Saturday, October 26, 2013

For My Friends

I read a post this morning, something I think Rabbi Kushner had written, that spoke about how (during your darkest hours) you lose some friends because they care so much about you and it hurts them to see you hurt and you lose some others because your loss reminds them of their vulnerability. I totally understand that. Maybe I've even been that person.

One thing I somehow hadn't foreseen happening was that I might end up costing myself friendships because what they have hurts me. I know that's just a nice way of saying I'm jealous and maybe even resentful, and those things are not pretty or nice, but then losing a part of yourself is never pretty or nice. I withdrew from most people, as it was, and the few I let back in have been mostly on my terms. I don't know, maybe subconsciously I felt like it was something I could actually control, in a world that has spun crazy out of control.

That post really made me face what I've been doing: keeping my friends who have kids (especially sons) at arm's length..or further. I don't have many friends who've lost kids, at least not close friends, but of those who have, few have lost their teenage son. Of course, even if they have, they didn't lose their son named Brandon, their only son. No matter what, I can make what is already horrifically isolating even more isolating. While I am so thankful that most of my friends haven't walked this road, it feels so unfair that I am in excruciating, agonizing pain every day, while their lives get to just go happily by. It is so hard. Of course, I don't begrudge my friends their happiness and I am happy for them that they are in the season of life they are in, but time stopped for me five months ago and I just don't know how to participate in lives where the clock hasn't stopped. Brandon was so much like me that it is, literally, as though part of me died with him, so I have no idea when the clock will start ticking, again.

Early on, a stranger wrote to me through facebook how she'd lost her son, Brandon K., at almost the exact age my BK died...19 years and two months. That person I could relate to. I felt a special bond to a complete stranger, while fighting the impulse to cut out every close friend I'd already had. It's an odd thing, this continuous pain. I want the hurting to stop. I need my friends and their words of comfort, sometimes their silent comfort, but it is an immense struggle. So, please don't take it personally, it's not meant that way. I adore my friends, but I just don't know what to do with you all right now, when reaching out to you makes me recoil in pain. Thank you for not expecting more than I have to give. I promise you that I am trying to reconcile these feelings and remain your friend, but it is a slow, slow process. I still pray for you all, I read your posts and look at your pictures, even when they make me cry. I know it is not something you are doing intentionally and I will work harder at being intentional with my friendships, if you can give me some time to figure it all out. Right now I just do not know who I am. I know who I am not, I am not the same person I was before May 18th. I hope that means that, someday, I'll be a better person, a better friend, I just do not know when that will be, as there are no maps for this sort of thing.

Friday, October 25, 2013

It Wasn't Long Enough

I was dreaming about Brandon this morning. It was a weird dream, like most dreams are, so this will probably be a weird post, but I'm gonna write it, anyway, because I don't want to forget it.

In my dream, I'd fallen asleep and then, after a few hours, I'd been awakened by something. As I crossed the room, out of the window, I could see Brandon, his best friend, Steve, Ariana and one of her friends, casually lying on top of the pool (we don't have a pool), just laughing and enjoying themselves. I got dressed and went downstairs and told Brandon that he couldn't just have people over without letting me know they were there. The house was a complete mess and I told the kids they needed to come in and get things cleaned up. As they came in, I looked out the back door and saw that the pool had been filled with tons of crayons, under the water, and I remember wondering what that was all about. I was also worried about Ariana because I was worried about what everyone else had been influencing her to do. It was at that point that she told me she couldn't go to school because her hair was too short. She'd let her friend cut it really short and the reasoning was that it was a trendy style on Sex and the City. I've never watched that show (not even sure that's the right title)so I have no idea where that came from, but I was really ticked off that all of her hair was chopped off. I was pretty sure that the girl in the dream was there because Brandon was there, not for my girl, and that's what made me mad, that she'd let her influence her haircut. Then, I just decided, who cares, it's only hair, it'll grow back and, well, at least she's here, who cares about hair. While Brandon was doing the dishes, I looked at his hair and realized he'd cut his, as well, and left this God-awful tail. We have very curly hair and um, curly hair doesn't do tails, so he basically had this ball of hair at the nape of his neck and I said to him, "This IS going to be cut off immediately." It doesn't sound funny, but it was a funny mom moment.

