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It is another day in Kenya. Another hot day for Lox and her band. Lox enjoyed the night rains, so cooling and helpful in washing away the insects and parasites that constantly irritate her skin. She slept her usual four hours, as elephants only take that time for their rest.

Lox is the matriarch of her kin. Her group numbers around twenty although they see other bands of elephants throughout their lush and green grasses of the Masai Mara Reserve. Lox wakes and immediately looks for her son Surus. He is a rambunctious young elephant growing up so fast. Soon he will be leaving the band and wander the reserve as male elephants do.MotherElephant2

Lox became the matriarch of her kin when her mother passed away years ago. Her mother was a great leader. She led the biggest band of elephants in the reserve for many years. Lox kept her band together. Her sisters, aunts, her two daughters and other female elephants with their young continue to be the biggest band of elephants in the region.

The savannah of the reserve is busy now as the season is at its peak with the migration of wildebeest and zebras. Lox knows her region well. She has a great memory and leads the band to the best water stops and areas of abundant grass to eat. Watering holes are a gathering place for many animals and Lox is on her guard as Surus is enjoying the water with others. The reserve does not have the threat of poachers but there are abundant crocodile and lions to prey on the little and vulnerable ones of her kin. A few years ago Lox almost lost Surus to an infection that claimed the lives of a few other young calves of their kin. Surus remarkably lived, likely due to his mother’s and the other elephants care.

On her way guiding her group back from the watering hole Lox and her sisters come upon a carcass. It is the remains of one of their own. Lox approaches the area. She finds tusks, bones and a remaining ear. Scavengers have eaten away most of the flesh. She and others stand around the remains, smelling the area, picking up the bones, pushing pieces of the dead relative. Lox and the others know this one…. It was one of her sons. He left the kin only a year prior.

Lox and her kin stand a long time at the site. Lox stomps a few times on the ground. It sends a subsonic rumble for others to hear. She mourns her son.

The group leaves the area after some time. Lox wanted to stay longer and be with her dead son. But being the matriarch of the kin she knows she has to move on. She has to find more food for the group. She has Surus and the other young of her kin to watch over. Everyday there are threats to her kin and she needs to be on alert. The other adult elephants of her group need her.

Lox continues on.  A rainstorm approaches the group. Lox looks up and sees the storm clouds. She is an old elephant but likely will have many more years to roam the earth. It will be good there is rain soon. The insects and parasites bite and itch her skin.  She will welcome the relief, even if it is a short time.

mama elephant

Did you know that elephants are intelligent animals? They feel joy, anger and some scientists believe they exhibit grief behavior when they find remains of their species.  I wrote this story as a gift to myself. As I get older I am wanting to do things I did not have time for in the past. Creative writing was never my strength but I am inspired by Sam and his writing skills.

Think about Lox. Does she have some qualities of someone you know? 🙂

In good time doctor

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Six to eight weeks off from work? Ugh… I can’t be gone that long!

But I listened and was a good patient. I was not the doctor patient who thought my two cents of opinion equal my doctor’s years of experience.

So many people said “enjoy your time off!” “relax!” “you deserve it!”

Well maybe if it was a planned leave and I wasn’t frustrated with what happened I would have.

You see –       

 I blamed myself.

Silly ! Right? It was an accident- you can’t plan that.

But to me for the first three weeks of my leave I kept thinking I messed up. I believed no one would forgive me since I could not forgive myself…..

Then I realized there was no benefit in putting blame on the event. It happened and if I wanted to go back to normal – to walk normally, to go back to work, I had to put guilt aside and focus on healing. time-to-heal-quotes

Please understand, some of us left behind after suicide have guilt on many levels and apply it to many areas of our life.  It took me the first weeks off to understand my guilt emotion gave me nothing. If I was to heal physically why did I allow guilt to hang around in my mind?

The next four weeks were different. Not only was I the eager patient following a regimen to heal my knee, I was focused on healing myself – my whole being.

I read. Not just pediatric journals. I read books about spirituality. About grief. I read Sam’s essay for school. I read about God. I visited with people. People I wanted to see for a while but never had the time. I got closer to my husband. 

Right after Nolan passed I was not able to do any of that. It was too soon. I was living hour by hour back then, feeling crazy with the emotions of grief rolling circles in my head and learning to breathe and survive.

This time my knee injury made it easy to sit… to listen.. to heal … to just be.

 

Now I am starting my second week back to work. Am I different? Well I am still working on walking normal. I would say I am more spiritually focused. Emotionally – well we are coming to the holidays. Last year it was really hard. I expect some grief waves to come. 

But I will keep healing. 

Welcome Home!!

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Home.

My aunt Mimi was called Home this week. She was my “cool” aunt. Cool because she was a teenager when I was born. She was the one that made my sisters and me TERRIFIED of spiders, she was always sharing stories, she was just good to be around.

