Fear of Loss

Fear of loss

Honestly, I have a lot of fears…

  • Fear of flying and dying in a fiery crash
  • Swimming in the ocean and being eaten by a shark
  • Riding on one of those things in the Everglades, tipping over and being swallowed by an alligator
  • Snakes
  • Bridges
  • Spiders
  • Sewer grates on sidewalks
  • Heights and falling
  • Zombie apocalypse anyone?

I’m not super adventurous. I’m cautious. I’m a worrier. And then my greatest fear became my reality.

When people ask what is your worst fear, I have always said the loss of a child. It was always the one thing I thought I could never endure. Well, here I am, 19 months later, and a child loss survivor. Some days it still feels impossible that this thing I fear most in life actually happened. And even though I survived, loss of yet another child or my spouse is something I am positive I cannot endure again. It will quite literally break my heart completely.

If I could wrap them up in bubble wrap, never let them out of my sight, keep hold as tight as I can, then nothing can happen to them. I can keep them forever. But life doesn’t work that way. Life isn’t meant to be lived in fear, it’s meant to be joyous and fun, filled with adventures and travels. Yet, this fear of loss at times steals my breath and fills me with anxiety. This fear keeps me attached to what is comfortable, not necessarily what I need to keep me moving forward. I know this, I just don’t know how to change it.

Most of the fears I listed are fairly irrational or at least not super likely to happen. Honestly, I would have added loss of a child to that list as well because who really believes their child will die before them? That’s not how life is supposed to go. It’s the elderly who die, not our youth. That isn’t fair. That isn’t just. Yet it happens, and it happens more often than we think or want to think.

And my child didn’t just die. He CHOSE to take his own life. I mean in the great randomness of the world, this definitely shouldn’t have happened to me. Things like this don’t happen to people like our family. We are just an average, middle class family, working, going to school and doing life things.

I ask myself, what are the odds of it happening twice, and this is where it all goes haywire, because I still can’t believe it happened once. The thought of another loss in my immediate household walls – it’s unthinkable, it’s unimaginable. So, I continue to hold my breath every time my family gets into a car, fly’s on a plane, or does anything that requires leaving the safety of our home without me in tow. During the summer Reilly’s friends would all want to walk to each other’s houses or meet up at Taco Bell. I had to reach out to those moms and let them in on my demons. I had to arrange car rides with parents instead because all I could picture was Reilly being hit by a car on the corner of Williams Lake and Cooley Lake Road.

I feel like this worry, this fear, is the life of any mom, but mine came true. My greatest fear actually happened. My boys are my life. My husband is my life. My new granddaughter is my life. My future daughter-in-law is my life. Please God keep them safe. My heart can’t take it.

Surviving After Someone’s Suicide

Surviving After Someone’s Suicide

This information is provided by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I have simply copied and pasted here one of their documents available to the public. If you are a suicide survivor, I urge you to read through this.

You Are Not Alone If you have lost someone to suicide, the first thing you should know is that you are not alone. Each year over 30,000 people in the United States die by suicide, and it is the second-leading cause of death for college-aged students. The devastated family and friends they leave behind are known as “survivors.” There are millions of survivors who, like you, are trying to cope with this heartbreaking loss. Survivors often experience a wide range of grief reactions, including some or all of the following:

  • Shock is a common immediate reaction. You may feel numb or disoriented, and may have trouble concentrating.
  • Symptoms of temporary depression, including disturbed sleep, loss of appetite, intense sadness, and lack of energy.
  • Anger towards the deceased, others, or yourself.
  • Guilt, including thinking, “If only I had….”

These feelings usually diminish over time, as you develop your ability to cope and begin to heal.

Why Did This Happen? Many survivors struggle to understand the reasons for the suicide, asking themselves over and over again: “Why?” Many replay the individual’s last days, searching for clues, particularly if they didn’t see any signs that suicide was imminent.

Because suicide is often poorly understood, some survivors feel unfairly victimized by stigma. They may feel the suicide is somehow shameful, or that they, their family, or their friends are somehow to blame them for this tragedy.

Try to bear in mind that suicide is almost always complicated, resulting from a combination of painful suffering, desperate hopelessness and other complicated factors.


One learns to live with the loss, the tragedy, the waste, and the gaping hole in the fabric of one’s life. There is no closure, nor would I want one. I want to remember her all my life, vividly: her laughter, the smell of her perfume, her moments of joy, her humility, and her integrity.


