"One Love......One Heart"

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Third Christmas without Ryan....

     With a feeling of relief, I write that our Third Christmas without Ryan has come and gone.   I can't say it's easier, but I can say I am learning how to get through it with more grace.  I am learning how to survive a holiday that he loved so much....I'm learning to do it while carrying the endless ache for him in my heart.
     Over the past three years, I have learned what I need to do to somehow make Christmas tolerable for us all.  My kids have always come first, so making sure things were as close to normal is what I have tried to do.  The sad thing is, our normal is not the same, so we have all struggled in trying to find a new way. 
     Christmas is especially hard because it is a time of family, love, joy, and togetherness.  When a child is missing from that family unit, nothing is right.  How do we keep their spirit alive during this season so we can survive it?  How do we cope with an empty stocking or a tree that once held all of his special ornaments?  How do we decorate our house as we always have?  All of these things bring great pain and deep turmoil.  I knew things has to stay the same, yet also change, so we could all get through it.
     The first year we decided to write notes to put in Ryan's stocking.  My husband came up with that idea when I fell apart at the idea of not filling his stocking for the first time.  By doing this, his stocking would not be empty, but rather have something very special in it.  This gave us each the opportunity to give Ryan a Christmas gift, as well as have sacred time alone with him.  It seemed to help us all, and since then, each one of us looks forward to spending that special time with Ryan.   And I KNOW Ryan loves that time with us.  I keep the notes in his stocking all year....we add our new ones each Christmas.  I also place his stocking in the center, surrounding it by the stockings of those who love and miss him most.  Another way to honor him....a way to ease my heart.
     Last year, we decided to redesign our Christmas tree.  We all had our special ornaments that I have been getting the kids since they were little.  None of us felt good about putting them on the tree.  It caused a lot of sadness....it was something we needed to change. We all decided we would make our tree purple to honor him....Ryan's favorite color.  I completely transformed the tree and it has eased many hearts.  It's Ryan's Tree....the center of our home at Christmas.
     We use to leave the decorations up through the New Year, but I can't cope with that anymore.  Once I manage to make it through Christmas, I have to remove the holiday as quickly as I can.  I can't prolong a time that use to be complete joy....because it no longer is.
      I am relieved to have survived another Christmas.  It's sad to think it's about surviving it, but in all honesty, that's what most everything is about now.  I have done what I need to do to make it less painful for everyone, including myself.  These changes help us all to get through a time when Ryan is very heavy in our hearts.  A time he is so deeply missed.  The third Christmas without Ryan has passed....and I am relieved.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Living the Could Have Beens....

     It's hard to believe that Kaitie is now the same age Ryan was when he died.  Time continues on, and with it, comes new challenges we must all face.
     We just passed the anniversary of Ryan's death.  This year held a lot of added anxiety due to Kaitie's age.  It was hard for her...hard for me.  We talked about the turmoil this was causing, and faced the fears which it brought...together.  I have always had close relationships with my kids, and this was one of those times I felt very grateful for that gift.
     As Kaitie moves forward now, she will be living all the "could have beens"  Ryan never had the opportunity to experience.  She has gotten her license...Ryan never had the chance.  She has purchased her own car...Ryan never had the chance.  As I watch her take these normal steps in life, I celebrate her joy, but also feel a solemn sadness within.  Being the first sibling to follow in Ryan's steps, she carries with her all the the things that could have been for Ryan.  
     I have thought many times about the things Ryan would never do in his life.  As I watched his classmates take their senior pictures, go on their senior trips, and graduate...sadness filled me.  I thought it was past me after graduation...and then Kaitie turned 16.  I realize now I will be living a lifetime of "could have beens" as I watch her grow.  I have thought deeply about how to handle this.  I don't want to take away from Kaitie's joys and milestones, yet I can't hide what each step stirs deep in my soul.  I have accepted the fact that I will feel both joy and sadness as she journeys through her life.  I have decided to make each milestone extra special for Kaitie...as if she were living it for two.  Doing this has not taken away the sadness, but it has helped lighten the load.   I pray it continues to ease Some of the sadness as I move forward celebrating Kaitie's life, yet...Living the Could Have Beens."

