. 

I fear the US (and maybe other countries) has become a godless nation. We do not live by the Ten Commandments. Public prayer is banned. There is no concept of right and wrong. People do not love or fear God or a Higher Power. Children are raised without a clear concept of what is right and wrong, to show respect for themselves and others, to accept personal responsibility and to attend religious services. Promiscuity abounds on TV. Video games, movies and song lyrics normalize violence and blur the line between fantasy and reality. Atheism is increasing. Relativism is the norm. Depression is increasing in young people. I believe because teens and young adults have no faith. No assurance that God or a Higher Power is there fo them to turn to in times of trouble. Schools are indoctrinating and confusing kids with very twisted ideas about life, about "victimhood" and about sexuality and gender over parents objections.

Because of all this, many of our children have suffered at the hands of evil, godless, disturbed, dangerous people. We have been left with picking up the pieces of our own lives. Remembering and cherishing our deceased children while trying to carry on. It is hard, very hard to hold it together when our hearts are breaking. When confusion, danger and injustice surrounds us. We still have responsibilities to our living children, our spouses, our homes and our jobs. 

Depending on the place we are in. we can do one, several or all the steps I have outlined here. We need to pray. To invite God into our lives. To tell Him of our pain and anguish. To ask him for strength and courage. To meditate.  To go to religious services. To keep a journal. To attend a grief support group. To force ourselves out of our homes when we would rather isolate. To set limits and realistic goals for ourselves. To seek counsel. To talk to our spouses. To memorialize our children with something simple or more elaborate in someplace where they lived, not at their death site. To help prevent similar tragedies. 

This is what we can do to move forward bit by bit. To gain a life. Not the same life, but not a life of constant tears and isolation. A life can happen if we give it time and patience. We will have bad days, but they become less intense and less frequent. There is hope and light. We must be willing to reach for it.

             "Be strengthened in your in being with power through the Spirit.  Ephesians 3: 16



Wednesday, May 25, 2022

 

                                                         TEXAS SCHOOL TRAGEDY


Our collective hearts are, yet again, broken by the horrific school shooting and murder of nineteen fourth grade students and two dedicated school professionals. I am sure we all, as bereaved parents and as a nation, send many prayers to more grieving parents, siblings, extended families and friends, and to the Uvalde school community. We continue to pray for the seventeen children and the adults who remain hospitalized, some in serious condition. Please, God, let them recover fully.

I must admit I am outraged. I am perplexed. I am frustrated. How is it that the greatest country in the world cannot get a handle on this repeated disaster? Why is it that American children in all grades must go to school with the thought that someday they could be shot. Why is it American school children have to have routine "active shooter drills" in their classrooms to practice SURVIVAL against something that should never happen. It is unfathomable.

How will all the children and adults traumatized by this terrible event come to terms with what has happened? Mental health services have been made available to families, school staff and law enforcement officers and other first responders. Sadly, this is after the fact. There seems to have been no available local mental health services in this part of rural Texas. 

Indeed they were sorely needed by the shooter. He had a speech defect about which he was bullied. At one point he attempted self mutilation. Usually kids who are "cutters" do so secretly and on their arms which they can cover. This guy reportedly cut his own face "for the fun of it." As a retired nurse with over 30 years experience as a school nurse, I find his actions troubling and possibly indicative of a serious dissociative disorder. If there was no attempt to get him treatment, that is disturbing.

If anyone reading this blog, especially parents who have lost their child, and others in anyway affected by this tremendous tragedy, I understand what you are feeling. I too had a son, Chris, who was shot. I never found out by who. I know you are numb, bewildered, angry, confused, afraid, overwhelmingly sad and broken, helpless and even hopeless. You should not be alone. I advise you to stay with someone, close family or friends. It is all right to be alone for short periods, but do not isolate yourself from others. You don't have to talk. Just sitting with someone else is good. Let them hold your hand.

