I feel like he is disappearing

I feel like he is disappearing

I feel like he is disappearing. This is what I whispered in the phone to one of my dearest friends after my third therapy session.

Yes, let’s get that elephant out of the room first shall we – I started therapy. I tried so hard, so very hard, to handle the death of my child on my own. I tried to bury all of my feelings and emotions in the busyness of life and advocacy. But this weird thing happens when you try to suppress – it has a funny way of creeping up anyway and usually uglier than you ever thought possible. This was my December. I sank to an all-time low. This is when I realized I really can’t do this on my own. These demons I want so desperately to avoid are eating me away.

My first two sessions seemed to be okay, but the third – wow! Those demons, those emotions I was afraid were going to come out if I did therapy – yep, that all exploded like fireworks on the fourth of July. Third time is a charm I guess.

And when I left, I didn’t feel good. It was like all at once I was hit by a tsunami of emotion and that’s when I realized…therapy is actually working.

I feel like he is disappearing.

This is the end result of that third session. I can’t really hear him laugh anymore. I have to concentrate so hard in my brain to try and listen for it. I knew eventually this would happen, but it’s only been six months. I should have more time than this. And I’m mad at Nikolai for not coming to me in my dreams to talk to me or let me know he’s okay. I’m open to it. I’ve always been open to it. I had numerous visits from my mother-in-law and both of my grandparents, but only one from Kola. Why? Was that the only one I get?

That third session brought out more anger than I have experienced these last six months.

I am angry that the normalcy of life has taken over and seems to be washing him away. 

I am angry and I feel guilty for moving on, for lack of a better term. 

I am angry that the world moved on from Kola’s death long ago.

I am angry that I spontaneously combust on the daily still.

I am angry that I still can’t do Monday’s and now I have no choice.

I am angry about so many things that I can’t even verbalize.  

The angrier I get, the lonelier I get. Grief is very lonely. No one gets how you feel, nor can they – the death of a child is not something most have experienced (thank God). My tribe is so huge, loving and supportive that I feel guilty even saying that out loud. What I can say, is that without this tribe of mine, things would be so much worse. I feel your love every single day. And I use it like air to breathe from, to keep me going, to cry and scream and laugh when I need to. 

While therapy didn’t feel so great this week, it was necessary and I realize that now. All these feelings have to come out in order for me to move through and let go. And even though I can’t hear Kola laugh hardly at all anymore, I know that he isn’t really disappearing. We have a million memories of his amazing life and I cling to those with all of my might. 

2019 – My Year of JOY

My word was joy

I am not one to do resolutions at the new year, instead I choose a word. A word to help me focus on something important. One year it was determination, another listen. Joy was my word for 2019. I wanted to live as joyfully as possible, choosing joy and seeing joy in all the things. And then June 20 happened and I thought I lost my joy forever. 

While my sadness has been overwhelming, almost consuming at times, there are so many things in life to be joyful about that this word actually helped me get through the toughest year of my life. Talking to a friend over coffee the other day, it occurred to me that 2019 taught me many things: 

  1. My children have always been my greatest source of joy. I lost one to the physical world, but he is always a part of my heart. For my two living children, I will continue to always be their biggest cheerleader and love them more fiercely than the day before. My love for them is intense and immense and I am more proud of them this year than at any other time in their lives. They have lived through something no one their age should. They have lost a brother, a friend, a confidante, yet have come out the other side with resilience. 
  2. My relationship with my husband is the strongest it’s ever been. God started this path for us over a year in advance – bringing us together in a much deeper way than we had ever been. I believe with every ounce of my being God did this to help us weather the storm of Kola’s death. While the statistics of marriages dissolving after the death of a child is astounding, Joe and I love and support each other on a whole different level of peace, understanding and kindness. I could literally not do the day to day without him. 
  3. My faith and belief in God and the way He works in our lives is at a level I cannot describe. I have never felt so close to God before in my life. Ever. I really do see Him clearing my path – setting it out for me to follow. And, the people He has put in my life at just the right moments – unbelievable. 
  4. This little book club I started in July is one of the single best things I have ever done. This group of women have become some of my very best friends. I have realized over these past few months that we actually all needed each other, for very different reasons. I love watching us laugh, cry, grow, empower, motivate and inspire each other. This group is what living fantastic is all about. 
  5. There are friends I thought would support me through my sadness with their every breath, and many of them walked away from me because my sad was too much for them. It doesn’t make them bad people, it just means they didn’t have the capability to be there in a way I needed them. 
  6. There are people in my life that I never in a million years would have thought would be able to offer support to me in any meaningful way. Yet, today, these people have become friends that push me to get up every single day and do the impossible things. 
  7. I have friends who have become a part of me. People I talk to or text every day. Friends that love me unconditionally. Friends that pray for me and love me through all things good, bad and ugly. These people bring me such joy.
  8. Kola’s death has made me realize who I am. I am strong. I am courageous. I am brave. I am kind. I am pain. I am sorrow. I am joy. I have a purpose now that I didn’t have before. I have direction. And while this is still sometimes fuzzy and full of obstacles, I know that all of these things will become clear at the time that I need them to. 
  9. Mental health and suicide deserve more attention, and alongside friends I have made through this journey, we will make this happen. We will do the important things that we can and help as many people struggling as we can. 
  10. Kindness rules. 