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Gift of Friends....

     I am at my "Place of Peace" trying to find some healing after the anniversary of Ryan's Death...the one place I feel like I can really breathe.  The wind is fierce tonight, which creates powerful waves...exactly what I needed.  The sound is healing to my soul, and I am so grateful for this time here.
     Tonight I was fortunate enough to be able to spend some time with a very close friend of mine, and her incredibly sweet husband.  They happened to be here at the same time I was coming.  My time here is usually spent alone, for many reasons, but sharing my special time and place with someone so close to my heart, seemed so very right...and I am so grateful we did it!
     On this journey I have been forced to take, there is little that really brings me comfort.  Nothing seems to be able to take away the pain, or ease the brokenness within.  But there are things which help me endure the loneliness along the way.  A good friend is one of those things.  Someone who listens, and as they listen, with every sparkle in their eyes you can see the love and compassion shining from their soul.  Someone who cries with you, laughs with you, and somehow seems to feel your hurt...even though you both know it's impossible.  Someone who is not afraid to speak your child's name, and also seems to know how important it is for you to hear.  Someone who also listens with genuine interest and unconditional love every time you speak his name.  Someone who always asks how you are doing, as well as the rest of your family, because they seem to know that even though time has passed, the pain has not.  Someone who encourages your every step, and celebrates every small victory as you try to move forward.  Someone who gives you a safe place to fall. Someone who loves you enough to really show it.
     I am grateful for such friends in my life.  I don't know if they even understand the importance they play in my life.  Do they know how much they lift and carry me during my saddest moments?  Do they understand how they gently bring light into my darkness? They may not know my pain, or what it's like to lose a child, but they know me.  They know my heart.  They hear my words, and they understand my silence.  They are my friends...and they are a gift in my life.  They help me take One small step at a time...

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Three Years Missing You...

    Tomorrow will be three years since I lost my son...three years of missing him.  I remember and relive this evening as each year passes...the last moments I spent with Ryan on this earth.  They are so vivid, so clear...yet so long ago.
    As September 1st hits, the anxiety begins to build within.  A silence fills my heart.  With each passing day, the sadness and anxiety build within.  I wonder if I will survive each day, but then remember I feel this way every September...and I do survive.
     This anniversary date is holding much turmoil, not only for myself, but for Kaitie.  The little girl in this picture is now the same age and grade in school that Ryan was when he died.  With that reality comes much fear, worry, sadness, and heartache.  Kaitie is carrying an anxiety and fear no one could understand.  My heart aches for the journey she is on right now, and has been on for so long now.  She is strong and courageous, but like myself, carries her pain within.  As a mom, I look at her, and I remember Ryan.  She is exactly where he was when died...I can't even express how that feels and weighs in my heart.
     I feel as though I have endured this year better then last year.  I'm not sure if I'm just learning to survive with more grace, or if I'm just burying my broken heart with more ease.  With tears rolling down my face as I type this, I think I probably just bury the heartache with more ease.  Pushing the pain down is one of the ways to survive each day.  It really is too much to endure...I can only handle little bits at a time.  
     How do you ever accept, or get over the fact that your child died?  You don't.  How do you ever find peace within your soul, when such a large part of it is gone?  You don't.  How do you feel safe when you go to bed each night, knowing that one of your children died in their sleep?  You don't.  How do you ever feel peace within your heart, when your heart has been shattered?  You don't.  You just learn to live with it.  You learn to endure the heartache.  You learn to live your life as it is now, and carry the emptiness within.  You try to be the best you can be with what you have left, knowing inside it is not at all the person you were before.  You move forward because you have to, not necessarily because you want to.  
     Losing a child is a lifetime grieving process.  It's something you live through each and every day.  It's been three years.  Yes, I am surviving.  Yes, I am living life.  Yes, I am trying the best I can.  Yes, I have learned to laugh again.  However...the longing, the sadness, the missing, the emptiness, the heartache...they are all very much alive within.  That is who I am now, whether people see it or not.  This is my life now.  
     As I type these last words, I realize it is exactly 3 years (10:30 pm) since I last spoke to, and saw, my Ryan alive on this earth.  I miss him more then I can express...

