It’s ok to laugh… and it’s ok to cry!

When faced with an emotional situation, our minds are overwhelmed trying figure out what is ok, or not ok! We think we have to be strong in front of others. I say, “don’t hold back!” It’s ok to laugh, and it’s ok to cry! I think there is a Patty Loveless song in there somewhere. Grief is an odd duck! It comes in waves, and we try to control it. That is a very hard thing to do! The stance we take of showing a brave face is painful!! I write my way through it!!

Survivor’s guilt can jump in on good days. Good things are going to happen in life after the loss of a loved one. We can’t stop the good anymore than we can stop the bad from happening, nor should we want to! It’s bad enough we guilt ourselves for smiling or laughing. It’s a whole other story when we blame others for having good moments, or God forbid , someone tries to make a grieving parent feel bad for having a good moment. I’ve witnessed it. It didn’t happen to me personally. If it had, trust me when I say that person would have gotten an earful, and then some. What people don’t understand of a grieving parent is that we are fighting internal battles constantly, and no one should ever pass judgement, especially on those grieving!

I have encouraged those grieving (by the way, that never stops) to write down a positive thing that happens every day. It’s therapeutic and life -changing! We need to acknowledge the good that continues! It is in those moments when we will start seeing a common thread. I like to think they are signs from our loved one to let us know it will be ok. Call me quirky!!

Flip side, some people want to hold back their tears when they are sad. Why? Tears are not a bad thing and there is no shame in shedding them. Don’t let people guilt you if you cry anymore than they should if you smile or laugh. We all have emotions and it makes me sad to think we criticize a person, man or woman, who has emotions they need to express.

People are complicated, yet not. Some people read. Some of us tend to write. Some people put themselves into those words. I know several have been though similar events I write about. I had someone tell me recently that she cries when she reads what I write. I want you to know I am touched by the fact she told me and it is possible to feel the emotions of my words. I hope the tears are healing and therapeutic for those readers. They are for me.

I have written for my own therapy for many, many years. I actually cry, and sometimes laugh, at what I wrote. The emotions are still there for me too!! Words are what gets me through tough situations. I can go back and reread them when I feel compelled. Don’t misunderstand. I enjoy therapeutic conversations too, but unless they are recorded, I may not retain ALL the wonderful advice and conversations shared. That does not mean I don’t want to talk about situations. Trust me! I am never at a loss for words!! Ask my family. Lol!

Whatever is therapeutic (and legal!) should not be disputed or lessened for those who have things they need to deal with or expressions they wish to convey!! You have all heard the expression “laughter is the best medicine.’ It is very healing, but so is letting go of the tears. Tears are not a sign of weakness. A good cry can calm the emotions just as much as a good laugh!

I encourage those who feel overwhelmed to seek outside help. Some try to be so strong around certain people, maybe an outside person can be your sounding board. This could be the best of both worlds. Bottom line, you are never alone! Talk, cry, write, whatever, it is ok to laugh and it is ok to cry!

I am finding as time goes forward, we all have very different coping mechanisms. I never want to forget those who have gone before me, especially my own son! I will continue to write, talk, speak his name, laugh at some of the stories he left us with, and cry at the void that will forever remain! And guess what, it’s ok! I don’t ask you to agree with me. I ask that we respect those grieving, in whatever coping methods that will allow them to get up each day.

#itsoktolaugh #gonebutnotforgotten #thedashinthemiddle

I am a witness…

As we head into the Lenten season, we are once again reminded of the sacrifices made on our behalf. We relive Mother Mary seeing her son die before her. I can relate. There is a spiritual feeling in me when I think of my son up there in Heaven standing next to our Heavenly Father in all His glory. I will survive this knowing he is safe. It will all make sense later. I can’t try and figure it out. I won’t get the answers down here. Until then, I will remain a witness in life.

Please note, I have, at no time in my life, ever wished to have my child die before me nor do I wish that for any parent!! The statistics from 2017 were 19% of parents will have a child die before them!! Those statistics compute to almost one of five parents. That may have changed, but if it did, it only went up!! How do we get passed the stigma that it will never be us? How do we say, “enjoy our children now!!” Tomorrow is not guaranteed!! Bereaved parents find this out the hard way.

I view my situation as that I didn’t lose my child. I know where he is. What I lost was a future with him, seeing him get married, have children, and seeing the person I knew he could be. That makes me sad all by itself. I cannot say that it should’ve been me. I can only wish it had been. To say you are not supposed to bury your child gives me guilt. Why? Because I did have a child die before me and now I have to live with that just as Mother Mary did! Continually reminding me of the fact just makes the pain an endless heartache. I would rather be grateful for the time I was blessed with and hold tight to the memories rather than continually remind myself of the things I will not get to experience. It just extends my heartache.

