What happens when someone dies? We become sad. We mourn, we wish they were still here, we feel cheated, guilty, angry, and sometimes even stuck in the “I cannot go on” phase.
But what else happens? What is that “thing” that happens to us when we lose someone in our life, close to us, a person who loves us and that we love back? It encompasses loss, abandonment, grief, anger, guilt, apprehension, and sadness. It touches every emotion that I am familiar with.
It has been 5 years since the day I lost my son. His story has been told and re-told, and his memory strengthened everyday by bonds of love from his family. Each of us has our own method for surviving the devastation of losing him, and each of us have our own after affects that we currently live with.
In my post today I want to give you an inside look at 5 years after losing my son and what it has done to my life.
This past weekend was Easter, which happens to be the last holiday that the entire family was together (including Fred), and the day before Fred took his life back in 2010. March 31st is also his and his twin brother’s birthday. I have to say, it is always a very long week. I am amazed at what I do to myself in these “anniversary” moments, reliving last moments, anticipating falling apart, blame, guilt, and even giving up at times. I am not really sure how it happened but Easter really snuck up on me. This year I did not want my anniversary moments to come, so I tried to avoid them. But, realizing that Easter was coming and I have responsibility to my grandchildren and my children, I asked everyone to come for dinner that day. Purposely, I did not make it about Fred, and I did not pressure anyone that they had to be there; I wasn’t even sure how I was going to be able to pull it off.
We should go back a few years, to the time I decided that I needed to “make myself go back to who I was” because I did not like the change. One of the major after affects and changes in my life is with work. I have had my entire career in IT and both of my sons followed in those footsteps. We sold our businesses and I needed to go back to work, to contribute to the bill paying, etc.. I knew I could not approach IT at that time so I looked for something totally outside of the IT world and not related. Kind of a re-invention. I found a job that went well and gave me both the non IT stuff that I was loving and a little IT work that I could help the business with and did not consume me. But, eventually they took my Operations Manager job and wanted me full time IT which is exactly what I was trying to avoid. I tried to communicate how I was feeling, but of course it did not go well because I had no idea how to explain how I was feeling, but I found myself very unhappy and eventually quit my job at the end of 2014. I currently do consulting for IT, and my husband and I are starting a new business that will utilize my IT knowledge but not focus on it, which is perfect.
In the recent weeks we have been “Spring Cleaning”, selling items on Craigslist, taking to Goodwill, or passing things on to other family members. High on the list was getting rid of old computers, cords, electronics, that I have just held onto for parts. Higher on that list was finally taking the neatly folded stacks of Fred’s clothes to the Goodwill. 5 years and I personally bagged them up and actually took them to the Goodwill myself.
I am not sure where I fit in the world and I believe that is a part of the new me. I critically assess my relationships, past and present, and try to find my value in those relationships. I think about the three years after Fred’s death and know how crazy I felt inside and how I pushed everyone I could away from me. That was my blame and guilt. I rehearsed in my head, over and over, that I killed my son – I should have known, I should have saved him, it was my fault. I was ashamed, so I pulled in and pushed everyone away.
I felt an absolute mess but could not tell anyone and did not want to disappoint anyone. So, I kept it inside.
One of the emotions that has become normal and frequent is “panic”. I panic if someone is upset or struggling, I panic if I am going to miss seeing someone, I panic that someone does not love me, I panic that there could be no tomorrow. Panic drives me to action, and sometimes the action is not understood. Panic keeps me awake at night, and gets me out of bed in the morning. I panic, I wait for the other shoe to drop, I take things as “the opportunity I missed with Fred” and I do not want to fuck it up again. But there is no way to explain that, no real easy way to tell anyone that I live in a panic that drives me.
Easter was a week away, and I panicked.
I could not make my brain work so I looked up “simple and easy Easter dinner” on the computer. I picked one and thought, “I can do this”. I actually needed help but I knew that no one would be there early this time so I was on my own. I forgot things, food did not turn out correctly, and one of the roasters did not work (was off for who knows how long). I let them know at the table and one of the responses was “you are never happy”, or “are you ever happy”, something like that. Although I know they were talking about food, I thought about that for a long time.
Happiness is something I think I have had all my life along with a lot of pain. My happiness came from my husband, my kids, my Mom, my brother, and a few close friends that I had. I have never let many people in and have often felt misunderstood and different. I struggle with being important, valuable, needed, wanted, and loved. I don’t know where I fit so I try to be careful. I have a hard time with things that people never think twice about.
So what happens when someone dies? We become someone new, we transform, and we shift all while trying to stay the same in some sense. We fight the change because we did not want it. We can see and barely reach that “new us”, while floating in limbo – wondering which way to go.
When finally touching down and accepting who we have become – we begin again, a new life on our terms.
The Surviving Project