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Saturday, May 28, 2016

Coping

The pain doesn't go away.  It doesn't get smaller.

Instead the way I cope with it has changed a bit.

One Ativan instead of seven.  Or twelve.

I'm not wiping out my car while under the influence of my anti-anxiety meds; I just don't leave my house very much.

I don't shop to distract myself.  I read or binge-watch on Netflix.  Put me in any other world, any other situation but this one.

I don't buy every art supply under the sun; I just rarely make art anymore.

It's cheaper, maybe even healthier at times, but only effective until I pull my head out of the current book or finish up the last episode of the show I'm currently hooked on.  Caught up on Grey's Anatomy.  All done with Orange is the New Black till Season Four.  Racing to the end of House of Cards.

Then what?  Well, then I remember that she's still dead...that Jacob is fourteen and lost to his computer games and that my husband would rather sleep fourteen hours a day than do anything else in the world.

I am alone.  I am still. There is way too much time to think.
 I'm not wrecked on prescription meds and I'm not racking up debt, but I am wracked with guilt.  If only I had went to the store myself.  She would live.

But I didn't, and she died.  The line between those two facts is only too easy to draw.  Is it so surprising that some days I just want to shut it all down?

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Play It Again

There are always more tears.  Always more.

Sometimes you may think you've learned to control your grief, and that's when it sneaks up on your from behind and puts a sack over your head, drags you off some remote country road, and bends you over something right there in the dirt before leaving you for dead.

Anything can bring it on.

Sirens and uniformed officers work well for me.

The whole distraction thing only goes so far.  Be a S.T.A.R. Take a deep breath.  In the moment, it works fairly well.  Then two days later, while innocently flipping through pictures, you are suddenly bent at the waist sobbing until you can't breathe and start to dry heave.

She is gone. Really gone.  No more Cory Girl.

I want to die.

It's been the only solution that offers even a glimmer of hope.  That's the really dangerous thing about suicidal thoughts- they are inviting, they are always available, they always come back for you.  They never leave you completely alone.  An end to pain.  An end to the milestones she missed.  An end to watching the apparently more deserving folks soak that all in.

Gonna burn in hell anyway since I don't believe in God anymore.  Or wait, I guess there'll be no hell to burn in, will there?  I haven't quite got my post-Cory's-death belief system worked out yet.  Agnostic?  Athiest?  Beats the hell out of me.

I am weary.  I am tired of trying to be ok when I'm not.  I'm tired of being a failure at everything I do now that she's gone.  I'm tired of hurting all the time.  ALL the goddamn time, because even the happy moments are overshadowed by her absence.  This whole deeper joy thing the grief books promise is a load of horseshit.  I promise you.  I do not feel deeper joy because I have lost someone who meant everything to me.  I am not living more fully because of my new found relationship with death.

I'm tired of being the complainer.  But I won't lie either.  It doesn't get easier.  It doesn't soften.  And the worst part is so few people understand what I mean.  Even the people who love me most and try their hardest don't really understand what it means to lose your child.

 I realized this fully a few days ago when my mother recalled the day she watched her first daughter to be married back out of her driveway for the last time...the heartbreak, the tears, the very real sorrow.  She was devastated.  And I'm sure she was.  But like...take that and multiply it by a million and you might be in the neighborhood of what it feels like to see your child's coffin lowered into the ground.  Maybe.

And this isn't their fault that they don't understand.   It just is what is.  And so you find yourself alienated from most everyone you know...feeling alone in a familiar crowd, when you aren't busy feeling sick with jealousy, envy, and anger.

Am I supposed to be more empathetic because of my loss?  I think I am, but most of the time I can't help myself from following up every person's problem with "yeah, but at least your child isn't dead" in my head.  If I can stop myself from saying it aloud, that's a good day.   Bet I make a great friend right about now.








Friday, May 20, 2016

Hobby Lobby

If Michael's arts and crafts store is my place, then Hobby Lobby was Cory's.  So sometimes when I am missing her unbearably, I go there just to walk through the aisles and remember her.  I went there yesterday.

I could see the ghost of her next to me in front of the candy colored tubes of acrylic paint...excited to be buying art supplies, eyes bright with possibilities.  If I remember correctly, they used to run about four bucks a pop, so I'll tell her to pick out five.  Five were never enough, and maybe because I didn't make art at that time, I didn't realize how difficult a task it was to narrow down all those glorious colors to a mere handful.  Why didn't I buy her a cartful?  What kind of mother was I?

The tears begin, and through them, I spy a few of her favorite colors, touch them, needing some type of confirmation that yes, she did once exist, yes, we did come here together all the time, laughing and talking.  Think of the good times...cherish those memories.  Isn't that the trite advice given by people who aren't in this situation, safe to dole out stupid one liners that they will never fully understand?  It's such crap because placing yourself back there often burns even more.  Never again?  Never???

Then you begin to beat yourself up for stupid shit like not buying your child two hundred dollars worth of acrylic paint at a time.  I was furious with myself about this.  How could I have limited her creativity?  Limited her experience?  Especially considering that she only had a short time to develop as an artist.  There were only so many trips to Hobby Lobby in her future.  There was only so much time left to paint.  Only so many canvases left to fill.