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Survival of a Marriage....

     Walking along the beach this evening, Russ and I talked about how we have grown even stronger since the loss of Ryan.  For that, we are both grateful.
     When you lose a child, your marriage is immediately put on the list of  "at risk marriages."   We didn't  know that when it happened, and it was honestly the last thing on our minds....but time surely showed us we were at risk!  When this type of devastation and loss strikes, you are both taken into depths of darkness you didn't know existed. Each person carries their own pain, yet also carries the pain of their partner.  You don't know how to make it better for the other...and you absolutely don't know how to make it better for yourself.  How can you possibly make something better, that is so painfully wrong?  It's a very lonely journey, and I can easily see now how many marriages don't survive the loss of a child.
     When Ryan died,  we both felt pain that words could never describe.  Russ was the one who found Ryan, so he carried guilt, and a feeling like he should have been able to do something.  In his eyes, he was entrusted with the care of my baby, and somehow let me down.  Although I did not feel that way, it was his pain, and the journey he would embark upon.  As much as I tried to help him understand it was not his fault, he could not let that go. That all consuming pain led him down a very dark, angry, and isolated road.  A road of self destruction.  Meanwhile, I was trying to not only help him, but help my kids.  I felt very alone, yet knew I had to find a way to lead them all through this darkness.  This was a road I had never traveled, didn't want to be on, and I had no light to guide me....only darkness.
     I listened to my heart, and desperately tried everything I could to help make things right somehow.   I was walking alone, Russ was walking alone....somehow we had lost each other in the unbearable pain of it all.  My own grief had to be put aside, as I watched my family falling apart.  At that time, I didn't know if Russ and I would make it.  There were times I didn't care, and I'm certain he felt the same.   I couldn't bear any more pain, I knew that.   I also knew as a mom, I had to be sure my kids made it.  They quickly became my focus.  As moms always do, I put my own pain on a back shelf.  In retrospect, perhaps the needs of my family helped me survive that first year?
     Nine months after Ryan died, our marriage hit a crucial point.  Russ and I couldn't be further apart, and after 30 plus years of friendship, that just brought more sadness upon hearts that were already broken.  It was then Russ stood up, faced his demons, and did all he could to make himself alright.  He did it for me....he did it for our kids....he did it for Ryan.  He taught us all about courage and respect....showing strength I had never seen in him before.  His actions at that time clearly told me how strong his love for me was....and I met him with encouragement, compassion, and gratitude.
     It's been almost 3 years now.  We each carry the pain and loss of losing Ryan deep within our hearts.  We are learning to share that grief, when we are able to.  We also are able to see the silent pain, and respect that place in each other.  The darkness born from the loss is still deep in both of us, but we have learned to face it together.  When the pain is so deep I can't talk, and isolating my heart is the only way I can endure any given moment, he shows me he is there....if and when I'm ready to share.  
     We have been given challenges and pain most couples will never endure.  It was a very painful road as a couple for almost a year....but our love, friendship, loyalty, and determination helped mend what was broken.  I am so very grateful that we have the type of relationship and marriage that has survived the deepest of heartbreaks....the death of a child.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Confusion Within....

