Tag Archives: bereavement

OK

Newtown, CT: Holiday Rollercoaster

I sit here looking out to the window. Anticipated bad weather is on the move toward us. My mind is racing in so many directions I don’t know which one I should or could concentrate on.

I’m exhausted.

The happenings of this past week have been something I never thought I would ever have to endure. Not for me or for my husband. We were just going along swimmingly well, raising our daughter until this.

My mind is definitely not wrapped around this yet. I guess I have to expect this, but somehow I wish I could just be in control of something at this point and the thought that I won’t be for a very long time disturbs me immensely.

Since the identification, it has been a whirlwind. Between the family and friends who flocked to us (which we are so grateful for), to picking out a casket, to the services, to the funeral and all the people who attended.

I feel numb.

I feel small.

I feel like I’m just existing.

Mostly I feel fragile.

I’ve never felt like this before and for me, it’s not a good feeling. It’s a when-will-this-end, I-can’t-stand-this-feeling, sort of situation. One I never saw coming, one I never thought I would live.

Well, actually, how could anyone see such a thing coming into your life. No one ever teaches you what you will do, how you will feel, what will happen and how you are supposed to live if your child is murdered.

They just don’t. Maybe because they think it will never happen to you. Maybe because the thought of it is frankly so unthinkable that no one wants to go there.

How does one tell you how to pick out a casket for your child. How does one tell you how to go to memorials for your child. How does one tell you how to bury your only daughter.

It just doesn’t compute. It just doesn’t.

This past week has been unbelievable. I felt like I was just ushered around by the well-meaning people in my life. And, actually, I was.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget moving in slow motion through the funeral home, first to the director’s office to start the planning and then to another room to choose the casket. It was something I hadn’t yet experienced, as both my parents are alive. It was something no one should have to go through.

All the little details seemed overwhelming. I looked at my husband and he wasn’t the only one whose eyes were filled with tears. Somehow we made all the decisions that would bring to a conclusion the life of a child we thought we’d know forever.

From the moment I stepped into the funeral home that day and first saw her in the casket, I felt like I would collapse. How was I going to endure this completely unthinkable pain. How does one look at this little body in this box and think that just a few days ago we were picking out a Christmas tree, just the one she wanted.

I think of all the little things we did together just before this happened. All the sprinkles she decorated on her favorite cookies when they came out of the oven. All the little gifts we bought and wrapped for her friends.

All the presents and cards we picked out for her grandparents, aunts and uncles. As she started to read, she wanted to get the prettiest cards to send to those she loved. I remember helping her read the inscriptions in the card store as her Dad and I patiently went through so many boxes until she chose just the right one.

Will I ever step foot into a card store again and not become sentimental?

I sat in the funeral service and so many people have visited. People I haven’t seen in years and others I see all the time. But the amazing thing is full families have arrived from out of town. Our relatives, friends, old neighbors who spent thousands of dollars to be with us at this time. Hotels, car rentals, food, etc. How are they doing this?

I am grateful. I feel so blessed to know such good people who care so much about my husband and myself.

The viewing days were filled with sitting and looking at her in the casket and being torn between wondering when this would be finished battled by the thought that I’d never want it to be over. Because when it was over, I’d never see or have her again. I didn’t know which was worse as the moments passed.

There were times I wanted everyone to leave so I could have her all to myself. I wasn’t in a sharing mood right now.

I wanted to just jump into the casket with her. I can’t imagine what this life will feel like when she’s not around.

The morning I awoke knowing it would be her funeral, I remember sitting up in bed against the headboard, pillows propped up against my back to realize it was the last day I’d ever see her.

How could I bear this?

How could I get through this day?

How could I endure such pain?

How would I react when it was time to close the casket?

Could I do this?

Could my husband do this?

My thoughts are so isolated. I don’t know how much I’ve shared with him at this point. No much really and he hasn’t either. It’s not good.

We’ve gone through the motions of what needed to be done but at some point the deep, dark, difficult emotions will have to come to the surface, even if only for a little while, and it scares me so to think what we will both say to each other.

That day all I could think about what it was her last day with us. And how I hated that thought because there was absolutely nothing I could do to change it.

