February 9, 2018
I am a mom, a girlfriend, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a niece, a cousin, a friend. I am an office manager and a fitness instructor. I am an essential oil lover, and a planner enthusiast. I love my puppy, Netflix, pedicures and shopping.
So I’m just a regular woman who does all the typical things. But on January 12, 1996, a different title was forced on me. Then I became a parent who has lost a child. While there are a lot of others like me in this respect, there are a lot more who aren’t. Thank goodness.
Of all the people I know, some of them don’t even know this about me. For others, it’s the first thing they think when they see me. For most, they know it’s just a part of me.
Since this happened, I sat back and let all these titles be assigned by life. But lately, I have such a clear mind and open heart, I have wanted to take control of this somehow. I am feeling such a strong pull to make something good come out of something bad.
Listening to some “happiness experts” the other day and they suggested that with the tough things that come up in your life, you should try and re-frame your thoughts and say “this is actually a good thing”. Now there is no way in the world I’m ever going to say that. And there’s no way I would ever suggest that anyone else in my shoes could do that.
But…..what if I try? What if I try to say that since this happened, and there’s no way to change it, how can I make it, somehow, a good thing?
When I read over that thought, it almost makes me feel sick. How can I even say that? I am reaching out to those who have suffered a loss, who have grieved and I ask, can I say that? Why would I want to?
To be honest, I want to be in control of the titles in my life. I had this unwanted “mother who lost her son” title forced upon me. I didn’t ask for it, I didn’t want it. But since it happened, I’d like to add some new titles myself. Ones that I choose. How about “woman who offered hope to a grieving parent” or “Mom who created a movement in memory of her son” or “lady who refused to be sad her whole life”?
I want to hear from other parents that have lost children, other people who have grieved – hard. How do you feel about having this undesirable title thrust on you? Do you want it to be the first thing people think when they see you…….?
Please comment and tell me what you think. Please share this with someone who may benefit from this conversation.
Contact me, I am here for you!
“Sometimes you gotta laugh through the tears, smile through the pain so that you can live through the sorrow”
I remember shortly after Nick died, maybe a week, we were all huddled around my daughter watching her, hanging on her every word and move. I don’t even remember what she did, but I remember a laugh escaping my lips. Immediately, I was shocked and ashamed. How could I laugh when my son had just died?
It has taken me a really long time to realize that that little laugh was a tiny glimmer of hope. Before I lost my son, I was a pretty happy, bubbly person. But in those days, weeks, months and even years that followed, I thought I’d never get that person back. I didn’t really want her back. She didn’t belong in my life anymore. At least that’s what I thought.
In that immediate period after I lost my child, I had such a weird feeling. I was in a daze. Everything was so painful. I know it must be different for everyone. For me I didn’t want to eat, I would go from not being able to sleep to being so exhausted that I couldn’t do anything but sleep. I always had this pit in the bottom of my stomach. I couldn’t watch that same TV shows I used to watch. I didn’t want to go do anything fun. I couldn’t.
But as the days went on, some sense of normalcy returned. I had to go back to work, I had to take care of my daughter, I had to make dinner, I had to do laundry. I wish I had given myself a little credit for being able to do those little things. Those little things were really big things for me, a mom who had lost her son. I realize that having Brooke to take care of was a huge blessing. I am lucky. I know that. She forced me to take those steps of normalcy sooner rather than later. I still had to take care of her. In addition, I was able to have another little boy to fill my heart. I often wonder how much more difficult it would have been for me without those kids. I realize that makes me lucky.
Now here I am, 22 years later. My life is full. I am happy! I’ve got two beautiful adult children here on earth and one heavenly angel waiting for me when I get there. I’ve got unconditional love in my life. I am excited about my tomorrows. NO, my life isn’t “normal” because most people haven’t had their child die. But so many have.
I just want to say this to anyone who has experienced this loss – give yourself permission to “do normal” to laugh, have fun, whatever it is is even though it feels strange to do. Listen, I realize that if you are new to this awful experience, this may sound horrible to you. But give yourself a minute to think about it. Grab that chance to be you again. We are left here on this earth without our child. It sucks. NO one wants it. But since it has happened to us, we owe it to our child to live well. To be happy.
When that little laugh escaped from me early on, I thought I was dishonoring Nick by laughing. But now I know, that laugh was the beginning of my “Rising Above”!
I am sending every one of you that reads this a hug. My greatest wish is to somehow let you know that I care. Please comment and tell me a moment that gave you hope.
January 12, 2018
I’m not a writer, I’ve never written a blog post. The reason I am doing this is to 1) remember Nicholas – actively and on purpose and 2) to offer hope and encouragement to those who may need it.
I promise this is not going to be all about me all the time. I want this to be a place to begin thought and conversation and healing for those of us who have suffered the most unbelievable loss. I want this to be a safe place so I ask that when making comments, posting your story or connecting with us in any way that you are kind and respectful to everyone who may be visiting. We need this to be a healing environment, not a hurting one.
I am going to start out with my story so you know what motivates me.
I look at my life in two sections. Before and after. Honestly, before I was clueless. I’d never suffered any debilitating loss. Anyone I had known that had died was an “old person”. It was sad, but it’s not the level of sadness I would come to know later.