Every day since Nikolai died, God has continued to show me that there are so many things that bring joy into our lives. Life really is joyful. This year, I urge you to take time to appreciate the present moment and learn to live where life actually takes place. At this exact moment. 

I can’t let go

I still have Kola’s certificate of recognition

I still have Kola’s certificate of recognition for his freshman year playing in the Mott orchestra hanging on the side of our refrigerator. I can’t get myself to take it down. He was really proud of that certificate. He hated practicing the viola, but he really did like to play. He loved the class, all of his orchestra friends and even the concerts. Normally after concerts we go out for ice cream to celebrate. His last concert for Mott we didn’t. He was grounded and no matter what, I was sticking to the “no fun and joy” rule while you are grounded. I regret that decision to this very day.

I still have two voicemail messages from Nikolai on my phone. I used to make him call me every single day when he got home from school to let me know he was home, in the house and safe. Sometimes I couldn’t answer my phone at work and he would leave me a message. I treasure these voicemails. I don’t listen to them often and they are both less than 30 seconds long, but I won’t ever delete them. It’s his voice. In one of them he simply says, “hey mom, I’m home.” How ironic that is now. And sometimes, I pretend that it’s actually him calling me from Heaven – his way of letting me know he’s okay.

I cleaned his room a bit several months ago and regretted it the second I made his bed. This isn’t Nikolai. He was a total slob! After that I didn’t touch it. It’s hard to go in there. It still smells like him – for good, bad or otherwise. I mean, he was a boy after all. Right now it sits – unused and empty. The door remains closed with his name still taped up on the outside from when he wrote it out in marker and cut it out to hang up for decoration.

I don’t know what to do with any of this. What I do know is that I’m not doing anything with it right now.

After I cleaned up his room the first time, I literally felt instant despair. I cried for days. It was as if I had erased Nikolai’s existence from that space and I couldn’t bear what I had just done. How could I do that? So for now, I will do nothing with any of this. And that is simply okay. 

Don’t ignore me

PSA: If you see me somewhere, say hi

PSA: If you see me in the grocery store, at the gas station, movie theater, coffee shop or anywhere else for that matter, it’s okay to say hi. I promise I won’t fall apart and start crying all over you. Ask me how I am – I promise to tell you I’m amazing, it’s Christmas time after all! I promise I won’t talk about my deceased child because it makes YOU uncomfortable. Because by all means, let’s protect YOUR feelings. 

Let me be the bigger person here. 

Seriously, why do humans act like this? You don’t know what to say? That’s a BS excuse and you and I both know it. It’s simple – I will script it out for you:

You: Hi Kris – It’s really good to see you.
Me: Hey, oh my goodness, so good to see you as well. How is everything with you and your family?
You: Very good. Tommy is trying out for basketball this year. Susie is still doing dance. 
Me: That’s awesome. My boys are busy as well. Hope you have a wonderful holiday.
You: You as well – have a great day. 

It wasn’t that hard, was it? You don’t have to ask how I am (because we know you don’t really want me to answer). You do tell me about your family, which I absolutely LOVE to hear about. I will share with you what I want about my boys (how much time do you have because they are pretty cool guys). And we end it with a happy holidays! Easy peazy! We don’t have to draw it out – five minutes tops and we are on with our days. But don’t ignore me and definitely don’t look at me like a deer in headlights, barely say hi and run away scared. 

Get uncomfortable. I know it’s not a feeling we like. I don’t like it either. However, these encounters to me are nothing shy of rude and disrespectful. Is this the way you treat everyone you meet because if so sister, we have some serious kindness skills training that needs to happen. 

