In Memory of Marc and in Support of his Mother.

By: Jane

Mar 09 2011

Category: Grieving


My friend lost her child today. He must have died sometime this morning. She was already at work when they came to tell her. She will never be able to forget those first few moments when her life was changed forever.

If there is a pattern to grieving – and I think that there is – right now she may be staring into the air, trying to comprehend that she will never see her son again. Shock is a blessing in this case. It keeps you from being overwhelmed all at once with knowledge that could very well be the end of you.

You may know that I too have lost a son. Every Sunday Steve and I take fresh flowers to the cemetery and make sure that Mike’s grave is presentable. When it has snowed, Steve will often walk across the cemetery first and tell me, “Walk in my footsteps. It will make it easier.” I’m about seven and a half years ahead of my friend on this journey. I hope that in the coming weeks, months and years I can somehow say to her “Walk in my footsteps. It will make it easier.” Not better. Not painless. But maybe, I hope, just a tiny bit easier.

After I heard the rotten news, I felt compelled to go looking in my journals, to see where I’ve been and when I was there.

In the early days, God gave me many, many gifts to encourage me along the way. He answered questions for me, sometimes before I even asked them. For example, one day at the cemetery I asked Steve, “When I ask God to tell Mike that I love him, do you think that’s a prayer that gets answered?” His reply was, “I think that’s automatic.” The next day I was journaling my prayers, which I often do, because it helps me to concentrate. I asked God to tell Mike that I love him. I looked up momentarily from what I was doing, to see the VCR flashing “AUTO.” (As in automatic.) It took a moment for that little message to register, but when it did I immediately looked down to journal the experience. When I looked up again, the VCR clock said 8:24. A small gift from God, in my opinion, to assure me that my son is alright.

As time went on I was able to able to let reality in little by little, and to begin processing my loss. Following is a journal entry that I made on November 24, 2007, 4 years after Michael died. 4 years sounds like plenty of time to process a loss, doesn’t it? Apparently not….I was very angry at that time, and very lonely. Please understand, as I read it now, I know that I wasn’t thinking completely clearly. I couldn’t. Sometimes, like today, I still can’t.

“On Grieving. Nov. 24, 2007. It’s been 4 years.

My name is Jane. I am blessed to be the wife of Steve, and the mother of 3 boys, and 1 beautiful and loving daughter in law.

Stephen is married to Beth. He works for one of our State Universities. She is a counselor.

Ray is nearly finished with his education. After 4 years of active duty in the Marines he decided to become a Physicians Assistant, and he’s almost there.

Mike is dead.

That seems like a stark, cold, shocking statement. For me, though, writing it is very helpful. Maybe if
someone would read this who didn’t know and wasn’t expecting it, the momentary jolt they’d experience would give them insight into what it’s like to lose a child.

I realize as I write this that I am angry.

I’m angry at the whole world, who don’t know how to act or what to say, and therefore wish not to acknowledge that Mike ever existed, or that we’ve suffered a life changing loss in his death.

I’m angry at those who insist that I keep up the facade, socialize and never show anyone what my life is really like.

I’m angry at those who, even while they say ‘You never get over it,’ still expect me to.

I’m angry at those who think I should be the person that I was before October 4, 2003.

‘We wish we’d see more of you.’

‘I can’t connect with you anymore.’

‘Come on, why won’t you come to the party?’

Because I don’t want to, damn it!

Here I am, inside my glass box. I can see all of you, and you can see me. There’s even a little speaker system so we can hear the noises we make at each other. But I can’t get out, and you can’t get in.

I seriously doubt that I will ever again be the person I was before Mike died.

So, I am sorry to disappoint all of you who miss me, and wish things could revert to ‘normal.’ And I’m sure you’d be sorry to know how disappointed I am that no one is able to dispel this loneliness, or at least understand it.

‘She’ll get better.’

‘Uh huh. She’ll get better the way an amputee gets better. Healed, but not the same.’

Yeah. I’m pretty angry. ”

Even 4 years down the road, life was still pretty raw for me.

So, as my friend begins her journey down the same road, I want to remember to give her the time she needs to heal. If she needs me around, I’ll be there. If she needs to be alone, I’ll give her space. If she needs someone to understand how lonely it is, I will do my best. And I will never expect her to be the person she was, just this morning. She’ll be someone just as good. But different.

There’s more of this to come out of me. Sometimes, when I start writing, things come out of me that I didn’t even know where in there. But I can tell there’s still more.

I’m going to add to this blog a few things I’ve written in the past about grieving and posted on Face Book.
Please feel free to skip them if you’ve already read them. If you haven’t, please take a moment to read. I hope it will help you to understand what a confusing, lonely, “now-I’m alright-now-I’m-not” experience mourning is.

I know at least one person who understands. Thank you, Beth M, for taking a moment to share the sad news with me this afternoon, knowing that it would be hard to swallow.


I feel terrible.


19 comments on “In Memory of Marc and in Support of his Mother.”

  1. God bless you for sharing…I believe that I understand…
    Love you,

  2. I’m sure she will find comfort in your friendship. Love ya Jane!

  3. Jane, I would never want to compare what I’ve gone thru over the last few years to what you’ve been going through since Mike passed. But I know I have those days where I just sit there and cry out to God WHY, I just don’t get it, what am I supposed to be learning from this situation. And the only thing I’ve ever learned is that whatever I’ve gone thru will eventually help someone else down the road. Your friend is going to need you, and I know you will be there for her in whatever capacity that is. I’ll be praying for you…and for her.
    I consider it a blessing to have your family in my life 🙂

  4. I’ve sat here for 15 minutes trying to say just the right thing. It dawned on me that there just is no right thing to say. My heart aches for your friend, and for you. My heart aches for my cousin who’s son died suddenly at 21. I hope I’ve not expected her to be “herself” again. It will be 4 yrs in April.
    Janie, the VCR story did me in, but no more than your dear sweet husband telling you to walk in his footsteps in the snow…
    Love you so much!

