As we head towards Wednesday April 9th, I hope that you are planning to leave a light on Tuesday night in honour of Callum. We will have our house lights and Christmas lights on. Readers on P.E.I. know the story of the dad from North Rustico who lost his son in an ATV accident many years ago. Every year, he puts on a magnificent Christmas light display that gets bigger every year. Callum and Tristan and I got to see it several years in a row because they had hockey games in Rustico around Christmas. This dad said he wanted his son to be able to see their house from heaven. The dad also collected donations for Children’s Wish. So this is our mini-version of that light show. Let him see the lights of everyone who loves him and misses him.
I know that everyone is trying to figure out what to say to me or what to do this week as we approach the first anniversary. I don’t even know myself how to get through it. It feels as if a massive emotional storm is approaching and I just have to keep my head down and hold on tight to Tristan and Kai and Penny and my friends and just ride out the storm. Nothing is going to be any better on April 10th. Callum will still be gone. And he will have been gone for a year. I still wake up every day in disbelief that this is my life now. That’s still going to happen on April 10th. And on every day after that. This isn’t going to “go away”. The grief is never going to leave. My friends who are bereaved parents themselves say that the pain does start to ease….every so slightly at first. Yes, I have gone on for a year….put one foot in front of the other….gone through the motions of living. But my heart is still as broken today as it was on April 9th. Unless you’ve been through it, you can’t understand what it is like to think that you will not see your child….the person you have loved since the day he was born….you will never see him ever again.
To the people who think I’m magically going to be better now that one year has passed, please don’t make me feel as if I have somehow failed. I can’t just snap my fingers and be the person that I used to be. My world has been shattered. Everything that I believed in has been shattered. I can’t just pick myself up and dust myself off. My heart has been ripped in half. Those captions you see on Facebook that say “don’t put a timetable on grief”…they are right. Please stop asking me when I am going back to work. That I am still able to take care of my house and Tristan and Kai and Penny…and am trying to learn to teach yoga….that is all I can handle. My life has changed forever. I still struggle to get through the days without Callum. He was my rock. He was my son but also my friend. He and Tristan and I were a team. There is a massive hole in our lives. Rebuilding my faith in life is going to take a long, long time. Please be patient with me.
One of my friends sent me an article today written by a grieving mother: http://www.mamamia.com.au/parenting/ten-points-i-wish-every-person-knew-about-the-death-of-a-child/ It’s long, so I’d like to share some of her key points.
By SAMANTHA HAYWARD
The soul-destroying agony of your child dying is only truly known and understood by those who have endured it. Four years on, I still glance down at my daughter’s grave in disbelief. Visiting my child’s grave is surreal. It’s almost like I’ve vacated my body and I’m watching someone I don’t know standing there putting flowers down.
Is this really my life?
Whatever you imagine it might be like to have your child die, multiply that by about a trillion and you’re probably not even close.
On the surface it appears society is accepting of this unbearable sadness and people are supportive and open to talking about it. However, in my situation I’ve been surprised by people’s genuine kindness and empathy as much as I’ve been repeatedly shocked & disappointed by their lack of it. It’s necessary for bereaved parents to be able to talk and, most of all, be able to talk openly. I’ve found it’s the only thing which dispels the trauma.
Sure, friends and family have been supportive, but it’s proven to be the case with me that there is a mandate as for how long their unwavering support, patience, understanding, concern and empathy lasts. The truth is, the situation is so unbearably sad that it becomes incredibly emotionally draining on the other person.
The realization that they can’t fix your sadness sets in, the frustration builds because not even they can see an end in sight, then gradually it starts to impede on the happiness in their life. They haven’t lost their child so why should they spend all their time sad about yours?
I will, for the sake of all the other parents out there with empty arms, write ten things I wish people knew about the loss of a child. Maybe one of my ten points might make a difference to a bereaved parent’s life.
1. Four years on I get up every day with the exact same sadness I had the day Ella died. The only difference is I’m more skilled at hiding it and I’m much more used to the agony of my broken heart. The shock has somewhat lessened, but I do still find myself thinking I can’t believe this happened. I thought that only happened to other people. You asked how I was in the beginning yet you stopped, why? Where did you get the information on what week or month was good to stop asking?
2. Please don’t tell me that all you want is for me to be happy again. Nobody wants that more than I do, but it’s something that can only be achieved with time. On top of that, I have to find a new happiness. The happiness I once felt, that carefree feeling, will never return in its entirety. It also helps to have the patience and understanding from loved ones.
3. Please don’t say ‘I want the old Sam back!’ Or, I can see the old Sam coming back! Sam’s not coming back. This is who I am now. If you only knew the horror I witnessed and endured you would know it’s not humanly possible for me to ever be the same person again. Losing a child changes who you are. I’ve been told my eyes look haunted.
It’s a strange thing for someone to tell a grieving mother, but it’s true – I am haunted. My views on the world have changed, things that were once important are not now and vice versa. I feel as though you’re telling me two things here. Firstly you don’t like the person I am and, secondly if the old Sam’s not coming back I’m out of here. By the way there is nobody that misses the “old Sam” more than me!!! I’m mourning two deaths here; my daughter’s and my former self.
4. If you chose to acknowledge my daughter’s birthday or the anniversary of her death on the first year, it’s terribly gut wrenching when you didn’t bother to acknowledge the second or third or fourth. Do you think any subsequent birthday or anniversary is not as sad for me? It also says to me in very big neon lights that you’ve moved on and forgotten about my daughter.
5. Please stop with the continual comments about how lucky I am to have my other children particularly my daughter. Do I say this to you? Then why say it to me? I’ve buried my daughter do you seriously think I feel lucky?
10. Grieving for a child lasts until you see them again. It’s a lifetime. If you’re wondering how long your friend or family member might be grieving for, the answer is forever. Don’t rush them, don’t trivialize their sadness, don’t make them feel guilty for being sad and when they talk to you, open your ears and listen, really listen to what they’re telling you. It’s possible you’ll learn something. Don’t be so cruel as to give up on them remember it’s not about you it’s about them.
The bottom line is people are uncomfortable with the situation and I really don’t know why. My feelings tell me it is such an horrific thing that most people don’t want to know about it. Maybe they fear through knowing so much they might become obsessed with their own children dying. Parents worry enough about their children already. Do they really need the added worry about knowing how your child died?
What I have had to give emotionally to get through it has dwindled away all my mental strength – just like twenty cents pieces in a kid’s piggy bank.
I’m broke – not broken – I’m broke emotionally. I know all the energy I’ve needed over the last four years has not just been spent on my grief for Ella.
Back now to me and Callum. I’m not as angry as this mom. I know how hard my friends and family have tried to understand and support me. And I have had some incredible support from the bereaved parents I’ve met over the last year.
I just want everyone to understand the depth of the pain that I still feel. One year feels long. 365 days without him. I will never seem him again. Some days I have to suppress that thought because it’s too much to bear. Some days I say it over and over, as if to torture myself and try to build up my pain threshold. But then some little reminder of him creeps in through my armour and I’m back to where I started. A mother with a broken heart. Forever.
I hope this week that people will talk about Callum and share stories about him. Please let him know that he’s not forgotten. And that he was …and is….very loved.
Love you Call Call. xo Mom