Grief is hard enough my friends. Don’t make it harder.

Let’s make a deal. Treat me with kindness and respect, as all  humans deserve to be treated. And, I promise, I won’t make you feel any more uncomfortable than you look.

Traditions and Holidays

Ah, the holidays – ripe with tradition and joy.

Ah, the holidays – ripe with tradition and joy. And then someone you love dies and the holidays will never be the same. It’s true and I fully acknowledge it. Deep down I always knew the holidays were hard for many people missing loved ones. I just didn’t know I was going to have to live that truth quite so soon.

Many people have suggested we change it up, do something different, go somewhere even for the holidays to get away so as not to be in a familiar place. Break the tradition so the hurt isn’t quite so huge. I’ve read a million articles lately saying the same thing: create a moment of silence at dinner, take a vacation, sing songs or my absolute favorite  – set a place at the table for the missing person. What the actual shit is that?! Yeah, that sounds like a great way to get through the holidays unscathed – let me enjoy my dinner looking at an empty place setting where my child should be sitting. That’s just crap. 

When I asked Daley and Reilly what they wanted to do for Thanksgiving, they both looked at me like I had gone stark raving mad. Daley said, “go to grandma’s of course, like we always do.” You see, to my kids, those traditions weren’t just in place because Nikolai lived, they were in place because we are part of a family. I pressed the boys a little further and they want everything to stay the exact same. They don’t want things to be different. They know it will be hard not having Nikolai with us and we will miss him; however, these traditions are important to them. And, maybe this year, even more important to them.

What I’m hoping is that we embrace these holidays as we always have, with love and joy and family. My hope is that we continue to say Nikolai’s name and remember silly things he did or said. I want to embrace the life he lived and remember all the fun we had during the holidays.

I am not disillusioned. I know there will be many times of sadness as well. Many tears. We may or may not go to Christmas Eve mass because church is hard for us right now and songs evoke emotions that can spiral me. I am hanging his Christmas stocking on our mantel and also a wreath on his grave. This is hard stuff. Will I have to put self-care into full effect for not just me, but Joe and my boys, absolutely. We will need time to decompress and just be. However, we have such an amazing tribe of friends and family who will wrap us up in love this season that I am not worried. And most of all, the four of us have each other. We share a pain no one else can imagine, and also a love. A love of a son and a brother, a core person in our family will be missing, but yet, not really. Kola is always in our hearts and minds and I know that he will surround us in love this holiday season, as he does every single day.

Have faith

Ah, FaceBook memories

Ah, FaceBook memories. One of my most favorite features of FaceBook. Especially now when memories are so important.

One of them that popped up on my feed this morning was this little gem from when Reilly was four years old:

“Tonight at church…
Reilly: What did God say – I can’t hear him?
Me: That’s not God honey, that’s the Priest. He speaks for God.
Reilly: Where is God?
Me: We can’t see him – we just have to believe that he is with us always.
Reilly: I can see him you know. He’s right here.”

This conversation ten years ago made me realize that our children know and see way more than us adults. They haven’t had all these life experiences to jade them yet or to make them question all the things.

I needed to read this today. And, I believe God knew it. He knew that this week, while amazing in its own right, has also been emotionally exhausting for me. He needed to let me know that He is right there next to me, helping me to be strong and help others. This is the path He has chosen for me, so why would I think He wouldn’t help carry me through it?

I need to lean more on God. This is my takeaway today.

I’m so sorry

I’m so sorry I couldn’t save you Nikolai

I’m so sorry I couldn’t save you Nikolai. I wish with all my being that I could go back and have a do-over. There are so many things I would have done differently with you. Signs I missed. Conversations we should have had. 

I realize now that your pain ran deep, down to your inner core and I missed that. I know that now. It’s too late for you, but I’m hoping it’s not too late for me to make a difference in someone else’s life. 

Is this God’s plan for me? I don’t really know. I keep asking why? Why you, why my family? You were only 15, barely 15. 

Over the last few years I have tried to figure out what my purpose is – what bigger thing in life am I supposed to do? What is God calling me to do? Never in a million years would I have thought that the death of my child would be the catalyst to that purpose. 

People keep telling me I can and am making a difference. Some call it advocacy. I call it pouring all of my raw emotions into something that has broken my heart. I hate change. Everyone who knows me knows that I like things the way they are and do not view change as my friend. But all I want to do right now is make changes, lots of them. Because the stigma of suicide, mental health and let’s face it, even grieving, are things people just don’t talk about. And, for the love of all that is holy – why? 