  5. You know, Jules, I don’t think that grief or pain are comparable. I don’t think that one person’s grief can negate someone else’s, and what you’ve had to deal with in the last few years hurts. Period.

    You are right. If we are willing, the difficult things that we go through in life can be used to comfort or help the next person . And, they can also be used to reveal to us (to ourselves), who we really are…how we react when times are tough, who we trust, and how much. I always thought that I knew who I was. After the last several years, I realize that I’ve had no idea what’s at the core of me…it’s taken some smelting to get it out, and it hasn’t always been pretty. But the truth will set you free, and every day I’m a little freer. We may never understand it all, but if you’re patient you will get SOME answers.
    I consider it a blessing to have you as a part of my family.
    I don’t see you every day, and we all know how I am at communicating regularly, but I love you. We all do, Petunia. :0)
    Thank you for your continuous prayers. I keep you in mine, too.

  6. Jolee, now I’ve sat here for half an hour trying to respond with clarity. I read alot during the early days after Mike’s death trying to understand what I was going through and would be going through in the weeks and months ahead of me. A lot of what I read indicated that most people don’t know how to deal with grievers. At first I didn’t believe it…but I know it’s true, because even after having been a griever myself I still don’t really know how to deal with it in others. I know this..if you’ve loved your cousin and are still hanging in there with her after 4 years, even if you have expected her to “revert to normal”…THAT she will get over. That part of what I wrote was quoted from a journal entry in 2008. I’m 3 years out from that now, and I can see that some of those feelings were unreasonable and misplaced. On the other hand, I’m not the same…that’s not going to change.
    The other thing is that, every time I write about Mike or anything related to his death or someone else’s, I’m just writing about what I know. I once asked a friend who lost a brother if she’s ever afraid to talk about him, for fear that people don’t want her to. She said that the only thing that kept her from talking about him was that people often felt that they should respond in sympathy. She wasn’t looking for that…she just needs to talk about him. That’s where I’m at now. I just need to talk about him, and know that when I do, it’s ok.
    I hope that people who read what I’ve written understand that it’s not only ok to talk to others about their losses….it’s desirable. It’s part of who they are, and they need that to be alright.
    Lastly…what I wrote wasn’t really about me this time…it’s about my friend, and how all of us who know her can help hold her up while she’s healing.
    Does this make any sense at all?
    Love you lots, Mullerein! (Little Miller Maid.. I love you!)

  7. Hi, Janie. You have beautiful words. My heart hurts for Mark’s family. I can’t find the right words to say, but it seems like such a loss feels more devastating now. I always thought I “got it,” but now that I am a mother to my own beautiful boy, I see it just a little bit differently. It makes me realize that it might be unrealistic to expect someone to understand when they haven’t walked in those shoes or haven’t even been in the shoe store. Maybe part of learning to live as a new person means accepting others’ misunderstanding and misguided intentions.

    • I agree….and I’ve gotten better at that. Like I wrote to Jolee about 3 comments up,

      That part of what I wrote was quoted from a journal entry in 2008. I’m 3 years out from that now, and I can see that some of those feelings were unreasonable and misplaced. On the other hand, I’m not the same…that’s not going to change.

      And…I’ve been reading ahead….jump down to your next comment.

      • Sort of unrelated… I had no idea Mike’s death was so recent. If I had known, I would have reached out to you sooner. I’m still amazed at how quickly time passes. I would agree that you don’t get over it. You learn how to manage your feelings about it. Thinking about this makes me realize what a long road Mark’s family has ahead of them.

  8. And I suppose the other piece to that might be that we need to tell our friends that it’s okay to talk about. That we need to acknowledge our brother, son, or friend to feel normal.

  9. Speaking of the reply to Jolee’s comment 3 (now 4) comments up…you were the person that I asked if you were ever afraid to talk about your brother. Do you remember?
    I still am afraid to talk about Mike…because it makes other people uncomfortable, and because if I say his name once I’m afraid I’ll say it too many times. Sometimes I don’t even know what to say when someone asks me how many kids I have. There’s no way I can say 2, but I’m afraid of making them uncomfortable if I say 3 and then have to explain that only 2 are living.

    See? For some reason I have great difficulty talking about this in person, but not in writing.
    Thanks Beth, for listening and for talking back.

  10. I do remember. I didn’t delete your message because I like knowing that it’s there and that you can relate. I guess it’s easier said than done. I also feel uncomfortable with family questions. I usually say that I have 2 sisters and 2 brothers, then try to avoid any follow-up questions. Even though I want to tell people that I like talking about Gary, their sympathy and/or discomfort is pretty much inevitable. On top of that, the way that he died makes people feel even more uncomfortable. Our society has really opened up, but suicide isn’t an easy topic of discussion.

  11. Well, you can say anything you want to me, as many times as you want/need to say them.

  12. There are two reasons why people don’t talk about something; either it doesn’t mean anything to them, or it means everything.

  13. I can feel the pain through the computer.

  14. Well Charlie, let’s just say that I KNOW what you do for a living is desperately needed, and I’m praying that you’ll always be in exactly the right place at the right time. :0)

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