The funeral was attended by thousands. I didn’t know that many people could pack into our church at one time.

It was a lovely service, at least what I could remember. I spent too much time looking at her casket trying to remember her little smiling face when she was alive and sitting in the pew between her father and I.

She used to look all around during service in church at the lights and stained-glass windows, as they were her favorites. She just loved the colors of the stained glass in the windows.

I wondered if I would ever be able to set foot in that church again.

The burial was one of the most difficult times for me. When we arrived at the cemetery, the grave was all prepared and there were seats all lined up waiting for us. I had asked for extra seats as I knew how many of our relatives would be with us that day.

The priest did a lovely job at the gravesite but it all seemed so quick to me and I wanted to linger for a long while and even though I had left gravesites more quickly after other funerals, this time I wanted to take the time I needed.

And I did.

I know I made everyone wait on me, but I really didn’t care.

I had to see her buried…completely.

I had to know exactly where she was and that there would never be any doubt in my mind.

So I asked the funeral director to have the workers lower her casket as I watched. My husband thought it would be too much for me, but for some reason, it wasn’t. It was comforting. It was a completion that I felt I would need to do for my daughter, my first born.

The men graciously lowered her down and then started to add the dirt. I asked if I could add some dirt and they let me. Why I needed to do that I will never know. I wanted to be included.

Soon the dirt was smoothed out and we took my and my husband’s roses and placed them at the center of her grave slightly tilted to one side. Two lone roses among the thousands she received at the funeral home.

They looked so appropriate there. I felt good about that. A weird feeling of accomplishment. That I had done everything I could do for her in death as I had in life.

I trust I will see her again one day. But the life I will now need to live without her will never be the life her father and I had planned.

A life that will always feel as though we are missing a piece of our hearts.

A life that will always feel empty and cold since we’ll never know what she would have become.

A life that will always wonder what could have been.

Today we start that new life without her.

I have no idea how I’m going to do this.

OK

Identification of My Murdered Baby

The Connecticut State police has graciously assigned a member of their force to be with us right now.

In a strange way, it’s comforting to keep the media at bay. In another way, I can’t keep from feeling how much more comforted I would have felt had they been at my child’s side when the shooting began.

Do ‘we’ really need protecting now? I guess so. I surely haven’t seen such a huge amount of media in any one place. Well, at least not in person. For some reason it doesn’t look so large on the television.

My husband encourages me to get dressed. He generously brings my tea to my room. I’m numb.

We have waited for the final word from the police. This is not something I want to hear. Because for some reason, right now, I get to fool myself into believing that this is just a dream. That this hasn’t happened and our daughter is really over at her grandparents visiting for the weekend.

I get to fool myself and my mind gets to fool me into thinking she’s at dance class, or with her aunts and uncles and cousin at some outing. I get to fool myself that she’s still playing down the hall with her dolls and laughing at the funny things she sees in books and on television.

And I know these last moments before I move into this very, very real world will be the last of what I considered a secure world for myself and my family. Something inside tells me it will be a very long time, if ever, when I will wake and feel genuine happiness again. A happiness I took for granted and didn’t even know it…until now.

And I don’t ever think it will be the full sense of happiness that I feel now, because nothing in my life or my husband’s life will ever be the same again. And I can’t seem to shake that thought. I can’t seem to shake the thought that for all time, at least on this earth, I will not see my daughter.

I will miss her smiling face. The one which jumped in bed with us on weekend mornings and who we snuggled with in between us.

I can’t get dressed yet. It feels like if I do, all these luscious thoughts as if my world is just the same as it was when I woke up on Friday, before all this happened, will somehow disappear. I may never get them back.

I want to move into the practical things that I know I must be doing. But I can’t. I just want to sit here forever because then maybe it won’t be real.

My husband needs me to be strong right now…for him and for me. I know this in my soul. I can’t find the way to do this. I can’t let him bear all the burden of the police and medical examiner.

“Get up,” I tell myself. “You can do this.”

I go to him, still in my satin robe. I need his embrace. I need his closeness. I myself feel so infantile right now.

He grabs me. He kisses me on the forehead. I can see he’s been crying. I’m not there for him. That hurts me. I need to be there for him too.

