He is really gone.

He is really gone.

We have hit the two-year, two-month mark of Nikolai’s death. That’s kind of a long time, relatively speaking, I guess. Yet, what I find odd is that, after all this time, it is finally (26 months later) hitting me that he is gone and that he isn’t coming back.  

I know he’s gone. I know he’s not coming back. However, I’m just now realizing it. His death is final. It dawned on me a couple of days ago as I stood in front of his gravestone. I kept tracing his name with my fingers and saying his name out loud, like I needed him desperately to respond.

Almost every day, my FB memories reminds me of his life. I can’t stop staring at pictures, like I’m willing that time back, I’m willing him to walk back into our lives.

The depth of how much I miss him is hitting so hard.

We celebrated my granddaughter’s first birthday on Saturday and it was joyful and amazing and I kept thinking how much Nikolai would have loved to be there. How much fun he would have had with her and the things he would have said and done to make her laugh. He would have loved snuggling with Daley’s new puppy.

And yesterday, we had friends over and one of his best friends was playing whiffle ball with all the other boys in our yard and it made me immensely sad that he missed that, while also knowing his friend misses him and also silently wishes he was there.

My sadness lately seems on a whole new level, another level of grief to rock my world and leave me begging for this pain in my heart to stop.

Grief is not linear. It’s a pattern of loops and zig zags and most days doesn’t make an ounce of sense. There are definitely more okay patches than devasted ones, more joyful times than sad; however, this grief thing, this slow healing, is meddling in the way my life is supposed to go.

It shouldn’t take this long to grieve and heal, or so the world has foolishly led us to believe. Grief is tricky. It doesn’t ever really go away. We will always carry it. Some days the load may feel lighter and other days it will feel so heavy you don’t know how you can possibly carry it.

Grief is living two lives. One is where you pretend that everything is fine, and the other is where you want to scream out in anguish. And it’s a constant battle of will to keep that second one from coming out, to fake it until you make it, to convince those around you that you really are ‘okay’.

Until today. Today I realize that you are gone forever. You really aren’t ever coming back and I’m not okay. I grieve the loss of my kid. I miss him being a part of our family. I miss his laugh. I miss his smile. I’m tired. My heart hurts.

And, all of that… all those feelings… that is okay. It’s okay to feel broken sometimes.

“The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.” – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Sometimes all we can do is love

how to support those with mental illness

How do we make someone with a mental illness feel seen and supported?

Through On a Dragonfly’s Wings, I post almost daily on FB and IG resources, tools, best things to say, what not to say, motivation and support, love, and as much information as I can to educate those of us in a support role and those who are struggling.

It’s just not enough.

I have a friend who struggles every day of her life to get out of bed, to put one foot in front of the other, to keep going day after day. And even with all that I know, it’s not enough.

I love her beyond the stars and back and I don’t know how to help her.

That’s the thing about mental illness, no matter what we say to the hurting person, their brain will tell them the opposite. We know all those things are awful, but to the person struggling, it’s their truth.

Nikolai used to say all the time how stupid he was. No matter how many bazillion times we told him he was so smart, he just didn’t believe us.

The Real Depression Project recently posted some of the best things to say to someone struggling with mental illness:

1. Your mental illness does not define you.

2. You are strong for fighting an invisible illness 24/7, 365.

3. Your struggle doesn’t make you weak.

4. If all you do is survive your dark days, that’s enough.

5. Don’t feel guilty for resting – it’s essential for your well-being.

I’m pretty sure I’ve said all of these statements to one person or another, including Nikolai, including my dear friend. It’s not enough.

I have zero answers.

Today my heart just hurts so badly for those who live in a mind that speaks lies to them.

Words don’t seem to matter today. All I can do is wrap her up in more love than I can almost bear and pray that it is enough.

Join me today in praying for all those who can’t see their worth, who struggle with thoughts of suicide. Please God cover them in light and love.

Happy Birthday Nikolai

Happy birthday

Today is your birthday. Your sweet 16. Or for boys is it more like stud 16? I don’t know.