I was trying to keep things as normal as possible, be the mom, even though in the subconscious part of my dream state, I knew Brandon wasn't actually supposed to be there and wouldn't be staying and I remember worrying about how his hair would look, when he went back. Silly, I know. I wanted to ask him where he'd been, even though I knew where he'd been, but I knew he couldn't come back to visit, so I wondered if maybe he'd actually been alive all this time, but I was too afraid to actually voice all those things. I remember thinking, "How will I explain to everyone that Brandon is here?"

At some point, Brandon went upstairs to do some things and I sat down to relax. He then came downstairs and his eyes were very droopy, like he was very, very tired. I realized right then that it meant he had to go. He said he was tired and was gonna go up to bed and he held my hand and said goodnight, I love you, and I remember thinking that I needed to tell him to change his shirt because it wasn't appropriate for where he was going, but there was no time. He turned his back to go up to bed and I jumped up and said hold on, I'll come up with you and I followed him up the stairs and he was just gone. I woke up to my own voice, saying, "It wasn't long enough, it just wasn't long enough."

Having a dream where it seemed like normal, everyday stuff, where I just talked to Brandon, and I didn't wake up crying was a really big thing. It almost felt like I was actually spending time with him, not completely focused on the fact that he had died. I was aware, I am always aware, but this was different. I wanted to go back to sleep to see him, but I knew he was gone, again, and it wouldn't happen. And, it sunk in was not long enough. I want him back, I need more time. Then, I started crying and could not stop and that's ok. It hurts that death has separated us for a while. Death is the sharpest instrument there is and it has pierced me in the most painful spots I have, over and over, so some uncontrollable crying is to be expected, I guess. I'm not sure I'll ever get used to the depth of this pain. You don't cry normal tears. They rise up from a place in you that you don't ever want to know about and once you know about it, there's no going back, you're left forever breathless from the impact.

It's really hard to wake up and realize you that you will not be touching your child today. How desperately I want to feel his skin on mine. But I had a dream that didn't wake me up sobbing, so I'll take it as a sign that I can handle that now, even if I end up crying for the next hour after the dream. It's ok, right? I think that's ok. I know our separation isn't permanent, but I hate it nonetheless. Things are not right in the world and I don't think they'll ever be right, but I think it will get more least it seems to be the natural progression of things. Still, I cannot wait for the day when death will be no more. I don't have the present with my Brando, but one day, sooner than I can imagine, I will have an eternity to talk to him. A whole eternity! Can you imagine such a thing?! Until then, I pray that God continues to bring him to me in my dreams. I need to see him, even if it's not long enough.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Thanks For The Little While


I have five posts waiting to get posted and here I am starting another one. Forever the procrastinator, I guess, something that death hasn't helped. Oh well.

Tonight I went to a support group, sponsored by The Compassionate Friends, geared towards getting the bereaved parent through the holidays. My normal grief night (as my daughter calls it) is put on by a different organization, Grief Share, and it's a smaller group, held at my church, with people I know. In other words, it feels much safer, and it's also closer to home.

As I was driving there, I was really struck by what I was doing and how I couldn't have ever imagined that I'd have to be doing it, just a few months ago. Last year at this time, I was thinking about the holidays in relation to when (if) my husband would be able to come home, what I needed to buy to prepare and when I'd start decorating. Last year I was like some of the people out there now...I had no idea I'd need these people. Now, I'm going to strange churches, walking up the steps with other people who are just like me: they've all had a child (or children, which I cannot fathom) die. We are out there. Everywhere. You probably interact with many of us each day and may never know. I pray that you never have to know. As the guest speaker said, "I'm sorry I have to know you, but I'm really glad you came." I still can't get over the vast amount of literature out there on grief, especially in regard to losing a child, or that there are all these "secret" groups in cities all over the world. God, I wish I'd been chosen for membership in a different club. I think almost any other club would've been ok. Things are just so different and never, ever can I go back.

