Trigger Warning

For a bereaved parent and widow, as one would expect, there are good days and there are not so good days. Today was a not so good day. I ended up having to pop a second dose of anti-depressant and buckle up because… wow. It was a doozy.

Trigger warning often get made fun of. People that don’t understand the actual use and importance of trigger warnings tend to eye-roll and make fun. What a trigger warning actually is though, is a warning that you’ll get abnormal information from a place one wouldn’t expect. If you do need a trigger warning – you get it. If you don’t need one – you are a lucky person and I kind of envy you.

Normally on lunch I listen to the NPR interview show “Fresh Air”. I’ve listened to it for nearly 20 years and I love that show. Today they had a musician guest and he sang a very short minute and a half song and I was done*. I couldn’t function at my normal levels for the rest of the work day.

Attn: Terry Gross. Why you godda do that to me? Before lunch I was fine. When I came back to work I was a mess. It’s your fault lady. Why didn’t you give me a warning so that I could cover my ears?

My emotions ended up all over my face. And a little bit on my shirt.

Really, that’s one of the harder things about living with so much profound loss; Never knowing what’s going to be that thing that turns you into a puddle of ineffectiveness. Most of the time I can pull myself back. I challenge myself to suck it up and move along. I can cry later. I am strong and I have a formidable constitution. Sometimes though, those cries just sneak right in and take hold and the only thing I can do is just ride it out.


For the rest of my life I will be broken. Coming to grips with that is as difficult and profound as the losses themselves. Some days I am just as raw as I was at the beginning.

Loss has layers. It stinks. 0 stars. Would not recommend.

*Sam Baker: Go In Peace

Before you press play, consider this your trigger warning. The song will 100% punch you in the feelings. If not, I’m sorry about your cold, dead heart.

The Unanswerable Question

Why did my child die?  Why did my husband die?  Why is this happening?  Does the universe have a vendetta or blood libel against me personally?  Some sort of cosmic score that needed to be settled?

For real though, I don’t struggle with this.  Because the fact is no matter what the answer, how profound or perfect it might be, it will not change anything.

Nothing will bring back my child and husband.  And, frankly, not much would make me feel better about it.  Having answers won’t fill these holes in my heart.  Having answers won’t suddenly make my anti-depressant unnecessary.  My heart won’t de-shatter.  Having answers to these questions only God and/or the universe could answer won’t give either of them back to me.

Unanswerable questions are nothing but a burden on my soul.  Constantly asking for something I’ll never get is relentless and futile.

The weight of the losses is already so heavy.

Asking unanswerable questions is just added noise on my quest for peace and grace.

I don’t quibble internally because I don’t care.  I don’t care if there was a greater good served or if they just died because that’s how the chaos of life works. I don’t care, I don’t care, I don’t care.  I have better things to do.

Don’t get me wrong – sometimes I love a good waste of time.  This past Sunday I watched 18 hours of TV and drank a half bottle of wine.   I appreciate wasted time and added noise – on my terms;  with my permission.

Screaming into an abyss is 0 stars.  Would not recommend.




On Sundays I Get Sentimental

In the early 2000’s, during the waning years of our family trips to the Outer Banks, NC – we arrived at our rental house for the week and, as per tradition, unloaded our children from transport and unleashed them directly to the beach. We didn’t stop to unload or move cold goods to the refrigerator. We all ran down the boardwalk and over the dunes and crashed into the waves that were crashing back on us.

I stood next to my cousin Will while we watched the kids play. I soaked in the salt air and the cold water and let the beach tick itself into me.

“Our blood, our sweat, and our tears are salt water. We spend our lives giving our energy away. All waves are energy. Ocean waves are energy. This is why people come to the beach. Saltwater and waves come back to us”

I was taken back by this. I mean, I love (love) the ocean. But I was just standing there soaking up the salt and he articulated the reasons we were naturally drawn to the beach.

Waves are a physical manifestation of energy and the beach is where we reclaim some of the energy we give off into time and space.

Every living thing gives off energy. We send it into the universe wrapped in emotion and there it lingers for all of eternity. It travels away and spreads broadly where it becomes so thin and delicate we can’t recognize it anymore. But it is always there.

Right now, the sounds of FDR’s infamy speech, and the first cries of a newborn baby, and the last words of Jesus, and the mundane grocery list review of everyone I’ve never met, and all of the symphonies that have ever performed, and every bird that has ever chirped, and the roars of the dinosaurs are still lingering in our universe. Energy waves that can never be destroyed.

Among those are the baby cries and toddler laughs and teenage angst of my daughter. Every time my late husband ever told me he loved me. All of the manifestations of love and life are in the universe.

Every time I ever told them I loved them. Every time I cried with him or for her. Every time we shared something exciting – my sound waves went with theirs.

I hope that my “I love you” finds their “I love you” and our energy waves will travel together the way they were originally intended.

