“Please Leave a Message.”

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On some days, I am well aware that I should not answer the phone because of how I am feeling. By that I mean, grieving, sad…thinking about the might-have-beens. Today I did not answer the phone but instead returned the call, thinking it may have been important.  

A friend called to ask how I was doing since she had not seen me at church yesterday. Of course, this friend is one of those who asks the question not really wanting to know the answer. It is this friend who has cut me off several times in mid sentence to change the subject if I begin to speak about my son and my great loss. It is not subtle but rather a “I am uncomfortable with YOUR grief” so therefore let’s change the subject and talk about what I really called to talk about…ME. This has happened often with this friend. She has even implied that I should be “moving on” in my grief. She has not suffered the loss of a child. She is in her 70’s and has only experienced that “expected death” of a parent. This friend has a seemingly good heart and does a lot to help other people but she is intolerant of my sadness. So I let the phone ring…and ring…and she left a message and even when I should not have returned her call…I did. For a moment, I thought it might be a time when I could share my pain and get some kind of encouragement or just an ear. I don’t expect people to have answers. I don’t expect them to be able to have the right words but sometimes their sympathetic ear or perhaps even their comforting voice will suffice. I feel very much alone when all seem to have “moved on” and no longer understand that my loss is for a lifetime. Every single day is just another day that emphasizes that loss and I am trying desperately to find peace, all the while, trying to remember my son in each new day without coming unglued. I think mothers who have lost a child take a while to find their footing. The undulating ground is always compromised by our grief. We may be standing tall and sure one moment to find the ground gives way in another.  All our tomorrows are of loss and the fear of more loss. It is the definitive aspect of this pain. 

When we who have suffered loss, and I will be specific here…loss to suicide, we are harmed in ways that not even the experienced griever can know. In fact, I have even hesitated to respond to other bloggers who have lost a child to another cause for fear that they may think that I have some nerve…when my child seemingly did not want to live and theirs did…but were taken anyway by accident or cancer.  A sad irony, I know. If they would only know that that is not the case with suicides.  Theirs was not a “choice” as has always been accepted in the past. They were forced into it through no will of their own but rather by disease, catastrophic events, etc…One only has to do a little research on the subject to discover the biological answers to this kind of death. 

I have always thought of myself as compassionate and caring. At least, that is how my heart wants to be. If I have ever cut anyone off in mid-sentence when they were sharing their deepest grief….it was purely unintentional. Who can know the intentions of the heart except God and self? 

I realize that I am the doorkeeper to my days…I will allow you in or I won’t. Except for grief…grief is the unwanted guest who came to stay. I really had no say in the matter of its unwelcome presence but then I must remember:  It is my “thorn in the flesh.”  ( 2 CORINTHIANS 12:7 *NIV ) I will guard what I can, knowing that God is truly the one who reigns over my heart and mind…even in my frailties. I can make it through only because: “THEREFORE I WILL BOAST ALL THE MORE GLADLY ABOUT MY WEAKNESS, SO THAT CHRIST’S POWER MAY REST ON ME. THAT IS WHY, FOR CHRIST’S SAKE, I DELIGHT IN WEAKNESSES, IN INSULTS, IN HARDSHIPS, IN PERSECUTIONS, IN DIFFICULTIES.   FOR WHEN I  AM WEAK, THEN I AM 
  STRONG.”  ( 2 CORINTHIANS 12:9-10 )

If my well-meaning friends (Friends of Job, I call them) call on a good day, maybe I will return the call…if they call on a bad day they can leave a message. Maybe I will trust my instincts.

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23 thoughts on ““Please Leave a Message.”

  1. I know so well, far to well, Yes the unwelcome guest. Why this December has been worse almost than before. She is not away at college, not coming back. Why now I have to force myself to go to her grave, when I used to could not stay away. This will indeed (my friend) be with us all the rest of the days of our lives.

    • I am so sad that you must endure this kind of pain and that this past December has been worse. I think that we will go up and down on these matters of our broken hearts…like going or not going to the grave. Both of know that our children are with the Lord and experiencing a peace we have yet to know. I do hope you have a support network where you are…even though, I write about one “friend”…I do have family and friends who do know my pain and are not pushy about where they think I ought to be along this path. I wish that for you dear friend! xo…dale

  2. I can relate to having “friends” that are so uncomfortable (seems more like “indifferent”, at times) they cause us “unintentional” pain. How is it, I wonder, that they can cut us off and not understand –if not painful–just how plain RUDE that is!

    And professionals can be just as bad…I was with my son awhile back, helping him get an evaluation from a psychiatrist-you would think he’d “get it”–He asked me for family history dynamics, etc. I told him I entered my second marriage shortly after losing my entire family-husband/son/daughter-instantly in a wreck. His response? NO RESPONSE! Quickly went on to the next question (unrelated) apparently so as not to have to risk spending a time-is-money second, to say something kind? and potentially “engage me” into more “discussion” about it.