He looks in my eyes and tells me he’s identified her from a picture taken at the scene.

My heart sinks.

We sit together at the kitchen table.

We hold hands.

The tears stream down our faces in silence.

What can be said.

The bubble has burst. This is real now. Very real.

I sense there will be many more very real moments ahead and I don’t know if I’m prepared for them both emotionally and simply physically.

I tell myself I will take them one at a time. I have no choice.

OK

Waking Up Without My Murdered Child

My eyes open.

I see the same ceiling I’ve looked at each morning for all these years.

It doesn’t look any different.

In my peripheral vision, I see my husband curled up next to me. He has the blanket over his head.

I’m exhausted. I lay here so still. I can hear my breath. And within seconds it all starts to seep into my memory. My life is forever changed now. My life will never, ever be the same.

I try so hard to stop those visions and thoughts from coming in. They simply don’t compute. This is all a dream and soon I will reawaken and all will be exactly how life was when I woke up in this same bed with this same man lying next to me 24 hours ago.

Wow…24 hours ago. How can life actually change that much in such a short span of time. Well actually an even shorter span of time, but right now I can only see this parameter.

So now what do I do. I feel paralyzed that not one muscle can move. Like my body is sinking in to this mattress inch by inch and soon I’ll be swallowed up. Maybe that would be good…this pain that is setting in is going to be too much to bear…and I know it.

My mind cannot comprehend how a text could change my life. How a simple ‘school lockdown’ message would irrevocably move me from being a person who was out Christmas shopping one day, to a frantic, shock-laden, out-of-my-mind-with-fear woman who did not have my child at the end of the day.

A woman who dutifully brought her child to a good suburban school, nurtured and care for that child, sacrificed financially for that child, had all the hopes and wishes for a perfect future for that child and now this.

This was not happening.

This couldn’t be happening.

This must not be happening because I can’t get my head around this and just the thought of it all is too overwhelming, too shocking and moves me into a place where the world I controlled could no longer be controlled and this was too scary a place to live.

This stuff happens to other people. People out there. Wherever ‘there’ is, it’s just not here. It doesn’t happen to people I know and it definitely doesn’t happen to people like me. And it definitely doesn’t happen to people where I live. I’m safe, right? We’re safe, right? How the **** could this be happening.

I jump from bed and run down the hall. Surely she’s in bed under the covers not wanting to get up for school.

The door is open. The blankets on her bed in disarray. I can’t remember what is happening until it occurs to me the scene from overnight.

I was the one who grabbed that pillow. I was the one who wailed on her bed. I was the one who begged God to not take her and demanded he return her immediately. I was the one who wouldn’t leave her room without the loving encouragement of my husband.

My husband…

What is to become of us. He has been my rock. He has sustained us financially through all these difficult years. He was the one I waited for at the school to shore me up.

I ran from the car to the school to get as close as they would let me. I waited and waited and waited. I needed him by my side. He told me he’d get there as soon as he could.

I saw children, police, teachers, emergency workers all around. It was so chaotic. No one was sure of anything.

All I wanted was my child. That’s all I wanted.

I started to see the reunions of mothers and children, fathers and children, parents and children. I was longing for my child, but all the while keeping a hopeful attitude as I saw all these intense embraces I waited for my turn.

My turn.

My turn.

I waited for my turn.

And waited.

And my husband appeared and his love and embrace gave me further strength to wait. He was with me now. It would all be ok.

We tried to update each other on how we both learned. We held each other close in the cold with the brightness of the day glaring our view at times.

We saw the police with guns, got various reports about the gunman. It made me catch my breath. We didn’t know what to think. All we could envision was when she’d be safely in our arms again, just as we witnessed with other families all around us.

And we waited and waited and waited and waited.

But our turn didn’t come.

It didn’t come.

It just didn’t come…

She should have been out by now. She should have appeared. We should have been told something by now.

But she didn’t and we hadn’t and as nightfall came about, my hope dwindled and it became clear, very clear that she wasn’t coming back to our arms. She wasn’t going to be jumping up into her father’s arms like she always did. She wasn’t.

There was nothing left to do. The police gave us as much information as they could. The bodies needed to be identified and until then no confirmation could come.