On Sundays, I get sentimental. I’m not so busy on Sundays, so I’ve got all of this extra time to ignore my dirty laundry and have a glass of wine at 1:00pm and listen to the birds that are genuinely happy with the January thaw. Maybe today I’ll clean out my bedside table or make a pie or watch TV while I brows the blogs I follow. No matter my decision I’ll wax poetic and make wishes and listen to the universe.

This whole business is ridiculous. 0 Stars. Would not recommend.

The Moving Number

I am training a new hire at home this week (it’s a very busy couple of weeks at the Amy school of purchasing).  Normal get to know you chit-chat.

Do you have any kids?

There’s the question.  The question.  How many kids do I have?

That has, since November 2006, been a very long answer

When I married my late husband, he had a daughter and two step-daughters from a previous marriage.  I used to have two daughters and three step-daughters.  When we married, we had all five girls standing with us.  Three with him and two with me.

Time expands; my husband passed.

For a while my late husband’s ex-wife and I made an effort to keep the kids together.  We’d meet in Brighton and I’d send my girls off to Detroit for an extended weekend here and there.

Slowly it changed.  I had two daughters and one step-daughter and two more girls that used to be my step daughters but now we’re facebook friends.

In 2013, my late husband’s daughter wanted to move in with me to go to college on this side of the state.

For a few short months, my kid count was back up – two daughters, one step-daughter.  Plus my new partner’s son added to four kids in our charge.

Time expands.  My step-daughter went back to Detroit for good.  Z went to Gaylord with my parents for the school-years.  Our house got quieter.

I miss the noise and chaos.

My favorite family pictures have always been blended to one degree or another.

How many kids do you have?  How many?  How many kids do you have?

Watching Z’s life events from far-away wasn’t easy.  According to American ideals and standards children don’t move away from home until college.   Z moved in with my parents and it cut pretty deeply.  Not because we were estranged – we weren’t.  We spoke often throughout the week and I made the drive to Gaylord a minimum of every-other weekend.  After she got her driver’s license she’d come down on the weekends I didn’t go up there.  She liked the drive.  Occasionally, she’d stay in GR until Monday morning.  She’d leave home at 5:00am to get to school at 7:00am.

How many kids do you have?  How many?

After a child passes, the question isn’t a fact of matter; it’s a disclosure of very intimate information.  I’ve mentioned this in a previous blog (the intimacy of the question) and it still stands.   I would never tell a stranger the horrors I endured in my first marriage.  I would never tell a stranger about the last night my mom’s dad was alive.  I would never tell a stranger about what it was like to watch my husband die in our bed.  I don’t want to tell a stranger I’ve had a child pass away.

How many kids do you have?  How many?  How many kids do you have?

I have always wondered what it was like for families that didn’t involve stops and starts.  The suburban stay-at-home lives with stable marriages and a fully realized family plan.  I mean, I’m not under the impression single partnered parents lead perfect lives void of heart-break, but answers to simple questions tend to be easier to manage.   (Saying that, I think of my friends that have struggled with miscarriage.)  Sometimes I twinge with a longing for a life that was not mine.

How many kids do you have?  How many?

How many kids do you have?





Finally. Something Funny.

I’ve been in Virginia this week working with the two facilities my company has in that state.  It’s been a rough week.  Long, exhausting days.

In my weakened solitude, I had time to reflect on a couple of matters. I’ll issue posts on the matters one at a time during the coming week.

I did, finally, think of something funny that happened after she passed.

I mean, I can think of a zillion funny things that happened before she passed.  I come from a long line of funny.  My family is hilarious.  We thrive on the ridiculous and absurd.  It’s finding humor in this 0 star situation that is the crux of the problem.

As one would expect, my entire family spent the days between her passing and her funeral in a daze.  We were lost.  We knew the steps that needed to be taken, but we weren’t really there.

Funerals require flowers, and in Gaylord there are two options.  “The Good One” and “The Other One”.  Obviously, we went to the good one to start.

The women in transit with me poured out of my aunt’s mini van in the two-spot parking lot at the good florist.  We herded into their shop and a woman appeared from the back and asked if she could help.

Yes.  I need flowers for my daughters funeral this week.

She was surprised and horrified.  She disappeared into the back and then came back just as quickly as she was gone.

Please.  Come to the back.

We went to the back of the store and were greeted by a very large man wearing a Hawaiian shirt and sitting in a wicker chair.  The wicker was holding up by grace alone.  He had a very small dog (I think a whippet?) in the wicker chair next to him.  We looked at the pair and they looked right back at us.  He was a late-issue Marlon Brando and his bucket-midget sitting in the wicker chairs.

I told him I needed flowers for my daughter’s urn.

“Yes” he told me “We do those.  It will be $250 to $300 for the urn flowers.”

“I’ll take the $250 option, please”  Because I’m not rich.  This was going to be an expensive week.