     Once again, I have come to my place of peace....the ocean.   Since Ryan died, it is the one place I actually feel at peace within.  It's my time to reflect, to try and understand, to question, to cry, to remember, to wonder, to nurture myself...to just be.
     Today as we were driving along the coast, I felt very quiet.  I was frustrated at the delays we faced in getting to the place I so needed to be.  In those frustrations, I once again started looking at the woman I have become since I lost Ryan.  In my thoughts, I realized how confused I am about so many things.  
    One moment I think I need to hold onto my other kids tightly, protecting them, because I never know what could happen to them.  In the next moment, my heart tells me to let go.  After all, Ryan died while sleeping in the safety of his bed.  I couldn't protect him in the safest place possible...what makes me think I could protect anyone else?  One moment I think I need to really be sure to appreciate each moment in life because I've been painfully shown how short and unpredictable life can be.  In the next moment, my heart tells me that can never fully happen again, because I don't feel the joy or passion in life the way I use to.  One moment I think I need to find a way to make something special out of my life, to find new dreams.  The next moment, my heart remembers all the dreams that were shattered, and I wonder how much longer I'll have to wait before I get to see, and be with my Ryan again?  For everything I think or do, there is an opposite feeling or reaction happening.  
     The very day Ryan died, I knew I would never be the same woman I was before.  I knew I had changed.  I didn't understand what it meant, but I knew it was my new reality.  It's been almost three years, and I still see the changes happening.  I'm still not sure of who I am, where I am meant to be, or why all of this even happened.  This grief has no answers, no clarity...no end.  I am still very saddened and bewildered... yet accepting, of the confusion within...the confusion of Me.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Some Lessons Learned....

     Over the past two and a half years, I've learned so many things.  Some are painful, some bring hope.
     I have learned that I am stronger then I realized.  I have survived the greatest loss you could ever experience as a parent.  At times I still don't know how I will face the next day.  There are days I find it hard to breathe, but somehow I do.  With the love of those close to me, and through God's grace, I have somehow helped to walk my kids through the deepest darkness of their lives.  As a mother to them all, I feel so grateful for that.
     I have learned how loving my children are.  They have lost their brother, yet have poured their hearts into Ryan's Memorial Fund...finding such peace in giving to others, all in their brother's name and honor.  They have walked through such darkness, and although they will always feel that loss, they also have learned that they can feel joy again.  They continue to love others, even though love was ripped out of their lives.
     I have learned that some people will walk by your side and support you for the rest of your life.  They will tell you how much Ryan meant to them, or speak his name with love.  They show their love for me, my family, and for Ryan, with their actions and words.  In doing this, they show that his life here DID matter, and in no way is he forgotten.  THOSE are the people that carry myself, my husband, and my kids through each day.  I have also learned there are those who do not speak his name, or even acknowledge it when spoken by us.  That is hurtful.  I am still learning how to let that go.  We all are.
     I have learned after losing my child, I can endure ANY pain or loss.
     I have learned that Ryan's beliefs and attitudes were beyond his age.  His belief in "One Love" is the way we should all live. I continue to learn from his life.
     I have learned through my other kids that there can still be joy in life.  It may be different, it may be for mere moments at a time....but it is there.
     I am still learning to live my new "normal" life, whatever that means.  There is a huge hole in my heart, and in our family as a whole, but we are learning to live with that.  We are doing the best we can do.
     I am still learning to understand the woman I have become since losing Ryan.  I have learned that I may spend the rest of my life here trying to understand who I have become, or am still becoming...but I have also learned that is alright.
     I have learned how important it is to take time to nurture myself.  When your heart and spirit have been broken like this, you need to find a place where you can breathe, and feel the calmness that peace brings.  When you find that place, you need to take yourself there often.  I am learning to do just that. 
    I have learned that this journey I am on, truly is just "One small step at a time."

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Our First Family Vacation....

