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.

Christmas in Heaven

So what is it like to celebrate Christmas in heaven?

I imagine all my loved ones feeling eternal joy and love. The amount being unimaginable for us here on earth to really understand. And everyday is Christmas for them.

I have two more people I love very much join the celebration in heaven this year, 2020—

Until I come Home …. I will miss them all so much.

May we all try and feel the spirit of Christmas every day.

It is going to get better, isn’t it?

This cartoon is me.

Is it you too? Probably.

With election day this week, cases of corona virus surging, work pressures, financial strain and the holidays just weeks away you can’t tell me you aren’t feeling some amount of stress.

It reminds me of how I felt when Nolan left for school a second time, when he appeared to be at his best and chose to attend and live at Valpo University.

I was overwhemed with anxiety.

Initially I couldn’t sleep. I texted him daily. How are you? Did you go to class? Did you take your medication?

I had done all I could before he left for school. I had my responsibilities as his parent and I did the best I could. I had to trust him.

I had to let go.

I called and told him I could not keep checking on him daily . I trusted that he would call me if he needed something. He told me thank you. He understood and I know he was relieved I wasn’t stressing about him.

One month later he was gone.

But you know what? I am still here. Four years later I am still breathing, living, working, loving and smiling.

How did I deal with my worry about Nolan? How do I handle my anxiety now?

Take 4 minutes and listen…

So when you wake up at 3am and your brain starts thinking about all the bad things in the world, all the what ifs, the future we all want to know but cannot predict, and the things you can’t control – try and repeat the phrase.

It might work. It does for me.

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.

100% preventable?

You have seen this saying before.

I agree- suicide does not need to happen.

But when a person loses a loved one to suicide this saying can sting. It can be read as “You could have prevented him/her from suicide. You missed the signs. You failed.”

The act of taking your life to end your pain, to be under the trance that suicide is the answer to your problems- that is what COULD be prevented. But not all suicides can be prevented.

The first year of life without Nolan I had no interest in advocating for suicide awareness and prevention.

How could I say it is preventable if I didn’t stop Nolan from ending his life? I FAILED. He was taking his medication and seeing his therapist. We supported his decision to go back to college. He appeared the healthiest he had been the months before.

The good Dr. Gold, a pediatrician with years of experience, she must of known Nolan was that bad, that low.

HOW DID SHE NOT SEE THE SIGNS??

The months after Nolan died I was a busy detective. What did I miss?

He was doing so much better. He had goals and he had plans. I went through his phone and read his texts. College was going well (at least that is what his professors told me) but he was seeking a relationship. With someone. With anyone. It appears he would have great anxiety (depression and anxiety love to hang together) in social situations. So when rejection happened he wasn’t able to bounce back. It pushed him farther to feeling like he didn’t fit in. Was this the final straw? Was it school and it’s stress? Was it because he couldn’t lose weight? Was his medication dose increase the push to give plan to taking his life?

I still do not know where Nolan was the night before his suicide, nor where he went for most of the day. I imagine he went to the dunes and hung out at the beach. All alone. It was a beautiful September day. What was he thinking? Was he at peace with his decision and enjoying his last day on earth? I understand from my research that people do usual everyday things up to the minutes before they take their life.

I will never know.

The detective mom did see what Nolan did the minutes before he got out of his car with a shotgun, walked a dozen yards to a large rock mound in a construction site in view of his home and ended his life.

He watched a mundane YouTube video on his phone of his favorite gamers. No goodbyes to anyone. No note. No hidden meaning in any texts to anyone. He just ended his pain.

Tell me where the signs are with that?

It will be four years since Nolan died by suicide. The guilt can still try and take over my thoughts.

When the guilt pushes me to think I failed, I remember the following:

  • You cannot control another human being
  • You can make home safe and give tools to find help but you can’t make a person heal
  • Suicide is not the survivor’s fault
  • The act of suicide is not to hurt others, it is to end pain

I see the phrase suicide: 100% preventable in a different light. It reminds me of my role in helping others and bringing awareness to pain that leads to suicide. I cannot prevent every loss from suicide. I can be the person who listens and offers the tools to help and redirect to a path of recovery.

Christmas in Heaven

So what is it like to celebrate Christmas in heaven?

I imagine all my loved ones feeling eternal joy and love. The amount being unimaginable for us here on earth to really understand. And everyday is Christmas for them.

I have two more people I love very much join the celebration in heaven—

Until I come Home …. I will miss them all so much.

May we all try and feel the spirit of Christmas every day.