I think we perpetuate the sadness we feel when we convince ourselves we should be above surviving our children. As I have said a thousand times, our only guarantee is that we will die. We don’t get to choose the order sometimes!! When I say we perpetuate the sadness, I am referring to the statement that we convince ourselves it will never be us, and then it is!! Every time we remind ourselves it was us, and that it should not have been, we are sad all over again! It seems unfair, but then again, we all know life is unfair!

So how do we get over repeating our sadness. We don’t. We get through it knowing we will meet again! That is what the Lenten season is all about!! It is my guiding force. We should all focus on enjoying the love of those in our lives now. We are not guaranteed tomorrow. None of us.

I have convinced myself that my son is still with me: in my heart; in my actions; in my life. He just happens to be in a room I am not allowed to enter yet. Our gracious and loving God will tell me when it is my turn. I have offered the care of my son up to Him until then. That gives me great peace!

I don’t want to perpetuate the heartache and relive it every day. I need to know my son is alive in my heart and I had a great life with him! I miss his presence, but he is with me in more ways than I can count. My actions are enhanced with the love I had for my child going forward with each breath, step, and action. I want the love I still have in my heart to be reverberated in the life I live from now on. And that applies to both my children. I still have a child alive who is watching me, no matter her age. I LIVE for her and my grandchildren too! They are my witness.

I know I have repeated myself several times. I don’t want to be reminded of what I don’t have. I want to remember what I experienced and was blessed with! This time of year hits me right in the heart, literally. The prodigal son has returned home. I cry because he is gone, but I smile because he was here. I am a witness to the Glory He provides.

#lentenseason #iamawitness #iwillseeyouagain #thedashinthemiddle

It’s your birthday, son…

It’s your birthday, son! On this day, 27 years ago, it was quite a joyous celebration!! The 24-1/2 years that followed weren’t too bad either!! You gave your dad and I a run for our money during the last five years you were on this Earth, but I wouldn’t trade the time I had with you for all the money in the world!!

Saw a gift that would have been perfect for you this past weekend! Actually, the entire event reminded me of you! It was the Whitetails Unlimited event! Everything was guns, camouflage, or an American flag!! I just walked by and smiled knowing you would have been eyeing it all!!! You were so easy to buy for without a doubt!!

There are a lot of people who still miss your everyday presence!! I am at the top of that list, but I am so grateful for the years I did have! I don’t want to ever forget them, or have them overshadowed by the grief I have with you gone! I want to relish in the wonderful memories and stories you left us with!! A lot of those memories still make my hair change color, but they were a part of you, therefore, a forever part of me!

I must say, it has been quite a year already! I see so much of you in your niece! She is so spirited and funny!! She absolutely loves music!! ALL music!! This fact proves you are an influence on her!! You were our human radio and she is right in tow!! Not only your love of music, but her expressions!! Love every one of them! You would be such an awesome uncle!! Your nephew still remembers you quite fondly and loves knowing all the things around the house that were yours!! Melts my heart!!

One of your dearest brothers from another mother gave us quite a scare when he and your dad went to make sure the deer stands were safe and secure for hunting season!! Up the first deer stand and he came crashing down!! Luckily, your dad took great care of him, but the emotions were hard to contain! He came so close to permanent, if not fatal, injuries!! Luckily, he healed from the fractures he suffered in his back!! I thought he had an angel looking out for him. He thought maybe you pushed him!! Wink wink!! We know better!!

I know you have more company with you this year than you had last year! I am saddened one of your hunting buddies has joined you!! His parents need to know you are watching out for him and guiding him around up in Heaven! I need that too! All his buddies (and a lot of yours) gave him a great send off with another truck run. I hope it is not a trend that is repeated anytime soon! I want it to be many, many years before anymore of your friends join you!!

After the truck run, those kids all got together to toast their lost friend! I must say, there were a couple that looked like you! One in particular kind of freaked your sister out a bit!! He was tall, had your thinning hair and scruffy beard-like hair on his face! He knew of you and said he had been told by several people that he resembled you!! Another one that resembles you is one of your friends that you did hang with! He also had been told he looked like you, but he wasn’t losing his hair as quickly!! He mumbled like you though!! I did enjoy listening to him! It was like you were there with us, but I already knew you were!! That was just another sign proving it!!

As I send this letter up to you, know my heart is heavy knowing I cannot hug you and wish you birthday wishes in person!! I can’t say “happy birthday!” It isn’t that I don’t want to. I know every day in Heaven must be happy! At least, I hope so! I am sending birthday wishes galore though!! I celebrate today for you and because of you, my son!! I am better because you graced my life!! I am proud to be your mom!! Death can not change that!! You and your sister were my greatest accomplishments!!

