Category Archives: children

We are not sick; we are sad.

A peer blog sparked the never-ending question of, “How long is long enough to grieve?” We chuckle when we hear it because we ask ourselves, “Are we on a step system or something? Should we cover our faces with a mask, like a child, and hide from the world?” It brought me back to the days of struggling with returning to work following the death of B. I specifically recall trying to get additional time home, in order to help my eldest child adjust to his first days back at school. I used some days owed to me from work.  However, I was then told that any additional time off would have to be prepared through paperwork, specifically the Family Medical and Leave Act. Well, of course, I was shocked to find, from FMLA, that I couldn’t take time off for the death of my child. Really? Really.

So, what does one do? I was told to see a doctor. The doctor then had to “label” me in order to agree with the FMLA terms. Thus, I put my family first, rather than pride. I marched into the doctor’s office and said, “My child died. I don’t know why. Now, work says you need to see me in order for me to stay home. Oh yeah, and you need to sign this paperwork.” I was embarrassed; I didn’t want any more people to know B’s death than necessary at the time. So here I am, telling the doctor that delivered B, that he died. I didn’t have answers. She said in order to get approved for FMLA, I had to claim I was “clinically depressed.” Really? Really. She said, “Here is some medication. Are you extremely depressed?” I took a step back. Was I? No. Did this label bother me? Yes.

It angered me. It embarrassed me. Why? I was not depressed. I was SAD. My child died; I was SAD. Plain and simple. I replied to the doctor, “Wouldn’t you feel sad? Is this something new in the world of medicine? I simply want time to be with my eldest son. I want time to be alone with “me.” What makes me “clinically” depressed?” She didn’t respond. Later that day, I faxed in my paperwork that read, “Cannot function with daily work habits. Must receive further treatment. Suffering from clinical depression…lost her child.” Done.

Granted, I understand some people are clinically depressed. People do need medication and/ or therapy.  Many of us have been there. Others do well without anything and God bless. Everyone is different. What bothers me most is that my child died, and the government felt it was not important enough to let me stay home. That I needed a “label” because of what had happened. Yet, if we give birth or adopt, we can stay home. Why not when we bury a child?

There are petitions now in place in which people are trying to make such changes to the FMLA. Thank goodness. I do not think we are sick. We do not need a label for losing a child. No one can tell anyone how long is long enough. What you should, or shouldn’t feel. What you need, or don’t need. Each story is different; each loss is a loss that is unique to the individual. What the government and some others around us may lack is compassion and empathy. Please do not tell us how to feel, act, speak, or move. Let us simply be and give us respect.

Remember me and smile.

“Mom, remember when B used to take my cars.”

“Yes, I do. B loved all of your toys and wanted to make them his own! He would grab a car and just run from you!”

“Yeah, that was funny. I miss B.”

Time gets ahead of us so fast. We used to think time stood still, like we were trapped in a glass box with everyone staring in. Now, time has simply…passed. With a blink of an eye, months, almost years, have gone by us. Our oldest, T, is becoming a young boy, no longer a tiny toddler. He used to love kisses and hugs; he would much rather have his game system or Lego’s at this point!

And B, well, B would have been huge, just huge! He was born a big baby and always measured off the charts. It was really amusing because we would say to him, “Who is SO big?” He would chuckle. His chubby cheeks and thick thighs made him a beast, compared to his tall, skinny brother! T is our sensitive soul, while B would have been the rough and tumble tough guy.

We now see other kids his age and just imagine he is there with them, playing, laughing, skipping. We wonder what he would be eating, or watching on television, or what is favorite story would be. We wonder because it is all we can do. However, we know he is playing among others in heaven. We know he is among other children and they are dancing and singing. We know he is among our family and friends; we know he is safe. It is just difficult because we miss his touch, his warmth. The way his brother would laugh when he did steal his cars. The way he slept on Daddy’s chest on the couch, while T and I played puzzles.

