What Is ‘Normal’?

I wonder if I’m doing it right.  This whole grieving thing. I have never walked this path.  I am fortunate enough to still have my parents, my siblings and closest friends. Death has been foreign to me.  I’ve been to funerals.  Some were expected, others ambushed us.  Some came too close for comfort.  Like the passing of my half brother a few years ago at the age of 24.  I think that at the time, I was too busy being the big sister, supportive daughter, and dutiful step daughter to let everything sink in and by the time it did, my life had got in the way.  My father and ex-step mom did not take it well.  They were older parents when they had him and truth be told, left a lot to desired. My step mom had some issues she had to resolve within herself, one of them guilt, for not being there for her son and leaving him with my father to raise.  My father didn’t even raise me or my siblings.  He was never a touchy feely type of dad anyway, and he certainly wasn’t one then. He grieved for his son and was devastated as any other parent would be but I don’t think he ever moved on from the anger stage of grief.   BOY was he angry and to this day he is still angry and even more bitter.  I remember thinking ‘why is he being like this?  He still had other children..why was he being so aloof..so mean?!’  It took me having to go through my own grief to understand, to some small degree, his new and more sullen personality. My father, without trying, taught me I didn’t want to be like him as I began my own grief , world ripped apart, journey.

I read how it has been several years since someone’s child has passed and they are still grieving as it was the first day.  It takes all their might to get through each day and night.  They wonder if they even want to.  Then there are those that lean on God or some other spiritual life force and encourage the rest of us to smile and let God or S.O.S.L.F. take control of our lives and our pain.  They imply that if I close my eyes, I will see fields of daisy’s with a spiritual being holding his arms out to me smiling ear to ear.  I hear no sounds but I can hear it speak to me words of comfort.  Rather foolishly, there have also been those days where I wonder if by taking two extra Benedryl, it is just enough to do the trick (BTW, no I am not suicidal, though I wish I could be with my Joey).

There have been a few days that I wake up happy, with a renewed spirit.  That is how I felt the day after the 1st anniversary.  I almost felt a sense of relief when I woke up.  I was smiling and felt light on my feet.  I think it’s because the ‘pressure’ of the year of firsts had finally passed and we made it. Not entirely intact, but nonetheless, we made it. Then, that light on my feet feeling turned to shock.  I felt a sharpness of guilt!  I should not be this happy!  My life hadn’t changed from a year ago, but somehow, I wan’t as sad as I thought I should be! I am scared. What if, one day, I just stop thinking about him?!  What if I wake up one morning and suddenly realize that his passing hadn’t consumed me the previous day?  Did that mean I would soon forget the sound of his voice, the scent of his skin, the roar in his laugh?!  What do I do now?  What should I do?  Is this even in the stages of grief manual?  Someone, please tell me I’m normal and not going quietly insane.

In the serenity and solace of my room, I often wonder if I am a normal grieving parent.  I wonder what normal is.  Is there even supposed to be a normal.  The only thing I know for sure is…

My life will never be normal again



A Day Like No Other..

I was dreading the one year anniversary.  But not more than any other of the firsts.  I was told to prepare myself for all the significant holidays and special events during the first year.  I could only imagine what it would be like. How much worse could it be?? It caught me by surprise when Christmas, Thanksgiving, Fourth of July came and went without me feeling any more pain than the ‘insignificant’ days on the calendar.  I think it was because my pain was already so deep that I couldn’t really tell the difference.  Those of us that live in the valley say that once we hit triple digits in the summer, it doesn’t matter if it’s 100 or 109…It is still unbearable.  That’s the way I would describe those “firsts”.  It doesn’t really matter.  The void is still there, the missing piece is still gone.  The laughter in the room is quieter.  The holiday seasons and the happiness my home once held was incomplete.  No one day seemed to be worse than the other.  Or at least I thought that. I can say that there ARE…2 firsts that hit me really hard and off guard. Two days that cut my soul to the core.  The day he came into the world, and the day he left.

His birthday: January 16, 2017, I reached for my phone and sent him a birthday wish to his last phone number.  Call it impulse or wishful thinking.  It was something I felt I needed to do.  ‘Happy birthday baby boy!  I love you!!  May you get everything your heart desires!’ That message is still out there in the great beyond.  It continues to float around aimlessly.  I don’t know. Maybe it did reach him…I can only hope. Thirty two years  earlier, I had held this chubby little boy in my arms and fell in deep love with him.  People say that the love you feel for your children supersedes all understanding.  Truer words have not been spoken. It doesn’t matter if they are your first or your fifth.  It is so grand that  parents expecting their second child often worry that they will not love their second one as much as the first.  It’s because they have yet to understand that with each child and as mommy’s tummy grows, so does the heart. It explodes with this feeling of bliss that you will never find elsewhere. You love your children with this all consuming love.  Their life becomes your life.  Their pain becomes your pain.  Their wishes, joys and desires, become yours.  You will move heaven and earth to protect them and give them all you have and so much more.  You take on a new identity when you become a parent. I was no longer, Henry and Mercedes daughter, Rosie’s best friend,  Joe’s wife…I took on a new role which was more important than any other role in my entire life. I became Joey’s mom. When Joey died, that part of me died with him.

July 16, 2017:  The one year anniversary.  I woke up that morning feeling queasy but no tears.  Scott stayed home with me “just in case” he said.  My morning started off as usual.  Let dogs out, make coffee, read paper..no tears.  I totally expected to be tangled up in a mess of tears and heartache, yet no tears.  Only a feeling I couldn’t distinguish from the rest. I walked around the house aimlessly but still no tears.  We decided to get out of the house.  Maybe that would take my mind off of everything. We were planning on gathering at the church later that evening to release balloons in his honor.  I let everyone know that I didn’t want anything else except that and I asked that they honor my wishes.  If they wanted to do something else afterwards, they could but I would not be a part of it. I know people whose children have also passed away have had  huge get together with food and music to honor their children. I didn’t want that.  It seemed like more of a party atmosphere to me.  Don’t get me wrong.  I understand why they do it and admire them for having the courage to celebrate their lives instead of mourning that moment.   If it was up to me, I would have preferred to stay home and skip right over this day.  But what would others think of me?  Why did I care?

As the day went on, I still couldn’t shake off that feeling. It was this immense feeling of heaviness in my heart.   It felt as if I couldn’t breath.  I kept taking deep breaths as if I was lacking oxygen.  I tried to smile. I tried to seem interested in my husbands conversations but truth be told, I only heard every other word he spoke.  I was lost in my own world.  I stared off into space as if I was looking for something…anything.  Yet, I knew that what I longed to see, would never come to be.  I confessed to my husband that I just wasn’t enjoying our outing.  I told him how I felt this ugly feeling. He told me it was OK to cry.  I couldn’t.  The feeling wasn’t one of sadness.  It was something I couldn’t pinpoint.  It wasn’t grief, or despair.  All I could say was that I felt heavy. As we were getting the balloons, my mom called.  I don’t recall what she said but whatever it was opened up the flood gates.  I cried, well, more like wailed all the way to the church.  My body heaved.  I was doubled over in pain.  I thought I was going to pass out.  I couldn’t breath.  Everything was going black. I couldn’t sit up.  All I wanted to do was die.  I knew I was dying that very moment from grief.  Then, in the middle of my cries of angst, I remembered this feeling!  The pain in my chest sensation that I had been experiencing  all day.  It was the same feeling I had the day my son passed.  It was the same heaviness and the same emotions I had felt a year ago, right before we got the news.  I knew what I was feeling…

I was feeling my son die