For six months now, I have been living in despair. I don’t mean so much in despair that I can’t do what I need to do to take care of me or my family. I mean the despair that is a broken heart. I am surrounded by memories of my son, but I am also surrounded by life that continues to go on.
So, go on I must.
We are very close to the season of giving. I love the holidays as it is a time when family can get together without feeling guilty about not doing this or that in their every day, busy lives. We relax. We mingle. We talk. We joke. We enjoy. So often in the midst of every day life and every day struggles, we seem to miss the little things that make up the big things. And it’s the little things that matter….
But, before I go off on that subject, I want to focus on what the upcoming season really means to me:
good fortune: I don’t mean material riches, but those of the heart
time to rest
a few days without running here or there, to this sporting event or that meeting
hopefully some sleep
These last six months have depleted me – mind, body, and soul.
However, there is a change coming. We are expecting some excitement in the very near future.
Not only will my family be celebrating Thanksgiving in the coming days, but we will also be celebrating the birth of my first grandchild. My son and his girlfriend are having a baby – which I think I may have mentioned a time or two. Their precious baby girl is due on November 28. As I continue to grieve for the loss of my son, I will witness a miracle as all babies are beautiful miracles. As I continue to grieve for loss of one life, – a life I loved more than my own – my son and his girlfriend will bring life into the world.
Oh, I can’t wait to meet that precious, beautiful being. It seems our blessings multiply most during the times we feel so broken.
I was lying in my bed this evening, nursing my baby girl and as I looked around my room, my eyes landed on this photo of Darren. It’s hung beautifully above the piano, positioned perfectly so that it’s the first image I see as I awake and the last image I see before I close my eyes.
As I laid there, with my baby girl all snuggled in close, my thoughts began to wander to Darren just as they always do throughout the day. Nights are different though. My mind is calm. The peace surrounds me as my children lie in slumber. Of course, the noise of my husband snoring put a damper on the peaceful silence, but I guess….well, I’ve gotten used to it! Anywho……enough rambling….
In the silence, I began to think about Darren, about how much peace he must have now. I looked at that particular picture, the way he has his hand on his cheek and I realized….that is exactly how I hold my hand when I am worried or upset. It’s funny the things we notice when we aren’t really paying attention. As a parent, I often try to look at any given situation from the perspective of my child. It was no different with Darren. I really tried to understand what he was thinking. I was often perplexed by his silence, by the false pretense of strength. He was a soft-hearted person, but he built a protective wall around his heart as most people do when trust is gone and doubt creeps into every crevice of the mind.
I started asking myself questions while I was lying there with my daughter, questions such as, “what would he be doing right now if he were still alive?” “Where would he be?” “Who would he be with?” And then, I started the inner dialogue, “He wouldn’t want us all arguing.” “He would probably be sleeping at this exact moment.” and so on, so forth. Even more than the questions and the inner dialogue, or thoughts of him as he was just before he passed away, are the memories that have been flashing through my mind lately. The memories have been specific. Today’s memories consisted of our family vacation to South Dakota! Do you know how long ago the vacation was to South Dakota? Yeah, I can’t remember either! I mean, I remember the trip, the drive, the week-long stay in the camper. I remember the activities we enjoyed, the campfires and roasting marshmallows. I remember some of our crew sleeping under the stars with Luke and some in the camper with me. I remember being 8 months pregnant, but trying really hard not to be cranky because I wanted to kiddos to enjoy the vacation.
So many memories to cherish. The loss is to much to bear sometimes. I wonder if the heartache will ever end. I worry about my other children and how they are handling the loss. It’s hard for me to understand and I’m an adult. I can’t imagine how each of them must be feeling. It’s been almost six months since Darren took his life, but I know he is at peace now and that’s brings me a little bit of peace…..not much because I still want him here with us, but his pain is gone and for that I am thankful. It breaks my heart that he saw his only option to be suicide. He is my son always and forever. I loved him when he was here, I love him now. I always have and always will.
