Grief, Interrupted

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The year after Christian passed away was extremely painful, but thanks to the strength and comfort of God, we made it through a day at a time.  Dave’s job became extremely demanding in the following month after we lost our boy.  He went with the flow for the next several months but by summer, working 14 hour days was not enough for the company, so he had to leave.  The following September, Dave suggested I call the company that I worked at before leaving in 2005 to care for the boys’ increasing needs.  I called them, dropped off my resume, and everything fell into place.  I was terrified because I had been out of the work force for so long but I was also thrilled and very thankful for the opportunity to work for my family again.

About a week into my return to work came the first anniversary of Christian’s passing.  Dave suggested that I go to work because the distraction might be good for me.  I lasted about five minutes.  Over the first few months I experienced a lot of nervousness each morning before I left for work and I started to experience slight anxiety when I performed certain job duties.  I thought nothing of it because all jobs come with stress and anxiety.  By summer, my anxiety increased and depression started to weigh me down.  I started becoming emotional about things that normally would not make me so upset.  I began to worry about the most ridiculous things, which fed my anxiety.

I took the second anniversary of Christian’s passing off along with what would be his 22nd birthday.  I spent the greater part of that fall in a state of sadness as I remembered the days leading up to his passing.  By Christmas my emotional problems worsened and the anxiety led to panic episodes the following spring.  I took a few days off and started seeing a counselor.  This slowly started to help and I really thought I was going to start feeling like myself again.

About two months later, I started to experience tightness in my neck.  I associated it with ergonomics at work and tried carrying things differently, sitting up straighter, etc..  By fall, my neck worsened and the spasms set in.  I kept working hard and doing everything I could to keep up with the workload.  I also started acupuncture and massage therapy.  My condition worsened to such an extent that I was having trouble eating, driving, and putting my makeup on.  I did not receive a diagnosis and treatment until March of this year.  I was confident that the treatment would help and things would go back to normal again.

The first set of injections only made my condition worse and I had to take a month long medical leave.  Before I requested the medical leave I had a major panic episode and my good friend and neighbor stayed with me for a few hours.  Before she dropped me off at home she looked at me and said that “my kettle blew.”  She said that at the botton of the kettle was grief and stacked on top of that was my illness, worry for my son and husband, and the stress of my career.  She said I needed to deal with the loss of my son by joining a grief group and learning about the stages of grief.  It was at that point that I realized that I hadn’t been grieving since I returned to work.  The fear, anxiety, and massive change I went through interruped the grieving process.  I ended up leaving my job shortly after my medical leave.

It is easy to associate depression with loss – losing a child is devastating and I experienced days and moments of sadness that I thought would crush me.  Ongoing depression that does not let up, however, is a sign that a person is not grieving in a healthy way.  I had days that were harder – the pain felt more raw and I would cry, but I really thought I was moving forward and healing from the loss.  There was so much going on in my life, so much change, that the grief and pain ended up buried underneath of it all.  Unfortunately, it took an illness to open my eyes and see that I still have some grief work to do.  Perhaps this blog post is a way of moving forward.

It may seem easier at the time to run away from the pain, bury it by keeping busy, or to tell everyone we are fine, but in the long run it can have devastating effects on our emotional, physical and spiritual health.  I encourage you to reach out to friends, family, your pastor, grief counselors, or write it all down in a journal.  Don’t bury your pain.  Go through it so the pain doesn’t end up being wasted.  Perhaps making it to the other side of difficulties makes us stronger so we can in turn help others who are hurting.  Christian was my son, friend, and my teacher.  I love him too much to waste the pain of losing him.

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April from Kalispell drew this photo

 

Long Time No Post

I must admit I was a bit shocked when I saw how long it had been since my last blog post.  I have read in more that one place that we have to make time to do the things that matter or we will never do them.  We also must not wait until everything is perfect before we pursue our dreams.  Our lives are ever-changing but our dreams remain in our hearts.  I have a dream of writing a book about my sons and their daily battle with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.  A book that I hope will inspire people to donate to the MDA and reach out to families afflicted with devastating, neuromuscular diseases.

So much has changed since my last post.  After over 10 years of being a full-time caregiver for my sons, I am back at work.  Not just any place of employment but the very company that I left to care for my sons.  I feel tremendously blessed to be rehired.  Even with blessings, it’s easy to still experience moments of fear and doubt.  Questions circled in my mind such as wondering if I would remember everything.  There is also the social aspect of working outside of the home that I have been missing for far too long.  It has been fun seeing people who I haven’t seen in years, literally.  It has been difficult not seeing my son as much but this change enables us to be a healthier and happier family.

October 27th marked the one year anniversary since Christian passed away.  I honestly thought it would be beneficial for me to go to work and with this year being the first one, I didn’t know what to expect.  Let’s just say I had to go home.  Being with my family made the day easier to bear for all of us.  This fall has been painful.  As I have been watching the leaves turn and fall off of the trees and the sun shine at a different angle, I have been flashing back to our last few weeks with Christian.  The good Lord has given me the comfort and strength I need to keep putting one foot in front of the other.  One sign of the healing that has taken place over the last year is the little moments of joy that fill my heart at the most simple of things.  A squirrel greeted me on one of my courthouse runs with a mouthful of leaves.  A house finch called to me from under a car in the parking lot behind the treasurer’s office.  A pigeon greeted me above the door before I went inside.  The simplest of sights are the most beautiful.

A squirrel in Gibson Park years ago.
A squirrel in Gibson Park years ago.

I had to remind myself lately that going back to work full-time does not mean I have to stop pursuing my dreams.  We can always carve out a little time every day to write, play a song on the piano or take a 30 minute walk.  I would love to hear about your dreams and I will keep you posted on mine.  I have a piano that I would love to start playing again but with most things, I will need to take baby steps.  I read a blog post by Tsh Oxenreider (theartofsimple.net) about not setting goals too big or it sets us up to fail.  It’s far easier to exceed a goal that’s simpler and realistic.  Wise words!

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