Speaking of canvases, I turned the corner and wandered towards that aisle.  I took one peek down there and fled in shame.  She'd always wanted a truly gigantic canvas and I'd dragged my feet, letting her practice first on a great succession of 8 x 10s, 11 x 14s, even 16 x 20s...but never took the plunge on that cover-the-wall-behind-your-couch-fully sized canvas.  Now it's too late.  No dainty earrings for her and no wall encompassing paintings.  Failed her.

I escaped into an aisle of scrapbook stickers, and let me just share that those can be pretty damn depressing.  You wouldn't really figure stickers to prompt sorrow, but they are milestone heavy:  graduation, wedding, baby, family vacations.  It's enough to make a bereaved mother want to just lay down and give up.

There really aren't a lot of scrap booking/art journaling materials out there to honor grief, the passing a loved one, or any type of sad occasion.  This is why I was so ridiculously excited to come across some Day of the Dead stickers at an expo with my friend a few weeks ago.  Finally, someone has acknowledged that my loved one died.

Of course, that's pretty much the only item I've ever seen of the sort, so I will continue to take my sad selfies and draw my "grief girls" as an artist friend of mine calls my drawings.  Someone needs to illustrate this experience- why should only the happy occasions get playtime? I struggle to feel it at all.

Finally, after walking past the sketching pencils and feeling my heart sort of turn in on itself, as I remembered a certain Christmas that consisted of art supplies and squeals of joy, I could take no more.  Having gained no real comfort in walking the aisles-,just reminders of what I'd lost, I made for the door.

On the way out, I stopped at a display of journals, and paused, my eyes having landed on a little girl style of journal with a cat on the front and a feathered pen.  I picked it up and transported myself back in time to Limited Too at the Kalamazoo mall with a eight or nine year old Cory Girl.  There was a nightgown/diary set, pale yellow background with a popcorn print.  She had to have it, and I couldn't have been more delighted to give it to her.  She was adorable in that little spaghetti strapped popcorn nightgown, and I can still see her blonde head bent studiously over the popcorn diary (which had a matching pen and was, indeed, scratch and sniff).  My heart leapt in my chest to see her recording her thoughts and impressions so seriously...she likes to write, she's going to be a writer just like me!

That memory while I stood in the aisle of Hobby Lobby with that stupid cat journal in my hands was so crisp and so clear.  She was close enough to touch...and completely unreachable.  Someone might as well punch their way through my chest cavity, grab up my heart, and pull it right out of my body.

I put the journal down, tears still streaming, and ran to my car in the parking lot where I could sob in private.

Four years in July.  This is still my day to day life.  It hasn't gotten better.  It hasn't gotten easier.  The people who say it will?  Full of crap.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Michael's Run

What makes me feel better?  Buying things.

This is how I found myself in Michael's craft store, on my lunch break the other day, tears streaming hot and relentless down my face, in front of the scrapbook wedding stickers.

Damn it, I want to buy my girl a wedding dress, too!  Not fair!  Not fair!!

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know I still have Jake, and he may get married someday, assuming he doesn't die, too.  But, it's not the same!  It will never be the same for the following obvious reasons:  he is not a girl, he is not my firstborn, he was not my child while I was still essentially a child myself (which ideal or not creates an undeniable bond), he will not wear a dress, he will not want my help with his hair.

When Cory was little, I always got to tie the sash of her dresses, and make the bow even.  I wanted to tie her sash...or button her buttons...something.

I wanted to fuss over my adult child's hair one last time before a major public event- and let me tell you, I didn't expect that last time to be while she laid in her casket.  Oh, my fricking heart.

I wanted to spin her around a bit and watch her dress flair out, laughing and misty eyed to tell her she was the most beautiful bride I'd ever seen.  I wanted it to hurt to see her looking so grown up.  I wanted my voice to shake as I told her I loved her 100 baker dollars.

People plan weddings and I go pull weeds at her plot.  I will never understand it.

I carried my little sticker wedding gown up to the counter and ponied up two dollars and ninety nine cents, knowing it wasn't exactly her style, but the best from what I had to choose from.  I could feel my heart in my throat and I took it out to my car to moon over in private, angry and heartbroken by turns.

Never did I expect things to turn out this way.  This deafening silence.  This bitter envy.  Nary a skirt twirl in sight.




Thursday, May 5, 2016

Someone Else's Words

Someone else's words tonight...

"tears stream down your face
when you lose something
you cannot replace..."

-  Coldplay

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Revenant

The dictionary defines revernant as someone who has returned, as if from the dead.

Spoiler alert:  don't read any further if you want to see this movie without knowing parts of the plot.

Leonardo DiCarprio gets more appealing every single year.  He really does. It's uncanny.  Bear skin poncho and all, and I still wanted to sleep with him.

This movie had so much buzz around it, what with him finally getting his Oscar and all.  What I knew about it was that he was out for revenge because he was left to die by his own men; what I didn't realize is that he was grief-stricken and wanting  revenge because his son was killed.

