loneliness

DEEP OR DEEPER DEPTH?

It’s been almost 9-1/2 years since my nephew Cameron died. My God!  9-1/2 years! Cameron celebrated his 5th birthday on a Saturday, became ill a few days later and died the next weekend! From innocence and happiness watching Cameron blow out 5 birthday candles to gut-wrenching sorrow for those of us who loved him…. within a week’s time. Sorrow, sorrow, sorrow….a lifetime of sorrow! My youngest brother Bill is Cameron’s dad.  Bill, of course, was devastated when Cameron died. Shattered! Being a mom, I thought I understood. I could imagine myself in Bill’s shoes…so I sympathized and felt deep, deep compassion for Bill and his wife, Karen. Utter horror! I thought I understood but I didn’t know. I barely comprehended the depth of Bill’s pain until I found myself devastated and shattered when Ben died. Two siblings out of the 8 kids in my family dealt a shitty hand!! Bill’s son died. My son died. One 5 years old. One 27 years old. Our babies.

Bill and I have been talking a lot lately. He, of course, is one of the people I feel the most comfortable around because I don’t need to put on an act with him. “Now” there’s only a handful of people in my life with whom I feel I can be myself. Bill is one of them. Few words need to be spoken between us. It’s just there. Few words…..yet understanding. I am more comfortable revealing more of my sadness to Bill than I am to my husband or Nick or Gina. They are already sad, and I fear making them sadder by forcing them to see and feel my deep, deep sorrow on a 24/7 basis. They know my sorrow is deep but I don’t show them its magnitude on a regular basis. I, of course, don’t want to make Bill feel sadder than he is, and always will be, but he is one step removed from my immediate family, making it easier for me to spit my feelings at him.

Bill says he is now ready to start helping others who have had to face the horror of the death of their child. He and I plan on attending our first support group meeting together in mid-August. A brother/sister team. Old pain/new pain. Young child/young adult. Different stories yet the same. He’ll help. I’ll cry.

Yesterday, while talking about attending the meeting, Bill said to me, “I was worse than you are.” But he felt the need to clarify that statement by saying he was not referring to the depth of our grief–he was referring to how we handle our grief. Bill shut down, shut out. I shut down yet haven’t totally shut out. Cameron was Bill’s only child so he didn’t have other children to maintain for. I have two other kids so I can’t allow myself to shut the world out, to sink to where I would be if I didn’t have them. I hide behind my eyes. Bill is more transparent.

So, in dwelling on his words, it’s as simple as this. There is no way to measure one’s grief or sorrow or anguish or devastation or isolation. No way to measure our pain or sense of loss or count how many pieces we have become after being shattered. It’s kinda like going to the doctor’s office and the nurse asking you to measure your pain on a scale of 1 to 10. There’s a cuff to measure your blood pressure, but there is no device to measure your pain. We throw numbers to the nurse without basis, without thought to concrete comparison. Because there really is no way to measure. And grief is like that. There is no way to compare. No need to compare.

Being in this situation, my heart breaks for myself, my family, and every other soul I know who is climbing this mountain. There is no deeper depth than where we are….or have been.  As I crawl along, I’m seeing that some function better than others. Some juggle joy with their sorrow. Others find a gift in the pain and inspire with that gift. Some seek light while others prefer the darkness. Crowd-seekers travel the same road as those that find comfort in being alone. And all of that is right.  As it should be.  As for me, I’m just now adjusting to the weight of my sorrow and learning to balance my pain on my shoulders so I don’t continue to fall on my scabbed knees. I’m learning, but this I do know…….There is no “deeper” to the depth of our despair and sorrow. It is there. It is endless. It is deep as far as we can see into the darkness. And we, the unfortunate who have lost our precious babies, carry our sorrow with us, ingrained deep within us, each day, every day. We may not feel comfortable allowing others to see our pain, or see our vulnerability….we have learned to hide our pieces, but that pain is a part of us and will always be….at least for me, until the day I die. A broken heart is a broken heart. The depth unfathomable, it cannot be measured. You hurt. I hurt. So many broken souls, missing our children and trying to find our peace, walk this earth. And my heart hurts for those I know that carry this immeasurable pain.

I continue to miss Ben with every bit of who I am.

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FOUR IS THE LONELIEST NUMBER …….

My son Nick, who is 23, and I have made it a habit to have lunch together every Wednesday since shortly after Ben died, with Gina joining us whenever possible, depending on her schedule.  Last Wednesday, while eating at Sal’s and Al’s Diner, our conversation revolved around federal taxation and the nation’s infrastructure. Of course it wasn’t me that steered the conversation in that direction. Nick did. It’s his mind that’s always active with world events, politics and social and economic issues. I was complaining about the amount of taxes we pay, so Nick was pointing out the benefits of paying higher incomes taxes and how the interstate highway near our house is maintained with our tax dollars. His words – “Think about if we had to pay tolls to travel Route 2 and how much our family of 4 would have to pay since we travel that highway a lot.”