For those other parents in this boat, I hope they, too, know that with the grace of God, our kids are happy and taken care of. Most of all, we know you are safe in His loving arms!

I will celebrate the life you lived today with stories and music! I know your friends are all thinking of you!! It makes me happy that they still smile when they speak of you!! They still honk as they drive by!! Smoke stacks on a diesel truck still bring back fond memories as well as burning rubber!! Today, we raise our glasses and beers in toast of a short life that was full!! We miss you and love you!! May God wrap you in His arms for me and hug you in a way I wish I could! Until we meet again… I cry because you are gone, but I celebrate because you were here!!!

Love,

Mom

#itsyourbirthday #rainbowbabyangelbaby #lifeisshort #thedashinthemiddle

I interrupt this regularly scheduled program called… life!

Mass this weekend was very interesting. The homily gave me a new way of thinking about those out-of-the-ordinary moments in our life. When something happens; good, bad, or indifferent, who do you turn to? Who do you talk to? Who do you ask questions to? If your answer was “God,” your answer matched mine. For those that don’t have faith, this won’t make a lot of sense. If you have faith in our Lord, you, too, know there is a Plan we know nothing about, but hopefully can accept with grace.

Many people having this interruption, whatever it is, will look up and ask God “why?” It is not something we may get an answer to right away. It may not be anything God had a hand in creating, but He will be there to see us through. Remember, the devil walks among us! We need to trust that our actions from there will lead us to the best possible outcome. Sometimes, we have to walk the line and have faith that there is a reason at the end of our walk, wherever that leads us!!

We question our own actions to see if we are partly to blame. We ask if there was anything different we could have done to stop whatever events happened in our path. We want to blame others if we think it could have been avoided. There are many reactions, but the most important reaction is to look up and commit, “give me the strength and guidance to get through whatever happens from here.”

Prayer is a very powerful thing. Trust is also powerful! Having trust in someone or something means you will accept things that may not be easy.

Sometimes, the message is very clear when things happen. Don’t mess with fire. Don’t drink and drive. Safety first. To a lot of young kids, that sounds boring. I have threatened to wrap up all of my son’s friends in bubble wrap to avoid the thought of their parents going through my situation. My interruption was outside my control, and I don’t regret that my son lived life to the fullest!!

When something out of the ordinary happens, we don’t always stop and appreciate all the times things went right. Maybe this is an underlying message as well. We don’t know why things happen; why cancer exists; why accidents happen; why people feel the need to take out a slew of complete strangers before ending their own life; why planes crash; why famous people seem to be held up and expected to never have bad things happen. It’s called life and we are all subject to its misfortunes.

I, too, had all the above- mentioned questions. I just look up and ask “what do I do with this newfound situation? How do I turn it into a positive?” Writing is how I try to contribute. I hope it helps others. The loss of my son is not my only “interruption” in this program called “Life.” This one just hit a lot harder. I have found some positives to pull from it. I still wish it had not happened and hope that is not how that statement is portrayed. I lived to see another day. There is a reason for that even though I felt like part of me died that day!!

When your regularly scheduled life hits an interruption, step back, look up, ask for help and guidance. It is not a sign of weakness. Prayer, as I stated, is very powerful. Remember, the devil preys on our weaknesses. Do not succumb to his level. Have faith. The sun will shine another day and whatever hell we are going through on this Earth, we are not alone. The answers will come in due time, and maybe not while we are on this Earth, but is part of the Plan we know nothing about.

You may now proceed to your regularly scheduled program…

#thingcalledlife #lifeinterrupted #thedashinthemiddle

It’s like a time warp…

Watching another family go through the loss of a child is difficult, knowing I know what they are thinking, feeling, and have to expect going forward!! And, just as in the case with my son, the send off was a room full of young persons blended into a big blob of camouflage!!

I never want someone who has not been through the loss of a child to ever really try to put themself in that position. If you have never lost a child, thank God right now, where you stand!! Seriously!! I would not wish this on my worst enemy!!! It is similar to being stuck in a sad time warp! This past weekend, the wormhole opened up again at the loss of one of my son’s friend!!

Those who have tried to empathize have compared this loss to their child leaving, for whatever reason. There is quite a difference between leaving the homestead and dying. Some parents think they feel some similarities, but the difference is more like a Grand Canyon. When a child drives alone for the first time, leaves for college, or moves out on their own, some of those anxieties parents experience might be very similar, but ours are permanent. Our child won’t be driving back home after their trip, or moving all their crap back in when money gets tight, or packing up a dorm room after graduation. As a parent, we choke back tears, have fears and anxiety about the child not being at home anymore, but those feelings are laced with a layer of hope that a bereaved parent won’t feel. Our feelings are them leaving and remaining stuck in an endless time warp of never being able to return, but us not wanting them to feel gone.