     I knew the time would come when we would take a family vacation without Ryan, but I didn't know how intense the pain would be until I got there.
     Sadly for us all, my selflessly loving mom died in June.  My sister asked me to come to Disneyland with them at Thanksgiving, as it would be her first time back there without my mom.  I wanted to help her, and I also knew my kids needed some joy in their lives.  We thought we would be helping each other to take a hard step for both of us, and knew my mom and Ryan would be so happy about that.  However, I knew in my heart I wasn't ready for this.  Disneyland was the last place we took a family vacation...WITH Ryan.  How could I go back to the place he loved so much WITHOUT him?  Despite my overwhelming fears, I knew we had to go.
     The kids were all very happy, so I felt I was doing the right thing for them.  I learned quickly that sometimes what is good for your kids, is not good for you.  Being a mom, you put your kids first in most situations.  Since Ryan died, I have tried so hard to do whatever was right for them, whatever I could do to help heal their broken hearts.  They had to come first...I needed to help them move forward, even though I didn't know how to do it myself.
     When we entered Disneyland, someone took a family picture of us.  When I looked at it, the first family picture without Ryan, I began to cry.  We have not taken family pictures since Ryan died, and it is very clear to me why.  That was the beginning of the end for me.  I literally cried my way through the happiest place on earth for three days!  I didn't know when it would happen, or what would set me off.  I just knew when it hit, I needed to walk off by myself.  I know the younger kids were in their own world and enjoying every second.  But the older kids, they saw the pain in me, they understood it...they carried it as well. 
      When I look at this picture of Sean and Kaitie at Disneyland, I see my two beautiful children...but I also see the one who is missing.  Does anyone else see what this mother's heart sees?  Instead of Ryan's "light up the world" smile next to his brother and sister's smiles, his ashes are in the tattoo in Sean's arm.  What has happened to my once perfect and complete family?  
     I feel somehow I let everyone down this vacation.  My sister, who asked me to be there...I was emotionally unavailable to her.  Sean and Kaitie, who needed joy more then anyone...witnessed their mother's heart break all over again.  My husband, who wants nothing more then to wash away all my pain...saw how deep it actually was, how successfully I hide it, and how helpless it leaves him.  
     I learned that I do keep so much of this sadness buried within.  It's the only way for a mother's heart to survive such a loss I believe.  You literally take it one small step at a time.  You let yourself feel as much as you can handle feeling at any given moment, and then you close down.  If you don't close down when you feel the need, it will consume you, and the fear of where that will take you is too much to even think about.  I learned that listening to my heart about what I can and can't handle is what I have to continue to do.  It's one way that I can take care of myself, and I know Ryan wants that.
     The little ones had a great time.  My older kids said they had fun too, despite my breakdowns.  I hope this is true.   If I brought them any joy at all by taking them on vacation to Disneyland, then I know I did the right thing...even if it wasn't right for me.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Ryan's Senior Year....