These things are real. Mental health is an actual real thing and if we don’t make some changes, if we don’t start having some real conversations providing resources and help for people, then that other thing we don’t want to talk about (suicide), that becomes a bigger more real issue. People need to feel supported. They need to feel listened to. People need kindness not judgement. Why is this so difficult for humans to understand and do? 

And grief. 
“It’s time to move on.” “You need to move through this.” “Why is she not over this yet?” 

What on actual earth? Seriously – these are things people say ALL.THE.TIME. 

Stop it. 

All people grieve differently. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. And there sure as heck isn’t a timestamp on that grief. 

I wish I could have saved you Nikolai. My heart is broken and will never be whole again. But I will do my best to try and save others and make you proud. 

I have a case of the Mondays

It’s Monday

It’s Monday.
Mondays aren’t usually a lot of fun for anyone. You go from having a weekend of time spent with family and friends doing fun things or doing nothing at all, to I have to get up early and go to work. I would say most of us enjoy our jobs, but most of us don’t have a job that is life fulfilling each and every day. It’s mostly satisfactory with some highs and lows mixed in.

Imagine a Monday after losing a child. It is expected that you mourn the loss, go through the routine of a visitation, funeral and guests dropping in and out of your home and then Monday hits. And, the expectation is that you go back to work, like nothing ever happened. Most companies, mine included, give you five bereavement days for the death of a child. Five. How in the actual world is that even a thing? October 20 will be four months since Nikolai died and every minute of my day is different and unknown to me emotionally.

Monday is like that bad dream, where you open a door and fall down a black hole. Monday is routine. Monday represents the start of a new week and getting back to the grind. Monday is supposed to be the first day back to normalcy after the weekend.
But maybe I don’t want this new normal. Maybe I want Mondays to be how they used to be, where I woke up and just didn’t want to go to work because nobody wants to go back to work on Monday. Because it’s a Monday.

Mondays for me are the beginning of a new normal, over and over and over again. I reject you Monday and your new normal.

This is where my mantra of “just get out of bed” really comes from. It is painful for me to get out of bed on Mondays. Guaranteed I’m going to be late every single Monday. I cannot get out of bed. I lay there in a pool of stress and anxiety willing myself to move. I want to curl up in a ball and pretend for a few minutes that this is not my new normal.

The drive in this morning had me nauseous and nearly hyperventilating. But no two Mondays are ever the same. And, by Tuesday I will be fine. In the sense that it isn’t Monday anymore “fine.”

This race was joyful

What an amazing joy-filled morning

What an amazing, joy filled morning💕 I haven’t run competitively since Beans died. My runs are for me and me alone.

But as I left the gate and started on my journey I was overcome by a sense of peace and I literally enjoyed every single step. I took it all in. Bagpiper at mile 1, guitar players at mile 2, random people out fist bumping me on the sidelines, the lady with the sign that read “tap this for turbo boost” (which I totally tapped) and so many others. I enjoyed every step. I pushed through every hill. And I PR’d my 6.2 mile time finishing in 65:33🙌

And waiting to high-five me coming into the Finish line was my dear friend Tracy 💕 She overcame her own doubts today and finished her race strong and I’m so proud of her.

And the love of my life waiting in the wings for me. Damnit I love how much you support me Joe 😘 You are my rock❤️ I am fierce. I am strong. And one day at a time, with the help of my tribe, Joy-filled moments like these will begin to outweigh some of the heartache😊💙

No, I’m not really okay

People ask me everyday how I’m doing

People ask me everyday how I’m doing. But when I actually tell them how I’m doing I can tell they wished they hadn’t asked. So now I’m really awesome at “good, how are you.” Playing pretend or hide-and-seek with my real feelings though is exhausting and frustrating and sad.

I pretend for you because I know you don’t really want to know anymore. But inside I am screaming…screams of anger, screams of deep sorrow. And it’s not just you. I sometimes feel guilty for over sharing. You know, like this FB post😒 I know you are tired of all the feels. I know I am. It sucks.

Just know that I’m just as tired of feeling heartbroken as you are about hearing about it. And I’m tired of playing the two sides of good and awful in my head. I don’t have answers for you or for me. I experience joy almost every single day. I also experience sadness every single day, and anger, and loneliness and a myriad of other emotions. It’s like a dang split personality going on in this head of mine.

I have no idea what the intent of this post really is other than it’s been almost three months but still feels like yesterday sometimes💙