Friday, May 8, 2015

Happy Birthday, Andy. Grieving you, still.

Today is Andy's Birthday. He would have been 31 years old.  I am missing him so much.  He died at the age of 19, eleven years ago. I used to grabbed my locket with Andy's picture in it. It had a lock of his hair tied with an orange ribbon - his favorite color. That was stolen from our home among many other items.  I mourned the loss of that locket.  It was a tangible connection to my son.  I have since realized that as I go to grab that part of my chest where the picture of Andy rested, my hand is now closer to my heart.  And that is where my son truly resides.  

I feel guilty having a life span that has tripled his. This earth would be such a better place with him being here, sharing his smile and saving animals. Sometimes I can get through the day, smiling when I think of him, and at other times, I can't catch my breath, like today. But I recover. That is part of the grieving process.

Grief is experienced differently by every one of us.  I never thought that I would survive the loss of a child.  It has changed my life forever.  The worst part of this journey was immediately after.  My husband and two older children huddled together in the family room and attempted to sleep that night.  I would doze off into a dreamland that still recognized my son as a beautiful, living, vibrant young man, saving animals and smiling to brighten my day.  When I awoke, the reality of his death came crushing down on me and I couldn't bear the pain.  I looked around at my family.  I knew that they, too, were suffering just as much.

Something unexplainable happened.  I felt a sense of strength that pulled me from that tear-stained couch.  I grabbed a piece of paper and pen and wrote his eulogy.  As I sat in the living room the next day, I sent up a prayer and thanked God for the "Footsteps in the Sand" experience that he was providing for me.  I promised Andy that we would go on.  I wanted to make my family whole again - just not my husband, Peter, and Molly, but my beautiful sisters and their families.  I would help his friends adjust to this tragedy and I would pledge my God-given talents to fighting drug and alcohol abuse among teens and young adults.

This journey has not been an easy one.  But I am writing this article to address grief during this month of Mental Health Awareness.

Allow your self to feel the shock, the pain, the grief, the anger, and the guilt.   Avoid the desire to withdrawal.  Know that these feeling and behaviors are more intense initially.  Accept support from others.  You might feel that no one understands what you are going through.  My sister-in-law lost her son to SIDS.  She organized the relatives that weekend into scrubbing down my kitchen.  It was a source of embarrassment for me as I was not the most immaculate housekeeper but it was also a source of catharsis. I had to laugh as I entered the kitchen and saw her recruits glance at me with a look of "save me".

I found that my spirituality was heightened that day and it, along with family support, has given me the strength to carry on.  However, I know that others are not as fortunate.

If grief evolves into a depression (see previous post devoted to this) please seek out a professional who can best provide you with the treatment you deserve.

I no longer look up at the sky and see dark clouds.  They always part for me to reveal the rainbow.  I know that its my Andy smiling down from heaven.  I miss you so much.  I will love you always.  Peace, my dear son.  Love, Mom