How to Survive Mother’s Day as a Grieving Mom

On Mother’s Day I can think of no mother more deserving than a mother that had to give one back.” ~ Erma Bombeck

This weekend is going to be an emotional rollercoaster ride for me. On Friday I will be graduating from graduate school. It will be a celebration of 2 ½ years of stress and hard work. I will have accomplished something I didn’t think I could. The only damper to my day will be the fact that my boys are not there to share it with me.

Then Sunday is Mother’s Day.

I dread the approach of Mother’s Day. For some reason this holiday is different than the others. I have figured out how to survive holidays and the boy’s birthdays. (You can read about it here). But Mother’s Day is different.

How do you survive an entire day dedicated to celebrating motherhood, when you don’t feel like a mother anymore? Don’t get me wrong. I’m a mom and I always will be. But I don’t FEEL like a mom. There is a certain level of worry you live with when your children are around. All moms’ I know question themselves. Am I doing this right? Am I a good mother? How can I be better? With my children gone, I no longer have that level of worry about my children. I no longer spend my days questioning if I’m doing motherhood right. My days are no longer ordered around my kid’s schedule. I have only myself to think about and worry about. I no longer FEEL like a mom.

I loved being a mom. I had so much fun joking around with my boys and dreaming of their futures. I couldn’t wait to see who they grew up to be. I loved silliness and the craziness of having boys. Their creativity and how they saw the world always astounded me. I loved the organization of making sure they got to where they needed to be and keeping the house picked up after their whirlwind way of playing with toys. I even enjoyed the worry, the fighting, and the annoying little things they did. Because that’s what being a mom is all about. I MISS being a mom.

All holidays point to the fact my children are gone. But Mother’s Day screams it.

So how do I survive the day dedicated to being a mom, without my children around to make me feel like a mom? I hide. I refuse to attend church on Mother’s Day. I stay off Facebook. It hurts to much to see the pictures and read the stories of what has been done for the mom’s, knowing that I will never again have that in my life.

Last week I joined a Facebook group for grieving parents who have lost a child or children and are now childless. Everyday since joining someone has posted the question “How do I survive Mother’s Day?” The responses range from beautiful to desperate. Some spend the day with family; others decorate their children’s graves. Some, like me, hide away from the world for the day.

There really is no right or wrong way to get through the day. As a grieving mom you do what you have to do to survive the day. The best way through these days is to have a plan. Plan out what you would like to do that day. If the plan works you’ll get through the day and survive. If the plan doesn’t work out that’s ok too, you will still survive the day. The idea is to have a plan that you know will get you through the day.

This year my plan is to hide. I will buy myself my favorite chocolate and a new movie. I will curl up on my couch, lose myself in a good movie and pretend the world doesn’t exist. I will do this because on this one day it hurts to much to try and so I shut down. I miss being a mom.

Mother's Day

Another Birthday Past

 

This blog post is late. The process of going through my oral boards for school took a lot out of me. (There is a blog post on this coming soon). As a result when Devin’s 14th birthday came around, I was still recovering. It took me a week and a half to feel like myself again. Now that I’m recovered (I think) I’m ready to start posting again. 🙂

Devin would have turned 14 on February 26th. I missed his 10th birthday . . . turning double digits. I missed his 13th birthday . . . becoming a teenager. Every time one of these days passes I remember what I’m missing.

Instead of another list of all the things I’ve missed, I thought I would share some memories with you.

Devin and I had our own special way of measuring his growth. Sure we had the standard marks on the wall, where every first and last day of school new marks were added for both boys. But Devin and I did something that was just for the two of us. We’d put our palms together and spread out our fingers. I could see how much he’d grown by how long his fingers were against mine. Today, his fingers would probably be longer than mine.

One night Devin and I were being silly. He was telling me the names of his fingers. Yes, he’d named his fingers. I wish I could remember the names of his thumb and forefinger. But I do remember the names of the last 3 fingers. Billy, Bob and Billy Bob. Every time he named off his fingers, I’d go into a fit of giggles. He kept repeating them, because I kept laughing. It was a fun game.