Suicide sucks, but what sucks even more: an ugly heart. For those who can be so hateful without considering how much it hurts others….shame on them.
People handle grief differently. When someone we love passes away, the one’s still living go through something known as the grief process. And like any process, it’s a process that goes in steps or stages….however, you’d like to refer to it. The crazy thing is that never are these steps followed in any kind of chronological order and the chances of hitting each step more than once are quite likely.
The upsetting thing about grief is just when you think you are overcoming it, getting through it, something grabs you and drags you back into the spindly fingers of grief. The process never ends and maybe, just maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Speaking as a mother who is in the throws of grief, maybe it’s a good thing that grief never ends. I mean it’s not good if grief would consume you, consume your whole being as you must find a way to continue to be present in your life. Grief simply means you have loved someone with your whole heart and when that person leaves this world, a void seems to envelope that space in which the person lived. I’ve always told my children that each one has a place reserved in my heart specifically for each one of them. When my son died earlier this year, that space that was his didn’t disappear. In fact, it is now filled with love for him that will always be and the remaining part of his life left un-lived. That space will forever remain his — Darren Wallace’s space.
The ache is strong in that place of my heart. His siblings, each with their own places in my heart – living, breathing, loving – will never replace the spot that was reserved for him. I wouldn’t expect them to nor would I want them to. You see, I never want that space to disappear. My son was a huge part of me, as are all my children. Most moms can’t fathom losing a child, but I now have to live in the nightmare. It doesn’t matter the hour nor the place, it doesn’t matter the task at hand nor the thought in my mind, when grief rears its’ head, it brings me to my knees in a heap of tears that flow freely. Recently, I read a poem about grief and the tears began to fall before I was half-way through the poem.
But, that’s how it goes. Grief doesn’t ask your permission. It doesn’t give you warning. It shows up where it wants, when it wants, and with whomever is present as it wants. Grief is an inescapable part of life. We will each go through it, more than once, in our lifetimes. They say some deaths are harder than others. For instance, to lose a 98 year old grandmother is going to be quite different than losing a four year old son. The life lived, the influence left behind…..that will be there no matter the age of the person who passed away. Some say the longer a person is alive, the bigger (for lack of a better word) the grief will be. I am not here to say yay or nay to that theory, but I am here to say that grief sucks. Losing someone we love sucks. And that death then becomes a part of who we are. Death changes us, better or worse who knows, but you will be changed.
And then, the way the death occurred, some people say, has a bearing on how the people who are left handle the grief. Well, I have nothing to compare it to so I am talking blindly, but my son took his life. That’s a hard pill to swallow. I was able to get prepared. He was here this hour and gone the next. I mean that stands true of any death, but to live every day questioning why he’s no longer here is the hard part. Not only is he gone forever, but my mind will not ever fully comprehend why he’s gone forever. Besides the obvious, that he took his life, I will never understand what led to that decision.
And it breaks my heart.
They say the hardest part of losing someone is learning to live without that person. However, living with not ever knowing why he made that choice is equally as hard.
People speak of rights: personal rights, civil rights, basic human rights, universal rights and the perceived list of rights goes on. Perceived because everyone has their own version of what’s right. Some people’s version align with others and so on and so forth. We fight for the right to choose what we believe in. We fight for the right to enjoy life how we see fit. We fight for the right to choose what gender we are. We fight for the right to bear arms and to what school our child will attend. We fit for this and we fight for that.
Are we wrong to fight for or against one right or another? No, not really. But, in the end, what are we really fighting and what right are we really possessing? Yes, I know the arguments: freedom of speech, right to protect ourselves and our loved ones, right to education, right to be liberated or not, right to choose life or not…..
Take a wife for instance: doesn’t she have a right to feel safe in her home? Well, sure she does. A husband, a wife, and a child all have the right to feel safe in their home. Does a child have the right to express himself without fear of reprisal or degradation from those he loves? Certainly. Does a husband have the right to sit in his home, enjoying his coffee, and his peace? Of course. However, each of these rights stems off one very important, but often overlooked basic principal: Respect.
