Missing our baby boy

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Friday, September 27, 2013

Passing the four year mark

I’m falling apart, I’m barely breathing.
With a broken heart that’s still beating…

Sunday marked four years since the passing of Brayden. It was also the first day of my new job. As soon as I saw the 22nd as opening day, my stomach sank. No time for grieving, which makes the pain worse and stretch longer than it needs to. Swallowing it is always hard, but life doesn’t care that you need to pull the covers over your head and grieve. So…off to work and smile I did. I may have cried on the way home, but that’s neither here nor there.

In the pain, there is healing;
In your name, I find meaning…

The guilt I feel is almost palatable. I did nothing to commemorate his birth and death and I hate that. I thought of him, but it didn’t feel like enough. What would be enough? I’m not sure. I’m so afraid that he’ll be forgotten, that his little life didn’t make the impact on the world as it did me.

Broken lights on the freeway
Left me here alone.
I may have lost my way now
I haven’t forgotten my way home…

Before I went to work on Sunday, I talked to my husband about it. He doesn’t like to discuss our loss, it’s a sadness and hurt that he can’t do anything about so it’s frustrating for him. He listened, held me and let me cry. I think that’s the first time that’s happened since Brayden passed. For the first time in a very long time, I didn’t feel so alone and I badly needed that connection to someone. He just let me cry. And…it felt good, so good to just cry and be held and to know that he knows that’s all that was needed. It was a beautiful, perfect moment. Short, but treasured.

And I am here still waiting,
Though I still have my doubts.
I am damaged at best
Like you’ve already figured out.

I will never stop grieving. I see that now. It doesn’t linger like it did, I don’t cry every day or dwell…but when September hits every year my heart squeezes because I know what’s coming. Right between my husbands birthday and my eldest’s birthday is the dreaded angelversary of my second son. Not a reason to celebrate, but to mourn. I’m okay with that, remembering isn’t a bad thing and it’s the only connection I feel like I have with him.

I’ll take it, sadness and all.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Being there...

A friend of mine announced her surprise pregnancy a few months ago. Surprise being the operative word, since she had her tubes tied last year. She's 37, her oldest just graduated high school and her youngest was set to start kindergarten in the fall. Surprise was an understatement. Once she got over the shock, excitement took over. A baby! Not planned, but wanted none-the-less!

After visiting the doctor and verifying her pregnancy, she got some terrifying news that no expecting mother wants to hear: blood tests showed her baby's chances of Trisomy at 1:12. They had ruled out Trisomy 21 with an ultrasound, but it didn't change the odds for 13 or 18.

She called me immediately. What does this mean? Is this bad? What should I do? I knew some, just from being in support groups for years, but not enough to share with her. What I knew of those odds is that they were not good. I did know of other mothers who had better odds who were still struck down by tragedy. I wrote a friend who knew more about it and didn't have much hope in the reply, she knew more than I did but the odds were still up in the air. Blood tests can only show so much and aren't exactly accurate but a good guideline of what could come.

She opted for an amnio for confirmation and waited almost two weeks for results, during which time we talked daily. I could hear her distancing herself from the situation and the pregnancy. She was upset, of course, and the wait caused a lot of anxiety and stress. I was stressed for her and honestly was deep down prepared for the worst. Of course, I never told her that. All I could do was listen and try to keep her thoughts positive as much as I could. Her age had a lot to do with the odds, as well as some high levels of aft, which could have had to do with her body as much as the baby's and the tests don't take that into consideration. All I could really say was that nothing was for certain, so just keep calm.

The doctor's office called her last Thursday with the news: her baby was fine. Levels were perfect, baby was healthy. She called me first :-) She was excited, but it was relief that I heard the most. She was free to bond with her pregnancy, something she had been holding back on as much as she could.

About an hour after I got off the phone with her, I found myself bawling my eyes out as I washed dishes in the kitchen. Just bawling. I didn't really understand it at first, why I was filled with grief and sorrow when I should have felt the relief that she did. I ran it all over in my mind...why am I crying? Why on earth am I sad right now? She just got the best news, so why am I not happy?

I was thinking about Brayden, not reliving the whole situation, but the precious moments I spent looking at his still face. The moment it all came together for me, my baby died and here he is. Why did that come to mind?

Because I just found out that my friend escaped having that exact moment, that's why. Because I was terrified that she'd become a member of this group that I belong to. Because she's a wonderful, bubbly, energetic person and that could all have been wiped away in an instant. Tragedy could have taken her joy in life. One call could have changed her forever.

