Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Rock on the Road

     There is nothing more precious than the love between a parent and a child.  Seeing children being re-united with parents after recent tragedies serves as a reminder of this.
      Parents will do anything humanly possible for their baby, child, teen or adult child.  But sometimes, even the most heroic efforts cannot change fate-- an illness, an accident, suicide, a war or a massive tragedy.  My aunt would always say to me, "Does life have to be so hard?"  I don't know if it has to be, but it definitely is.
      Newly elected Pope Francis has said that life is not a highway free of obstructions or challenges.  Losing your child is really a big rock on your road.  After the loss of your child, that road can become permanently obstructed.  It is the ultimate challenge to find the will to go on after your child dies.
       Don't try to go it alone.  Understandably, at first, you do not want to see anyone, talk to anyone or go anywhere.  It's not good to go on like this indefinitely even though everything says to you "give up."  This is the time you have turn inward for the battle of your life.  You have to turn within yourself to find and muster strength and courage to move that rock in your road.
        I know you may think you can't do it.  You don't have the inner resources.  You do.  Pray for strength and courage.  Know that I and everyone reading this blog is praying for you, is there for you.  We are behind your rock.  Together we can move it. You are not by yourself.  We understand.  We can face our struggles on this monumental journey together.  

Monday, May 20, 2013

If Only, If Only

"If only" Chris has listened to me.  "If only" he had never met that girl.  "If only" I hadn't been so busy at work that day.  "If only" I had called him again that night.  It is said grief is a disease of the "If only's."

I'm sure each of you has your own set of "If only's" about what you might have said to or done differently with your son or daughter.  These can swirl around in your head-- on and on relentlessly.  How to silence them?

It's not easy.  They are not always rational.  Therefore, it is hard to reason them away.  "If only's" involve the heart and the mind.  Both the heart and the mind have to reconciled to achieve peace.  In thinking this out, I have concluded reconciling the "If only's" requires talking, meditating, accepting and remembering.  Sounds like a tall order.  Let me break it down.

It is helpful to have someone to bounce off all your fears and doubts.  This can be a good friend, family member, grief counselor, support group or clergy person.

It's necessary to get to the bottom of what is fueling the "If only's."  In addition to reason and analysis, this requires getting in touch with your emotions.  This is painful.  Some quiet time alone taking slow deep breaths to relax or induce calm or even using a meditation recording.  There are some with instructions for relaxing and others just with music, bird sounds, nature sounds or ocean sounds.  Choose what speaks to you.  Use it every day.  Try to match feelings and analysis to come to a better understanding of where you may be stuck on your "If only."  Talk to someone about what you discover.

Reconciling to your son or daughter's death means accepting what happened.  Raising a child involves some luck and some chance.  Things happen as part of our human condition on earth.  I have had to accept the circumstances of my son's death.  This leaves me trying to accept many unknowns.  This is not easy.  I would be lying if I said I accept this everyday and it does not chip away at me.  I know I eat too much to comfort myself.  But I am aware of this, and I work with a grief counselor to find this acceptance.  I can, however, accept what I do know.  I know Chris is at peace and would want me to be at peace.

I can  remember what a great kid he was.  His father and I loved him very much and he loved us.  He was a fine young man who helped his father throughout his illness.  He helped me, too, when I was recuperating from cancer treatment.

Remember, also, the things you did were done with the best of intentions.  Life on earth is fraught with peril and hardship.  It takes much will and strength to play the cards you are dealt.  Think of all that you did for your child.  It may take some time.  It is difficult to get past the memories of tragedy to thinking about the good times.  Yet, it is what must be done.  Remember the good times for a few minutes each day.  The times will get longer and you will get out from under the shadows of grief.

Peace, love and God bless,


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Revenge Not Sweet

     In my quiet time on Mother's Day,  I found myself ruminating about the young woman who was involved with my son's shooting and  death.  To this day, I don't know to what extent or in what capacity.  I only know she was there, lied to the police about her relationship with Chris and has strong family political connections.  She and Chris had broken up.  Why he was there seeing her that evening, I don't know.  Without going into all the investigative details, she gave a lot of conflicting information and behaved strangely.
     Anyway, I started to send her a copy of my blog, "Remembering Chris."  I decided against that and wrote her an email instead.  I told her what I thought of her and the situation.  I wanted to ruin her Mother's Day.  In the end, I didn't send either.  I thought, I am bigger than that.  I have worked very hard to get this far.  If I communicated to her with negative motivation and for revenge, then the ball would be in her court.  This is not what I want.
     I don't want to remember her or wait to hear from her.  I don't want to focus on the tragedy.  I want to focus on my son's life and not his death.  To this end, what has brought me the most peace was dedicating my first book to him.  It was a positive way to memorialize him and commemorate his life.
     Life is meant to be lived.  In my book, Chris lives on in spirit in a wonderful way.
     If I had any advice, it would be to commemorate your son or daughter in a positive way, preferably away from the death scene.  A plaque, a bench, a tree at a place of worship, park, school or workplace; a poem or artwork you have framed; a run or a foundation, charity or scholarship if you are able. Your son or daughter's spirit, the good memories and his or her accomplishments can live on.  
     Not sending the blog or email made me feel better than the revenge I had in mind.  I think it is more what Chris would want.  I would appreciate knowing what you think and feel about what I have said.  Please comment, too, if you have found anything you may have done helpful or unhelpful.          

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Coping on Mother's Day

To all mothers approaching this Mother's Day with an aching heart or even dread, I pray for some measure of peace and comfort for you and for myself.  I tried to analyze how would be the best way to handle this day.  I decided on trying to focus on good memories and a celebration of my son's life.  For me, going to the cemetery on Mother's Day would be focusing too much on loss rather than life.

However, each of you should do what feels right and what your heart tells you would get you through the day.  I divided the day into two parts, a private part and a public part.  The private part is doing something by yourself to feel better.  The public part is where you spend time with family and friends.  Where you may feel the need to put on a brave face.

The private time could be devoted to prayer, meditation, scripture reading, the rosary, a cup of tea, a warm bath or listening to music. You might also do journal writing or write a letter to your child about what he or she means to you. Pour out your feelings.  Cry if you feel like it.  Just touch and get out your emotions.

The public part is where you might celebrate your son or daughter's life with family and friends.  It's about including your child in the day's events for yourself. You could share your child's  favorite dessert or pizza with others and tell a story about him or her.  You could consider sharing a favorite prayer or song.  Or read a poem or something inspirational in his or her honor.  If you can't do it, then ask someone else to commemorate your child on this important day.  The idea is to celebrate life and good memories and not mourn loss just for a few hours.

I plan to go to an afternoon buffet with very good friends with whom I spend most of my holidays.  No doubt I will talk about my son, Chris, and try to find a dessert I know he would like and offer a toast.  Privately, I will listen to some guitar music as my son was an avid guitarist.  I can do that now.  For over year after Chris died, I was unable to listen to any music in my home.  A friend gave me a tape of my favorite hymn and I started there.

That's what it takes.  Patience, small steps and small gestures.  God bless.  I hope you all have the best day possible.

Peace and love to all.