Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Find Your Rose

                                                       Just remember in the winter
                                                       Far beneath the bitter snows
                                                       Lies the seed, that with the suns love
                                                       In the spring becomes the rose

                                                                                            Janis Joplin, The Rose

     I have had enough of winter, literally and figuratively.  Grief definitely feels like the winter of your life.  Endless, joyless, dreary days with little or nothing to look forward to.

     I am feeling, lately, like not doing much.  I know it is related to needing to reach deep down within myself to renew the spark of forgiveness for those involved in the death of my son.  In times of stress, things have a way of re-surfacing even when you have worked hard on dealing with them.  The inclement weather, with its forced isolation of being housebound, has not been good.

     I am in an angry mood, but when I acknowledge it, I eat less.  I need to start punching pillows again and pray for healing.  Recently my priest at mass spoke about forgiveness.  He mentioned a quote he found on Facebook about holding onto anger and grudges.  The quote likened this to, Drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die.  So who gets hurt with anger and other negative emotions?

     True, you and I can feel justified for being angry at the factors and individuals involved with the deaths of our children.  So it becomes a question of which seed to feed, anger or forgiveness.  At some point you and I have to make this choice.  And probably more than once or even daily.

     I know I am not dead inside.  Neither are you because you are reading this.   You are seeking a way to bring some peace and healing into your life.  You and I do have the spark of life that can light the way to the seed of personal growth, our roses.  The rose may be covered with the tears of the bitter snows of loss, but it can bloom again.  A new spring is possible.

     I am proposing an exercise to deal with anger and negative emotions.  If you have no physical limitations to doing so, find something you can punch--- a pillow, sofa, or punching bag, or something you will not injure yourself on.  Now, name your emotion and all the factors or persons you feel negatively about and punch them one by one.  When you feel tired or spent, stop.  Take some deep breaths, cry, laugh, whatever.

    Now, stand and take three deep breaths.  Hold your hands up, palms out.  Start making counter-clock wise motions with your hands.  Each time your hands move away from your body, exhale and blow out all negativity.  Do that five times.  Next, make clock-wise motions with your hands.  Each time you bring your hands close to your body,  breathe in and bring peace and healing to your body. Repeat five times.  Then hold your hands over your head and stretch and deep breathe.  Try to hold onto that feeling of peace.

     Final step, do something to nurture yourself.  It can be a cup of tea, a bath, reading a favorite passage from the bible, listening to music, prayer or meditation or get a massage.  You need this to get through this journey.  It is necessity, not a reason for a guilt trip.

     Practice feeding the seed of hope and love, not negativity.  That seed, with care and love, can bloom into your rose of renewed life.



Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Changing Focus

     My mental outlook has improved from my last blog.  I think, maybe, I was feeling some post-holiday blues and some Valentine's Day dread.  Anyway,  I decided I had to shift gears.  I had to focus on what I have in my life.  Not what I have lost.

     How did I do that?  I used an anger release technique by punching my bed pillows vigorously and repeatedly for several minutes.  One by one, I visualized punching each person I believed had harmed my son, Chris, and each person who denied him justice.  It was very helpful in releasing my emotions.

     I woke up the next morning and realized it takes energy to stay in an angry and negative place.  It seemed better to remember the good things in my life.  My separation from my son and husband, unfair as it seems to me, is temporary.  I believe, someday, we will be re-united in eternity.  Just not yet.

     With prayer, I came to understand how wonderful loving, kind and supportive friends and family have been to me.  It was very good to celebrate Super Bowl Sunday and a little birthday dinner with my husband's family.    I did have to take some deep breaths and put my game face on in more ways than one.  I struggled to go from the negative place to the positive place.

     Before going out, I prayed for inner peace.  I prayed, too, my smile would reach my heart and eyes.  I know in my heart my son, Chris, and husband, Fred, had looked down on our celebration.  I love my husband's family dearly.  They have not forgotten me, Chris or Fred.  For this, I am very grateful and blessed.  Also, my best friend and her family called me to check up on me as I know they were concerned about me because of the previous blog.  I felt very appreciative and touched.

