“LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. Amen.” - Thomas Merton
I have been on a blog-sabbatical, because the year 2012 ended with huge work-related difficulties. Certain events knocked my feet out from under me for a couple of months; I feel as if I'm recovering from a debilitating illness, but have renewed hope that "all shall be well."
David came home safely & happily from his semester in Italy, and is now back at school. During his vacation, we celebrated Christmas with my parents.
I am deeply thankful that both of my parents are alive and well, at the ages of 80 and 85 years. Not only do we enjoy each other's company, but their love and support means the world to me; they helped me enormously through this difficult time. No matter how old you are, you still need your mom's and dad's love, support, understanding, strength and wisdom!
The impetus to start blogging again came in the form of a newsletter from www.griefHaven.org. I wrote an article for their "Parent Journey" newsletter last summer, and it was recently published; you can read it by clicking on the link below the picture.
There is always inspiration and support at griefHaven. Susan Whitmore, the founder, understands this journey as no outsider can, because she is on this journey herself; her only daughter, Erika, passed away from cancer as a young adult. Susan is compassionate, sparky, strong, tender, encouraging, intelligent and a good communicator. I am thankful that she was inspired to found griefHaven in Erika’s memory, and to share her wisdom and experience with others.
I am beginning to believe that, no matter how empathetic people are, no matter how caring and compassionate, no matter how well-meaning or how much they think they understand what we are going through, no one understands what this experience is really like unless they have been through it.
No one else can understand the landscape through which we walk - the vulnerability, the longing, the daily ache of missing our child, the frequent reminders, the life-long series of “no, not ever” and “never-again,” the unseen hazards that lie in wait for us like buried land mines. Panic attacks, PTSD, memory triggers, the excruciating, debilitating pain of trauma-recall (like a punch to the gut) which we experience in the grocery store, on vacation, while driving a car, listening to the radio, surfing the internet – anytime, anywhere - these are not a part of the average person's daily life. You may work with us or socialize with us, but unless you are one of us, you cannot possibly truly know how we feel, and we hope that you never do, for your sake.
Because of this, please consider us and our idiosyncrasies with a bit of extra compassion, for you do not know what we are seeing and experiencing. We may be standing right in front of you, yet not present with you at all. Though looking at you, we may have dropped through an invisible trap-door to the past, and be re-living the moment of our child’s diagnosis, or his death in our arms, handling her ashes, or that telephone call – the one which gave us the news which ended our life as we knew it. That phone call which started us on our journey, down the path which no parent wants to take.
Though it may sound morbid, there is comfort in the company of bereaved mothers, comfort which I don't find elsewhere. Of course, there are also those with whom I have nothing in common other than our child's death, and those relationships do not develop. I recently joined a small writing group whose members are bereaved moms, and it is encouraging, stimulating, and fun. I have hope for each one of us as writers, and as women, making our way in the world, each of us carrying (as one of them said) "a brick in her pocket."
I was speaking with another dear friend and fellow-traveler on this road, and we both find that the certainty, clarity and authority which came to us during our child’s illness, and after her death, has faded somewhat over the years, and is not as strong now as it was then. We are both saddened by this additional loss. That clarity and sureness was one of the gifts I felt that Katie had left to me: “Mom, you need to stop apologizing.” Of course, I will apologize when I know that I am wrong; Katie was saying that I needed to stop apologizing for being fully, truly myself…and she was absolutely right. I have not had difficulty advocating for my children; however, doing so for myself has proven to be more problematic. By grace, I can ask for help in this area, and receive it.
Here are a few ideas which have been helpful recently:
"Suffering is the sandpaper of our life. It does its work of shaping us. Suffering is part of our training program for becoming wise." -Ram Dass