A member of one of the crafting sites I follow asked our group for gift ideas. She wanted to make something for the parents whose son had passed away a month ago. Suggestions quickly started trickling in. A nice coffee cup with his obituary picture, a fruity scented candle, the ever so coveted toilet paper and paper goods, and so on and so on.
Everyone had their heart in the right place, and I made sure to include that in my reply which in part read something like this:
“NO, NO, NO, this isn’t a welcome to the neighborhood, or here make your house smell pretty and yay, I’ll never use a real plate again (oh and remember the toilet paper fiasco of 2020)” type of event. I have a hard enough time looking at my sons’ pictures every day. I do not want to drink from a coffee cup bearing his funeral image.”
YUP, I opened a huge can of worms! instead of replying to the original poster, members started responding to me. Some shared my sentiments, while others thought I was way off base. It escalated to a debate of what’s an appropriate gift and at what stage of grief is it appropriate? Soon, there were just three of us communicating. We agreed to go off the site…well admin told us to…and then there we were, three grieving moms, finding their way to each other. What had started as a stringent debate about crafts turned into moms trying to find direction and comfort in each other.
We discovered that we are all in different stages of our journey. One mom ( whom I’ll call Julie) had lost her only child, a daughter, only 2 months ago while the other mom (whom I’ll call Mary) was eleven years into her journey. I, fall in the middle…finding my way through yet still stumbling along the way. Julie was newly shattered. She found it hard to get out of bed, eat, get dressed, or even communicate with others. She just wanted to stay in bed and cry. She found herself self medicating and sleeping the days and nights away. Mary shared her own journey and how she also was in that same dark place many years ago. She assured Julie that life would eventually get more manageable and confessed that during her darkest times, she didn’t want to live anymore. She told us how her family had her hospitalized twice for fear that she would go to any means necessary to end her pain. She confessed to us that those steps had actually saved her life.
We wrote about the nights and days following our children’s deaths ( uugg I hate that word). The noise from all the visitors during those first few days deafened us and the silence, once they stopped coming, was even more painful in itself. I shared how I still have my sons ashes, wondering if I will ever be brave enough to “set him free.” Julie lamented how she wished she would have not put her baby in the ground and how lonely her daughter must feel after everyone stopped visiting. She shared the guilt of not being there every day and how she no longer talks to her sister who confessed to her that it’s too difficult to visit her niece at the gravesite. She regretted screaming at her, ” YOU THINK IT’S TO HARD FOR YOU?? !! I pray you DO feel my pain one day!!” Oh, that pesky stage of grief…anger. I know it well.
It took Mary 9 years to find the perfect spot to finally put her son’s ashes to rest. She said she chickened out 3 times but once she let him go, she felt freedom herself. This selfless act allowed her to finally come to terms with his passing. She finally understood the undeniable depth of her strength and bravery …something she never thought she had even though she constantly heard “You are so Brave and Strong” She also explained how she was finally able to go through the infamous “box”. Grieving parents/people often have a box or drawer where they keep all the cards and keepsakes from the funeral or the days surrounding it. Some go through it immediately trying to find comfort in the words of friends and family, while others like me, struggle to find the courage to open it years later.
When it was my time to share, I felt like I was talking to long lost friends. I was able to share feelings that I am hesitant to share with others for fear of being judged or categorized as “The crazy lady who lost her son.” I told them that when they put my son in the back of the hearse, I climbed into the back of it and laid beside him, my arm draped over his coffin. I could hear the gasps and wails of mourners surrounding the Hearst. They were watching me and I didn’t care. I KNEW that this would be the last time I could spend time with him. Or would it be? I caught myself whispering, “I’ll see you in a couple of days”….with the intent of following through. I confessed how I sat on the bathroom floor with the bottle of anxiety pills the Dr. prescribed to me. I told them the only reason I didn’t take the pills was because there was no cup or bottled water upstairs and my legs were too weak to carry me downstairs. Mary told me that it was Joey, saving my life.
I shared my blog with them (they will be reading this) and told them that the reason I write is so no one forgets, especially me. There are moments when I suddenly realize I haven’t cried in a long time and the guilt is unbearable. It is then that I go back and re-read my posts and allow the painful memories to resurface. I make sure to step into the shower or close the closet door so Scott doesn’t have to hear the excruciating sounds coming out of my mouth. After a few minutes of weeping, I start to feel to a lightness…a type of unexplainable calm. It’s not because I cried it out, but rather because reliving the pain means I haven’t forgotten. Julie lamented and said she just wants to forget. Mary tells her “You will never forget. You just teach yourself how to cope and you become stronger than your pain. You learn not to out run it but simply learn how to walk beside it.” I tell her, “One day, I want to be as strong and brave as you.”
You already are,” she typed back. “You’re still here”