     The 2011-2012 school year was a year I will never forget.  What would have been Ryan's senior year, a time of joy and celebration, in fact was a time of great sorrow.  As much happiness as I felt for all of his friends, I felt an even heavier sadness... I was bluntly faced with all that Ryan was missing.  With every senior picture, excitement about the senior trip,  pictures of seniors dressed up for prom, dreams of  their futures, and preparing for their High School Graduation...my heart would drop so deep inside that I felt I would never be able to reach it again.  
     My Ryan did not get to take senior pictures, he did not get to go to his senior prom, he didn't experience the great adventures of a senior trip, his dreams of college and life after high school were taken away.  He was weeks away from getting his driver's license...all requirements done, just  waiting out the time he needed to.  He would never graduate from High School.  His life was suddenly cut short, and we were left with the pain of all the things he never did, nor would ever have the chance to do.
     A couple of weeks before the graduation, the principal at Middletown High School, Mr. Roderick, called me in.  He informed me that he had ordered a Diploma for Ryan.  I immediately began to cry...somehow my baby would graduate!  I was overwhelmed with the compassion this man had... not only for our family, but for all the graduating seniors.  We all needed closure with this graduation.  Mr. Roderick knew this, and did what he could do to help all involved.  He informed me they would have a chair which would be empty in Ryan's honor.  He asked if Kaitie would accept the diploma for Ryan.  Again, I cried.  Kaitie sat in the chair for Ryan as the class walked in...none of them knew she would be there.  Then the diploma, which his classmates knew nothing about,  was presented to Kaitie.  There were cheers, whistles, and so many tears.  She accepted with such strength, courage, and grace. I was so very proud of her, and I knew Ryan was too.  After she accepted the diploma, she sat down with me, leaving Ryan's chair empty.  It was then she began to cry.  As I looked through my tears to Kaitie, and to Ryan's classmates, I saw the gift of closure Mr. Roderick gave to them all.  Our Ryan was graduating with his class.
     This journey has been so very painful, and I'm afraid it is not getting easier.  One thing I have learned as I face each day, is that there are people along the way who reach out and somehow know exactly what to say or do.  Whether it's to let you know they don't know what to say, but are there for you...or to share a story or memory of Ryan...or to acknowledge him on his birthday, holidays, or any gathering of family or friends...or to respectfully honor your son at graduation.  Each word or action is to let you know they  have NOT forgotten your child.  That he mattered in this life...and he still does.  I can not thank those people enough.  I will never forget what Mr. Roderick did for all of us at the graduation of 2012.  He honored my son, and in doing that, he let me know that Ryan did matter and is NOT forgotten.  At the end of each day, that is all that really helps...all I really want...all I really need.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Pain of My Children...

     The time as moved forward, whether we wanted it to or not.  Everyone wears a smile...a mask.  Is it to put on a front for others, or is it to put on a front for ourselves? 
     I have been fairly open with my own journey through this darkness.  Although in all honesty, I haven't even allowed myself to go to that lonely, painful place for more then seconds at a time.  It is too hard, too sad, too dark, too empty....too much.  I have tried to help my kids as much as I can.  But even with me, they wear their masks.  I suppose I wear it with them as well.   Perhaps we're all too afraid to show each other how we really feel?  Afraid we will bring each other into that place where none of us are ready to go?  Little by little they share their tears...I share mine.  In watching my kids move forward so bravely, yet suffer so silently,  I am learning that we have to go to that place we are so afraid of.  Even if it's a little bit at a time.  We have no choice...the masks are beginning to tear as the reality of what is takes over.
     Loss of focus, loss of dreams, loss of passions, loss of closeness with people...anger, sadness, physical illnesses, constant fear with every breath taken.  This is what has become of my children.  These are my children...and I love them.  I sadly know the greatest pain a mother could endure is the loss of her child.  I believe the second is to watch her children suffer.  I know my own mom has carried that pain as she witnessed my heart break, and I am witnessing that very pain in my own children.  At times it feels overwhelming, yet somehow I find the strength to be there for, and with them.  I ask God to help me....and I keep trying.
     They have all had their worlds turned upside down.  They have had their very hearts broken apart.  Their dreams of the future ripped into a million pieces.  They have tried to move on, and have done so as well as could be expected.  They have shown great courage, strength, and grace.  But they are wounded, traumatized, and forever changed.  Like myself, they are NOT the same people they were before they lost their brother.  Over the past few months, as their masks have worn thin, I have seen glimpses of the deep pain they carry still....confusion of not knowing how to get through the next day, sometimes not even caring if they do, the painful reality that their brother is really gone, the longing for what could have been and should have been, the anger of it all...which no doubt is in reality the uspeakable sadness they carry, the constant fear of dying...or losing me,  which mainfests itself relentlessly, and the need to talk about the pain, yet fear of going into that darkness.
     My children are in pain....anyone close enough to them sees what they try so hard not to show.  Those are the friends I am so grateful they have.  I will continue to do all I can to help them, but I know I can not make it better.  That is hard, but it is the truth.  They are all so very close, and one of them now is missing.  They all feel the loss with great intensity and sadness.  I just pray God holds them all, while He leads me.  The Pain of My Children...it's unimaginable.