I don't want her to be like me. I cried because she wasn't going to end up like me.

Not that I'm completely terrible, but I'm changed and not completely for the best. The part of me that feels empathy has all but died. Very few things upset me any more, just as very few things move me. I live in an emotional gray area, never completely swinging either way to joy or sadness. Just gray.

Not a way I want my friends to live.

I suppose I cried so hard because every day for two weeks I expected to get a call that wasn't favorable. I ran through my mind what to say, how I could help and what support groups I could turn her to. Suddenly, the need for that was gone and it's like the rug was swept out from under me. I had unnecessarily built myself up to help her in her grief, and when her anxiety turned to elation in an instant...well, I suppose I couldn't down-shift that fast. What I thought was shared grief turned into me reliving my loss alone. While I was tremendously happy for her, I couldn't help but cry for myself.

For my friend, she isn't welcome in this club of sorrow and sadness. The dues are too high and the membership grows daily.

I'm happy that she'll stay as she is, bubbly and optimistic, with one more little one on the way :-)

I'm happy she won't be like me.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Almost Four Years Later...

I've been thinking a lot about what my life is like now as I approach the four-year passing of my son. There's no way to sum it up in a few words. It's not better or worse, but it's not the life I was hoping to have. I think all loss mothers feel that way. I guess I should go into a little detail...this is a blog, after all.

It’s easy to get caught up in life and forget my lost son, and don’t judge me harshly, but I’m okay with that. I’m okay with moving on. I don’t hold on to my grief like some loss mothers do. To be perfectly honest, I feel sorry for those who are devastated to the point of a standstill with life. I’ve met those who are 10+ years out from their loss and grieve just as deeply as the day they lost their child.

I don’t want to be that.

In conversation with them, they’ll tell you about how their inability to move on has crippled their lives to a point. Marriages have fallen apart, bonds with living children were difficult to establish and keep…but it didn’t stop them from grieving for the child who was lost to them. They became so engrossed in their loss, hurt and anguish that they’ve let life slip by them because they can’t get past the pain.

I don’t mean to come off as insensitive or scornful to these women. We can’t help how we grieve…or can we? I purposely don’t surround myself with things that remind me of Brayden. His pictures are locked away, we have no shrines here, and his ashes are in a box in my room. I don’t listen to the sad play-list I have on iTunes (yes, it really is labeled ‘sad music’). I don’t talk about him much.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t have my days where I wish for what could have been. It doesn’t mean that I don’t hurt or don’t still grieve. I do. I will always have a piece of me that’s gone. I won’t ever forget, and that’s the thing about all of this…I don’t have to surround myself with reminders, I remember that day and that’s enough. I refuse to punish myself with constant sadness. I can’t change what happened, but I can change how it directs my life.

My grief won’t own me.

Part of this attitude that I have comes from seeing how my family was affected by our loss. My husband doesn’t talk about it because it’s ‘too sad’. My oldest (at the time almost 9, now almost 13) still cries at night occasionally over his brother. I feel like how I handle my grief will direct how they handle theirs. They’ve been hurt enough and I owe it to them to move on myself and give life a chance. If I lose myself in grieving over something I can’t change then they’ve not only lost a brother, but a wife and mother as well.

Time has healed me about as well as it can. I’m okay with that, too. I have often wondered if I had lost a daughter instead of a son, would things be different? What if I had a rainbow daughter and said goodbye to my chance for a son? Yes, that would have added on to the grieving. I’d like to think, though, that I would eventually come around to the point I’m at now, but I can’t say for sure how long that would have taken.

Life just sucks sometimes. Period. Understatement, I know, but true nonetheless. It helps to know I’m not alone, that there are other grieving mothers out there in all various stages of grief and no, I’m not alone. But this grieving mother is okay, for now.

I’m okay and I’m good with that.

Monday, April 30, 2012

For Brandon

This post is dedicated to my brother.

I’ve been absent these last few months, but the need to blog has been strong these last few weeks. There is so much comfort here, knowing I can express what I need to and not worry about burdening my husband or friends. I tell them that I’m fine, because we all know that’s what they want to hear during a time of grief. Today, I’m not fine.

