Two weekends ago sitting on the deck of my sister’s cottage in Michigan, both of us just staring out into the calm lake, my sister says to me, “I don’t know how you guys do this.” I knew without asking what this is. So we went through how I thought each of us, me, my husband and Nick and Gina were getting by and my sister saying a few times something like, “I can imagine what you are going through and just thinking about it terrifies me. I don’t know how you do it.” I don’t remember because I was in tears by then, but I probably ended the conversation with “I don’t know either.”

Just an innocuous little trip to Walmart this morning, to pick up a few things for our 4th of July cook-out, convinced me that I am skirting crazy. After putting the case of Lime-a-Rita in my cart, I was actually picturing ways that I could end this misery that I am in. My God, I thought, it’s so hard to walk the aisles of Walmart, and through this life, acting as if I’m OK while the wishing away of my life continuously swirls through my head. Walking past the men’s section, the vulnerable, broken me literally felt like I was shrinking inside myself, just so my mind did not remember Ben and me, in that section two summers ago when he was home visiting, stocking up on his socks and underwear for him to take back to Kansas with him. Vulnerable, broken me….with that vicious sword taking aim at my heart near the men’s section of Walmart. Waiting in line at the cash register, I noticed a few teenage girls joking and laughing with each other. The anger and anguish immediately surged. Why Ben? He’s missing out on so much. And checking out and me saying to the nice young man ringing me out, “Thank you. Have a nice day!” solely by rote convinced me that I don’t have a handle on this as those crazy thoughts continued in my head as I said my pleasantries. I’m convinced I don’t lead a simple double life. Every minute is filled with such deep and unrelenting pain that I’m convinced there are about 16 of me in this one little body. 16 different souls trying to survive this any way that I can. So I loaded the groceries in my car, watching the rest of the world going by without me in the parking lot, and headed home. And I put that smile on my face, cooked up the bacon for its later crumbling while talking with Nick and his girlfriend, as I continued in my head with “How are you going to do this? You can’t continue like this. You have decades of life without Ben. I can’t do this…..I don’t know how to handle this depth of pain day after day.” Or do I? Perhaps I do, because I had just walked through the aisles of Walmart acting as if I was OK. No one looked at me as though I was strange. I’m doing OK …. in their eyes. It seems I was the only one who knew I was skirting crazy as I pushed my cart through the aisles of Walmart.….trying to do this.


  1. As Denise said, life after losing a child is like living a “special kind of crazy” that most people wouldn’t understand. Honestly, WE don’t know how we “do this” any more than anyone else knows how we do it. We have no other choice but to live the life we now have. We have no choice but to walk through and deal with the crazy times.

  2. Denise, your words about taking on all the pain in the world have resonated with me. I have never looked at it that way, but you are exactly right… cannot get any worse so pile it on, right? Thanks for reading my rambling.

  3. “He’s missing out on so much.” That thought is always swirling in my head, too. It’s not just my loss that is so painful, it is that my son lost everything. Ben and Graham and Philip and all the other young men and women, boys and girls, have suffered the greatest loss of all.

    1. How true this is….I can’t even contemplate a vacation because I feel guilty that I can see beauty and wonder and Ben cannot. Our children have indeed lost out on so much. Thanks for reading.

  4. It’s a special kind of crazy we live with. I find myself looking at the people I interact with in a day and saying things like, “have a good day” with an intensity I never had before…see, they don’t hear the rest of the sentence. They don’t hear, “because I can’t.” I think since I can’t be okay, I so want others to be. Who wants to think of anyone feeling like this?? When I found out Philip died, I remember thinking, can I please have all the pain in the world, because it can’t possibly be any worse than this, and if I had it all, no one else would ever have to feel it. But who the hell am I? I don’t know what anything’s for – I only know what’s been given, and that I have to deal with it. Crazies and all.

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