IMPRISONED BY GRIEF AND MY KEY

Jason & a Pretzel cropped

Click the blue link to play a new arrangement and vocal of my song:

The Key Guitar & Vocal

The Key Vocal Mix

The Key Arrangement

I’ve written about metaphors many times before on this blog. Metaphors tell a story. They create visual imagery and they allow me to find insight.

A long time ago, I was imprisoned by grief. It was a horror that separated me from everything familiar.

I started to write about this metaphor at the end of my last post. “Being released from a prison,” explained how I was free from deep grief. But I was left forever changed as a result of being locked away for years. Feeling sad about those lost years still comes up for me, but I usually overcome it with gratefulness because of where I am now.

I have devoted myself to going back into prisons because I want to comfort people there. It is not always easy for me to do this, but it adds a lot of purpose to my life.

The prison metaphor definitely fits with the unfairness of it all. Ending up in a prison when you haven’t done anything wrong is reprehensible. Families are wrecked; marriages and surviving children suffer. I was angry at the system and wondered who was to blame for my imprisonment.

I was fortunate that I had a few visitors, because most people do not want to visit someone in a prison.

I did not expect I’d ever be free again. Anger turned to depression. Eventually, I accepted that this was the way my life would be. I was absolutely certain I’d never leave.

But one day I just did.

I found a key that opened a door, which led me back to the world outside. I was so thankful for that key.

It held such mystery; where did it come from?

Jason and cupcake cropped

So much had changed since I’d been imprisoned. It was strange and exciting as I began a new life. I didn’t miss the prison, but there was guilt – that leaving my prison of grief meant that I didn’t love what I had lost enough to pay the price.

But then I discovered that my love was overflowing and guilt left me.

Rose Red Left

I have been corresponding with a “prisoner of grief.” Her name is Dee and she honors me by sharing my words on her blog. I’ve also included a few “yellow” excerpts of her writing for this story.

This is a link to Dee’s post: https://deeincollingo.com/2016/04/19/my-personal-prison-of-grief/

Dee blog excerpt 1

Grief 1st year A Jason Micky Mouse sweater cropped

I want to end this post with my thoughts about how I left my prison.

Allowing images to float through my subconscious leads to amazing insights for me. As I wrote this story, I just closed my eyes and saw myself leaving the prison. I let myself out using a key that seemed to have magically appeared.

I had already served a long sentence. I wasn’t released by anyone or pardoned. I didn’t escape or break out. I wondered why that key hadn’t come to me sooner.

But all that really mattered was that I was willing and ready to leave.

After so many years of living inside a prison, being free was unbelievable. Unreal. Eerie. I never imagined it in a million years.

Rosebud - Yellow Right

I know that I am free.

When I think of my son, I am able to smile. I have many moments of joy in my life and I celebrate my living children (without guilt). I am not angry with people who do not understand grief and make thoughtless remarks.

But why do I go back to the prison if I’m free? The prisoners I visit are suffering and remind me of my past horror. They believe that freedom will never be possible for them, so I’ve learned to just hold their hands to offer hope.

I do it because my child whispers in my ear and hugs me every time I visit.

It just dawned on me . . .

He brought me the key!

Dee blog excerpt 2

Link to Part 2 of this story:  THE KEY-PART 2

This was written two years after my son, Jason died.

This was written two years after my son, Jason died.

In memory of

© 2016 by Judy Unger and http://www.myjourneysinsight.com. 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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35 Responses to IMPRISONED BY GRIEF AND MY KEY

  1. Joni L says:

    Quite deep feelings Jude. You express yourself so clearly. I’m so glad you found the key to unlock that prison door. I can Kinda get a glimpse of what you must’ve gone through.
    I love you too, Joni.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Cindy L. May says:

    Hi Judy, I celebrate your freedom from prison. I am also almost in tears reading your posts about Jason and your grief. It helps me to understand what my parents must have experienced after the death of my brother. They never recovered. Thank you for posting this.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Judy says:

      Now I’m crying. Oh, Cindy – I am so sad when I think about how your brother’s death wrecked your family. Maybe I shed understanding for you about your parents, but as a sibling you and your sister suffered terribly. You lost your parents and your brother because your parents could never be the same. I worried about that with my other children. I was not a relaxed mother, but with love I was able to make it through.
      As I often say, there isn’t really a recovery – just an adjustment. Your comment means so much to me. Thank you for taking the time to write. I am really, really touched.