My last blog was before Christmas. I remember when I wrote it, I was so full of happiness. Christmas was always a favorite holiday of mine for many reasons, but mostly because that was the one time of year my grandmother went out of her way to indulge in the ‘nonsense’ magic of the season for my brother and I. Presents from relatives far away magically were under the tree Christmas morning because Santa picked them up for us. Our family actually got along during this time. Everyone was happy.

I’ve felt that magic every year since, with the exception of that first holiday after we lost Brayden.

This last Christmas was beautiful. Maddox was entertained by the wrapping paper and abundance of empty boxes. Nicholas got what he asked Santa for, and I ate it up because I know in my heart this will be his last ‘Santa’ Christmas. I fixed an early dinner and we spent the rest of the night watching holiday movies together.

A day and a half later at 4 AM, a state trooper knocked on my door. He said it was regarding my brother, Brandon. My heart slammed in my chest and everything started going in slow motion. I just knew he had been in an accident on the icy roads…oh, my god, is he okay? The trooper said,

“Ma’am, I need you to sit down”

...and that’s when my heart stopped and I couldn’t breathe. They don’t ask you to sit down if your loved one is being transported to the hospital. They don’t take off their hats and guide you to the couch if there’s going to be hope in their words.

"I'm sorry. Your brother has died."

No. No, no, no, no, no. This isn't right, he can't be right. I don't think...what? What is he talking about? Brandon hasn't died...what is he talking about?

"...gun, it was self inflicted..."

Oh, My God.

I couldn’t even begin to process what he meant, all I could think was that he was wrong. My brother would never, never, never do that. Actually, I remember thinking are you sure? Even as I struggled to hear what he was telling me, I was absolutely certain there had been a mistake. Wrong address, or maybe another Brandon. My brother had everything going for him. He was happy, independent…everyone adored him. He was the guy everyone wanted to be like. He walked into parties and everyone would shout ‘Brandon!’ and raise their glasses. He was my little brother, and it was always just the two of us. He wouldn’t leave me like this.

But, he did. No explanation, no answers and no real idea as to why. For reasons only he knew, he decided that he was done with this life.

And it hurts so, incredibly bad.

It hurts to think that he was hurting in some way I didn’t know about. I wonder how long he suffered silently inside before the pain became unbearable. I wonder why he didn’t talk to someone…actually, I do know why. Brandon was the guy who cheered you up, not the guy who needed help or had problems of his own. He was the guy who pulled you out of the ditch at 3am. He always had a smile and a kind word for everyone. He always knew the right thing to say in any given situation (an ability I don’t have and was always in awe of).

The next few weeks were a blurry whirlwind of activity. Brandon owned rental property and it fell to me to deal with. His bank had immediately frozen his cards and accounts, and bills had to be paid. He was in the process of buying a house and his stuff had to be moved, papers had to be signed. I had to go through all of his things. I think I hated that part the most. It felt like I was violating his privacy. At the same time, I was grateful for the activity even though it was overwhelming. It kept me very, very busy.

I kept one of his stinky shirts that I swiped from his bathroom floor. It smells exactly like him, sweaty male and Axe body spray. I’ll wash it eventually, but not just yet.

In a lot of ways, this road feels oh-so familiar. The five stages of grief that got stuck on repeat were no surprise. The letting go of little things…I didn’t even want to take out his trash, because that was just more of him I wouldn’t ever get back. Triggers are fun. I didn't realize how many white F-350's there were until the one I always expected to see cruising around wasn't there any more.

Some things are different. It took longer for the reality to sink in, but when it finally did settle some of the grief abated almost immediately...almost. We just passed the four-month mark of his death and I’m just now able to think about him being gone without the onset of a panic attack grabbing me. For the first three months, my mind rejected the thought so violently that the mere reminder of him was an instant, sharp stab in my temple. I could feel my pulse pick up. Hysteria was just barely contained under the surface and I fought to keep it at bay. I could feel my mind overwhelmed and rejecting the truth. I would literally sit on my kitchen floor with my fists clenching the hair on my scalp, crying and trying to get a grip on my grief without screaming my lungs out like I wanted to. I came close to losing it a few times, but not until weeks and weeks after his death. I most definitely went through the same emotions with baby loss, but the depth of pain isn't really comparable. Losing Brayden almost destroyed me.

I never imagined living a life without my baby brother. Ever. He was the last of my family and my only sibling. It was always the two of us against the world. As adults, our lives took us different directions; me, a mother and wife, and him, the classic single working/partying guy. But he always came for family dinners and made time to spend with his nephews. It hurts to think that Maddox will never know how truly great his uncle was.