I will continue to share my stories because that allows me to talk about my son. It won’t bring him back, but it allows him to still be present in my life that way. I hope the new members of this unfortunate club feel that way too! So many people are afraid to bring up his name for fear it will make me cry. I am okay with that! Crying is, and will always be, part of this process! The tears don’t stop, but we still smile too! Those conversations and stories are important! Don’t hold back. If we are in a position or frame of mind that is different, we will let you know. For the record, I haven’t asked one person yet to not ask me about my son!!

As we lay another person to rest today, know it isn’t about the age or the things they won’t get to do, it’s about the life lived! Remember the dash in the middle of those two dates, beginning and end, are the story! How we live when we are alive will tell the stories after we are gone! Share often and never forget!

Brandon, our newest angel, now with his buddy, we will cry because you are gone, but smile because you were here!! Rest easy. The hard part for you is over. Just help the rest of us now…

#resteasyupthere #youngagebutbiglife #flyhighonthatmountain #thedashinthemiddle

Welcome home!! It’s not final, but it can feel like it…

Give me strength!! We are about to attend the funeral of another young person in our lives. It is always hard because they seem so final. But it isn’t always the finale. During these moments, I draw on the strength that has gotten me to here… my faith!!

Even though it has been nearly two and a half years since I lost my son, the void is still like a crater. I fill that crater with memories, stories, pictures, and prayers! The void will always be there, but so will all those things I have to remember him. I just don’t get “new” stories, memories, and photos to go with them. That has to be the hardest part.

The first thing I realized is nothing can replace my son. From there, I had to learn a new normal without him. The new members of this unwanted club will have to learn that too, as hard as it is. I hope they, too, will draw on the strength of their faith to get there. We have to know they are in a good place. As a parent, that is always the hope for our children. We want to know they are ok!

I have repeatedly said that our only guarantee in life is that we will die. We don’t always know when or how. We don’t know if we will suffer horribly or go peacefully. We also can’t guarantee that our children will outlive us, as many of us have found out the hard way!!

As we start the day tomorrow, say a prayer for the family saying goodbye to their son, brother, nephew, and friend and hello to their new angel. May the Lord wrap them in his loving care not only tomorrow, but also for the road ahead of them, knowing that his suffering is over and he is in his forever home with those who have gone before him. This is not the final step, and he awaits us with open arms. Now, many more understand how we cry because they are gone, but smile because they were here!!!

#gonetoosoonforus #inHislovingcare #newangelamongus #thedashinthemiddle

I’ve been there, and am still there… and am not alone!

As I sit here, thoughts are rampant!! One of my son’s buddies was killed last night in an ATV accident. He was 20 years old. My heart hurts… for many reasons!! For those of you who have lost a child, when another passes, it is like repeating your own loss all over again!! We know exactly what that family is going through… step by step by step!! 😢

To those that are new to this unfortunate club, my heart aches for you and I have no easy words. I wish there was something I could say that takes away the pain of your loss. The only thing I can tell you is I am here for you!! I will stay quiet in a corner if needed. I will hold your hand. I will get you more Kleenex. I will listen to you and do whatever is needed. But I can’t take away the pain!!

I can tell you I will continue to talk about your son. I will share stories to remember the life he lived! I will look at pictures over and over and over. I know his life had meaning, and will continue to have meaning!! He was here for a reason and has changed the lives of many!

I know the first of everything you experience without him will bring tears: first holiday; first birthday, of his or anyone; the first day you don’t get a call or card of condolence; and so many more. I can tell you there will be triggers you cannot prepare yourself for. They will hit you out of nowhere! You might be driving down the road, folding laundry, cleaning up a mess, buying groceries, or watching tv. No prepping yourself. Just know on those days, I will be praying for you!

Grief is not something you will get over, especially the loss of your child! It is different than any other loss you will have. This does not mean you don’t love others you have lost. This loss doesn’t make you a widow(er) or an orphan. This loss makes you incomplete. You may never feel whole again. You will not get over this loss, but you will get through it! Hold on tight for the bumpy ride ahead. Through all of it, know many of us are here still praying! That won’t stop!! Ever!!

I want to sugarcoat it but I can’t. I can only stress to not lose yourself and your purpose. You are now living for your son as well. Live the best life possible. You will find joy in the things around you. Give yourself time to heal and some of that beauty will return. You will never stop missing your child, but he will continue to give you purpose! He will be shining down on you and give you signs right when he knows you need them. Keep the faith and know he is in good hands!

This is an ongoing process you will go through. Do not feel alone or that you have to do this alone! Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. You have many here to help along the way. As with my son, I know you will cry because he is gone, but I want you to smile because he was here!

#gonetoosoon #neverforgotten #buddiesinheaven #thedashinthemiddle