Devin would often do or say the funniest things. I used to say all the time “you never know what’s going to fall out of that kids mouth”. The other day my sister found an old Facebook post of mine from September of 2010. It was a conversation I’d had with Devin that I’d forgotten about. It made me laugh to remember.

Devin: “Mom you know how Adam named all the animals. Well who made all the words?”
Mom: “God made the words”
Devin: “I think it was Eve”

Such a smart, funny kid.

Because of the way my classes are structured, I was not able to get out of class on Devin’s birthday. This was the first time I was not able to take the day off from my responsibilities and spend it with my family. I knew with all the stress over orals the birthday might end up being harder than normal. Stress tends to exacerbate grief. The fact that I couldn’t take the day off concerned me a lot. I wasn’t sure how the day was going to go, or if I’d be able to deal with it.

My sister came up with the idea of the family coming to class for a visit on my break. I thought that was a good idea, so I asked a few of my classmates if they’d be ok with that. Everyone agreed, so the plan was set. My mom bought a 5 pound Hershey bar, in honor of Devin’s birthday, to share with everyone.

For Devin’s 6th birthday my sister bought him a 5 pound Hershey bar. The candy bar was almost as big as he was. I left it sitting out on the counter and all 4 of us would break off pieces to munch on. One  day after school Devin’s kindergarten teacher mentioned to me that he’d been a bit more hyper in class than normal. I knew immediately the cause was the giant Hershey bar. I guess he’d eaten more of it than I realized. Sneaky imp. 🙂

Devin B-day

We thought sharing a 5 pound Hershey bar with the class would be a great way to remember Devin on his birthday and celebrate the end of orals. My family arrived and introductions were made. The candy bar was broken up and shared. It was a nice way to spend Devin’s birthday.

It's harder than you think to break off a chunk of a 5 pound Hershey bar.
It’s harder than you think to break off a chunk of a 5 pound Hershey bar.

As I was driving home from class that night I started to feel weird about having my family come to class. I felt like I had unnecessarily dragged my class into my grief, and dragged my family to my school when they didn’t need to be there. In short, I felt foolish. Like I had made a big production of something that could have and should have remained small and private. It took me a few days to realize why I was feeling this way. I’ve progressed through my grief enough that I can handle these days without the need for a big production. For every birthday and accident day that has passed my family has gotten together to remember the boys with a special activity and dinner at one of the boy’s favorite restaurants. We’ve done balloon releases, lantern releases, launched rockets, worn silly bands, played with Dawson’s go cart, done light painting and we’ve even gone to a MythBusters display at OMSI in Portland. I knew that someday these activities would stop. And though I’m not sure we’ve reached that point, it’s nice to know I don’t NEED them anymore.

Hope

It’s Been 4 Years . . . .

Miss boys 2“You might be but one drop in a bigger ocean, but even that drop causes ripples which affect every other drop. ~ Sue Krebs

Today marks the 4-year anniversary of the accident that took the lives of my children and changed my life forever. Anniversary . . . . . . it really does not seem like the right word to use. To me an anniversary indicates a happy event, an event worth celebrating. Today is not about celebrating, it is about remembering.

It has been 4 years since I have seen my children. There are so many things I have missed in those 4 years.

I have missed having mountains of laundry to do.

I have missed breaking up fights.

I have missed navigating the messy bedroom just to tuck them in and say goodnight.

I have missed stepping on Legos. Yes . . . I do miss this!

I have missed the incessant questions.

I have missed repeating myself because they were not listening the first 40 times.

I have missed the bickering.

I have missed the back talk.

I have missed the “can’t keep it clean” house.

I have missed the creativity.

I have missed watching kid movies and tv shows.

I have missed reading stories at bedtime.

I have missed the laughter.

I have missed the joking and goofiness.

I have missed the craziness that having boys brings into your life.

I have missed their hugs.

I have missed touching them and having them touch me.

I have missed my boys.

The other day a friend asked, “If you could ask God one question what would it be?”