Boom! Our family of 4! It registered immediately, but I don’t think I even hinted at the impact those four little words had on me! I think my face remained “normal” as the words slapped me right upside my head and threw my gut into a twisted knot. Having had no expectation of the wind being knocked out of me, I sat there in a stunned state with my mind blank, except for “”Our family of 4. Our family of 4…..” The truth. I didn’t hear the rest of Nick’s words on the subject, and I believe he never even realized the effect his words had on me or the magnitude of the pain I felt upon hearing them. They sliced right through me–cut this Mom’s heart to the core. Innocent and harmless and ordinary words. It’s always been Mom, Dad, Ben, Nick and Gina. Not “our family of four!!” First time I had heard anyone say that. Those four little words still reverberate several days later, as that Three Dog Night tune plays over and over in my head…..

Four is the loneliest number that I’ll ever do….. Oh, it’s the saddest experience that I’ll ever know……. How I hate living with this OCD mind of mine! Quit it with the song, will ya?!!

 

SAD SKIN

I had my therapist laughing at my last visit, as usual. I am always direct, up front with her. It’s so refreshing to be honest with her. I was telling her about my conversation with my sister, about me not knowing how to do “this” and how I wish I could push myself up off my knees and be inspired. I told her how I have saved several hundred uplifting and inspirational quotes from various Facebook posts since Ben died and how my collection has grown exponentially over the last several months, saved on my laptop and my new smart phone. After I held up my phone for her to see, I tossed it down on my chair, chuckled and blurted out, “But that ain’t my life.” And she burst out laughing, at my dry humor and my honesty.

I am not there. And that definitely “ain’t my life.” I do want to be inspired. I’d love somebody or some words to pull me up. I really do. I believe there will come a time when that happens, and perhaps there will even be a time when I can inspire and lift up some other sad soul, but not now. So I’m saving those quotes for “later.”

In analyzing myself recently, trying to “improve my outlook” (meaning being less depressed and sad), I’ve gained some important insights. I know everything is in the interpretation, and I’ve discovered that as I’ve read these numerous “inspiring” quotes, I interpret them to say (to ME): “Quit sitting in your own shit! Get up! Move on! Inspire us!” I can watch others inspire, but I can’t inspire others. And I may never be able to…..because there is no blessing in my son’s death. Consequently, I feel like a failure…..because I am not able to stand up and proudly proclaim that I am strong and so powerful and so insightful and so appreciative of the lessons learned from my sorrow–I cannot overcome whatever life throws at me. I can’t. So, in lieu of being my own worst critic, I’m realizing that I am putting expectations on myself to be the Super Woman of Grief. Knowing full well that I can’t be. I’m learning it’s OK to admit this to myself: I AM NOT STRONG.

So, for the last few weeks, when I’ve read the words “Be strong!” I’ve been able to tell myself that there’s strength in admitting you are weak. And who in the heck even knows what “strong” is….after your son dies? What better way to eventually become strong and less sad than to admit that I am sad and miserable and 99.9 percent of the time “uninspire-able”? Is there a kinder way to become more inspiring, to yourself, than to be real? I don’t think so. So, because I can admit that I am weak and accept that I carry immeasurable volumes of deep, dark, ugly pain inside me, I can accept that I am the most comfortable being alone now. I don’t like being around people for very long, with the exception of the few people who allow me to be myself. And I am being kinder to myself and expecting way less of myself than I did just a few weeks ago. It’s not that I’m anti-social and fatalistic and not seeing any joy in this world. I am just being realistic. I like being alone. To me “alone” is a place where I don’t need to put on a performance for others, feeling as if I am being censored. It’s a place where I can remember sweet memories and grind through those troubling thoughts that take my mind captive. It is calming and therapeutic for me…..which is something I am beginning to realize, as I continue to lessen the expectations I put upon myself.

So, when I am alone, with my persistent grief around my neck, and I’m being introspective, I pat myself on my back, with a little bit of pride, because I am learning this:

I can accept that I am not just sad, I am devastated!!! My son died and I am damaged. There are ugly scars on my heart and slashes through the very core of me. But knowing that, I’m getting good at just being myself, feeling relieved when I don’t need to “perform” for others. I’m not fighting my sorrow. I AM my sorrow. And that’s what it takes, isn’t it? Taking a good look at myself and being honest? I’m getting to know who I am–where I am. And I’m lessening the impact and pressure I put upon myself when I feel like expectations are being put on me, by others and by myself. And, most importantly, I’m telling myself that it’s OK not to jump up and proclaim, “I am strong! I am invincible! Let me inspire you!” I am getting comfortable in my own skin.

So how about this for a post?

I am a mess. I am not OK. If you think I am getting better, you are wrong. I cry a lot….every day. I am just getting better at pretending. Often times I feel like a crazy woman! My only certainty in life right now is that I am going to die with a broken heart and there is nothing that can be said or done to change that! I cannot be “inspired” to run and hide from my grief. I miss my son with every ounce of my being. BUT……I am proud to say that I am becoming accepting of who I am and where I am….in this moment. I am being kind to myself. I am learning to live in my own skin. My sad skin, that is. Yes, you heard me……. I am learning to live in my own SAD skin.

Can honesty be inspiring?