Remember that birthday when you begged for hot dogs for your birthday dinner and I decided to make it extra special and go to the A & W Rootbeer Stand in Ortonville for a coney dog and mug rootbeer? And then we get there and everyone orders coney dogs BUT you – lol! Seriously a burger? I couldn’t believe it. I think I brought this story up every birthday thereafter because I was so annoyed and you thought it was so hysterical. Guess what… today we are going to that same A & W Rootbeer Stand and I am getting a burger. Just for you.

Quarantine or no quarantine, we probably wouldn’t be going to Secretary of State today for a license. I know you were so mad at dad and I for not allowing you to start driver’s training when you turned 15. I needed you to show us more responsibility and maturity before I was ready to risk your life and those of other people on the road. I know you get it. I also know you were mad as a hornet about it.

I miss you.

I wonder what you would have wanted for your birthday gift this year. New bike maybe. You were really getting too big for the one you had, although I know you loved it. Maybe some new kicks for summer? I bought you a dragonfly for your grave. It’s really more for me than you, I admit.

Your favorite birthday treat always seemed to be a slushie, whether from Mr. C’s or Dairy Queen. You weren’t huge on ice cream, but an ice slushie was high on your love of yummy things. And the brighter the color the better so you could wear it as a mustache for days!

I miss you.

I wish we could take you to ride go carts and play mini-golf today. Or maybe a friendly family tennis match or bowling. These are all things you loved to do on your big day.

I love birthdays. I love celebrating people and the amazingness they bring to the world. You brought a lot of amazingness Nikolai. I wish you could have seen that. I wish I had told you that more often.

Thank you for letting me pick the movie on your 13th birthday. You wanted to go to the movies and that was the day that Wonder Woman came out – June 2, 2017. You knew how much I wanted to see it. I think you did too; however, I also know you let us see it because of me. You were selfless. Always wanted people around you to be happy.

I miss you.

I’m sorry.

When you turned 12 you had an orchestra concert on your birthday and your teacher called out your birthday on stage. It was awesome! You turned three shades of red but I know you secretly loved it.

Are there birthdays in heaven? Make sure you whoop it up no matter what. Make some noise, as only you can.

Happy birthday Beans.

We love you.

Happy GOTCHA Day!

Gotcha Day

Today is Nikolai’s GOTCHA Day!

For those of you who don’t know what that means, it’s the day the court in Kemerovo, Siberia, Russia gave Joe and I full custody of Kola. We always knew adoption was part of our plan, yet it still amazes me that God knew that halfway around the world there was this little baby boy destined for our hearts and our family.

This wild, goofy, smart, funny, kind-hearted, frustrating, loveable, handsome, force of nature child that we so desperately needed in our lives. Nikolai was full of life.

The process of international adoption is often long and when you decide to adopt from a country like Russia, you are also dealing with massive expenses and a corrupt system. However, that being said, Kemerovo was surprisingly pro-American and truly wanted what was best for the orphans. And, considering I was also pregnant with Reilly, we needed a region like this to push the adoption through with some urgency.

We traveled for the second time to Russia in April of 2005. Armed with a few bribes and a great translator, we stood before a judge on April 7 and asked to formally adopt Nikolai. The judge approved and we drove straight to the orphanage to pick up our second son.

GOTCHA day! It’s incredibly special for adoptive parents and children. Every April 7 Joe would go to a local Russian market and pick up all the fixings for a Russian dinner, complete with candy specially from Russia. We always let Kola decide on a special dessert – usually yellow cake with white frosting and sprinkles.

This GOTCHA day is different.

We are still honoring you today with your special Russian dinner and your crazy sprinkle cake. But instead of spending the day doing fun things with you, we will visit your grave and pray. I will talk to you as I do every day. I will remind you how very special you are. I will tell you again the story of your GOTCHA day and how on that day you were not born from my body but from my heart. I will tell you how desperately we all still love you and how much we miss having you being a physical part of our lives.

There will be tears of sadness that you are gone yet tears of joy for having had you in our lives for 15 years.

We love you Kola!
Happy GOTCHA Day – celebrate huge in heaven with Jesus today.

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.