     I reminded myself I am not alone.  I am grateful I can talk about Fred and Chris to friends and family.  At first, they were uncomfortable, but I persisted.  Eventually they came to enjoy my memories and interject their own.  We do indeed have many happy memories and are forging ahead to make new ones.

     We are all fragile in our bereavement, but that does not mean we do not possess inner strength.  Some days, it may be hard to tap into this strength or recognize it at all.  If you are reading this after the death of your child, you do indeed have inner strength.  Please take a moment to validate yourself.

     It may help to sit in a comfortable chair, deep breathe, relax and clear your head.  Concentrate and say to yourself over and over, "I am strong.  I can get through this."  I did this exercise before going out to the party.  If you do this, have courage and explore any thoughts that come up.  These thoughts are something you may want to discuss with a grief counselor  or your support group.  If you don't have either, I strongly urge you to get connected to one and/or the other.  Grief is a journey very difficult to go alone.

     It takes energy and work, as well, to be positive.  But to me, this is energy well spent rather than flailing around in a pit of negativity endlessly.  

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Waiting: Life on Hold after Loss

    I wait for answers, for change, for what I don't know.  The concept of  waiting struck really close to home for me with a Hallmark TV Channel movie this evening.  It was about a woman in World War II who said goodbye to her husband on Valentine's Day, their  wedding anniversary.  He never returned from the war.  MIA.  Every year on Valentine's Day she would return to the train station and wait.  She had gone on with her life, but yet she waited.  As do we all in a way, maybe not consciously.  But, we wait.

     I wish I had a place to wait.  To wait for my son, Chris, to return.  To hear, "Hey Mom," again.  To wake up from a nightmare.  To come out of this parallel universe where parents have lost kids to the regular world of regular parents.  To wait for our time to re-join our children in eternity.  To wait to come out of jumping over the chasm of our world of loss to everyday life.  To wait not to be fragile, but to be a tower of strength.

     It is very hard, each day or some days.  But very hard.  A struggle.  Days or times of grief can come out of the blue.  I sobbed at the beginning of this movie.  I realized how much I miss my Chris.  How hard life is without him and his father.  I know I fill up my pain with food.  Things are made much worse as I have so many regrets about the circumstances surrounding Chris' death.  I came home to find Chris gone.  A note was on the kitchen table saying he had fed the dog.  Nothing else.

     He died alone in a small town by himself in the back yard of the young woman I believe shot him.  He was six hours away from home.  In what I regard as a rotten wasteland of a place in western Pennsylvania.  At times, I am tortured by thoughts and images of what his final moments must have been like.  Did he choke or gasp for air or cry out in pain?  Instead of comforting him this young woman along with someone else cleaned up the shooting scene so a proper investigation could not be done.  She was not mentally ill, but evil.  The product of an evil, corrupt politician father.

     Why do I wait and he was spared?  Why does it seem evil triumphs over good so many times.  Especially in backwater places with inept, inexperienced and corrupt police officials and medical examiners who have forgotten they were sworn to uphold the law.

     Now I am alone to wait for my life to feel better.  The young woman teaches elementary school for her local school system.  A job no doubt arranged by her father who kept all her actions quiet, especially after the state fired her for her conduct.  I wouldn't want her teaching my young child or grandchild.      

     There was never any phone call from the hospital, no call from the local township police, no call from her or her parents.  My local police called the medical examiner who told me not to blame myself and do my best to get over it.  Really.  I wonder if that is what he would do or her father if one of their children got shot and killed.

     Tonight I feel no acceptance or forgiveness.  Only anger and hatred.  God is supposed to see everything.  Perhaps what goes around comes around.  Yes, at this moment, I hate this young woman, her parents, those police and that medical examiner.  I hate the availability of guns.

     With almost daily school shootings, how many more parents will go through what I have been through?  I feel no compassion for this young woman or her parents tonight.  Only for you who have lost your children.

     Yet I know I have to pull it together and wait for a better day tomorrow.  I better pound some pillows and wait for exhaustion to overtake me and anger and hatred to leave me.  More waiting.