We have so many memories, and we are thankful. Yet, we always just struggle with the “why” aspect. Whether we lose someone so young or someone so old, I think that question comes and goes; it has been awhile for us. Now that it is back, we recall that we shouldn’t question the “why” or live in grief that holds the shoulders down so tight that you want to hide from the world. We accept that it happened, that such tragedy happens to others we know as well. We choose to live life the way B would be proud, and that is to keep each other happy and healthy. When we think of B, we think of the memories we created, even if time was too short. We know he sends us messages from heaven, like “Remember me and smile.” When life gets ahead of us, we all need to stop and smile once in a while.

His message in the bottle…

“Look Mom, B wrote you a letter.”

He reached for the sticker decorated bottle, stuck his little finger inside, and pulled out something wonderful: a short letter he said B had sent me from heaven. Of course, I could see that T wrote this message himself, with his uneven lines and curved letters falling off the page. Yet, it was a gift “from heaven.” Just to think that T could put together something so special, for me, truly amazes me.  Without revealing too much, the message simply stated something along the lines of, “….you are a good mom….from heaven…love B…” Lost it, right then, right there followed by a much-needed cry and a much-needed hug from T. After losing a child, one cannot help but wonder, “Was it me?” T helped me deal with that answer.

So powerful yet so simple, this glass bottle has become a special token in our home. Created by T, it is used to store anything he would like to say to B. It contains tiny pieces of paper, scraps of pictures….he has tried to put just about everything in this bottle! It is part of our healing process, which almost 17 months now, doesn’t seem to get all that easier. Sure, we smile and laugh, hug and cry, but the part of us that misses B just lingers.

So, we send him messages in the bottle. Everyone needs a way to communicate their feelings; this one seems to work for us. We have been through the rage and depression, there and back again, and more may come. We continue to struggle with the unknown. However, writing to B seems to bring us some peace. We hope others find their way to peace as well.

Do you think life has a pause button?

We have learned to express our emotions quite well in our home. However, when T sees me upset, he tells me he gets upset. Of course, I will avoid hurting him at all costs. Yet, today has been difficult; we have heard of another loss of someone dear to us. Thus, the bathroom has been my refuge for most of my emotions, like all of the other bad days. I never know what to say to those during their grief, still. Even after our experience, even while we still grieve, we find we are at a loss for words. Strange, but true…

We want to comfort, but how? We know that feeling of isolation, the sense of being overwhelmed, the thought of “For goodness sake, just leave me be!” Privacy can sometimes yield no respect. So, here we are on New Year’s Eve, wondering what the next year will bring. Wondering what my friends are feeling in their loss. Wondering about our loss…

We are together here, after several months. This is good. We could have simply fallen apart. Yet, one step forward is always accompanied by three steps back. The advice I have always given is “Just breathe.” Somehow, I get through the day with that racing through my mind. I see, hear, or read something and just when I am about to explode, I have to remind myself, “Just breathe.” If my little T can be so brave and strong, then I can too.

Therapy taught us that we will learn to put our emotions and tears on hold. We will learn to speak to our inner selves and ask, “Can you come back later?” I remember chuckling at the counselor as others glared at me. I thought, “If I want to cry or shout, then I will allow myself to do just that!” As time went on, however, I was wrong. Honestly, this method of “on hold” has worked for us. T and I both tell our emotions to come back later. He will say, “Stay up on the shelf! I have to get to sleep!” I could, and always have anyway, cried at the drop of a hat, the stupidest commercial, anything…Now, it is more controlled. I try not to make T or anyone else around me uncomfortable, but more importantly, we have realized acceptance: life goes on. Sometimes, you do have to tell your emotions, “Please come back at 10, when all are asleep,” or “Can you hold off until I make it into my car?” This is because life goes on. Life will not hit the pause button.

To accept life moving forward, my husband often speaks of famous quotes or movie scenes to help us “deal.” One of our favorite inspirational scenes is from “Rocky Balboa.”

As Rocky is speaking with his son, he says, “The world isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody will hit as hard as life. But, it isn’t about how hard you hit; it is about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”

To all of us missing someone special, I send you comfort and peace in the New Year. No matter where they are, our love will find them.