A close friend told me to take comfort remembering that our mother has waited a long time to see her baby boy on the other side. Even though that statement made me cry, I took no comfort in the thought; I’m still angry that he’s not here where he should be.

At this point, there is a peace that I have made. Even considering how he died, I don’t feel the natural order of life was violated like I did when Brayden passed. Brandon was an adult and it was his decision, so I don’t have the self-blame like I did with Brayden.

That being said, for the first time in my life, I do feel regret. With Brayden, there was guilt, self-blame, self-hate, unanswerable questions, and sadness deeper than anything I could have imagined…but no regret. With Brandon, there were things left unspoken, many things not dealt with and things he needed to hear. But, he’s gone and my chance to make amends will never come again. So, for the first time, I regret.

Of course, having my angry days isn't helping. Sometimes I'm so mad at him for not thinking, for not appreciating what he had or respecting what ramifications his decision would have on others. And then sometimes I remember what it's like to hurt so bad that seeing past the pain isn't even a thought or consideration, but finding an end to it is. Those are the days I hurt the most for him.

We held two services for him to accommodate the amount of people who wanted to pay their respects. As silly as it may sound, I am very proud that I made it through both services without crying. I was able to greet sobbing people, hug, receive and give condolences without shedding a tear. I did get a little choked up reading his eulogy, but I held it together. At that point, the numbness was still working in my favor and all I could think was that I wouldn’t embarrass my brother by turning into a sopping mess at his final goodbye. He would have appreciated that and so I put all of my effort into it.

My brother was a wonderful man. Truly one of the kindest, most selfless people you could ever run across. There wasn’t anyone who could say an unkind word about him. I miss him terribly. I miss him coming over and watching stupid movies with us. I miss laughing at the same things and realizing that no one else was laughing and then just laughing even harder. I miss him telling me I’m stupid and to think for once. I miss hanging up on him when he annoyed me. I miss competing for who could find the most random/funny youtube video. I miss his laugh and the stupid glasses that he wore when he forgot to get more contacts. So many things…I think that’s why it has been so hard to wrap my mind around him being gone. It's like he’s still very much alive in my mind.

We chose the name Brayden in honor of Brandon. I don’t think we ever told him that. Things happened so quickly when he was born and it took me so long to say his name out loud without breaking down…I’m positive we didn’t discuss it. Regret. I would have liked for my brother to have known that.

It’s strange to think that they’re both gone now.

Robert Brandon Krebs
May 26, 1982 – December 26th, 2011
Beloved brother, uncle and friend.
Remembered forever, missed always.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A poem

This poem was something that I connected with from day one. Re-reading it again, it still speaks to me. This is a sister post to my last one, since I think this poem says it better than I ever could.

As I look up to the skies above,
The stars stretch endlessly--
But somehow all those rays of light
Seem dimmer now to me.
As I watch the morning sun appear,
The shadows still don't fade—
As if the brightest light of all
Was somehow swept away.

Though I see the branches swaying,
And watch their dancing leaves--
The echoes carried on the wind
Don't sound the same to me.
As I listen to the morning birds
Sing softly from afar--
It seems to be a mournful tune
That echoes in my heart.

Another day has come again,
As time moves surely on--
But nothing now seems quite the same,
To know that he is gone.
The days and weeks and months ahead
Will never be the same--
Because a treasure beyond words
Can never be replaced.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Old joy, new joy

A fellow blogger brought up a good question today:

Should I still feel so numb to things that used to bring me so much joy?

I think I’m safe in saying we all have a degree of numbness still with us, actively effecting at least one part of our lives. All of us. For her, the question regarded the holidays, which she (prior to her loss) had always loved.

I have always loved Christmas time as well. It’s always been my favorite holiday. I shop months in advance and put up my tree the day after turkey day. I love the lights, the sounds, the smells and the fact that everyone seems in an all-around nicer mood.

That first Christmas after our loss was the worst, of course. My nerves were shot. I took the tree down the day after Christmas and felt huge relief at not having to look at it for one more second. Last year was better and, so far, so is this year. I'd say my holiday spirit is back. I’m so relieved to say that. Some of my joy has come back, and it’s joy I can share with my family.

However, everyone is different.

What I haven't gotten back is my appreciation for everyday beauty. I used to stop and look at sunsets, admire the mountains and be constantly humbled and in awe at how tiny it all made me feel.

