Summer and Healing

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Summer is right around the corner! It is so close that I can’t even countdown the days because my mind shorts out just thinking of the days at the library and splash pad. It is already so hot in central Texas that I am ready to give up on the last few days of school and call it a year!

This year has been so difficult on many different levels but we have survived and I think that we are ready to sit around reading books for fun and sleeping late. Or getting up early to bask in the warm sun in the backyard watching the morning glories open up.

A little over a year ago our entire life got flipped upside down with the suicide of my oldest son, Anthony. We were devastated and heartbroken. We still are in many ways but I can look back at what my life was the day it happened and see the healing that has come from God’s Grace and Mercy. But healing does not look the way that I thought it would. I thought healing meant that I would be fine, that I would no longer miss Anthony or think about him and that couldn’t be further from the truth. I miss him even more now. I am still in shock sometimes and I still have moments where seeing a picture of him knocks the wind out of me. I still wonder if he really existed and is really dead. I still sit by his grave begging God to bring him back to life.

So what is healing? Healing is still looking forward to summer, campfires, s’mores and lazy afternoons at the library with my kids and grandkids. Last year I couldn’t see anything past the pain of seeing Anthony’s body on the garage floor.

Healing looks like me trying to build a charity to help other families facing this tragedy. There have been three suicides of young people in my town in the last month. I have had so many people contact me about their child being lost to suicide or who have been threatening to end their own life. There is a very serious problem happening in this country and while everyone argues about what is the problem and how to solve it, I want to be there for the families who are devastated and support them in the aftermath of their worst nightmare.

Healing looks like laughing and sobbing in the same hour. Laughing with the kids who are alive and sobbing that the one kid is dead and not here to laugh with us.

Healing means knowing that life will never be perfect this side of heaven but enjoying every perfect moment that comes.

Healing means remembering the great things about Anthony’s life and mourning the loss of such a great human being.

Joy and heartbreaking sadness, that is what healing from grief looks like. No matter what words someone uses, there is no way to get around the joy that is mixed with gut-wrenching pain after losing someone.

Healing is a lot like summer. It is so damn hot but also the sun feels so good on your skin.

 

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A Lifetime of Lent

There’s so much more information about loss and grief now than there was in the past. While I think that some things people did in the past could make a come back, I don’t think they were ever explained well or were done from a mental health point of view. Covering mirrors, wearing black for a year, not watching TV or going out of the house for a month after the funeral, etc. etc. My family had a lot of traditions that died when my grandfather did. When my grandmother died my mom and her siblings gave up trying to get us unruly kids to observe mourning in the way that they grew up. One of my younger cousins asked my uncle for a cigarette which led him to find the rest of us hiding behind the funeral home smoking. I will never forget the look of disappointment on his face. It was obvious that he felt something about how we as a family respect the dead was gone. I had no idea that it was about respecting the dead. I always thought he was disappointed that we were smoking. I never smoked a cigarette in front of the man again in my life.

On Super Bowl Sunday the NBC show This Is Us showed the death of the family patriarch. I knew that I was not ready to watch it but seeing everyone else talking about it was too much temptation for me. I watched it. It is an amazing show that really did portray what grief from sudden loss looks like. The problem is that I don’t need a show to do that for me. I already know. I think that started off the chain reaction of reliving Anthony’s death. I don’t blame watching that show though, from what I understand, it’s pretty normal when the first anniversary is looming around the corner. If it had not been that show, it would have been something else. Fat Tuesday, Ash Wednesday Mass, King Cake, a school shooting that brings up the issues of guns, mental health and a young man who is lost and reminds me of Anthony on some level.

The problem with reliving all those memories now is that I am no longer in shock. With the clarity of time I look back and I’m so mad at my brain for allowing me to shut down all of my emotion and become a robot. Anyone who knows me will tell you that everyone was preparing for me to lose my mind. I never did. My brain, conditioned by a lifetime of trauma, just shut it all down. Now the comfort of shock is gone and I am trying to remodel my life to make room for this grief.

I have been grieving for the last year but I am barely starting the mourning process.

Anthony is not coming back. He is really dead. This is not a horrible dream.

My life moving forward will be one where those facts live along side the joys that are yet to come. And there are joys. Cam turned two years old, Ariana is becoming Catholic and I’m writing a book. Plus I have my first speaking gig coming up! The thing is though, every single joy comes with its own reminder that I can’t pick up the phone and call Anthony to hear him congratulate me. Each joy is a sacrifice in a way.

I am moving with the grief not through it or over it. That is the only way that I get to keep Anthony. It is a lifetime of Lent.