What are your memories?

“Really Mom? This is horrible.”

Well, for the first and last time, we attempted to create a special family moment this holiday by assembling a gingerbread house. How difficult could it be? You see these things everywhere you look, and of course, T notices it and wants one. I thought it would be a great opportunity to discuss B as well, since the holidays can be challenging. So, for the low, low price of $9.99, I figured, “Why not?!” Bringing it through the doorway, my husband just chuckled. He knew the outcome, he knew…

T and I worked on this “thing,” using soup cans to hold up the sides, licking the white, strange, but oh so tasty goo off of our fingers for quite some time. We mentioned a funny memory of B every lick or two (B was a beast; he would have not been a gentle giant with the candy!) Needless to say, my husband gave up his work of sticking on gummies after 20 minutes; T gave up his jellybean job after 10 minutes. There I was trying to pull it all together for the team! In return, T walks over to it the next morning and tells me, “It is horrible. I mean, Mom, look at this thing.” He was right. It was horrible! Yet, in my mind, I was happy. We made a memory, together.  A memory so that each year when we see that perfect gingerbread house display, we can walk by it and simply say to ourselves, “No thanks!” I hope all of you make memories this holiday season.

Always will.

“Loved you then, love you still. Always have, always will.”

This saying is written on an ornament in our bedroom. T noticed it and said, “Is this about me, Mom?” I replied, “Of course!” Then came, “Well, it must be about B too because he is in heaven, but we still love him.” I replied, “Of course.”  He continues to draw and write, and his behavior has greatly improved (although Santa is approaching!) I admire him for his strength. We swear, and hope, that B visits him in his dreams. Children don’t know they possess such strength. Adults often question their own strength.

In times of struggles, in a year of illnesses, deaths, and separations, how do we find that strength? More importantly, how do we provide it for others? It is a season of merry, yet some cannot crack that smile. I am often asked, “How do you do it?” Well, none of us have an answer. We just “do.” What I can say is this: Speak with your angel. Find your strength.

Do we close the blinds? Do we ignore the holiday cards? What life would that be for us, or for those around us? Certainly not one our angel would wish for us. Just as I watch T color a picture, you should take the time to do something to make you smile. What makes you strong? How do you demonstrate strength?

I admire the courage you have to face the day. Do not waste a moment. Our angels loved us then and they love us still.

Let us not lose ourselves.

As the holidays approach, the stress level of every individual increases. Questions arise such as, “Where are we going for dinner?” “Should we travel?” “What should we cook?”  Everyone says they “love” the holidays, but hate the “attributes” that accompany them. This includes everything from seeing people you really don’t care to see, sitting in hours of traffic, or planning the dinner menu. Yet, after you reach your “destination,” doesn’t everything turn out…okay? On the ride home, you reflect, “Gosh, that wasn’t that bad.”

For those of us missing a loved one on a holiday, or any day for that matter, it doesn’t have to be “bad.” Do we shed a tear on Christmas for baby B? Of course. However, we believe he is spending that day in heaven, protected, safe, and warm. We shed tears because we miss him. Plain and simple. We do not need a holiday for that. So, we have to ask ourselves the question, “How will we handle those special days?” We wonder what our loved one would want us to do. Well, who were you when they were alive? That was the person they loved. Let us not lose what made us special to them.

It has been a long road for us, and will continue to be, as expected. However, we have others around us who are fighting their own battles. We are finding ways to support them; reciprocate what was given to us. It is the cycle of friendship. So, we realize that others have “bad” days as well. How can we teach them what we have learned, even if the circumstances are completely different? When a “bad” day is approaching, or arrived, find a memento that will remind you of the good, like baby B’s blue musical chair. T wants it visible in our home because of the memories it serves. Memories make us smile. Really, after thinking about such good times, you’ll say to yourself, “Gosh, that wasn’t that bad.” In fact, you will feel quite good…

How often do you play?