Everything changed on January 12, 1996. A cold, snowy day here in South Carolina. School was cancelled, daycare was closed so I was home with my two kids. Nicholas was 8 years old. He was full of excitement – school was closed and he was going out to play in the snow with his neighborhood friends. He got dressed in lots of layers, he didn’t even have a proper winter coat because he just hadn’t even needed one. So off he went, God, I remember his smile. He was so happy! I was just huddled up inside with my 1 year old Brooke. I don’t even remember what I was doing. Just the standard lazy stuff you do on a snow day.
Some of my memories are so foggy. It’s been 22 years and I think maybe my brain has swallowed some of them to protect me. I’m not sure how much time had gone by, maybe an hour….then, a knock at the door. One of Nick’s friends standing on my porch saying “Nick fell in the pond”. I remember being confused, what pond? There was a farm pond behind one of our neighbor’s houses, but I never even thought about that pond. It felt so far away (it wasn’t) and not really a part of our neighborhood. I NEVER considered it a danger. I didn’t think it was very deep. After a second, I realized this kid was serious. He was worried. I said “stay with Brooke” and I just started running, no shoes, no socks, just bare feet, in the direction of “the pond”. When I got there, there were a few kids standing around and nothing but a big open hole in the melting ice on top of the pond. It’s all such a blur. I remember seeing a lady off in the distance holding an extension cord. I don’t think I ever spoke to her. I think she was just grabbing anything she could find to throw out as a lifeline. It turns out that Nick’s friend Brandon and Nick had fallen through the ice. They were gone. Before long, all kinds of emergency vehicles showed up. Divers got there and pretty soon, there was mass chaos as so many people started to try and save those boys. The pond wasn’t very big, but it took forever. Well, what seemed like forever. I was just sitting there by the side of the pond in the snow. I think I was in shock.
Eventually, I’m not even sure how long, maybe 45 minutes, the divers pulled Brandon out of the pond and he was rushed off in an ambulance. Not too long after that, they found Nicholas and he too was whisked away. By this time, my husband had shown up and someone put us in a police car that rushed us to the hospital. That policeman was saying that he would probably be okay. That many people survive these accidents and are completely fine because the cold water somehow protects the person. I was just hanging on every word, hoping and believing that that could be true.
Once we arrived at the hospital we were put in a little private room. We were told they were doing everything they could. I didn’t even know this little room existed. Anytime I had been in an emergency room, you wait, and wait and wait with all the other people that are waiting to have their broken bones or whatever, looked at. Now I know, this little room is saved for people whose loved ones may have the worst outcome. A hospital pastor came and spoke with us and prayed for Nicholas. Not sure why I didn’t realize that was a bad sign, I just kept hanging on the words of that police officer. I just knew Nick was going to be ok.
Nick wasn’t ok. At some point, a doctor came and told us that he didn’t make it. Brandon didn’t make it either. And this is where the “after” part of my life began.
So here I am, in the after. It has been a long time. I’ve learned so much. I’ve grown. I’ve healed. I’ve changed. I raised two more amazing children. Brooke is now a beautiful 23 year old woman and Collin, who was born after his brother died, is a handsome 19 year old young man.
As the years have gone by, I’ve met lots of parents who have lost children. I have heard so many stories and my heart breaks every time. There is no greater pain, I am sure. But I have also seen these parents do amazing things. I’ve read about parents that have raised money for the charities that represent the horrible diseases that took their child’s life, and parent’s that have dedicated libraries to the memories of their child. I mean the list goes on and on. All along, I was ashamed of myself for not doing any of that. All I did was keep living, keep going to work, keep being a Mom. I let the loss of my beautiful, first born son stay in the background. It was always there, and definitely played a part in how I raised my other two kids. But I didn’t start a foundation, or raise a million dollars or anything like that. So this is my chance to actually do something real in memory of Nick. I am creating this website and this community to give hope to parents that have also lost their children. There are so many of us. Too many. Way too many. But I wanted to do more than that. Thinking back to when this was new for me, all I wanted was a place to tell my child’s story, to remember him and share him with the world. So that is one facet of this. I want people to tell their stories. Tell us about their special children.
Another reason I want to do this is to inspire people to actually “do something” in memory of their child. To “Rise Above in Memory of…” As I was beating myself up all those years because I didn’t do any of those monumental things other parents had done, I should have given myself a little credit. I did do lots of things. And when you lose a child, even the little things ARE monumental. I got out of bed, I went to work, I was a Mom. So part of this website is for parents to have a place to talk about these victories. I am setting a goal to collect a list of 500 Rising Moments that you amazing parents have created in memory of your child. It can be anything from “I took a shower today” to “I raised a million dollars for childhood cancer”. Either one is huge depending on where in your personal journey you are.
I propose that we add another stage to the “stages of grief”. And the final one is “living well.” Living a full life, a happy life, one that honors the memory of your child. Although no one would want this, no one would wish this on anyone, I feel that since it did happen, we have the unique opportunity to life a better, fuller life because we are doing it in memory of our special children.
So I want to add the first statement to the list of “Rising Above” Moments:
#1) I created a website to support parents who have lost children in memory of Nicholas.
And this first blog post is being made on the anniversary of his death, January 12th. I love you and miss you every single day Nicholas.
Please tell us your story and add your own accomplishment to this list. Your feedback is important to me. Please give me your ideas for future topics.