BYE, BYE, ZOMBIELAND – PART 1

I’m with Jason in the back/center. The mother I ran into was in front of me.

“Definitely less tears”

I was shopping and I heard a voice call my name. It was a woman I hadn’t seen in many years. “How are you doing?” she asked. “Oh, and how’s your mom?” (Her mother knew my mother)

The voice that erupted from me, sounded so cheerful that I surprised myself. “I am actually great! Simply great!”

I shared with her that my mom had recently been on a respirator for two months. It had been quite an ordeal. I explained how my mom fell, had shoulder surgery, and then had complications from that surgery.

Then, I realized that I had just told her I was doing great! How could that be possible?

I explained, “You see, I have totally reinvented my life since this whole thing happened. I am in such a wonderful place now. I discovered my love for writing, and I’m feeling certain it will become something big!” I wrote down my blog site for her.

In case this sounded like I was completely self-absorbed, I was receptive to hearing about her children. Eagerly, she pulled out a picture of her 23-year-old son. She was glowing as she showed me his picture. He was recently inducted into the police department. I did not have any pictures with me. I used to carry a lot of pictures when my children were younger.

Now I want to share the back-story. This mother and I were both in the same mommy and me class together with our first-born sons. I had seen her infrequently through the years, and hadn’t mentioned this to her in a very, very long time.

My voice was soft as I said, “I went through his box just last week. There was a picture in there from our mommy and me class. You’re holding your son, and I am holding Jason. I’ve decided I am going to write about everything related to what I’ve gone through.”

She was kind, and agreed that it would be very therapeutic for me to write. She said she’d look at my blog.

I did not shed a tear at that moment. There were no tears now. I was certain that there were fewer tears left since I had cried so much. Because I had cried from grief day after day, week after week, and year after year – it gave me a perspective that there would never be an end to pain of this dimension. But actually, a day came when my tears finally stopped.

When that day finally came, it was ironic that I missed my tears!

My analysis was that when I held onto my grief, I felt that my beloved son, Jason, was close to me. I did not want to forget what I loved so much!

His smell, his touch, his voice – I had tremendous anxiety that I would forget what was once such a real part of my life.

When the tears stopped for me, it was only because I could no longer remember my beloved child as clearly. So now there was actually a different form of sadness. I felt farther away from what I was holding onto so tightly. But there were definitely less tears!

When I looked at the picture of this mother’s 23-year-old son in the market, it was a reminder that my child will never be 23! He will always be five years old, never to age another day.

Sometimes, the only way I could process the fact that my son was truly gone was to picture him dead. That might sound like the stuff of nightmares, but it was something that bereaved parents could easily discuss.

I have often tried and tried to imagine what he might look like now, but to no avail. When I have gone to that place, it becomes very confusing for me. Had he lived, I would not have had my daughter at that time, because I was so involved with his medical care and with my other son’s issues. Perhaps I might not have had other children. Who knows? Eventually, thinking about this became complicated.

So I’ve decided that my life played out a script for me. My current script has filled me with amazement. I live each day knowing that my life experiences have deepened me. I am fortunate that I am able to put into words what I have learned about grief. My situation was not something I chose for myself, but I have done as best I could with my circumstances.

It is often said that there is nothing worse than losing a child; it goes against the laws of nature.

After many years of comparing grief, I do not go to that place. I have met parents who have lost more than one child; there is no immunity from tragedy in this world!

I can feel the pain in my friend that lost the mother she loved so much. I feel a widow’s pain of trying to accept her husband is gone.

I realize that if I have the gift for words to help others understand; this is a compelling journey of redemption for me!

Grief changed me forever. When I pulled out of that old mommy and me picture from Jason’s memory box, I felt overwhelming sadness. I looked at the fresh-faced, young mothers with their babies, and my sadness was not only about the child I had that would never grow up. It was about seeing the innocent, unscathed person I was before my grief!

The experience of such gut-wrenching pain left me forever changed.

I am sad that lived in “Zombieland” for so many years. I lost out on truly enjoying life.

What propelled me forward was my love for my living children. Now I am passionate about sharing what I have learned, and what I continue to learn from other people around me. It is far better than suffering alone. Plus, I am truly enjoying life again.