   “Play with me, Mom.” Such a simple request, and yet we sometimes respond, “In a minute,” or “Maybe later,” or “I’m tired,” or “I just got in from work.” Excuses could be endless, but really, why not just stop and play? What if you never heard that plea, that voice again? What if you denied them such a simple request? This pertains to not only our children, but what about our parent, best friend, or sibling? I have learned from T that everything else can wait… the dusty table, the dirty dishes, the laundry, the phone ringing. Spending time with those we love, the intimate “turn off the t.v. and get off Facebook” time, is crucial.  As we get older,  it is easy to lose sight of the simple things. On his road to recovery, as we call it, T has reminded us about the important aspects of life and has taught me some new lessons along the way. I have come to appreciate everything more because of how precious time has become for us. “Let’s read a book, Mom.” “Can we go for a bike ride, Dad?” “Can we watch videos of B together?” Spend your time in a way that will be meaningful, a way that makes you smile. When it comes to children, they look to us for everything-it is all they know and want. So, when T wants to color a picture with me, or run with me to get my coffee, I smile and take a mental photograph of that moment. I don’t want to miss a thing. Ask yourself, “How often do you play?”



The storm.

 It was like the floodgates had opened, and I was lost. It reminded me of this photo I took over the winter during our horrific snowstorm. One doesn’t know how much snow is there until you actually open the door and see it. It took over a year, but our son’s storm hit.

Some friends had questioned why the blog has not had any updates. Well, truth be told, it has been very difficult these past few weeks. It seems as though my husband, T, and I have had a storm brewing for so long that it has now reached a boiling point. The anger, sadness, depression, frustration, impatience….

What do you do with such a wave of emotions? It came pouring out of T one afternoon following school. A simple, outdoor Halloween decoration set the stage for two hours of hell. Everything from “I hate you” to “I am moving to a new home” was shouted on the front lawn, then from inside the living room. What does one do? Shout back? Cry? Scream? I stood in horror. It was just T and myself. So, I let him scream. Then, I let him scream more. Finally, he screamed some more. I held back the tears; I knew why he was acting this way and it wasn’t because of a decoration. I gave him the two hours he needed to yell, even hit, as I stood there in silence. I know you think more should have been done, but dear friends, what came out of this child was the rage built up since losing B.

Two whole hours, tears galore, a red nose, some thrown toys…the chaos ended with a hug so tight that I felt suffocated! “I’m sorry mom; I just miss B.” The words came out of his mouth very plain and simple. My instincts were correct, for once. This child needed that release. He got just that (and I am sure the neighbors did as well!) A conversation ensued about anything and everything to do with feelings, memories, reactions, and how we can’t control everything that happens. Was I still up all night reading my grief books with a cup of coffee? Of course. I had to know that I was not alone with a grieving child. The stages of grief vary, the length varies. Hell, everyone’s lives vary. Welcome to the new normal for us. What we must learn now is patience. Using it on one another, well, may be a challenge.

If a picture could tell a story.

   Almost two years ago, I asked T to put away all of our sandals. We were notorious for throwing them off of our feet, and letting them lie wherever they landed! T thought it would be cute to line them up, and I snapped a photo of it. When I printed it, T absolutely loved this snapshot (as did we!). He asked us to enlarge it and we obliged. It has been hanging in our hallway ever since and he seems to be attracted to it more and more lately. I know I can recall the day he set the sandals up for the picture, so I am sure he recalls it as well.  It brings back the memory of B wearing his sandals, even though he couldn’t walk yet! T has a tendency of asking the notorious, “Why did B have to …” question whenever he is finished looking at photos. So, the honest response always is, “Well, we don’t know why. But, ….” It upsets me even as I write this post. A conversation like this should not exist in a normal child’s world, but, it exists in my world, and I still consider us normal. Sometimes our conversations end in tears, other times laughter. Regardless, I think we shouldn’t be afraid of these types of discussions with children. He has learned it is okay to cry, be angry, or laugh about B. Emotions are a true part of one’s soul, and young ones should be encouraged to express them. So, do we stop looking at pictures of B because we are afraid of the hurt or questions that may follow? Absolutely not. Hardships are the opportunities for one to become courageous.