Coping With Suicide Loss

  • Some survivors struggle with what to tell other people. Although you should make whatever decision feels right to you, most survivors have found it best to simply acknowledge that the individual died by suicide.
  • You may find that it helps to reach out to family and friends. Because some people may not know what to say, you may need to take the initiative to talk about the suicide, share your feelings, and ask for their help.
  • Even though it may seem difficult, maintaining contact with other people is especially important during the stress-filled months after a suicide.
  • Keep in mind that each person grieves in his or her own way. Some people visit the cemetery; others find it too painful to go at all.  However, some form of grieving is a basic human need for the healing process.
  • Each person also grieves at his or her own pace; there is no set rhythm or timeline for healing.
  • Anniversaries, birthdays, and holidays may be especially difficult, so you might want to think about whether to continue old traditions or create some new ones. You may also experience unexpected waves of sadness; these are a normal part of the grieving process.
  • Some survivors find comfort in community, religious, or spiritual activities, including talking to a trusted member of the clergy or a counselor.
  • Be kind to yourself. When you feel ready, begin to go on with your life. Eventually starting to enjoy life again is not a betrayal of the individual, but rather a sign that you’ve begun to heal.

For more information about survivors of suicide you can contact The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. This organization reaches out to survivors with two goals in mind: to offer the support that is so vital, particularly to the newly bereaved, and the opportunities for survivors looking to get involved in prevention and advocacy. Their website is: http://www.afsp.org/

The last of the “firsts”

The last of the firsts

It’s here. The last of the “firsts”.

People keep telling me that the second year is actually the worst. Why they would tell me this I don’t know. I mean, I guess thank you for the head’s up?  It has something to do with the fact that you are mostly numb the first year – sort of in a state of disbelief, like your loved one just went on a vacation for a year and you suddenly realize they aren’t coming back. I’m sorry, but that’s just dumb. And don’t anyone say that to me. Ever.

We have been through all the holidays that start with “happy”, Memorial Day weekend, St. Patrick’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day tomorrow, your birthday… yep, we’ve done them all, without you. We finished out last summer with hot baseball tournaments and mini vacations. We entered Fall and then winter. We did snow hiking and snowball fights with the dogs. We have been through the rainy spring, the blooming of new flowers and buds on the trees and a quarantine. And today, ironically, is the first day of summer. Another summer.

Throughout this past year it has become painfully clear to me that life moves on. We still have jobs we have to go to everyday, bills that still need to be paid, and other kids to parent. The world continues to move around us as if nothing has happened. Only something did happen. Some days I want to look at people and ask them, “don’t you know what has happened to me?” I still have this pent-up scream stuck inside of me that I swear someday I’m going to let loose and it will be unholy from the bottoms of my toes.

June 20, 2019 was a normal day. I came home from work and had to leave at 5:30 to volunteer at an event in the park near our home. You were hungry, so we had a quick dinner together, just you and me. You sat across from me. You had strawberries – those were your favorite. We talked about our days. You asked if you could have ice cream for dessert and I said how about you wait until I get home and we can have some together. You agreed without a single complaint. That should have been my first clue that things weren’t quite right. You had cleaned the kitchen and loaded the dishwasher before I got home from work that day. It’s my biggest pet peeve if that isn’t done, and it never is, and I always have to yell at you and Reilly to take care of it. This night it was all done before I got home from work that day. That was another sign. You did all the things to make me happy that night.

I wish I had known that was the last time I would see you alive. I wish that I would have hugged you tight instead of yelling out as I walked out the door for the two of you to be good, see you in a bit and I love you. At least I said the last part.

Your oldest brother stopped by the park that night to bring me a coffee because it was cold and rainy. I bought him some food. And I bought him an ice cream cookie sandwich to give to Reilly. I wish that I had bought you one too instead of deciding to wait and have ice cream with you at home like I had promised. You might still be alive if I had. The ice cream would have been melting and your brother would have given it to you right when he got home. If I had only bought you an ice cream.

Your brothers were amazing. They did all the right things that night. They can’t unsee that night and I can’t imagine the pain of what their vision of that night looks like. All I know is that the call I received and the urgency in which I drove home, and the remainder of that whole night was a parent’s worst nightmare.

We held your hands when you slipped away at the hospital. I brushed your unruly hair out of your face and whispered I love you one more time. Your dad talked to you gently in your ear in a long-distance call from California. It’s surreal, even today, I cannot believe it. Yet, I can still relive every single minute of that night in my mind. The screaming when I got to the house, the tears, the doctors trying so hard in the ER to revive you, the look on your brother’s faces. Images I wish I didn’t have.