We, as humans, have lost the ability to respect other humans. We often take the guarded, but misinformed stance of
I will give respect when I get respect.
Lack of respect for oneself and for others has surely led us into the self-serving abyss that we now live in, not to mention the lack of morals, lack of integrity, and over-abundance of uneducated liberalism that has become so prevalent. The respect we give another is not based on merit or whether the individual has earned it. We give respect because we are all God’s children and for that reason alone, everyone should be shown respect. It’s our human nature to rely on the ‘you want respect then earn it’ theory. However, human nature fails. A lot.
Suffice to say: We do not live in a free-for-all world.
However, what we lack the most, but need the most is Love.
We love others because God loved us. We don’t have to agree with everyone. We don’t have to accept their choices. We don’t have to see the world as another sees it, but we are called to Love.
And love requires selflessness.
Ahh, it’s a hard world we live in and it’s only getting harder.
Darren, it’s one hundred fifty-three days since you left and this is what it’s like:
As I stand there, on the outside of my body, watching….just watching, the darkness closes in around me.
All I see in the darkness, is me pulling, pulling with all my might….trying to get that night back.
Just imagine, a sheet lying on the floor. You reach in to grab the center of the sheet and lift it from the floor. The soft cotton gathers at the center where your hand grabbed hold but the creases get bigger as the sheet lifts from the floor, finally gathering in a flowing mass of fabric as your hand lifts higher and higher. No longer flowing, the sheet now but hangs in one thick mess in your fingertips, dangling above the floor.
That’s what it’s like for me while I’m pulling to get that night back. I’m tugging and tugging at the center of it, pulling with all my strength. All I get for my struggle, is a mess of memories surrounding that night…the couple of days prior and the couple days after.
The memories are there. The words. The texts. The actions. All there, but all in a tangled mass. The visit from the cop and chaplain. The days after, wondering what happened…not knowing….the questions….the fears….the doubts….sleepless nights and groggy, tear-filled days. It’s all there, but to make sense of it all, I have to open that wound again….that wound that gouged so deeply into my heart. Can I do that? Can I relive those moments again?
I stand here now, visit his grave, and know he will never be with me here again, but the questions remain. The memories haunt my mind. The tears threaten so easily, escaping not quite so much…..normally at the most inopportune moments – in a meeting, watching a movie, driving down the road, talking to my children……..
My mind wonders:
Could I have saved him if he were with me?
If the courts would have handled things a little differently, would he still be here?
What word could I have said to make him feel differently?
And then the doubts, the could haves, the should haves:
I should have been with him that day he talked to his attorney.
I should have tried harder to make the court officer listen to me.
I should have tried harder to get others to listen.
I am currently reading a book, Dying to Be Free: A Healing Guide for Families after a Suicide, and I know it’s normal to feel this way. Confusion, heartache, anger, anxiety….it’s all normal albeit not something I want to go through.
The other day, in one of the many thoughts of Darren, I felt an internal struggle. The struggle that tells me two things…..(1) He’s gone. He’s not coming back. It’s time to get over it because all the thinking of him doesn’t change what is and (2) He’s gone and my heart is broken. How do I continue to live without him? I don’t want to be here because he cannot be here, but I do want to be here because I am needed here. I am here and regardless of how I feel or how much I want Darren to be here too, I have to continue on.
And it saddens me…..I feel guilty for living.
I only have one question:
When does it end? Not life, but the pain.
When does the pain end?
I am confused. I am lost. I am clearly different than I used to be, but who am I now?
My favorite music is country music. Most of the time, if I am listening to music, that’s the station I have on….Country. Some how, there’s always a song that will go along with any mood. Yes, I know all the silly comments about country music and dogs and wives, etc. etc. I know it’s not the most popular genre of music, but it’s my favorite.
Anywho, there’s a song by an artist that was pretty popular when I was growing up…..
Tell Me I Was Dreaming by Travis Tritt
That tends to fit my life for the last almost five months. When I heard about my son, I wanted to believe it was a dream…..and I still wish it was. Every single day.
