Sunday, August 19, 2018

Learning to Love Life!

It has been over a year and a half since I last posted. It's not that I've had nothing to say. In fact, I have had tons to say. I just haven't been sure how to say it. It's not writer's block. It's more that I have been trying to determine the direction this blog should go. (Scroll to the bottom to find out more.)

This blog - then and now...
This blog started out to help Austin's friends and family work through their grief, while I worked through mine. It was also to help others dealing with the loss of a loved one know they are not alone in their feelings and thoughts. But I believe I can only cover my walk of grief for so long, since I feel I am no longer grieving. I am living!

There. I said it. "I am living! And I am loving living!"

Loving Life Photo

I touched on this topic in my last post, Healingbut I still (almost) cringe as I write this. I read so many posts and comments on losing a child that give the impression that life will always be horrible. Quotes such as "Child loss is not an event, it is an indescribable journey of survival."  or "The death of a child it's like losing your breath and never catching it again, it's a forever panic attack feeling your heart dying as your soul is screaming for them and no matter what you try to do you continue to lose your mind." For someone who has just lost a child, these quotes give the impression that they will never be able to fully enjoy life again. I admit, this is how I felt in the first years (note the plural for years) after losing Austin. It felt as if all I would be able to do would be to partially enjoy any event I was part of. Read my earlier posts to learn more about what I was going through. It may be what some of you are currently going through. Now - over eight years after losing my son - I realize I can (and do) fully embrace life and love the moments I am in.

Don't be embarrassed if you are happy...
I think there is a difference between grieving and missing someone. This is probably why I have found myself being embarrassed or feeling bad when someone asks, "How are you doing?" I want to say, with a huge smile on my face, "Great! I am doing really, really great!" But, I'm afraid it will sound cold, as if I no longer miss Austin. When, in fact, I miss Austin every day, and think about him every day. All you have to do is ask those around me and they will tell you that I mention his name (or reference him), all the time, probably at least once a day. I can't help myself. He is part of me. The same way my other two boys' names come up daily and are part of me. But, I am not grieving. I am living and I am happy.

You won't always feel this much pain...
I want parents who have lost a child and are wondering "Will I always feel this awful pain? Will my heart always ache to this extent?" to know that the pain does lessen, day-by-day, week-by-week, and year-by-year. I have had parents who have lost a child say to me, "Please tell me I won't always hurt this way, because I don't think I can live with this type of pain!" I assure them, it does get easier, and life can be enjoyed...BUT...you have to go through the pain, there's no getting around it. Be patient, embrace your grief, knowing you can be happy. It doesn't mean you won't miss your child - you will - but you can also love life.

I am walking proof you can be happy...
During this past spring, I was at my son's televised college lacrosse game. I was sitting in the stands, which just happened to be where the tv cameras panned showing the crowds reaction after a goal was scored. My friends and family, who were home watching the game on tv, kept texting me pictures of their tv's with me on them. Of course I got a chuckle out of it and shared it with others. One person commented, "You look happy, Lori. You look really happy!" And I thought, "I am!"

Then it happened again. Earlier this summer I was at a lacrosse tournament with two of my sons, visiting with other parents whom I haven't seen in a couple years. One of the parents, out of the blue, stated to me, "You look happy! You look very content!" To which I responded, "I am. Thank you." Later that day, as I was walking across the field, another parent commented to me, "You look like you have not a care in the world." I simply smiled and thought to myself, "Life is good!"

For this many people to notice my state of mind is a clear testament to how far I have come over the past eight years. As I allowed myself to grieve I also allowed myself to heal and grow, learning to love life again. In fact, I think I love life even more, because I know how precious it is.

My message to you...
This is the message I want to share - grief is a necessity - it must be experienced if you want to start living again. But you can live again and you can love life again. I am living proof! As I was writing this post, I stumbled upon an article, that put so nicely what I've tried to convey - "My child's loss taught me to love harder and appreciate every single day."  

Austin taught me to love harder and appreciate every single day - both when he was here with me physically and now that he is here in memory and spirit.

Austin relaxing and enjoying life


Important notice about "Miss Your Smile" blog: I feel the purpose of this blog has come to an end. In the near-future, I will be starting a new blog, "Lifetagious," which will continue with the theme of loving life (the way Austin knew how to do so well). As soon as I have it up and running, I will post the new link here.