I didn’t see her very often- she lived many states away. Yet when Mimi would come into town it was like she picked up from her last story telling and before you knew it hours had passed.

.facebook_1540301877153.jpgYou know how some people just have a good spirit? That was Mimi.

 

 

 

 

Mimi had something else too about her-Her faith was apparent in every way in her life.

She was a child of God.

Since both of my parents are passed I am the keeper of their old photos and videos. In these last few days I got down to the basement and checked out the storage boxes.

What a treasure to find old photos of Mimi and other family that have passed. I miss them so much. In some way it helps to see old photos because it brings back my good memories and pushes my love for them up into my focus. But the same photo is difficult to see because it reminds me of how much I missed them.

It is so hard to say goodbye to those we love. If they leave this world quickly, or unexpectedly, or have a slow goodbye…. they are gone.

I believe in the afterlife. I believe in heaven. Will I see Nolan, my parents, Mimi and many many others who have passed. How do I know?

I just do.

 

“What a comfort to know that to be absent from the body is to be at home with Jesus, our Lord and our Savior.”

 

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Until I see you again Mimi- I Love you 

The accident

It was a good weather day, a typical mid-September one. Warm and humid.

We did not plan all the activities of the first anniversary, just Scott and I together in the afternoon. It was his request. Just be together. To honor the second anniversary just the two of us.

In the morning I did PT and my foot doctor cleared me to start a slow return to running. GREAT!!! I planned for us to do lunch a short ride away in Miller. We took  our motorcycles with the route avoiding the highway.  We saw a bad accident on the way. I remember seeing the two cars and their damage. Riding is not anxiety provoking, but that accident made me more attentive.

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It really just took a second.

A fast stop of the car ahead of us. I did not expect it to happen. Sometimes you can see an accident about to happen and think “oh boy, I can’t stop this.. help!” No – for me I was just braking like I have hundreds of times before, but this time my body ended up on the pavement.

“What the???” My left arm was twisted and burned in pain and I feared Scott was going to run over me. Oh – and my leg… I had to twist it below the knee back into place. Or did I do that?

I was in shock for hours after. I have never had a car or motorcycle accident before where I was injured. My left knee had a torn ACL and torn meniscus. Lovely road rash on my arm.

But what I really hurt was my spirit. That night I could not sleep.

Why did I have the accident? Why oh why that day? I wanted to think about Nolan and remember good things about him. Not be broken in body and spirit.

I cried for around four days. I was physically hurt and unable to walk without someone watching me on crutches. I cried from my misery but also in grief and for what I saw as my lack of control and failure. 

Like I could control what happened, right? I could not control what Nolan thought or did two years prior. I could not turn back time and not go out to lunch or take the bikes.

I had to tell my partners I was out for the next six weeks or more from work.  I felt like I let them down. I let my patients down.

Since successful surgery this past week I have come accustomed to being at home and not focusing on what I am missing. I have spent a lot of  time with Scott. He sure can make me laugh and it is good that it doesn’t hurt my chest when I do like the first week. Once again my family, friends and colleagues are helping me through a rough patch of life.

Lisa HD 005I know I could have been hurt much worse. I wear a helmet 100% of the time. I did not hit the car ahead of me- again – all in an instant. I don’t think Nolan was watching over me. If he was I think he was just an observer. Not that the accident was meant to happen.  I don’t know about that. I DO know people were available to help me in perfect timing. That I believe was directed from above.

They say doctors are not good patients but I will argue we are excellent when we have a  goal. My goal is to follow my directions, work hard with my physical therapy, and go back to work as soon as I am safely able to.

Will I ever run again?  Will I ever ride again?

I will take it one step at a time.

I will focus on walking first.

 

A walk/run for a purpose

On 9/29 the Calumet Park Cemetery sponsored its first 5K walk/run for Suicide Awareness and Prevention.

I was honored to be a guest speaker and I wanted to share my speech with you.

For a first ever 5K event the turnout was great. Way more than I expected. The staff at Calumet Park are outstanding. I had no idea such a beautiful place existed in NW Indiana.cemetery

 

 

 

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I lost my son Nolan 2 years ago to suicide. He is forever 19 years old.

The question I ask myself, as I am sure you have ask as well – IS WHY?

Ask it once,   maybe one hundred times, Maybe a thousand times?

Why does someone take their life?

Now let me ask a different “why ” question- why are you here?

Many of us here have lost a loved one to suicide; a family member, a friend, a coworker, a friend of a friend. Maybe you are here in support of someone who suffered the loss.

Suicide awareness is a bit more on the radar in the last months with the loss of  celebrities Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. Our society acknowledges the loss, the media brings up the subject, a bit of time is spent on the discussion, and due to its uncomfortable and ever so sad act that suicide is — the subject  is changed.