So, with that said, please tell me I have been in the middle of a nightmare for the last five months and please wake me up.
I know. I know, Unfortunately, I know….there is no waking up from this nightmare.
My son is gone. Forever…..
So, if I must dream now, let them be good dreams.
I pray each night that I will dream of my Darren. Pictures of him surround me. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, he shared a hobby of mine: photography. One of my favorite photos that he took sits on my nightstand:
It’s not the best quality as it was, but definitely not as seen above. That’s a picture of the picture in a frame. To see the actual picture out of the frame is much better.
But it doesn’t matter to me. The quality of the photo doesn’t matter. What matters is that he was with his three best friends. Amigos. Buddies. Pals. Bros. No matter what you call it, it all means the same.
They stood, facing the setting sun so bright before them. And he seems to relaxed. So free.
And that’s how I want to remember him. I don’t want to think of his broken heart. I don’t want to recall the tears he shed. I don’t want to picture the sadness I seen in his eyes.
But I do. I see it all.
And my heart breaks one more time every time I see those particular memories.
I am constantly having conversations in my head. Sometimes that results in me talking to myself.
I mean, literally, I will have a complete conversation in my head and either talk out loud or answer myself out loud.
That’s a little crazy. Right?
No, not really. I’m as sane as anyone walking around, which may not being saying much…..
Anyway, there’s an old adage that I’ve heard said a thousand times, at least –
It’s okay to talk to yourself, it’s when you answer yourself that you should be worried.
Okay, I am not crazy and I am not worried about my mental state. I talk to myself and I might even answer myself, but such is life…
Anywho, one thing I’ve recently learned about myself is this: If I feel frustrated about something in my day or at someone, I quite simply mull over what I would say if I could, if I had the chance.
And that’s probably what saves me from doling out a ton of tongue-lashings at people. To explain, I recently have felt quite frustrated at one person in particular. It’s not someone I talk to very often, in fact if we even talk at all. As I was going through my day one day, getting ready for an upcoming event, it made me think of this particular person. She has made me angry. She has manipulated and played games. She has tried to take control where it’s not hers to take and I am done with it. I am done with the stupidity. I am done with the childishness. I am done with the disrespect and inconsideration. I am done with the high-horse she sits on. I am done.
And the thing that has gotten me through the frustrating moments without losing my cool is that I have conversations in my head, telling her exactly what I think and holding nothing back.
Let me explain myself….
I am a nice person. I don’t like confrontation. In fact, I try hard not to hurt people’s feelings or cause upset because I just don’t care for the stress it brings.
Even though, I truly do just want to be nice and not cause disruption, I am blunt. When I get fed up with people’s crap, I can be mean. But, it’s not just mean, it’s brutally honest mean…..I don’t even really know how to explain, but I know that I don’t like to be that way. I don’t want to hurt people’s feelings. I don’t want to get into big arguments with people as most of the time it ends up just trading off insults, each one getting meaner and meaner while accomplishing NOTHING.
So, these conversations in my head that involve me giving a good tongue-lashing to those who really deserve it accomplish at least that – the ability to tell someone off without using a filter. Once I have these conversations in my head, it’s done. I’m done and the next time I come face to face with the individual who’s stressing me out, I can speak to him/her cordially.
Life has a way of really tossing us a lot of dirty stuff at us. Although we make our own choices, many never learn the art of take responsibility for said choices. Sadly, their mistakes are always someone else’s fault. And so life goes, always living with the shoulda, could, woulda perception because they never really understood what it meant to take responsibility. For anything. Their words. Their actions. Their selfishnesses. Their wants. Their needs, so on and so forth.
Nineteen years ago, I gave birth to a beautiful, happy, bouncy baby boy.
He weighed 8 lbs and 3 ozs (or 5 ozs). The pregnancy itself was a topsy-turvy affair. His father and I were young and selfish, mean and stubborn which caused me to be an emotional wreck the whole pregnancy. Well, that played havoc on my Picadilly as now he’s a very anxious person.
