Great expectations

Tomorrow my second son Sam turns 21.

The month of May has a lot of good history for me: my wedding anniversary, Mother’s day, Sam’s birthday.

But at the end of the month I have Nolan’s birthday – and it is hard.

I never got to celebrate Nolan’s birthday beyond age 19.

Last birthday celebrated with both Nolan and Sam, 2016.

I am proud of Sam. He does not share much with me, however I am his complaint department when he wants me to be.

I rarely get to see the happy times for him. I hope there are a good number he has with his friends.

Sam deserves to be happy.

He can’t brag about his great grades in college, or how he is in love with his girlfriend.

He can’t boast about his career and show off his possessions that he earned making top dollar in a promising career.

You see Sam has none of that.

Sam finished high school with honors but barely had a high school graduation – it was 2020. The COVID pandemic just started.
No senior prom.

He tried to do college during COVID restrictions and came back defeated.

All that on top of the most traumatic event of his life.

He had his only sibling die by suicide when he was just 14.

He just started high school 3 weeks before Nolan left us.

In Sam’s eyes – Nolan left for college and never came back.

Sam is a survivor. Yes – I am very proud of him.

He keeps going on. I patiently wait for him to figure out what he wants to do in life.

A parent has great expectations for their children.

I had dreams for both Nolan and Sam.

Nolan took all the dreams I had for him away.

Sam certainly is not following the path I though he would take.

But he is still here.

And I will celebrate this tomorrow with him.

My only expectation is that he knows how much I and his father love him.

Here we go again…

Six years.

I don’t know what to say.

Time flies … I guess. But it also goes painfully slow.

I can say I am breathing without a heavy heart most of the time. I don’t wake up and immediately think “Another day with Nolan not here. One more day closer to dying and reuniting with him and leaving this crazy, crappy F’d up world.”

Yes – those first years I thought about dying. Not taking my life. I saw how horrible it is for those left to try and go on. I would take my meds (was on an antidepressant the days after Nolan’s passing), vitamins and estrogen dosed from my weekly pill holder. Week after week I used to think it was a countdown to when I was done here….

 How many weeks, months, years do I have to be here and live like this? 

Living a new grief life where I go through so many emotions in an hour? A life where I have to wear my mask to hide my pure grief, a deep sad that nobody, not even myself, would want to be around for fear of it wearing off on others? Exhaustion was completely an understatement. I went back to work three weeks after Nolan died. I had to. I am the breadwinner. And I had to be fully functioning and in complete working brain mode. Work made the days go by fast. And it kept me from constantly thinking about my loss. Kept me from the crazy thoughts of why.

It is still hard to balance the days of the “ordinary world” and the quiet days where my loss and emotions flood my mind and bring me back to sad memories of Nolan’s last months of his life.

So now we are six years from the knock on the door from the county police and coroner’s office. Are you wondering when I am going to get over Nolan’s passing? Will I ever stop lamenting about the loss of my son?

The question I would pose back would be “Have you ever stopped loving your child?” Even if you are mad or disappointed in your child – you still love them. And you can communicate your love, your emotions to that person.

I can’t call Nolan and hear his voice. I can’t hug him. Can’t watch him grow up. Maybe get married. Have kids? Maybe be alone and depressed. Maybe have an addiction. Maybe live a few years more and then take his life at an older age. All gone. No future.

I have all that love and emotion that just have nowhere to go.

That is grief.

Time after time

You have heard the phrase “Time heals all wounds.”

But the phrase is better known in this famous quote:

“It has been said, ‘time heals all wounds.’ I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens, but it is never gone.”

Rose Kennedy

When we think of time and grief a few things need to be appreciated.

  • There is no correct amount of time where you are supposed to grieve.
  • Time does not make grief go away. It makes it softer. I have heard of the analogy of the stone in the pocket. Or the ball in the box. Glitter in the air. Grief is a heavy book on a shelf. Find what imagery resonates best with you and you understand. If you have love for someone gone your love doesn’t go away, so your grief stays with you. And you have to continue on.
  • Milestones of time are hard with grief. One week, one month, one year, five, ten…as time goes by we continue to live but the milestones- the anniversary of a birthday, wedding date, day of passing, these days remind us of the loss of the loved one. The fact they are not here in continuing with us. We remember the good memories but can feel the pull of guilt that they are not here and we could have done something different, maybe said something and that person would still be here. The mind thinks of clues that hindsight puts out as opportunities missed.