A researcher on suicide named Thomas Joiner authored a book –“Myths about Suicide” where he states there are two psychological states of mind of the person considering suicide

-They perceive they are a burden to others

– They have a sense of not belonging

We know we do not want the numbers of loss to suicide to increase.

Today we say we want to help. To help those in our community who struggle with mental illness, PTSD, substance abuse, chronic pain and other conditions known as risk for suicide – we say we promise we will speak up if we see or hear words or actions in people we know.  More than ever we see now that asking about suicide and bringing it up is not to be feared. We are better educated and more confident to act when before we might have thought we would do more harm.

We are not better off without those we lost to suicide. They were never a burden. We acknowledge a person with suicide thoughts may feel alone and that they feel they do not belong. This is where we will work to give hope and opportunity for those that feel they need to end their pain by suicide.

So instead of asking why – I suggest we do what we need to do.

We live.

We live on and continue to help prevent more people ending their pain by suicide.

I thank Calumet  Park Cemetery for creating this event.  Our participation today will help fund two great local groups – PATH and Operation Combat Bike Saver.

While you run or walk or get pushed in a wheelchair like me – take the time to reflect on WHY you are here. We belong here – to keep our loved ones – be they a child, spouse, parent, relative, friend, veteran or first responder in our hearts and in our minds.

We want our pain of loss to help others never go where their end is too soon and our lives are forever missing them.

Nolan is in my heart and is with me every day until I see him again.

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Angelversary #2

I am used to time being marked by monthly intervals.perpetual-calendar

During my residency we rotated monthly working in different parts of the hospital.  My pregnancies were a monthly countdown to the big day. Even now in my work with office schedule loads and call responsibilities, all are managed on monthly calendars. (January and February are the worst and longest months for us pediatricians!)

Now I will be marking time since Nolan’s passing in years, not months. I can’t control time marching on and I really don’t want to.

My friend Amy also lost her son at age 16. He did not die by suicide. He passed away two months after Nolan. We grieved together for a while and during our first year grieving our sons, a person who has grieved the loss of their child for many years told us that the second year is harder than the first.

Amy and I looked at each other and said “OH HELL NO!!” (I tamed this down – I said much harsher words)

Don’t tell me that my nightmare of the first year is followed by a harder second year!!!

God – I don’t have the strength for that.

Yet time continues on and I am strong and going on with my life.

Grief is individual. Ebbing and flowing. Gentle and turbulent. Quiet then madly overtaking and all-encompassing hard.

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Is the second year harder? In some ways yes.

  • Life continue on. Which is good. We all need that. It’s just that life expects you to go back to normal. Pre-trauma/loss/grief normal. But there’s a new normal and you are a changed person and you can’t think and do things like before.
  • The first year people acknowledge your loss. They hug you, ask how you are doing, they talk about you child. Now there is little mention of Nolan. When I bring him up I find some people get uncomfortable. Look – he still is my son. I still want to talk about him.
  • Holidays, anniversary, birthdays are really hard. There is little to  look forward to because you have an empty spot, a hole in you heart that you can’t fill.
  • I am more tired. My body aches. I believe I am more tired because I am back to my professional life – its expectations and mental demands – yet I have the underlying grief that I need to acknowledge.  Some days are an emotional marathon. If only grief and its mental exercises would burn calories!
  • In the first year it’s all new. Then the next year shows all the same milestones and he is still gone. I didn’t think I could miss him more but I really do. That is how I would describe the second year — intense missing.

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I fall into moods where all I can think about is the pain of missing him. 

I look at his prayer card — “Remember mom – miss me, but let me go.” 

I am trying.

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Thank you to my family and friends – you have held me up at my lowest, made me laugh, made me smile, cried with me, and gave me time when I needed to be alone.  I am very blessed.

 

 

Live, Laugh, Love

Since it is a hard month for me and I need to keep my head above my deep waves of grief – I want to think about my happy memories of Nolan.

The Gold house is a place where sarcasm, joking around and making someone laugh are a daily thing.

dad and Nolan

Scott is the house’s king of comedy. Not the slapstick Jim Carrey type.  He is more cerebral. He did years of stand up and improv classes at Second City. I imagine he uses those skills when he teaches.

When one of us came home after a bad day ultimately someone in the family would crack a joke or quote some lines from a favorite movie.

We forgot our troubles with laughter.

It is no surprise that Nolan made his friends laugh.

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I’m sure I don’t know half the stuff he did and I probably don’t want to know. His friends tell me Nolan was a jolly and fun loving friend.  He could make anyone laugh.

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I remember this side of Nolan.  I still can hear his laugh. 

 

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The lotus flower

Since it is a hard month for me and I need to keep my head above my deep waves of grief – I want to think about my happy memories of Nolan.