But we knew.

We knew.

And my blood seemed to run out of my body as I stepped foot in the door of my home. I had no more energy. I had no more strength.

The tears I held back for all those hours overwhelmed me. I collapsed at my husband’s feet holding on tightly to his ankles. How could this be happening.

He sat on the floor with me and he took me in his arms and cradled me as we both wailed.

OK

When Valentine’s Day Isn’t The Same

Valentine’s Day symbolizes love and hope for the future. But sometimes, after we’ve lost someone special, it can be difficult to enjoy this day. And this is thoroughly understandable.

If you’re thinking of someone who is no longer with you today, try to remember the special Valentine’s Days you did get to share together. Try to remember the happier moments instead of dwelling on their absence.

Try to dig in and think of all the little things that you made special with them. The funny notes, the chocolates, maybe the gifts, the laughter.

Yes, today may not be like other Valentine’s Days you had in the past, yet you can try to do something special for yourself now. Could it be a lovely bubble bath, a round of golf, a special meal, a new pair of soft slippers, hot cocoa and a funny movie to move your mind toward hopefully things you wish to experience and create?

Being good to yourself when you’re hurting is key to moving forward. Don’t neglect your emotional needs and health.

And if you don’t hear it today from anyone else, let me say you are loved. You are loved by me and many others. I’m sure if you considered all the people you have helped in your life, there are many people who love you.

So do enjoy this day. Just because you feel the pain of loss does not mean you cannot also feel the joy of living.

OK

Christmas 2011

On this Christmas evening, I’m sitting with my family all relaxing together after a memorable day and eve.

We’ve shared wonderful food, delicious desserts, fun gifts and so much laughter our sides hurt. There is something about spending time with my family when we goof around with each other, making each other scream and double-over with laughter.

Today was especially memorable as my niece became engaged. Her fiance, in front of all of us, so calmly and with such tenderness, expressed his love for her, recounting the moment he knew for certain she was the one for him, and then asked her to marry him.

Everyone reached for their phones to video the event and my niece was so overjoyed, she beamed. She could barely stand still she was so excited.

And then the ring…a beautiful little blue box from Tiffany. She is thrilled.

At that point it became a frenzy of all the relatives and friends we must call to share the wonderful news. Everyone was asking the other, “Did we call Uncle Harold, and Aunt Fran and Aunt Millie.”

Calls to Hawaii, Long Island, Philadelphia, Korea, Miami…just so much fun hearing their reactions.

And on the flip side, at this time of year, I am so thoughtful and reflective about all the people I know and even may never meet, who won’t have this type of excitement during the holidays.

Not just folks who may have experienced a loved one’s death, but those who simply do not have family or friends nearby to celebrate, hug, dine with, laugh with and just have the opportunity to be with family and friends.

A piece of my heart hurts for their loneliness this day. It always does. I guess because I’ve been there.

I remember times when I wasn’t near my family over Christmas. Times when our grief was so overwhelming that we actually felt worse to be with family. They were laughing and having a good time while I was feeling so horrible inside that we just couldn’t share the day with them.

I felt so alone, so lonely, so out of place, so unsettled. I couldn’t calm my emotions so it was easier to stay away than to participate.

As time went on, I became emotionally stronger and could deal with everyone’s happiness because I had then allowed myself to feel happiness again for longer periods of time. And eventually, my joy returned as I realized me being unhappy because the persons I loved were no longer with me, wasn’t doing me any good at all. Martyrdom is a horrible by-product of grief that we somehow instill in ourselves and never helps us at all.

So my heart today is with the happiness of my niece and new nephew, but also all those who feel alone whether physically away from family and friends, or spiritually away as a result of a loved one’s death.

I wish you serenity and comforting memories of wonderful times you enjoyed with them in the past.

Remember…no one can take those delightful memories from you…ever.

All you need do is close your eyes and envision them with great clarity to lift your spirits.

You have the power to shift, even if for only a few moments at a time, from grief to comfort, grief to calm, grief to joy, grief to laughter. You can make that happen for yourself…at any time you choose.

So do have a lovely Christmas and holiday season. I am holding you in my heart.