    Enough time and experiences of some form of this indifference, has taken place with me (now 29 years) that it didn’t cause a meltdown emotionally. But I shudder to think what would (not “could”) have happened to me in the earlier, less hardened by the cold weather, time of early bereavement.

    I am glad you didn’t answer her call. Sounds like a one-sided, near toxic relationship. We need to safeguard ourselves–from ingestion of poison…!

    • Donna, I have also found that about physicians and even clergyman. Their hearts and minds have been hardened and are insensitive to such delicate matters. It is a sad commentary on just how human we all are. I have found the rare gem here and there but it is few and far between.

      To lose an entire family is unimaginable. God has to send special angels to attend to those who have to endure it. I remember the year before Brandon passed, I had a guest staying at our B&B who was there for a month while adjusting to a new job as high school coach in our town. He shared with me of his wife who had lost her son, her husband and father in a small aircraft crash. I remember feeling so sad for her and could not imagine her pain. Little did I know that I would lose my son in months to come. At another time, I had some guests who were in town because their son had died by suicide in jail. All these things stay in my mind and revisit from time to time. I don’t know how many times that I have shared your story with others and their response is always of compassion and disbelief. To lose a whole family is incredible but your emotional healing and your faith has been a testament to all those who have had the honor of knowing you. I am one. God bless you dear “soul” sister. xo

  3. Some people are insensitive and I am sorry she treated you the way she did. You have had a HUGE loss and only love and comfort from family and friends, and time will help you live with it easier. (Notice, I didn’t say “heal” because as a mother who has a son (also named Brandon) I know I could never “heal” but I could – with time and love – learn to live with it easier. I have been enjoying your slide show of Brandon and his sisters. He was a very handsome young man, your daughters are beautiful and you too are a very beautiful woman. I sincerely hope that the friends you meet her on WP and new friends in your community, that you will find that love and comfort that you need. I certainly will be here for you. God bless you.

    • Thank you Joy for your kind words. I am already blessed to have such caring responses.
      I agree with you that I have beautiful children. Each one is uniquely gifted and a treasure to me and my husband. You are right…healing is not a word that we can use while experiencing the death of a child. Thank you for being one of the WP community that is here for me. From one mother of Brandon to another mother of Brandon….God bless you, too.

      • My blog’s name is “Bleeding My Emotions” by Priceless Joy. I hope that helps. I have noticed that sometimes it is difficult to find someone’s blog on here. Let me know if you still have problems.

  4. We all grieve differently, and I cannot imagine the depth of your loss. I can relate to the insensitivity of people who do not understand grief or do not know how to respond to it. In the 1980s, when my parents died – an expected loss for any of us – after a couple of years, well meaning people told me that I “should be over it by now.” How can one possible “get over” living with someone, knowing someone, loving someone, being tied in so many ways to someone for over three decades within a few short years? Yes, we move forward, but the ties are always there. While I cannot be angry with those who don’t understand, who shy away from these strong emotions, I do wish they would stop and think about the effect their pulling away has on the person who is experiencing the grief.

    • Thank you, Susan. It has been my understanding that grief is as universal as love. We all have to experience it. My condolences for the loss of both your parents no matter how long it has been because as you say, we never “get over it.” I know that grief cannot be compared..that it is relative to the individual having to endure it. It would be nice if more people would be sensitive to anyone who is in any kind of emotional pain.

  5. My precious friend – hugs and gentle wishes to you. The Arabs have a wonderful saying of` “keeping trouble out” – if there is a sandstorm you should close your windows or else the interior of your home will be destroyed… You treated this person (who does not deserve the title “friend” as if she was a sandstorm. You kept her out!

    • Thank you Tersia, I think you have given me good advice. I will have to put up the walls that keep me safe….and close the windows, too. There are enough sandstorms in life as it is. We may not be able to prevent them but we can do things that keep us safe from them. I appreciate your sage advice and your hugs, too!

  6. It always astounds me when non-grief-stricken people try to sort of force grief-stricken people to get over it and move on. Why don’t they just shut up and listen? I think it is because they are frightened.

    • You are probably right, Julie. The person (Job’s Friend) that I know would think it is a lack of faith. Like Job’s friends, some friends are your worst enemies. xo

  7. Hey Dale – I know grief can’t be “measured,” but I think you have an added burden because your son took his life. For that, my heart goes out to you, my heart is with you. It makes me so sad to think anyone would do anything other than accept your grief. But for everyone who doesn’t, there’s many more who do. I know you’re alone with your grief, as I’m alone with mine; there’s that place no one can touch. But you’re not alone in spirit – I’m here, as are many others. Love and peace to you, my friend. Know how much and often I think of you.