Let others who are willing help you with funeral arrangements, meals, care of other children, pets, laundry, food shopping, cleaning. It is hard to be strong right now. Lean on others. Get the mental health counseling that is being made available. Seeking help does not mean you are crazy. It is self-recognition that you have been traumatized by an unspeakable tragedy. GRIEF IS NOT A JOURNEY ANY OF US CAN MAKE ALONE. Sometime in the near future, it may be helpful to attend a grief support group run by a mental health professional. As was explained to me when I lost my son, it is important to talk to others who are experiencing the same challenges, thoughts and feelings as you. This sharing helps validate what you are going thru. To learn that something is not off or wrong with you.

I want to say something to couples who have lost their child. Women and men grieve differently. Each of us has our own way of grieving. There isn't really a right or wrong way to grieve. Be patient with one another. Give each other space, but then come together and grieve, share memories. Don't keep your feelings bottled up. If you cannot talk to each other then talk to a close friend or family member. Try not to rely heavily on alcohol. Better to see your doctor and get some medication to help you rather than alcohol. BTW, opiates do not help grief and may make you feel worse or prolong your grief. Most of all, don't let the loss of your child drive you apart. If that starts to happen, get counseling as a couple or individually.

I would also say, from my own experience, avoid large gatherings or crowds. If you want a small funeral, have a small funeral restricted to those you are closest to or just the immediate family. You can announce you will have a larger memorial service sometime in the future. You do not have to give a date at this time. It will be when you feel stronger. Only you will know that. Please do not feel obligated to please others or try to follow some "social norm." Do only what you feel you are capable of doing.

From my own experience, I can say that my faith in God and prayer got me thru the tragedy of losing my son and only child and then my husband six weeks later. I know this is a time when you might feel angry at God. It's okay. Tell God how you feel. Ask him why he did not protect your child. Keep praying. Ask God to give you strength, courage, wisdom, acceptance and eventually some measure of peace. Bit by bit, your life can move forward. Not move on or find closure, but once again to a life in which you can function. This will take time, with steps forward and some backward. Do not give up. You will get there.

I know you will have feelings of guilt. That somehow you should have protected your child. You should have done more. If only you hadn't sent him or her to school that day. You will be angry at the school administrators, the police, the Mayor, the Governor, other politicians and anyone else you think may be at fault. And possibly yourself. This is hard, but to be expected. The sad truth is there is nothing you could have done that day to protect your child from an evil maniac bent on killing and causing destruction. Evil exists in an imperfect world. Sometime in the future you may be able to join others to put forth measures to protect kids and to stop school shootings from happening. That is down the road aways.

I realized shortly after my husband, Fred's, death, when both my son and husband were gone in six weeks time, I had a choice to make. I could either get thru this or let it destroy me. I chose life. I would be lying to you if I said it was easy from then on. It was not. I had thoughts of killing myself because I felt with them both gone, I no longer had a reason to live. I sought the help of a professional counselor. Even took medication for depression. Forced myself to go back to work. And hugged my dear little dog, Amber, a little harder and a little more often. She remained the one constant in my life. 

I also thought about what taking my life would do to my remaining extended family, friends and co-workers. All had offered and were giving their support. You do not have to be alone or unheard. And no, the world and those you love will NOT be better off without you. Don't go there. Get help. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 800-273-8255. Help is available in English and Spanish. I can assure you the person you speak with will be kind and understanding. They will not rush you to end your call. Put this number somewhere you will have handy, just in case feelings overwhelm you. 

I am with you. I understand what you feel. I know what you face. We are in a group none of us ever wanted or expected to be in. I thought my life was awful when my husband was very ill with no hope of recovering. Then my son was killed. Then I knew what pain was. How hard and even cruel life can be. But, I came thru it. The pain has lessened, but it will always be there to some degree. I think of Chris everyday. Several times a day. I know he is safe and happy. He is with his father and grandparents though I would rather he was with me. It was not to be. I have had to learn to accept that.

