The first time it happened I was only fifteen. My sister, Carmella, died at the young age of thirteen. I went into a state of shock followed by deep, unrelenting grief. Back then people didn’t openly talk about grief so I was scared out of my mind. I didn’t know what I was feeling, much less what I was experiencing. My mother and father were struggling daily with their own grief. I didn’t know what to do, who to talk to, or when this terrible fear and heaviness would leave.
Nobody can really explain what the pain of losing a child is like. It’s a pain that only those experiencing can understand. Undeniably, it’s the worst pain anyone will ever go through!
Naively, I thought the pain of losing my son would feel a lot better in year two. Was I in for a heart-wrenching surprise! That second year knocked me to my knees and left me feeling so empty that I didn’t even know if I was truly alive on most days.
I marked the date on my calendar months ago. I’m feeling the pressing ache in my heart more and more with each passing day. Mother’s Day used to be such a day of celebration, but not any more.
This is the second Mother’s Day without my son, and the pain has grown increasingly worse with each passing day. I keep telling myself that this is just another day, but that’s a lie. This is Mother’s Day, a day is is supposed to be celebrated. Instead, I’m facing it with a brokenness that is unable to be fixed!
My son died. He died suddenly, without warning. On that warm day in May, the lives of so many people changed when my son’s life on this earth ended. He was the strong one in the family. He was the oldest brother and the one that the others looked up to always. He’s gone and our hearts are broken and life will never be the same again!
It is now going on two years since Mike died. Life has gone on for most everyone except his immediate family. For us, the pain is real. The pain is cruel. The longing for Mike overshadows every day in a million different ways. Our lives changed permanently when Mike died, and yet………..
It’s tormenting to lose a child. I put myself through an emotional wringer every day. It’s almost like I’m keeping score. There is the good mother column and the bad mother column, and the bad mother column always has the higher points. I know it’s crazy. I know I’m punishing myself, but I still do it. I remind myself over and over again of all of the missed opportunities I had to be a good mother and it’s breaking my heart.
We’ve all heard the expression that a person turned gray overnight. Well, I didn’t turn gray overnight when my son died, but I turned into a different person — a person I don’t always like. Yes, my physical appearance has changed. When I look into the mirror the twinkle in my eyes isn’t there. My hair doesn’t shine any more. My skin has a strange color — dull, and has lost elasticity. In a word, I aged overnight. That’s what a broken heart will do!
Nobody ever plans on child loss becoming part of their life, yet the sad fact is that every day children die and parents are left grieving the loss of their child. This journey of grief is not an easy one. In fact, this is the most difficult path a parent will ever walk. The journey is long, lasting a lifetime. There’s no way to get off of this road. It is now the road that must be traveled every day for as long as a parent of child loss remains alive.
My life has been turned upside down and inside out by child loss and like so many others I was naïve enough to think it wouldn’t happen. Yet, it did. My son was snatched away without warning and now there are only memories to fill the huge hole that has been left in the center of my heart and soul.
I looked at my foot closely as I continued to rub coconut oil onto it in hopes of softening the skin surrounding the scar. That scar is now twenty-four years old and it still looks like it became a part of me yesterday. Normally, scar tissue isn’t something that I would look at, but this scar is different. This scar was given to me by my son Mike who died on May 22, 2015.
I never, ever want this scar to go away because locked up in that puffy mess is a well-spring of memories that make my heart smile!
Tonight was one of those nights. I went to Monday night yoga as usual, not really feeling any different than I had all day. It was Monday, and time to get back into my work routine. I ran into class a few minutes late, placed my yoga mat down on the floor and began to do the relaxation breathing. I closed my eyes and began visualizing a beautiful beach scene when suddenly out of nowhere………I could feel myself beginning to shake from the inside and then it happened.
I don’t remember much about holidays as a kid, but I do remember the first Father’s Day in our home after my young sister Carmella died. My dad was never the touchy-feely type of dad. In fact, getting a hug from him was a very rare thing. I can remember two times when I got a hug from him. He hugged me at my wedding, and he hugged me when I was pregnant with my first child.
This particular Father’s Day was going to be rough. As a kid of sixteen I knew it. I saw how terrible Mother’s Day was for my mom, so I was already bracing myself for what the day would be like for my dad. As kids we were taught that home-made things were always better than store bought. I know part of the reason was we were dirt poor. The other reason is that it’s true. Gifts from the heart mean so much more than something you can go buy at a store.