So, yeah...there were a couple of scenes that did me in:

the one in which he laid his head on his dead son whose corpse has begun to freeze and cannot or will not move from him.  Yes, he had been mauled by a bear so maybe that was part of it, but let me tell you if your child ever dies, whether you are injured or not, the only place you will want to be is with  their body- not another place in the world.   Not one.

When he tried to explain how much he wanted to be the one to take the man down who killed his child.  Yes.  When he said, "I ain't afraid to die anymore.  I'd done it already."  Yes.  Because I haven't ever lived through a bear attack, starved to death in the woods, or had my body rot from the inside out, but sometimes I feel like I have.  It's a pretty accurate metaphor for losing a child, actually.  Grief comes with teeth stronger than any animal and it never stops gnawing...the attack is never completely over.  The only sustenance you desire is to see your child again. And something does die inside you when you put your child in the ground- and the anger, the jealousy, the misery that come with it...they do ruin everything that used to be whole within you.  It's a cancer of sorts.  You're still alive, but you don't always wish to be.

So when he's finally face to face with his son's "driver", Leo pulls back at the last second, and calmly declares "Vengeance is in God's hands." and turns loose of the person who took the one thing that mattered most to him,

Seriously??  I'm not buying it, folks.  Leo barely talked during this entire movie- he used his body, his posture, his facial expressions, and his eyes to give an Oscar winning performance, but that ending was not believable.  You expect me to watch Leo strip naked and crawl into a carcass on his impossible journey to kill his son's murderer, and after all of that, he just does the RIGHT thing?  He turns his cheek?

Leo, you are a better man than me.  I would've bashed his head in and bathed in his blood.


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Psych


Pine Rest.
Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services.

Someone said the name of this place in passing to me today, and it stopped me in my tracks.

Do you know what it's like to check your child into a psychiatric facility?
I learned pretty quickly that for chronic mental illness, hospitalization is usually only good for two things:  safety and stabilization.  You take someone who is very ill, someone who might be at risk for harming themselves or someone else, or someone who has lost touch with reality, and you put them in a safe place for a brief period of time.  There is a strict schedule which keeps them from sleeping too much or too little.  There is routine that creates predictability, and in turn reduces anxiety.  Meals and meds are at regular intervals.  Bathing is required. Some degree of socialization is expected.

 Regulating the meds are just a part of the stay, because we all know that meds don't fix anything.  Talk therapy is offered every day- an upgrade from the weekly or even bi-weekly appointments that out-patient care provides.    A typical stay is 5 days.  Cory always left feeling better than when she got there.

 There was only ever one other kid there who had what would eventually become her diagnosis, and at the time, Cory was still healthy enough to find his delusions of aliens in the courtyard as bizarre as the next person.  A lot of the other teenagers were there for suicide attempts, substance abuse, anger management, and depression.

If you ever have to go, there is a small table where you will sit and fill out paper after paper of your family history and child's medical history while she sits beside you with her doll or chosen stuffy in her lap.  You will hold her hand.  You may want to cry, but you can't because that might scare her, and she is scared enough already...not just scared to be left in a hospital far from home (which she is) but also scared to be left in any room by herself for any length of time because the voices won't leave her alone.  She hasn't slept much to speak of in days.   Neither have you.

The first time you bring your child to one of these places, you don't know the rules, so you watch as the few clothes and personal items you threw haphazardly into a bag are combed carefully over, more studiously than security for an international flight.  Strings are pulled out or cut out of pants.    Wires are pulled out of journals.  No jewelry.  Not even her retainer because it could be fashioned into a sharp.

The people here are kind and patient.  They bring her a sandwich to eat, pre-packaged, which they point out to her is quite safe, knowing she has become suspicious of her food being tampered with.  She eats the ham and cheese, all wide eyes over the triangle of her sandwich, her stuffed duck clutched in the crook of one arm, watching the staff cautiously as they explain what will happen next.  They do this well.

If your child is a girl, it will be a female staff person who takes her into a private room and has her undress.  If she wants you with her, as Cory wanted me, you can be in the room as the staff person has her "gown up" and then show her body to them section by section.  Any scars, marks, cuts, or bruises are carefully recorded on a body diagram.  It is humiliating, for sure, but has to be done because the hospital must document that they are returning your child to you in exactly the same condition in which they arrived.  Safety first.

You get to see your child to her room, maybe help her put away her things, but most of the minutes left before you have to walk away from your heart are spent reassuring her that you will call every two hours and that you will be there every evening the minute visiting hours start and that you will stay until they throw you out.  The two of you quickly whomp together a ritual saying, "You call me and I'll call you." which is repeated every time you speak until you bring her home again.

When it's time, it kills you to walk away and leave her looking so small and frightened, all alone with strangers in a place that is not home.  When she is ill enough to be hospitalized, her voice has reverted to six year old Cory and it hurts your heart. You have become Mommy once again.  Is she really sixteen?  Seventeen?  Surely not.

 The moment you are out of her sight, you begin sobbing your heart out, not understanding what is happening to her  or why she has to be burdened with such a horrible illness, but knowing she is safe, and it is the right thing and the only thing you could do.

"The fact that she is so frightened, Mrs. Mansfield, is the very reason she needs to be here."