Right before he went off to Valpo for college – Nolan got a tattoo.

He could have picked anything.

He got one of a lotus flower.

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Doesn’t it look like the symbol of his video game he loved to play?220px-Warframe_Cover_Art.png

But he told his friends and me that he picked it more for the lotus shape.

A lotus flower symbolizes spiritual enlightenment and rebirth.

Nolan told Lily – one of his close friends – his lotus tattoo meant inner peace. Something he was searching for and one of the important things to have in life.

He loved that tattoo. He wore sleeveless shirts to show it off.  It made him feel good.

A few months ago Nolan’s very good friend Tino texted me a photo of his new tattoo.20180902_213036.jpg

As we near the two year mark of Nolan leaving us I hope his friends remember the good times they had with him.

My heart gets stuck on missing him. On wishing he were here.

He does not want me to be sad. He has told me. Even in the afterlife he does not want to see his mom cry.

I try to focus on the good memories. The times we laughed.

He had the best laugh. 

 

 

 

Trigger Points

I don’t like getting old.1338825450532_2288626

To make it worse your body does not like stress.

And grief is a big stress.

I have a running injury and it is bringing me down. With researching my injury I have dabbled a bit in reading about kinesiology and trigger points.

 

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Trigger Point: a sensitive area of the body; stimulation or irritation of which causes a specific effect in another part.

Thankfully I have many people in my life that are helping my body recover from my injury.

We all have stress in our lives. I used to thrive on it.

But since Nolan passed I just can’t handle stress like I used to. I no longer work the extra hours that I used to.  I rarely work on a scheduled day off now. I say no to things and don’t feel guilty.

And I listen to my body. I wear my stress in my shoulders, back and hips. Stretching, yoga and massages help me.  If I don’t do these things my body suffers. A massage can help me release a trigger point – it might be painful to have the area touched – but the pain at that site ultimately releases pain in other areas.

I think my grief has “trigger points” too.

If I do not allow time to think about my loss, if I do not spend some time in my “house of grief” (see blog April 10)  then the stress builds up into a trigger point. And it gets to be a big nasty one.

feel it

As I approach his “Angelversary” next month I am taking some preparatory deep breaths.

As far as I have come, I can be strong and get through this.

You have mail!

mailDo you ever wonder how people in Chicago can vote twice?

Well I have an explanation.

When you die you aren’t dead to everyone….

 

I polled a few of my grieving friends with child loss to suicide… (yes we have a closed group on FB – be glad you are not a member!)

They have graciously shared with me some of the mail that they have received addressed to their now passed children. Children can be very young or up to adult age at passing. Some of the mail we get …

  • Award from college
  • Junk mail – up to 14 years later
  • Survey from doctor’s office, ambulance company
  • survey from girl scouts on effects of bullying
  • offers from banks
  • alumni mailings
  • jury duty notice (my favorite) 
  • realtor wanting to buy condo – sold 2 years earlier
  • 401K statements every 3 months (after notice of the death)
  • Credit card applications
  • Notice to register for selective service
  • College propaganda
  • Free razor from shave club -on 18th bday
  • NRA membership request
  • notice from child’s psychiatrist that office is moving, > 1 year after child passing  (I personally told Nolan’s psychiatrist he died)

Please note all these parents made the appropriate notices to whom they could that their child had passed. Death certificates sent out, emails and letters sent telling banks, institutions etc that they are no longer here.

How about a phone call asking about your dead child?

EXACTLY one week after Nolan passed Purdue called me.

Go back one year prior- Nolan did one semester at Purdue. He did not enroll for the fall semester there since he had transferred to Valpo. He emailed Purdue months before telling them he was not returning. He got a reply email acknowledging his transfer. Yet he got an email from some kid one week before Purdue started that fall semester – the kid said he had Nolan’s name down as his roommate!! Nolan told him Purdue’s error and he confirmed Purdue did not have him listed as returning.

I did not tell the man calling me asking “If I was happy Nolan was attending Purdue” anything other than he transferred to Valpo.

Go forward another week and VALPO UNIVERSITY calls me – a young college girl asks me  “How am I doing? How is Nolan doing? Does he seem satisfied in his first weeks at Valpo?”

I know this young woman was doing a job at the school – she has no idea that Nolan passed. I was having a good day when she called so I did not break down on the phone.   I told her Nolan had died and I understood he was still on the list as a new student. She was shocked and apologized.

I have not gotten any more mail or phone calls from Purdue or Valpo since then.

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Some of my grieving friends welcome this mail and some find it a harsh jab reminding them their child is gone.

We have our children on our minds everyday. Not every minute of the day. But at least once in the day we think about them. I wish we could always have that thought be a joyful and pleasant one.

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