I am leaving this blog, "Miss Your Smile," for those who are dealing with loss and need to know others have been where you are now. I encourage you to start from the beginning, so you can see you are not alone on your journey, but please know the pain does not have to be permanent. Give yourself permission to grieve, to hurt, and to miss your loved one. Don't be hard on yourself and don't compare your grieving with anyone else's. Just as your relationship with your child (or loved one) was unique, so will your grieving. But also give yourself permission to be happy and to love life!

Are you having trouble giving yourself permission to enjoy life? I would love to hear from you!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Healing

"Be proud of your scars, they made you who you are!" 

The other day I overheard someone comment how they were tired of hearing people say "time will heal" after the loss of someone close. I did not comment, but in my head I thought, "But I am healing." If I look at where I was six-and-a-half years ago compared to today, I have to say I am healing. My heart does not hurt the same way it did six years ago, three years ago, or even a year ago. That's not to say I don't miss Austin, or that I don't cry, or that my heart never hurts - it's just the pain is less and less every day - my heart is healing. I decided to look up the definition...

Healing (noun): is the process of making or becoming sound or healthy again
Heal (verb): tending to heal; therapeutic

And there it was - I am healing. I am "in the process of making or becoming sound again. I then looked up the definitions of the synonyms of heal / healing. 

Synonyms of Healing:

alleviatemake (suffering, deficiency, or a problem) less severe
easemake (something unpleasant, painful, or intense) less serious or severe
assuage: make (an unpleasant feeling) less intense
palliate: make (a disease or its symptoms) less severe or unpleasant without removing the cause:
relieve: cause (pain, distress, or difficulty) to become less severe or serious
help
lessen: make or become less; diminish
mitigate: make less sever, serious, or painful
attenuate: reduce the force, effect, or value of
allay: relieve or alleviate (pain or hunger)


I Am Healing:

As I read each definition I kept reiterating, "Yep, I've been healing."

To some, this may be offensive - "How dare I say you can heal from loss." I am not saying anyone has to, what I am saying is that I am. The idea of living with excruciating pain and sorrow the rest of my life, like what I experienced the first couple of years, is unthinkable. Sometimes life sucks - it really does, but then little-by-little it begins to get better, and before you know it your smiling and finding that joy you never thought you'd find again.


And You Can Too:

I spoke with someone the other day, who is in the first year of losing a child. One question they asked, earnestly, was "Please tell me this will get better, it does, doesn't it? Because this pain is unbearable!" Without hesitating I said, "Yes, it will. You will always miss your child. There will always be a hole that cannot be filled, but you will feel more than pain again. You must go through the pain first, but you will be able to truly laugh again."

The scar will always be there - but I believe that...
Scars are signs that we were hurt, but we have healed (or are healing) - it won't happen over night, but it will happen, if we allow it. There's no dodging the pain - we have to go through it to get to the other side. But we can get to the other side. I know, I have. 

What are your thoughts on this...can people heal from the loss of a loved one? I would love to hear what you think!



Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Cemetery

WARNING: What I have written in this blog may be a little upsetting to those who find comfort at the cemetery. It is not intended to belittle the importance and comfort many find at the cemetery and with visiting Austin's gravesite (or anyone else they have loved and lost). It is simply to let many who find no comfort there know that this is ok too. 




The Cemetery... to many the cemetery is a place where they find comfort after someone they love has died. It is a way many feel connected to this loved one.

To Me... the cemetery does not bring comfort. As I look at Austin's headstone and the ground in front of it (and now my father's, who is buried next to Austin) all I can see is the area of ground that was dug up to place the coffin in the ground. All I can think of is that Austin's body is in the coffin buried in the ground - in that rectangular area. This is not how I want to remember Austin.

Where do I "feel" Austin's presence? Where do I find comfort? 

Lee Brice has a song, "I Drive Your Truck" which pretty much sums it up... "Momma asked me this morning, if I'd been by your grave. But that flag and stone ain't where I feel you anyway... These days when I'm missing you this much I drive your truck..." (in my case, it's Austin's car).

Yesterday I came out to a dead battery in my Pilot, so I had to take Austin's car to work. Austin was with me on my drive to work...every time I'm in that car I remember Austin. I remember going to look at the car - he loved it! I remember watching him negotiate with the seller - it brought a smile to my face. I remember him letting his younger brothers help him change the brakes  - I can still hear the clanking in the garage. I remember Austin and me driving the car the next day, as we went to lunch, and hearing a "clunk" - one of the brakes wasn't screwed on completely (oops!). I remember holding my breath that we'd get home before the brake fell off  (we did!).

This is where I "feel" Austin's presence.  He's all around - everywhere I look I "see" and think of Austin. I think of the life he lived. I think of the love he shared.