“If no one ever read a single word I’ve written”

Today, I wrote about seeing a woman that knew me while Jason was alive. Just writing about the experience caused my old scars to begin bleeding again. I wondered if perhaps I should reconsider whether it was helpful to go back to those places.

I have enjoyed writing so much. It helped me to release some of the pain that I have been stuffing inside for many years. I am finally making sense of my life. I am not attempting to put a “positive” spin on what I write. Sometimes my writing is downright depressing!

The most amazing part of this recent, life journey, is how it is unfolding in such a precise fashion. I am grieving my dead child, and I am grieving my children’s disabilities and resulting struggles.

At the same time, I recognize what has been achieved by my advocating for my living children. It has been a challenging struggle to help them find their way. As a bereaved parent, it is never easy to see our children suffer. Many of the parents I have met, could never relax again. It is something we all know as part of that “club.”

Of course, the catalyst for everything has been my struggle with accepting the aging process and the resulting deterioration of my parents. My parents were such a source of support for me, and now I am responsible for much of their basic care. I’ve had the weight of the world on my shoulders, and I cannot continue to live that way without sacrificing my own health and family.

By sharing through writing, I feel lighter again. I celebrate my creativity, my energy, and my gift for writing. I am feeling that the more I write; the more there is for me to express. It is so freeing. If no one ever read a single word I’ve written, it wouldn’t matter. I have healed by doing this.

I began this blog, following my introduction, with the first post entitled “Reconnecting and Remembering.” It was interesting for me that I chose that particular story to begin my blog. I had many stories, why that one?

I believed it was important for me because it explained how I went from helping another bereaved mother, to cutting myself off from my bereavement friends when I became overwhelmed by my childrens’ disabilities. That story was also fascinating for me, because Lori became pregnant soon after her son died. That was partially due to my convincing her that it might be helpful, as it was for me after Jason died.

When Lori was with me, and together we saw her pregnancy test was positive; it was an amazing moment. I had helped another human, and I felt so moved and ready to take my own chance again. And with all the difficulties that I’ve had with my children; it was a very risky chance indeed. My youngest son is here as a result now.

Having another child was my way of affirming life, and having a way to express all the love that was within me aching to come out. All of this was from someone that really wasn’t sure she ever wanted children! Having another child after losing one, does not replace your child in any way. As my mother would often say, “You’ve lost a finger, and it doesn’t matter that you have others – it’s still missing!”

Watching my son’s passion for life has helped me heal. Most people have had great difficulty sorting out his passion out from his problems, but my son has touched quite a few people in profound ways in his short life.

My recent joy is seeing his problems melt away to expose the exquisite beauty within my son.

Lori did not have an easy pregnancy. She was very sick, and I used to pick up her older son from school. Her older son became close with my oldest son; after all, they had both lost brothers. It was sad that we drifted apart.

When I received a message from Lori, after she read about my experience “opening the box,” it reaffirmed how sharing my story was so very meaningful and healing for me.

Lori’s message was this:

Dear Judy,

Today while I had some down time I began reading your blog.  First I have to say you are an incredible writer. I have to tell you reading about Jason’s box brought me to tears.

As probably all bereaved parents do, I too have a box.  It is a hope chest that sits at the end of my bed. It’s like the elephant in the room that no one wants to discuss. Every day I look at that box. I sit on it to tie my shoes. I lay laundry on it, but I have not opened it in several years. I know by opening it and seeing all of Matthew’s things it will bring me back to a place I don’t think I am ready to go just yet.

Your writing has given me the courage to open it. I haven’t yet, but one day when everyone is out of the house and I am alone, I will take a step back in time and I will open the box and see my baby boy again and relive those old memories, the good and the bad.

Judy, you were my best friend and comfort when Matthew died. Now looking back I don’t know how you were there for me when Jason’s death was just a few years before. You are truly an amazing person dealing with everything life has handed you.

Keep on writing, and know I like your other friends, are enjoying every bit of it! Although we have not spoken in years, by reading your blog I feel so close with you again.

Lots of love, Lori

After Jason died, his younger brother became my oldest child.

Jason was very thin because he vomited frequently. He only weighed 33 pounds when he died at the age of five.

© Judy Unger and http://www.myjourneysinsight.com 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

About Judy

I'm an illustrator by profession. At this juncture in my life, I am pursuing my dream of writing and composing music. Every day of my life is precious!
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