Love, Rosemarie

                    "Even though I walk through the darkest valley....you are with me...   Psalm  23:4



Saturday, May 7, 2022

REFLECTIONS ON MOTHER'S DAY AND FATHER'S DAY


Every year in the United States Mother's Day is celebrated on the second Sunday of May and Father's Day on the the third Sunday in June. Other countries around the world celebrate these same days on different dates. 

For those of us who have lost a child, these days come with mixed feelings, even dread. I have to admit, when someone kindly offers me a "Happy Mother's Day" greeting, even after all the years my son and only child Chris has been gone, I am a bit taken back. I say to myself, "Why are they saying that? They know my son died." But I always graciously accept their well wishes. I have decided Mother's Day is a day for concentrating on good memories of my son and not on my losing him.

I came to this conclusion one time when I was talking to a neighbor who was a new Mom. We were discussing how much having a baby and a child changes, but enlarges and enriches, a parent's life. I told her even though Chris had died, I would not trade the experience of having him in my life even to avoid this awful final pain. And today, I still would not. So this is what Mother's Day means to me and, I assume, my well wishers.

Being a parent opens up a new world to both mothers and fathers. A world full of joys, good memories, sacrifices, sorrows, and yes, loss for some of us. On the balance, we have these very good memories and watching our children achieve many milestones. The feelings of pride in their accomplishments. The enlarging of our own humanity when we have to make sacrifices for our children. Like planning a romantic evening or getaway weekend, only to have our kid get hurt at school or in sports or develop a 104 fever. Plans cancelled because we cannot and would not leave our precious child. These experiences only serve to strengthen the bond between parent and child. For most of us, our children always come first.

I am sure we all know people who don't have kids by choice.  I have found them to be somewhat unaware of the love, pride, flexibility, sacrifice and responsibility it takes to be a parent. I think it is an unfortunate void for them. Love comes with pain. But the love and enrichment children bring to one's life can never be replaced or eradicated. Would any of us wanted to have lived without our parenthood experiences? Personally, I would not. 

I made the decision not to go to the cemetery tomorrow on Mother's Day. I don't want to focus on Chris' loss. Instead I will remain home. I will put a candle and flowers by a memorial stone plaque I have on my balcony. There are words carved into it which say, "If tears could build a staircase and memories a lane, I would walk right up to heaven and bring you home again." Who of us would not? But it was not meant to be. 

Children are a gift from God. They are on loan to us. Sometimes, due to the many trials and imperfections of our earthly existence, they are returned back to God before we, as their parents, are.  Make no mistake. Our children are in God's good care even though we rather that they were still in our care. They are all right in the care and beauty of His Divine Light. 

On Mother's Day, I will have a dinner toast to my son with my husband. I will thank God for the six loving step-children he has brought into my life. I will pray to Chris. Share with him some of my memories. Tell him how proud I am of him. What a good young man he was. Tell him I believe he is safe and happy. Ask him if he is happy for me. I will relish in his spirit. The spirits of all our children which will remains with us always despite their physical absence. I will pray for peace and strength for myself and for all of you, dear mothers and fathers.

God takes care of us if will will open our hearts to Him and extend out our hands. This really came home to me when my husband said to me, "Nature knows how to take care of itself." Does not the Gospel of Matthew admonish us not to worry. It points to the birds of the air and lilies of the fields as being in God's care, "...though they labor not..." And goes on to ask if such small things are important to God, what about us? How much more must He love and care for us who are so bereaved and for our dearly departed children who have returned to Him?

May you each have the best day you can have on your day. Our lives can move forward in sorrow. With faith and hope we move bit by bit from profound grief. Try to take these two days to remember your deceased child's life, not loss. And be present with your living children who remain God's blessings to you. Hold on tight to them. Let them know how much you love them.

May we find the words to speak, the way to walk and the life to live.

Love, Rosemarie

                               "Surely, there is a future and your hope will not be cut off."