For me it is not Nolan’s day of passing that is any harder than the 364 other days. It is the weeks leading up to his death anniversary that pull me back to my painful memories. Those memories, those moments that I do not want to relive and remember.

I would rather like to remember the good memories, the happy ones I have of him.

Four years

Four years. It is how long we take to get through high school. Through college (that is the plan for most parents!)

Medical school is four years.

I should know how four years should feel. I have done four year tasks many times.

These four years have been painful and slow with my grieving.

The first year is all fresh with firsts – first Christmas, first Thanksgiving, first birthday. The Angelversary. You struggle to focus, you are exhausted.

The second year is horrible. It stings and all the milestone days come again and you are reminded he is not coming home. You are still exhausted. Wake, rinse, repeat.

For me the third year was the year of figuring out balance. How to still function as a full time pediatrician, mom and wife yet still honor my need to grieve.

Fourth year? My grief is still here but the need to stay current with the daily changes in a pandemic world keep me more as a doctor and less as a grieving mom. This world is getting harder for those struggling with loss, addiction, depression and anxiety. I have seen so much anxiety in my pediatric population.

I honor Nolan today, his fourth Angelversary.

I really don’t want to cry all day. I don’t have time for that. Life goes on. This day will come again and again. How many more I will have to live through I do not know. I would rather put my energy and grief today into my purpose – why I am supposed to be here.

My House of Grief

I sometimes think of my grief as a place in my mind – my house of grief.


I live my day to day life – with work and busyness and the routine- outside of this house.

But every morning I wake up – the second I am up – I am in my grief house and in it’s biggest room.

This is my missing Nolan room. I am in this room the most.

I have other rooms in my grief house.

I don’t go into the denial or shock room anymore. But I did in the beginning. The anger room is really small. I don’t go there much. I spent the first months in the searching room. I got some relief but unfortunately in my time spent there I found more questions than answers. I went into the depression room last year December and stayed there for a month or so. Didn’t mean to. But it happened. It was decorated for the holidays but that did not make me happy.

The room I hate the most in my grief house is the guilt room.

This is in the basement. I visit this room almost every day. I know all grieving moms go here often. Especially moms whose child died from suicide.

You know you don’t need to – and you shouldn’t – but you still do. 

Something calls to you from in that room. It tells you to come and waste your time and expend your energy. You enter and go through the same routine….

“I should have known. I could have stopped him. I failed him.  I should have fixed him – I have failed as a mother and a doctor. He is gone and it is all my fault.”

ermabombeck1But us grieving moms know the truth. We only know what our child allowed us to see or told us. We cannot read their minds. Even though we are mother we cannot say we knew our child completely and in those last moments of their lives. WE CANNOT BLAME OURSELVES. But we still do.


I try to get out of the guilt room as fast as I can.

The new relationships room is so good for my soul. It is where other grieving parents and friends are and I get my strength when I go in this room. Sometimes I get lost and find myself in the disorganization room. That happens a lot on my days off.  It pisses me off when that happens.

crazy grief

The house can be confusing because the rooms constantly change in location. Sometimes you don’t know which room you are entering . It really does feel like you are losing your mind. Unfortunately the guilt room never moves .. it is always in the basement and it demands a visit too often.


Thank goodness I do not have a loneliness or isolation room in my house. Never found it and I don’t think I ever will.

The room I like most is the helping others room. It is sunny and warm and really makes me happy. It has become a room that is missing a wall and is open to my everyday life and my work life.  Thankfully it is a room in my house of grief that I spend more time in. This room is less and less hard to find. It does not move as much as it used to.

The missing room is where I end my day. It is where I think about Nolan, my parents, many other relatives and others who are gone. The list of people I am missing is growing. But they are all together in the best house ever- the House of the Lord.  I expect I have a great amount of time before I get to see this house.

I will wait.