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. 

I am hopeful

I am hopeful

I recently read an article that asked readers, “if you could share one word that describes your grief journey today, what would it be?” Many posted words like scared, broken, foggy, lost, fragile and lonely. And, not that I don’t feel any of those words, but none of them seemed to fit an overall description of how I feel on this journey. Until today.

Hopeful. My word to describe my grief journey is hopeful.

This may seem like an inappropriate or strange word to describe my grief; however, for my journey it seems a perfect fit.

I am hopeful that Nikolai has found his “happy” again – that he is running around in Heaven meeting and hugging all the people. I am hopeful that he has finally met his grandma and grandpa Miller who he never knew. I am hopeful that he has been reunited with my grams and gramps, who loved him and his energy so very much. I am hopeful that one day my heart will not feel so completely broken and that I can get through a whole day without breaking down. I am hopeful that someday I will see him again as we both enjoy the beauty of Heaven.

But there is more to be hopeful for…
I am hopeful that we, as a society, can begin to view mental health as something as real as physical health.

I am hopeful that we can educate and train all humans to see the signs and symptoms of friends in need, friends that are struggling, and pray that we will reach out.

I am hopeful that we will start to have real conversations surrounding mental health and suicide.

I am hopeful that the suicide rate will go down.

I am hopeful that the stigma surrounding suicide will decrease and our empathy and awareness will increase.

I am hopeful that we can begin to treat everyone with more kindness than judgement and hate.

I am hopeful that we will be gentle around all people, as we never truly know what someone is struggling with.

I am hopeful that this blog makes a difference, an impact, on just one person, just one family.

I am hopeful that by starting a dialogue about all the hard things, we can come together and comfort each other.

I am hopeful that I am following the path the way God intended for me.

I am hopeful that I am making Nikolai proud.

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. 

Project #2 – Books

Project #2 for those who are interested

Project #2 for those who are interested.

Our kids are Houghton kids. The principal there gave us the most lovely card at Kola’s funeral. In it she wrote that she was purchasing three books for her social worker to utilize when identifying young students that may be struggling.

I adore this so much. 💙
If we can identify and help kids at onset, maybe, just maybe we can turn things around for them. Because of Ms. Grimes and this gesture of helping others, we have now teamed up with the school district to purchase these same books for all of our elementary school social workers. In addition, Ms. Grimes is also looking into other books to help kids with social and emotional self-care. We are proud to work with her and the school district social workers to assist in getting the additional books needed in the near future.

We are so blessed to have the staff and administrators we do in Waterford. They truly care about our kids and want the very best for them. Thank you for allowing our family to be a part of this😊

Suicide Prevention Training

Many of you have expressed an interest in my projects

Many of you have expressed an interest in my projects. Here is one of them. I partnered with the Waterford Coalition for Youth to bring much needed suicide prevention training to our local communities. The need is so great. Maybe, just maybe, if more of us knew what to look for and what to say or do for those that are hurting, we could make a difference.

Space is extremely limited so if you are thinking you would like to participate in the training, please register early.

I would like to give a special shout out to my very dear friend Heather Halls. Without her, this training may have been much more difficult to put in place. She has worked hard to put this together and I absolutely cannot thank her enough. You are an amazing friend – thank you so much for helping me make this event come to fruition. I love you💙

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day

Suicide ranks among the highest causes of mortality in Oakland County

Did you know that suicide ranks among the highest causes of mortality in Oakland County? And did you also know that suicide is the second leading cause of death for those ages 10 to 34? It’s okay to ask for help💙

The demons are strong

The demons are strong today

The demons are strong today. Eight miles of trying to outrun them…crying, screaming inside my own head, my heart breaking with every step.

It’s one thing to lose a child, but when your child chooses death as their path, the pain reaches a whole other level.

I try hard not to go down the path of I didn’t do enough, but sometimes….

Today is the first day of National Suicide Prevention Week. Make a point to have some real conversations with your kids this week. Every week. Hug them endlessly and remind them how loved they are.

I desperately hope Nikolai knows how loved he was💙

First day of school

Today was hard

Today was hard. Today Reilly and Nikolai should have boarded the bus to high school together. Today Beans would have told Reilly he’d show him the ropes and Reilly would tell him he’s got it covered – lol! Today I had one less “normal” back-to-school picture.

Milestones like back-to-school can feel like a swift punch in the gut. I cried tears today for the child who should have been a sophomore today – not wanting to go to school, but still full of first day hope like he always was.

I’m happy and so excited for Reilly! I loved hearing about his entire day – his classes, teachers, who he ate lunch with and all that cool stuff. He is an amazing kid who is going to do amazing things. But I can also ache for the one not here. I’m trying my best to honor what is and allow myself to grieve what isn’t.

I read something recently, “I stand with one foot in the life I have, and one foot in the life I had. I straddle time and space. It’s hard to live like that. I’m a grieving mom and (by all appearances,) a “normal” mom, all at the same time. It can be really complicated and messy and that’s ok.”

This is grief. This is love. This is parenting after loss. 💙

25th wedding anniversary

Its hard being strong every single day

These last four days have been amazing for Joe and I. It’s hard being strong every single day for your two remaining children. It’s hard to keep it together in front of friends and coworkers. Together though, just the two of us, we could let our guard down and be real. We could cry and that’s okay. We could laugh, and that was okay too. We remembered times we brought the boys here and the memories we created. The fun we had as a family. A family of five. Things are just different now. But our family of four has a million more memories to make and a ton of fun to be had. We lit a candle at St. Anne’s for Nikolai this weekend…in celebration of all those things and in the memory of one heck of an amazing kid. 💙