    • Thank you Denise, for those tender and kind words. I am blessed that many here are so compassionate. Pain is our unbearable common denominator and many people know what it is like to lose someone they love. Thank you for being there, for not just me, but for others who tap into your blog. and also have shared their pain. I hope for peace for all of us. xo dale

  8. My Brother shot himself in the head in front of my Parents on Mother’s Day weekend 4 years ago. He was 20 years old. He died instantly. It was terrible. Life has never been the same. I have 3 children that were very close to him. He and I were 14 years apart. So my children were closer in age to him than I was. They all grew up together like siblings. My Mother is having such a hard time. Please give me advise on how to be there and the words to say to comfort her! I never know what to say to her!

    Thank you,
    Rachel

    • Rachel, I am so sorry to hear about your brother. This kind of death can destroy those left behind who must try to figure out the whys they may never have an answer to in this life. I know that each individual suicide can be caused by different catalysts but one thing for certain is there is underlying mental illness that is either diagnosed or not. I pray your parents will be able to find some peace in their family support and grief counselors. I wish I had the answer as to how to help your mother. I can only tell you what has helped me along the way. I still have very bad times that come in waves now…not as constant, thank God, as in the beginning. I believe it will be this way for as long as I live. It is very important to show your mother patience above all else. People are too quick to judge how long grief should last….for mothers…it is a lifetime. Our babies are gone….no matter how old they get to be…they are still our babies. Patience and love.

      My faith in God has strengthened all the while I have been angry and wonder why He allowed this to happen. No answers here. I just trust that I will be able to cope with His help. I hope this for you and for all your family, especially your children. My son died in front of his wife (who drove him insane) during an argument. Her nine year old daughter (my son’s step daughter) was upstairs. My son was very close to her and took care of her more than her own mother ever did. They had married when Natalie was only 17 mos. old. I call what happened to my son “a dark impulse” because it was a response to a situation that made him feel powerless and rejected. That on top of his depression and loss of a job. Please read the articles throughout my blog that lend hope to our loss and will also lead you to other resources for comfort and also some answers that may apply to your brother’s mental state. God bless you and your family.

      • Rachel, ( I forgot to add what to say to your mom) it may be that you need to tell your mother that you don’t know what to say to her. She will understand. This has not happened to her ever before nor to you so the reaction of helplessness around your mom is understood. Your presence and willingness to just listen is extremely important. She knows that you lost a sibling, too, but her inability to help you is another part of the grieving she will endure. One of the things that helps me, is to hear the good memories and stories about my son. I loved it when his co-workers and friends signed his obituary legacy page with how they remembered Brandon. They shared things that I had never known about him through their eyes. I hope this helps. I am here for you if you have other questions.

  9. I love this post.
    I’ve been blessed with several dear friends who are okay with me talking about Drey, how I feel, everything. As often as I want.
    And I too have experienced the awkwardness from several others. My Dad has no clue what to say to me. There are some friends who keep their distance too. The first time I went to my doctor after dreys death she said, “what have you done in the past when life’s been stressful?” I responded exactly how you’d expect… “You’re kidding me right?” Like my past stresses were anything even remotely close to my only child’s suicide?! Shopping, throwing myself into a new hobby and indulging in large amounts of cookie dough are not the techniques to help me right now. Ugh.
    Some people are blissfully ignorant to this depth of pain. And as a survivor I’ve found I must learn how to guard my heart (like by being careful when I answer the phone) and also to forebear (like with my Dad who loves me dearly but is incapable of talking in depth).
    Thank you for sharing.

    • Thank you, I, too, have some good people around me who know the depth of loss and know the pain and the joy of sharing. Doctors must be the worst….mine told me, “your son would not want you to be so sad” and that ” I should try to reduce the stress in my life”…I looked at her and laughed out loud. The gall! Aside from these types of people, I believe God does place people around us to help us through. I like how you said “forebear” your father’s inability to talk to you. Men, in general, seem to be the more helpless when it comes to comforting others in their grief. At least it has been my observation of other males and experience with my own husband who suffers in this loss, as well. I suppose we should not take it personally and so as you say..”forebear”…I like that word. Blessing to you.

  10. Sometimes we just want someone to share our burdens– to walk part of the way with us. I think about Galatians 6:2 where it says, “Carry each other’s burdens” (NIV) or “Share each other’s burdens” (NLT). It reminds me of Matthew 27:32, “Along the way, they came across a man named Simon, who was from Cyrene, and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross” (NLT). I have to mindful of that. God bless you.

    • Thank you for the encouragement of scripture, It has helped me tremendously when others have been with me through this grief, They may not know what to say but just having them with me has been a blessing. God bless you, too.

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