                                                                                              Proverbs 23:18







  


Thursday, January 27, 2022

REFLECTIONS ON LOSS AND LOVE

When we lose a child, it is both a raw and totally numbing feeling. The loss is all encompassing. There is no past, no future, only a present and pervasive pain. I think when my son died, for the first time, I actually understood the term, "primal scream." We find ourselves asking these questions. How can I go on? How did this happen? What should I do? How can I manage? Will this pain ever end? We also find we have no answers. This is grief in its initial phase. Many questions, but no answers to be had.

What helped me emerge from this acute pain, numbness and constant fatigue was a resolve to get through it and go on. I literally woke up one morning, looked at the dog and asked her, "What are we going to do Ambie? Chrissy is gone and Daddy is gone?" As always, she looked at me and slowly wagged her tail. The grief affected her as well. She moved from sleeping on one corner of the bed where she could see out the windows and over the whole development. Instead, she moved to sleeping on the opposite corner of the bed where she could see out the bedroom door to watch the stairs. She seemed to be waiting for Chris to return home, to come up the stairs and go into his room. Amber clearly missed Chris. She slept in that same spot every night for the rest of her long life.

I sat up in bed and put my feet on the floor. I looked back at my dog. She needed me and I needed her. I suddenly said to myself, "I can either let this destroy me or carry on." In that instant I chose to go on. I realized after all my years experience as a nurse, "No one wants to be around a constantly angry and bitter person," regardless of the cause. That negativity pushes people away. The very people we need to give us love and support during grief. 

I am not saying we cannot express grief, bitterness or anger. However, it is best done in private or with a few selected family members or friends or in a grief support group. If this does not help, perhaps it might be time to seek the assistance of a professional counselor. The main thing is to avoid isolation. Accept help and appropriate friendly gestures. I had two very good friends who helped me get through those early days. Grief and loss of a child is a journey with a long road with steps forward and steps backwards. Navigating this road takes resolve and courage. Moving forward is doable, but not easy. Still, it can be done with determination, faith and prayer.

It may not seem like it now, but with effort you can move forward. Notice, I am not saying moving on or closure. We do not "move on" after the death of a child and there is no such thing as "closure." The death of a child is like an unfinished book with missing chapters. So many milestones never reached or witnessed by us. But, we can move on to a productive, meaningful life. We can try to establish some kind of remembrance of our child. Or attach some good to come out of our child's death by giving help to other kids and parents or preventing similar tragedies.

It took me some time to finally re-socialize. I was alone for 17 years. Then God shed his light upon me with a wonderful, kind, compassionate, strong, intelligent, creative and funny man. He was a widower who had also taken care of his wife during a long illness. After five years, we married just recently. We understood each other other's lives. We both understand we each had a late spouse who we loved for many years. He was married for 51 years, me for 28. We understand we need to have pictures of our late spouses, go to the cemetery and even call each other by our previous spouse's name on occasion. I suppose instead of a mistake, that is really a compliment. Anyway, we laugh about it. No meltdown or writing to "Dear Abby." Our late spouses will always be our previous spouses. 

He has six children, ten grandchildren  and several great grandchildren. I went from being alone to marriage and a very large, wonderful, loving step-family. I thank God everyday for my new husband and what he has brought to my life and for the good fortune and happiness God has bestowed on me. My new husband and I both agree that we needed each other. My husband is an immeasurable help and support to me. I try to support him as well. I never dreamed my life would move in this direction and that I could be so happy after so many years of drought. Thank you, God.

I still think of my son and late husband every day, several if not many times a day. I feel loss. I probably always will as I know my new husband does. But it is seldom overwhelming like before. We have both learned to live with loss and past difficult times and memories. We have each other to lean on for support. Nothing will ever be the same as seeing my son grow into maturity and possibly marry and have kids. In life, we take the wins we can get. Life has no Super Bowls or winning every game. I just hope and pray my son and late husband are happy for me. My late husband's family like my new husband very much as do my family and many friends.

When dark days come, and they do, do not despair. Remember: "The voice of life is soft so we must listen hard."  (Anonymous Author)  There is a spark of life in us even in our most desperate times. Search for it.

God bless. May He bring us all strength, peace and future good and loving memories to grasp. 

 With love, Rosemarie