“That’s fine.  We do a horse-shoe shape for the urns. What colors do you like?”  he asked

“Bright ones, keep the pink to a minimum”

“That’s fine. $250.  You can pay me now”

I gave him my credit card and that was it.  We spent 5 minutes in the shop and most of that was me staring at the wicker chair tableau with all of the incredulity I had in my body.   I was buying flowers for my child’s funeral from this surreal facsimile of a B-movie set actor.

It was a mixed blessing.  At one time, I wanted everything to be perfect for her good-bye.  It was going to be the formal send-off and I needed this to be as tear-inducing as possible.  Flowers are always key.  And I had spent a total of 4 minutes on that flower transaction.  At the same time, we were all zombies.

We were facsimiles of ourselves looking at a facsimile of a movie scene.  It was absurd theater at its very finest.

We arrived at the funeral home a couple of days later.  The flowers were there.  They were perfect and beautiful.  I loved them.  Many people commented on the flowers.  Later, they were the centerpiece of her Viking funeral pyre because if I’m going to spend $250 on a flower arrangement, I’m going to send them out in a blaze of glory.

I appreciate everything about that transaction.  I’m always a fan of brevity.  I needed to spend my time doing things that was not picking out flowers and he took that chore from me.

I’m okay with this completely ridiculous scene burned into my brain.  And the flowers were just what I needed.

5 stars for the wicker-chair florist and his whippet dog.


What Dreams

I had my first dream about Z last night.

The subject of dreams and those that have passed have come up in my life off and on, like they do among friends.  And last week I’d mentioned it to a friend – that I’ve never dreamed about Z.

I’ve only ever had one dream with Joe which ended deeply unsatisfying and rather upsetting.

I have felt a little cheated in that I’d never had dreams about my husband or child.  I am jealous of those who commune with their grandparents or parents or whatever person they needed to visit.  I’ve heard calming stories of love and peacefulness.  I want that for me.  If I can’t see them in life, if they can’t be near me, I want to be with them at night.  I want my brain to connect with the universe and bring them back to me.  I can be with them in my sleep.

When I told my friend last week that I’ve never had those dreams, she told me I was lucky.  I didn’t understand it.  I am not lucky.  It’s not lucky for me to be robbed in life and then ignored in my dreams as well.  It’s not lucky.

I feel deeply cheated in life, and I feel passingly cheated in sleep as well.

Last night, Z was a part of my dream.  But it wasn’t a “she came to me in my sleep” situation.  Instead, I got straddled with a nightmare and woke Jay up with my screaming.  He, in turn, woke me up.  Pulled me out of the nightmare.

“It’s not okay! It’s not okay!”  It’s what I was screaming in my sleep.  My arms were pinned under me in both life and in my dream.  I can’t rescue those that need rescuing.

After Joe passed, I stared having nightmares about my nieces and my girls dying.  Two or three times a week I’d have to live through those nightmares.  It lasted a couple of months and then they were gone.  It seems this cycle is starting over again.

Maybe it was lucky I hadn’t dreamed of her.

0 stars.  Would not recommend.


The Laundry Hamper

Z has a bedroom full of her life’s possessions in boxes and bags and scattered on the floor.  Most things were boxed up for college.  It is still a disaster in there.  When I brought her things home I opened her bedroom door, put the boxes on the floor, and then left.  I didn’t even leave myself a path in her bedroom.  In order to get in I have to big step over boxes and piles and bags.

I have to step over all of the things she thought were important.  Her things trip me up.

I needed a new laundry hamper for my room.  The old plastic hamper had started to give my clean clothes static and I was basically wasting money on laundry sheets.  Everything I touched shocked and stuck to me.

Prepping for college, she had purchased for herself a new hamper made primarily of canvas.  It was exactly what I needed, so I braved the trip into her room and took it.  I removed the tags and employed it for my own use.

Since she’s been gone, I’ve had a problem that mostly feels like I’m invading her privacy.  She was nearly 19 and she had a right to her secrets and she is allowed to have her own things.  She purchased that hamper with her money, not mine.

The hamper was hers and I took it.  I took it from her and used it my room for my clothes.  She never got the chance to use it for her things.

It was a test drive for me.  I know I’ll have to dive into her room to sort out the boxes and bags.  I look at that chore looming ahead of me and I dread the next step to close out her life.  Her physical life.  Her things and stuff and treasures and necessities.

I take her laundry hamper and put my toe into a pond I don’t want to swim in.

It’s just a hamper.  It’s just things.  They are not her.  I am not giving her away or stealing her life.  She will not be mad.  She won’t complain. She has not misplaced anything.  She won’t ever notice anything is missing from her room.  She won’t demand answers for the whereabouts and locations of her life.

Her things are just things now.  They aren’t hers.  They aren’t really mine, either.

0 stars.  Would not recommend.