Soon enough, his father and I welcomed another little beautiful, happy, bouncy baby boy into our lives. He weighed 8 lbs and 5 ozs (or 7 ozs).
By this time, it was apparent that their father and I shouldn’t be together. We fought all the time. Yelled and screamed and cursed and called one another names. But, speaking from my own perspective, I lost any bit of self esteem that I had through that tumultuous four-year relationship. Maybe he did too and maybe he didn’t. I’m not sure, but I was sure that we didn’t need to be together. Eventually, we broke up and went our separate ways.
Through the years, he and I have made our mistakes. However, when he and I broke up, my self-esteem was so shattered, I really believed I wasn’t good enough for those two beautiful baby boys.
And if you can’t see where that’s going, then here it is: they lived with him. I really believed they deserved better than me so I believed his lies. As they got older and I matured, my self-esteem slowly healed. My heart breaks, though, because while my heart was healing and my self-esteem was growing, my ex was destroying our two children, those two beautiful baby boys who soon grew, as babies do, into toddlers and elementary children and finally into teenagers.
Just to clarify, he and I broke up fifteen years ago.
And now, even after my seventeen year old took his life because of all the heartbreak, my ex and his family continue to manipulate my nineteen year old’s mind. He and his girlfriend are about to have a baby, in November actually. We buried my son in May and will be welcoming that beautiful baby granddaughter in November.
This pregnancy has been such a beacon of hope in a world of sadness. As the grandmother, I was excited to hear the news and with excitement, ask if I could throw a baby shower. Well, through some misunderstanding in the beginning about it, we finally made it here. The baby shower is in two days.
My son’s heart is broken. It was his brother we buried almost five months ago. Just imagine, a nineteen year old carrying his seventeen year old brothers’ casket for the funeral. Yes, with honor and heartbreak, he did that. As you can imagine, the heartbreak didn’t stop there. He, like the rest of us, live with that ache in our chest that will never go away.
And now, at a moment in his life where he should be feeling the love of his family not only for the heartache that we have all endured, but also because he and his girlfriend are bringing life into the world in a time of darkness. But, he can’t feel the love because his father’s family is making him feel shitty about a baby shower in which I am hosting that they were invited to, but refuse to attend. I am not sure that his father is saying anything to him, but some people in that family are certainly making him feel like crap.
He’s asking for one day……
One day for his parents to celebrate …………
His parents to celebrate – together – one of the most precious moments in his adult life and his dad or that side of his family won’t even give him that. Through those two boys’ lives, their dad has said he’s given them everything they’ve wanted. Just about anytime they asked, they got (according to their dad), but he refuses to give this to our son. It breaks my son’s heart which breaks mine. He refuses to stop being angry at me long enough to give our only living son the only thing he or his brother ever wanted….their parents not fighting, not to be put in the middle of adult squabbling.
I always try to be positive. I always try to see the good in people. I always try to forgive others even though my heart is still breaking.
But right now, after what my ex has done to our children, I am finding forgiveness not so easy come. It’s a daily battle…….
It’s not easy to move forward even though I know I need to.
I am scared to admit when the days are easier so I don’t let myself say it out loud. I don’t ever say, “yes, my day has been good. I have felt happiness.”
Why be scared, you may wonder?
Because Darren was one of my children and he always will be. To move forward, after he’s no longer here on the life journey with us, feels like I am betraying him in some way. Also, because I’ve may have gotten comfortable with the pain of losing him and to go back to happiness feels like I am betraying him.
It’s a crazy thing that mothers feel about their children. I have spent many years as a mother trying to take advantage of every second of spare time we could all muster up trying to be involved in his life. He didn’t live with me so time was a luxury I didn’t want to give up when it came to being with he and his older brother.
But, as it stands, seventeen years was all I got so looking back, time was more of a luxury than I truly understood.
Now, as I rebuild the pieces of my life, my family’s life, that Darren’s death shattered, my new normal is living with the constant heartbreak of him not being here.