There is a place less than 30 minutes from here where we pick berries every fall. There is literally nothing there but a valley rimmed with mountains and beautiful land that stretches farther than you can see. I used to go every year to pick berries, enjoy the beauty and sunshine, let my mind be free and to quietly absorb my surroundings.

Now it’s not like that for me anymore. I go there and the silence grates on my nerves. I don’t see stretches of valley coated in grass, flowers and low bushes of all colors. I see flat land filled with plant life that will turn brown and die soon. The mountains aren’t majestic, they’re just mountains and really not all that impressive.

It’s not just my favorite haunts that have been tainted. Beautiful skies, rain streaming down a window and quiet winter mornings do nothing for me anymore. All of those little moments I used to fill up with beautiful things suddenly mean nothing to me because they don't seem beautiful anymore.

I hoped it would come back. I told myself the joy I had before would come back. Two years later, it has not. And just tonight I am realizing something.

I think that part of me may have died. Forever.

Somehow my heart knows that it’s gone. Just gone. Not even a shadow of that part of who I was remains inside me. And that’s really sad to me. Here I sat telling myself I will heal eventually and get some of my old self back…and it’s not gonna happen. I feel that deep down to my bones to be the truth

So that caused me to ask myself, How could this happen?

We all know that we aren’t the same people after we’ve experienced the kind of loss that we have. We’re changed and have to get to know ourselves again (imagine my surprise to still be learning things about myself two years later!). It makes sense to me that what brought us happiness before just might not do the trick now. I’m not sure if it’s targeted by what means the most to us, what we found the most comfort in, our happy place or what. But I think we can all expect our joys in life to be affected. We’re seeing everything through new eyes.

Here's what I've learned - the new part of me appreciates a good cup of coffee, early mornings to myself and short lines at the grocery store. Literal things. I’m grateful for the things I have in my hands, not the whimsical I see in my mind. I don’t see Brayden as an angel over me, I don’t see fluffy clouds and think of Heaven and I don’t always think of him when I see butterflies. The old me absolutely would have. It’s a little sad, but that’s just the way it is. I guess it’s a good thing my empathy is also pretty much gone, otherwise I’d feel a little sorry for myself because I know how all that sounds.

Maybe, with more time, I’ll regain some of this back. Maybe I won’t. If not, I’ll focus on what does bring me happiness and hold on tight. The truth is, there’s no better time to be happy than right now, at this very moment.

Nature’s beauty doesn’t work for me anymore. Fine. I’ll work with what does. I’ll find what does and explore that more. I'm going to let go of what I think or expect will bring me joy and open myself to new avenues of happiness.

For my friend, and anyone else who is struggling to find joy this holiday, my heart goes out to you. I wish I could be more insightful. I wish I could share some of the Christmas excitement I have with you. I wish we weren’t in this club…but at the same time, I’m glad I have friends like you in my life.

Work like you don't need money,
Love like you've never been hurt,
And dance like no one's watching.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Screw the title...I gots nuthin'

I’ve grieved so hard for so long, I can’t remember what life was like without it by my side. To stay up late, like I am now, and just cry because the hurt you feel (and hide) takes over. It’s my companion, my crutch and my only connection to my little man who isn’t with me. How bittersweet, to have a connection that slowly sucks the life out of you like that.

Forgetting someone you love is like trying to remember someone you’ve never met. The pain associated with those memories is a small price to pay to have them close in your thoughts. Sometimes I welcome the pain, because it’s better to feel something than nothing at all.

I won’t ever have a day where I think of Brayden and don’t cry. I won’t look back and smile at what we had. We had one tragic day. One horrible, inconceivable, wish-it-didn’t-happen day. It sucks. And I know that no matter how hard I cry or how drained I feel after, I will have more days like this. More time between days, but still more days.

I had a son, and he died. I can’t get through that sentence out loud. Sometimes I can’t say his name without breaking down. Usually I can’t say his name without breaking down.

I’m not sure what’s wrong with me at this point. I’m missing my little man so much right now. This time of year is when everyone states what they’re grateful for, and I, selfishly, don’t feel very grateful. Resentful, painful, awful, remorseful…a lot of ‘ful’, but grateful isn’t there. It should be. But, it’s not. I’m angry and have nowhere for it to go.

I feel like kicking something small and fuzzy and adorable. Too bad we’re short on mystical woodland creatures up here.