My answer to that question is simple. I would ask God to allow me to see the far reaching effect my life has had on other people. I want to know that what I am going through has meaning. I want to know that someone is living a better life because of what I have been asked to deal with.

I have friends tell me how their friends have been affected by my story. These are people I don’t know. I love hearing these stories, but I want to know more. I want to see the whole story of my life, the part that only God can see. I would love to see the part of my life that God can see, that kept him from stopping the accident from happening. I want to know and understand why I have to live the rest of my life without my boys. I want to see what God can see . . . . the ripple effect.

I know I will probably never be privy to this information this side of Heaven. But I sure hope that God allows me to see the ripple effect of my life when I get Home.

Ripple

Remembering My Son on his Birthday

When you are grieving the loss of someone their birthday is no longer about celebrating another year. It’s about remembering them. And that’s not what a birthday is supposed to be about.

Yesterday was, my oldest son’s 16th birthday. Dawson would have been 16 years old. Sixteen!!! No matter how many times I say that, I just cannot get over the fact my baby boy would have been turning 16 years old. No longer a baby, and no longer a boy. He would have hit that magical age of 16 years old, a teenager on the verge of becoming a man.

My memories of Dawson stop when he was 12 years old, a pre-teen on the verge of puberty. He was still into Transformers and Bionicle action figures. He loved airplanes, astronomy and knowing how things work. If anything needed to be put together he was the one I called. He loved building things. He built his own transformer costume out of cardboard boxes. He and his Grandpa built a go cart. He was so proud of the fact that his 1st Lego robotics team dubbed him the “master programmer”.

Yesterday he would have turned 16 years old. A landmark year, a birthday party year. When the boys were young I decided they would have big birthday parties on the landmark years. 5, 10, 13, 16, 18 and 21 are the years that deserved special recognition. I missed out on throwing Dawson his 13th birthday party and now I’m missing out on his 16th birthday.

I’m missing so much.

I wonder all the time how tall he would be? What would his voice sound like? What would he be like as a teenager? What kinds of interests would he have developed as childhood slipped away? Would he be interested in girls yet?

I won’t get to teach him how to drive. I missed his graduation from 8th grade and his entrance into high school.

As time goes on, I will miss out on even more. I will miss out on watching him participate in high school activities. I will miss his first date. I will miss watching my son graduate from high school, going off to college, getting married, and providing me with grandchildren.

I feel like I’ve been cheated. I was so looking forward to having teenage boys in my house. I was looking forward to seeing what kind of young man my son would become. I will never have the answers to my questions. And I’ll never be able to see my son grow into a man. To quote Dawson “It’s not fair”.

I miss my boy so much. I miss watching his mind work as he built something. I miss his intensity. I miss his laugh and his smile. I miss fighting with him over food. I miss the teenage attitude he’d started to develop. I miss teasing him and being teased in return. I miss our movie nights. I miss his adventurous spirit and our bike rides.

I miss so much.

For Dawson’s 12th birthday he received a rocket from his Aunt and Uncle. At the time of the accident the rocket sat unopened in his room. Because his birthday is in the winter and so close to Christmas, we never had a chance to play with it.

Broken Rocket

Every year since the accident we have launched Dawson’s rocket on his birthday. Last year the rocket broke. The parachute did not open and when it fell back to earth, it hit the ground hard.

This year Dawson’s Uncle bought 2 new rockets so we can keep the tradition going. Dawson’s grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins all gathered to launch the new rockets. We’d planned to start launching the rockets at 2pm. But in true family fashion, it was 4pm before we had all the problems worked out. We launched the first rocket and watched it disappear into the clouds. When it came back down, it landed in the trees far beyond our reach. The first rocket was lost. So we moved locations to launch the second rocket, farther away from the trees. Woosh! The second rocket launched. This rocket had a second booster, which shot it well beyond our vision. The second rocket was lost as well.

Even though the afternoon was filled with launching issues, it was a great way to spend Dawson’s 16th birthday. I just wish he could have been with us.

I thought it would be fun to share part of Dawson’s birthday with you so I made a short video of the rocket launches.