That was the worst night of my life. And every “first” we have hit since that night is so hard. Every 20th of the month is so hard.

I will live the rest of forever without you.

I will live the rest of forever wondering who you would have become.

There are a million things I would have done differently. But it’s too late and I can’t change anything. All I can do is live joyfully, as you would have. And I promise you that I will do what I can to make a positive impact on the lives of others. I will be kind and empathetic. I will listen and I will love. And I will be an instrument of change we so desperately need in this world.

A year. One full year without you.

We miss you.

God may have you in heaven, but I have you in my heart. Always.

Maybe we start by being present

Be present

I have sat through three suicide prevention trainings now and each time I take away a little bit more. While these trainings are amazing to teach us the skills to have a real conversation with those we think are struggling, for a parent who has lost a child to suicide it has become the laundry list of all the things I didn’t do right.

These demons have been with me since the night of June 20 but to hear them spoken out loud is hard. The guilt is so heavy. I’m working on not beating myself up with all the woulda, coulda, shoulda’s but it’s a real thing.

There were so many signs along Nikolai’s journey and I dismissed many of them to just being a moody teenager. Dropping out of sports, purposely failing school, disrespecting his family and his teachers, and becoming withdrawn. This was him literally crying out for help.

This is what it looks like parents. It can also look like a million other things too. We communicate with our kids but we aren’t really present with them. We have allowed being busy to take center stage of our lives and we have stopped giving importance to the real things. It’s become more about running our kids to sports practice, homework, who is spending the night at who’s house, video games, cell phones (theirs and our own), trying to fit in dinner, late nights, last minute projects, and the list goes on.

We sought the help of teachers, counselors, and a therapist. None of it was enough. His pain ran so deep that literally he thought his only way out was to take his own life. But maybe, just maybe if I had hugged him more, sat down and really listened to him, not been so busy. When all is said and done, I will never really know. But what I wouldn’t give for another chance to do it all again knowing what I know now. That is why I believe with absolutely every piece of me that God has set my compass to helping others see the pain in others and reach out.

Therapy is definitely helping me cope with the guilt. I don’t think that will ever go away; however, recognizing that reliving every wrong step with Nikolai is not serving me is what I have to say to move forward.

Since Nikolai died by suicide on June 20, there have been three more teens in northern Oakland County that have taken their lives. We have to figure this out. Maybe we start with just being present with our kids.  

We are conquering the world, one minute at a time.

Today I had an exceptional day

Today I had an exceptional day.  I had coffee with two amazing women who are helping me fight the good fight, building awareness for mental health and suicide. We are doing exceptional things and pushing things to a new level of advocacy and I am so excited about all of it. Today, I feel like I am conquering the world in your honor.

Nikolai, I want you to know that I am finding more of my days to be like this. And what makes it better is knowing that this is what I am supposed to do – this is God’s calling for me. These women were put in my life at the exact time that I needed them. At the exact time WE needed them. To help us get the hard work done. The important work.

I do all of this in your honor and to impact the lives of people I may never know.

Some days though the heartache of losing you hurts so deeply. And some days I feel as if I’m not doing near enough, fast enough. I get tired and sad. Some days I have to take a step back and quiet myself.

Many days I experience both in the same day, like last Thursday. We educated so many, yet it was so very, very hard. This morning was fantastic. Tonight is very reflective. I suspect this is how it will go for a bit.

But we have a humongous tribe of people advocating for us and with us and the impact we are and will make I pray is enough to bring great change. I take heart in knowing we are making a difference.

I love you Nikolai. I miss you.

World Mental Health Day

Today is World Mental health Day

Today is World Mental Health Day and this year the focus is on suicide prevention.

Did you know that every 40 seconds someone takes their own life? There’s no need to suffer in silence – share how you’re feeling, ask someone how they are doing and LISTEN for the answer. Ask for help when you need it and know that we are all in this together.

If you need help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-TALK (8255) or TEXT 652729: OK2SAY

Out of Darkness Walk

My heart feels like it’s going to explode from so much love today

My heart feels like it’s going to explode from so much love today❤️ Beans’ Brigade raised over $4,000 for the AFSP and suicide prevention. We were the 8th largest fundraising team with definitely the most walkers😊

You people are our tribe and we love all of you so much. Thank you for all the support. I only shed a few tears today and honestly, they were mostly joy-filled💙

Deb and Jay, you outdid yourselves with our specially designed shirts. I can’t thank you enough😘

A huge thank you to all of you who donated money to our team. You ARE making a difference❤️

Definitely one of our family’s best days since June 20😊