How I hate the truths of death: you will never get over it, you can never go back, you will now have a new normal and my least favorite at this moment...the second year is the hardest. Oh my God, NO! I'm not even sure I'll make it through the first one yet and you're telling me it's going to get worse? I know why and it's why I was prepared for this first year to get really difficult, not easier...because the gift of shock wears off. As the speaker said, we defrost. I know we have to defrost to grow, to be able to move through it and not get stuck on frozen, but the thought of more pain is...crushing, I guess. I really try not to borrow trouble, which is why I was a little leery about going to a group that was going to "prepare" me for something so hard. I hate surprises and yet, I'd rather stay in a place where I can pretend that it's not going to be different, even though I know it's going to hurt, instead of dreading the pain ahead of time. When I get shots or give blood, I always tell them not to warn me, don't try to help me prepare myself because I'll prepare all right.. by moving the hell out of the range of target practice. If only I had that option now.

And, so, I dragged myself to a new group, a new room full of bereaved parents, because someone in this household has to be prepared, someone in this household is supposed to be doing this support group thing, right? I looked around the room and, as I thought might be the case, saw that I was the youngest mom there. No matter how similar our stories might be, no other mom lost my forever teenage boy. I wondered if the other people were taking similar notes, wondering what my story was, wondering how long it had been since death had forever changed me. I looked at the few couples there and wondered how their marriages were faring...are they able to comfort each other or are they too broken to grieve together, is the pain ripping their marriage apart? A woman sitting near me looked how I felt...eyes swollen, her shoulders heaving up and down with her sobs, hands full of Kleenex, her broken heart on the ground, right at her feet, right near my own heart. Death snatched her son 13 days before mine, just after he'd turned 21, and she said she just misses her son. I know. I really, really know.

After the guest speaker was done, we broke up into smaller groups and then, after we were done there, we came back into the main hall to close. At the end, we formed a big circle to hold hands (and I hoped no animal sacrificing or seances would be held-hey, I was new) and say the name of our child/ren, and one of the main facilitators spoke, though I couldn't tell you one word of what he said. There were books to check out, some great poems that I'll share later and lots of pictures of kids that have died, and there I was thinking OMG this is like an AA meeting. We have our little sticky name tags, we're reminded that everything said is confidential, you can spot the newbies to the meeting right away because the pain, the struggle, is hanging off of them like cheap clothes. There are people who are 35 years in and people like me who are a few months in and the long-timers welcome you and handle you very carefully, but you see in their eyes the knowledge of what is to come for you and you look away and try really hard to keep it together, to not turn and just run to your car and never come back. I stayed. The entire time. I even showed up before anyone else because I had the time wrong and that alone almost had me back at the door, but with God's grace I made it.

The main thing I took away was the title of this post. The speaker, a local psychologist and published author, lost her little boy at a young age. That first Thanksgiving her daughter, who had been the eldest child until the son's death, was told she had to give a blessing, something that was the responsibility of the youngest child, a status that was now hers. Her daughter was young and initially balked at having to give thanks when she didn't feel thankful for anything. She was told to go into her room and think of something and, before the dessert was eaten, she decided she was ready and her simple, yet profound, prayer was, "Thanks for the little while."

That's right...while we're counting what we've lost and how different things are, when the tears won't stop coming and I am angry that I wasn't allowed more children (even though no other child could come close to the boy) and wishing we had another 60 years with Brandon, we have to say, Thank you God, thank you sweet boy, for the little while. For however much more of the little while that will be in my life, I promise to whisper that message as often as possible and use it to keep your memory alive in this world and contribute something wonderful to this a thanks for the little while. Love and miss you so very much, my precious little while.