Sometimes I feel as though I "should" go to his gravesite - because that's what others do. That's what brings them comfort. And that is what they should do - because that is what is healing to them. But for anyone else who is feeling a little guilty for not finding comfort there, you're not alone.

Although Austin's body is in the grave at the cemetery, his life is all around me. It is the sites, sounds, smells, and memories that keep me close to him - the way my drive to work, in Austin's car, brought me close to him yesterday. The way "hunting" for the perfect Christmas tree with Austin's brothers did last week-end. That is what brings me comfort and a smile!

On a side-note: I do chuckle, because although my father passed away two-and-a-half years ago and Austin was almost five-and-a -half years ago, the grass at my dad's grave is greener than Austin's. (My Dad loved gardening!)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

"Deja Vu" After Five Years!

Yesterday was five years. You'd think I'd have this thing figured out, but I don't, and probably never will. I thought the five year mark would be easier, but it wasn't. It was actually more difficult than four, and I have no idea why - even my husband mentioned this. Maybe it was the "deja vu" feelings that kept me company all day...

"I'm going to miss that smile..."

Yesterday morning I woke to the words "I'm going to miss that smile, I'm going to miss you my friend..." running though my mind.

Deja vu - this is the song that I heard on the radio the day Austin died and it stuck with me. In fact, the slide show we did at the funeral was to this song.

The sun was out, the day was beautiful...

Deja vu -  just like five years ago.

As I walked into the building and spoke with my students and coworkers "they have no idea what today is...*" feelings came over me and stayed the rest of the day...
(*I have a new job this year and very few people know about Austin, and no one knew that yesterday was the anniversary of his death.)

Deja vu - just like five years ago when I walked through the rest areas on the Mass Pike and NYS thruway, thinking, "They have no idea that my son just died." 

The only thing that wasn't "deja vu" was my thinking of and missing Austin.

...that is an everyday occurrence that I will cherish for the rest of my life!





Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Shocking Pen

I have no idea why I can never find a pen. I buy a bunch of them, put them in the drawer, and they disappear. It's not like I find them laying around somewhere else, they are just gone. Well, sometimes I find twenty at the bottom of my purse, but then they disappear too. I either have enough to use a different pen every day of the year, or can't find a single one anywhere.

The other day I was sorting through one of Austin's boxes and found a mug with pens. I set it on our kitchen counter so I would think of Austin every time I grabbed a pen. Little did I know his favorite pen was in that mug. As I grabbed the pen and clicked the end to open it a memory flashed through my brain....

Austin loved playing tricks on people. He loved magic tricks and mischievous tricks. I've always found it a little more challenging to find stocking stuffers for the boys when they get older, but know I never go wrong with a little prankster type item. One year Austin received a shocking pen. The type that when you click the end to open it actually gives you a shock - kind of like the shock when you put your tongue on the end of a 9-volt battery. Not that I've ever actually done that. Well, ok, maybe once or twice. You have to check to make sure they're still working, don't you? 

Austin loved the pen! He took it to school, excited to "share" it with his friends. Little did we know it would be considered a "dangerous" weapon. I can picture him now offering it to his friends in home room. I guess the teacher wasn't impressed and confiscated the pen. He sent it to the office, and soon after Austin was asked to visit the principal. Austin came home from school that afternoon not too happy that he'd lost his favorite pen. As he shared the story I was torn between being a responsible mom allowing him face the consequences and being the bad mom laughing at what happened. I took the middle road - outside I  responded, "I guess you now know the rules and know not to bring a shocking pen to school," while inside I was rolling in laughter picturing what went down....

According to Austin, he walked into the office. The secretary said to him, "The principal would like to see you about this." She held up the pen and pressed on the end. Zap! She was shocked.

Austin lost his pen to the school, which made it easy for me to know what to get for a stocking stuffer the next year - this time with strick instructions not to take it to school.

As I clicked the end of the pen and received the infamous "zap," I hollered out, then couldn't stop laughing. Austin got me again! Thank you for the memory and the laugh.

"For some, life lasts a short while, but the memories it holds last forever." 
~Laura Swenson

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Life is Good

As I reflect on life one thought comes to mind.... LIFE IS GOOD!

Austin's last Christmas with us (December 2009)
Life is full. It's full of experiences, full of changes, full of hurt, and full of laughter. I look around and see that, despite the pain we sometimes experience, life is good...