      Like

  3. Belinda O says:

    Those who have been in prison best know the pain the prisoners feel. I’m so proud of you for reaching out to those who need to hear from someone who has moved beyond the pain that binds them. I rejoice in the life of your son and grieve that you lost him, yet I know his loss brought growth and newness to the lives of others. His life has so much meaning if it can make me cry to see what you’ve accomplished, and we’ve never really met.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Judy says:

      Thank you so much for this, Belinda. Now I’m crying again! I used to wonder what the meaning of his life was. It was so short and shattered my heart and soul. Now I understand – the key that helped me to be free was actually his love. And touching other people and offering hope adds meaning to his life and mine. Sharing how this touched you has given me a smile through my tears. I do hope we actually will meet someday – who knows? Thank you again. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Jody Merrill says:

    Judy, thank you so much for sharing your pain. I’m four years out after my 29 year old Marine committed suicide when he returned home after his third deployment to Iraq. Every day I wonder how much longer I can hold on. I have a beautiful daughter who is 36 and is the light of my life. I have considered taking my life more times than I can count but knowing what it would do to my daughter keeps me in the game, no matter how painful. She has chosen not to have any children of her own as she is raising her husband’s son who has Asperger’s and he’s kind of a hand full. My dreams of having grandchildren of my own has slipped away. I know my son would have been a wonderful father….kids loved him! His dad and I divorced after 30 years of marriage when my son was on his third tour to Iraq which absolutely devastated me (or so I thought) so I hadn’t even had time to “process” the divorce when my son left this life. When I tell my story (and there’s soooooo much more to it than what I’ve mentioned) folks say I should write a book because “you can’t make this sh*t up!) . I think there’s already a book with that title but it would certainly describe my life…..I retired after I lost my son because I frankly could not move a muscle in my body. Not even to answer the telephone, get anything to eat, do laundry. Nothing. I laid in bed for months and months calling for food to be delivered whenever I had the strength. My daughter lives an hour away and I felt so horrible for being the terrible mother that I was at that time. She NEEDED me and I wasn’t there for her. Neither was her dad. He had moved on to another relationship shortly before we were divorced and he never looked back. I couldn’t fathom leaving two beautiful children behind but folks do it every single day. Anyway, just wanted to let you know that I so identify with your comparison of “this” being prison. It is. Nothing short of. On the days when I can function, I truly try to bring the military suicide epidemic to the attention of the American public. I don’t think anyone has any “clue” of what is happening. We are losing roughly 20-30 Veterans a DAY by their own hand. These men and women are possibly the best that our country has. Since the war started in 2001, we have lost almost 1M Veterans to the demons of PTSD and TBI. And nothing has been done to curb this heinous epidemic. If you don’t mind, I would like to share an excerpt (with patronage to you) with a couple of other mothers I know who struggle this loss and journey. Hugs to you and your beautiful baby boy…..he is too precious for words……

    Liked by 1 person

    • Judy says:

      Hi Jody, Thank you so much for opening up your heart and sharing your pain. It can be difficult to describe grief and you depicted it well – just being unable to work and dealing with so much loss at once is unbelievable. I am glad you did not take your life. There will be some meaning and purpose for you that will come later – when you are ready. Losing a child is senseless and even considering that something “good” could come out of it made me angry in the beginning. Your journey is underway and know that you have gone through the worst parts. It may seem like it will never get easier, but if you hang in there – I’m hoping that one day you will feel the sunshine again and know that you survived the horror to make a difference in this world. I’m certain you do for your daughter. I am honored if you share my blog, music and writing with anyone who may find comfort from it. Thank you again for your comment.

      Like

  5. heidi de bruyn says:

    Hi Judy, my husband and I lost our 6 year old son June 2014 and his 2 year anniversary is coming up soon. I cannot even begin to tell you or try to describe the pain, anger and confusion I went through as a grieving mom. My story might make many cry as they read my story, so I wont go into too much detail as I will end up writing a whole book on this page. What I can tell you is that my son’s passing was the biggest shock and traumatic experience that my family and I ever experienced. We are still struggling and everyday is a struggle to continue and make the best of this new normal. The life we once knew is now something of the past,trying to find ourselves again which feels almost impossible. Truth of the matter is that we are never the same after we lose a child. We lose parents but we kind of deal with it easier over time as we know that parents always go before their children……THAT IS HOW IT SUPPOSED TO BE ? Losing a parent is traumatic in its own and I know this as I have also lost a parent. Somehow, you deal with it differently as it is somehow easier to accept. The natural law of things is that no parent should bury their child. None of us who have lost a child ever in our wildest dreams ever for one second thought that we would face the tragedy of having to say goodbye to our child. In my case, Kayle was the youngest of 3 boys and he brought such love and warmth into our lives. As I type this I picture him smiling and a smile almost manages to appear on my face….actually, I think it did. .Kayle passing away humbled my husband and I and brought us down to our knees in more ways than one. Our lives are changed in the sense that we are now closer to God then we were before Kayle passed away. We cling to God and depend on him like we never had before our tragedy. For me, I would not be standing or typing this today if I had not surrendered and asked God for strength to go on. It still hurts so very much and My husband and I belong to a grief share group which is really great and comforting. I think of my son a lot and may times a tear escapes my eyes as I remember the love and joy we felt with him. Child loss is a loss like no other and can never truly be described as the pain is just too deep. Grief is our last act of love and we carry the scar forever on our heart which is our reminder of a love so great shared between parent and child. At this stage in my life, I try to console and give comfort to other parents(especially mums) who have lost kids and have found that in its own way is a healing process for both myself and my husband. No, we will never overcome this great pain, but we are one step closer to meeting our son on the other side and we are closer because we have given it all to God.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Judy says:

      Heidi, I appreciate very much how you poured out your heart with your personal grief story. Since it has not even been 2 years, you are definitely in the horror and I feel it. I’m glad you found a support group that comforts you. It’s not about “time healing” but definitely you are still at the beginning of your grief road. In some ways, it is harder at 2 years than 1 year because there’s a perception that it “should be getting easier.” It is a lifelong process, but I hope you can hang onto hope that one day the pain will be lighter and life will be livable again. Thank you again for writing. Your son is hugging you now.

      Like

  6. Karin says:

    I believe I am ready to release myself from prison this year. July 20 2016 will be 3 years since my only son 18 years young was killed while merely sitting on my porch. I feel like I’m ready because he’s ready for me to love again..to laugh again…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Judy says:

      Thank you for leaving such a heartfelt messsage, Karin. I am so sorry to hear you lost your son. No one could imagine the last three horrible years you have endured. I do believe that no one wants to be in this horrible prison or grief. My key that was given to me by my son – it took so many years before I used it. I wasn’t ready or able, as I believe most people are. In fact, many people never leave the prison. I think the true key is the desire to love and laugh again. So what you wrote is very profound. I hope you are able to find those moments. Please stay in touch and let me know how you are doing.

      Like

  7. sparshsehgal says:

    Judy, the fact of going back to those prisons that once held you within is a brave step indeed. And putting it forward so easily yet embedded with emotions binds me to your life and its journey. The key to unlock up yourself indeed comes when you decide to look beyond what lies these walls of enclosure we have restricted ourselves to. And helping others kind that is a greater achievement in itself.
    Great post Judy. Love ya ❤️👌🏻

    Liked by 1 person

    • Judy says:

      Thank you so much for such an uplifting comment, Sparsh. You really hit the “key” when you mentioned about the emotions. I sometimes wonder if I’m contradicting my healing message by sharing the pain that still arises.I’m so glad to have you bound to my life journey. I’m smiling right now and sure appreciate your support!

      Liked by 1 person

      • sparshsehgal says:

        It takes double the courage to able to share your pain to the world and define it in such simple terms than shutting it within yourself. It’s a part of the journey towards your healing.
        😊

        Liked by 2 people

  8. Reading through the comments it is clear how many people you touch Judy, with sharing your own struggles in grief. It is not easy to put yourself out there, but when you do, you never know who you may reach and how they may help to heal you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Judy says:

      Thank you so much for you comment! You are so right – putting myself out there might be risky, but it yields great dividends when I touch other people. On your last sentence I was thinking to were going to say: “You never know who I might reach and how I might help to heal them.” But what you actually said is perfect. I’m not looking to “heal” anyone. I offer comfort and hope. And in helping others – it definitely helps to heal me! So glad you wrote to me. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. jmgoyder says:

    I have just listened and am in floods of tears – good tears, I guess. You are an amazing person and artist, Judy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Judy says:

      Thank you, Julie. I am pretty ordinary and amazing is a very nice compliment. Suffering changed me and I’m just thankful I can find ways to find insight and beauty from what was so ugly at the time. It will be that way for you too someday, Julie. Actually, you already are there because the whole process of losing Anthony has inspired you to find so many sweet moments that you candidly share on your blog.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Oh Judy,
    It’s one of those times when I can’t find the words I want to say.
    I love the prison metaphor.
    I understand it well.
    I was raped years ago when Bobby was little.
    You described how I felt.
    I am so sorry about Jason. 5 years old. Oh so young.
    One thing I have always been thankful for since Bobby died….
    Was that he died as an adult.
    I got to see Bobby grow up. To be the wonderful man he was.
    I was one of the lucky ones.
    I don’t use the word lucky and thankful very much when I speak of Bobby’s death.
    I am not thankful he is gone.
    I am thankful for the years we had.
    Wonderful years.
    I never had the fights or the bad times many parents have/ had with their child.
    We never really had bad times….even when I was in the hospital.
    So my memories are all good.
    You wrote a wonderful post. Gentle hugs. Sarah

    Like

    • Judy says:

      Oh, Sarah! Thank you for your lovely comment. It means so much to me. I had lunch with a friend from my days of grief, yesterday – I shared that story with her. She suggested I write that story into song lyrics. So that is exactly what I’m doing at this moment!
      I understand what you wrote about Bobby. I was so bitter about my loss for many years and didn’t feel lucky for any of his life. But eventually that shifted, and now I am grateful for all that I learned from him. As a bereaved parent, losing our child at any age means we’ve lost the “future to share.” Even if they are older, that applies. It is so unnatural and unfair when a young life is cut short. I know you know that. It sounds like Bobby was a special human on this earth and I’m sure he touched many people with his life.
      So sorry to hear of your being raped. That is a horror I cannot imagine. You are quite a survivor.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I am very thankful that I was able to get passes my Anger at Bobby being taken so soon.
        Anger is so harmful. I try not to question WHY?
        That helps.
        I wish I could let go of my anger at other things now

        Liked by 1 person

      • Judy says:

        I’m so sorry, Sarah. Anger is one of the worst things; it poisons us on the inside. But clearly you’ve had some health issues and I can only imagine that struggle makes it harder. One day, you will find a “key” and release yourself from the anger. Mine was music.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I never use to get angry. I mean really angry unless someone was hurting a child or a women. Things like that. Now I feel feel hurt and angry a good part of the time. Inside where it festers.
        Usually towards Danny for things he does that he knows I think aren’t right.
        It usually the same words being said.
        It’s hard to explain.
        I try really hard to change the way I do or say something if Danny comments on it.
        There are simple things he could change….not say that would me the world to me.
        He doesn’t get that: when he doesn’t think something is wrong and I do and he keeps on doing or saying it and it hurts. … He IS WRONG.
        NOT ONLY WRONG BUT CRUEL because it hurts me.

        Like

      • Judy says:

        That sounds very tough to live with. No wonder you are angry. I found that when I stopped expressing myself – I became numb and had no feelings at all. It was my way of coping. It led me to composing my song “The Unknown” and ultimately having the courage to leave. It is upending and scary to do that and I don’t really know how I did it. Self-worth is so important. When I believed I deserved more, everything changed. Here’s a link to here that song and story, but take your time with it. The unknown was terrifying for me. https://myjourneysinsight.com/2013/09/21/the-unknown/

        Liked by 1 person

      • I have become numb. In many ways.

        Like

      • Judy says:

        I feel for you. Numbness came for me when I denied my anger and stuffed it down. Very unhealthy. I wish there was a way to let it out somehow. One thing I have learned in my new life (post divorce) is that releasing feelings before they get too bottled up is so difficult, but really much healthier. I made a lot of steps toward improvement in this area.

        Any access to a good therapist where you could vent some of this? I know it’s expensive, though. 😦

        Liked by 1 person

      • A lot of the anger is just me any more. I should have gotten past it long ago.
        I keep me from being happy. Rather depression does.

        Like

      • There are a lot of things but he does the few way to often.

        Like

      • Mine use to be teaching or working with kids.
        Writing also.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Judy says:

        You have a very tough situation to live with. It’s hard to fill the emptiness when anger has taken root. I remember well that feeling. I lived with it a long time. Grief made me hold on to my marriage, but I was very sad and lonely. I had no affection from him for decades.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Most of the time….we get along Great. Laughing. Etc. But the anger is inside of me always.

        Like

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