Life is good. As I look at my boys I am reminded of this. Even though there are moments when they frustrate the living daylights out of me, they are a beautiful gift to me. As I watched Austin, and am now watching his brothers grow into young men, I am filled with awe that I have been blessed with three beautiful sons. Lately, I keep thinking how Austin would get a chuckle out of his two brothers if he could see them now.

Life is busy and moves fast. My family is on the go most of the time, enjoying the time we have before the boys are off to college and I am left trying to fill my time with other things. Today Austin would be 26 years old. In 1-1/2 years my middle son will graduate high school, the youngest will graduate in 3-1/2 years. It's hard to believe!

Life is good. Although it's filled with bumps and bruises, it's filled with love and laughter. This Christmas, as I watched my other two sons opening gifts, which each had "prank-wrapped" for the other, laughing and enjoying the time with together, I was reminded how blessed I am. As I listened to them, I thought of how much Austin would have been part of all the shenanigans and would have loved it. While my heart ached for what was missing it was also filled with joy for what was present.

Austin's brothers enjoying life on Christmas morning (2014)
Life is a blur and continuously changing. When I think of the first couple years of each of the boys lives, all I can think of is it was a big blur. Sleep deprivation and the demands of newborns and toddlers is exhausting and exhilarating all at the same time. I don't remember much of those years - it all blends into one big blob. Then I think of the first couple years after Austin died. Life was a blur. I don't remember much - I think I missed out on parts of my other two sons' lives. I was there physically, but my mind was not always. Sometimes I wonder how things would be if Austin was still here, accident not happened. but I don't dwell on it because that is life - we are thrown things that change our life in an instant - filled with disruptions that change our course. Life continues to change, so if we dwell too long on "what-ifs" we'll miss the here and now.

Life is good. As I watched my younger two boys walking into church the other day my heart warmed. Here were two six-feet tall "boys" laughing and pushing each other, enjoying life. I took a moment to take it all in, take a mental picture, savor the view. It's hard to believe how much they have grown. Part of me still thinks of them as little boys, but reality is they're growing up. My mind flashes back to May 2010, when I caught myself doing the same thing while watching Austin. Life doesn't stop, but we can slow down for even a minute to savor these times, to breathe in a absorb life.

Life is full of "life". Life brings us good and bad. It brings people in and out of our lives just when we need them (sometimes when we don't). Life speeds up, then slows down, then picks up pace again. Life makes us cry and makes us laugh. Life lets us grow and change. It takes experiences and molds us, sometimes for the better others for worse, depending on how we let it. That is why, as I look around I think...

Life is a camera. Each moment we have is a snap shot that makes up our life photo album. The memories we make along the way should be savored - both the good and the bad, because they ultimatly make us who we are. I found this quote and felt it sums life up: "Life is like a camera...Focus on what's important, capture the good times, develop from the negatives, and if things don't work out, take another shot." Then remember...

LIFE IS GOOD...keep snapping those pictures!


The date on this photo is wrong.
I believe this was Christmas 2008,
based off of Austin's scruffy beard!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Something's Missing

"Nothing is ever really lost to us as long as we remember it." ~ L.M. Montgomery

There are certain things that when I don't have them I feel as if I'm forgetting something. When I leave my house without my purse, I have a constant unsettled feeling; something is missing. If I don't have my phone, I almost feel naked. When we go somewhere as a family and one of my sons is not with us I am constantly doing a double check trying to figure out who or what we forgot. I even do it when my pseudo son from next door isn't with us. We didn't forget anyone, it's simply that we're short a person who is usually with us because they are somewhere else for the day.

Suddenly it hit me the other day, when I was driving. I almost always have a bit unsettling of a feeling, as if I am leaving something behind, as if something is missing. Then I realized, it's Austin.

Life is moving on. Changes are happening all around, everyone is growing up. Everyone but Austin. In my mind he's still the same as he was four and half years ago and it seems unnatural. As I watch others grow and mature, even my other two boys, Austin never ages. As memories are made with my friends and family, my Austin's memories will always be the same. There will never be any more or any less than the ones I had when he died at the age of 21.

I will hold tight to those beautiful memories and realize he is always with me, even when I feel as if I'm leaving something behind. Austin is missing, but his love is all around!

Austin looking at a photo album I gave him Christmas 2009 (the last Christmas he shared with us). He had several undeveloped rolls of film from a couple years priors (pre-digital camera days). I developed them and created a photo album for him. Every time I look at this picture I smile remembering that day. (His 16 year-old brother is now wearing the sweater he has on in this photo - which warms my heart every time I see him wearing it.)