It’s so easy to name what’s killing us and we mention it all the time…My back is killing me, this job is killing me, these kids are killing me right now and so on. We don’t typically bring up in conversation what’s saving our life right now. This topic intrigued me when I heard on a podcast episode recently and it made me reflect on what is helping me survive my sorrow.
It goes without saying that my husband, daughters, extended family and friends are saving my life on the daily, so they are not mentioned in this list. Just by being alive, showing up, supporting and loving me, they give me reason to get out of bed every morning.
1,000 Days A Bereaved Mother: What’s Saving My Life Right Now?
Mother’s Day, 2022, was the 1,000th day since Caleb died. Knowing that it’s been 1,000 days since I’ve seen my son makes my stomach turn, my heart drop and quite honestly, just makes me want to go to sleep and never wake up again. What is the fuel that gets me through each day? Focusing and reflecting on God’s mercy, goodness, grace and how he has honored his promise of being close to my broken heart and saving my crushed spirit. The evidence of God’s faithfulness and how he has shown up and carried me since that devastating day is not only saving me, it is restoring me.
The only people that get me, really get me anymore, are other grieving parents. Because of our unwanted understanding of each other’s grief, pain and loss, we can speak freely, frankly, honestly and without judgment when we share our thoughts, experiences, emotions and struggles that come after the death of a child. To my dismay, I am not the same person I was when I woke up on the morning of Monday, August 12, 2019. I woke up as Caleb’s mom and went to bed with no physical Caleb to mother anymore. I’ve had to reflect on who I am and lean lightly into my new identity as a bereaved mother. My interests, goals, how I spend my time and even pieces of my personality are all different as a result of my life altering loss. On a weekly basis, I listen to podcast shows where bereaved parents share about their children, their stories of loss and how living through it. They give me courage, they remind me that I’m not alone and they give me hope that surviving this pain is possible. I take a lesson and nuggets of advice away from every parent that I hear from, or meet. Their existence in my life will continue to save it.
They’re pretty and they make me happy, especially the orange, white and red ones! Tulips are my favorite but I love Lillies, Sunflowers and Roses, too. I connect flowers to a positive emotional environment and they definitely make me smile.
I work in the office of an elementary school, so I was very nervous about going back to work knowing I’d have to face and talk to people all day long. I had many worries such as, they will judge me knowing my son died by suicide, they won’t know what to say so they won’t talk to me anymore, they’ll say something stupid and make me mad, they’ll say something that triggers me and make me anxious, and they’ll be weird if I want to talk about Caleb. Going back to work was a difficult transition, but my co-workers were, and still are, incredibly supportive. Several instances of what I mentioned above have happened, but I have found ways to manage those moments well and press on with my day. Knowing that I need to get up and show up to work 5 days a week, is helping save my life right now.
I used to really enjoyed reading historical fiction, but now all I read are books related to grief, child loss, Heaven and learning to live well through pain and suffering. I’m currently reading ‘All Things New’ by John Eldridge and have ‘Prayer in the Night’ by Tish Harrison Warren to read next. The books I finished recently are “No Cure for Being Human (and other truths I need to hear)” and “Everything Happens for a Reason (and other lies I’ve loved)” by Kate Bowler. Some days what I’ve read in books is, quite literally, saving my life right now.
My Hot Tub
This is probably a silly one, but it’s true! A few months ago we purchased a hot tub and I am in love with it! I so look forward to the sun going down so I can sit in it, relax and get a massage all while looking at the stars and just being in a state of calm. Even if only for a short while every couple of days, it’s saving me right now.
Mindfulness & Medication
You get a two-for-one because, for me, these are working hand in hand. A practice I have learned and can’t live without is mindfulness. Until my counselor brought it up to me one day I had never heard of it. She explained what it is and how it could be a helpful tool in coping with PTSD. Learning how to ground myself, focus on my breath, calm my thoughts and just be in the moment took practice, but I noticed quickly that it really was helping me. When thoughts of Caleb’s death try to hijack me in the middle of the day, this practice helps me find my breath and bring me back to the moment. I do take anti-anxiety medications to manage my day, and to help me sleep. Of course I would rather not take them, but I need them and I’m not ashamed of it anymore. There are days that I have not had them due to running out or because I forgot to take them and I was not able to manage my anxiety well at all. I am not yet mentally strong enough to face my days and nights without them. I am using mindfulness and medication to help manage my anxiety and PTSD, which is definitely saving my life right now.
This website not only gives me a place to share my story, share about Caleb and write about how I’m living with grief after his death, it’s my way helping other bereaved parents feel less alone. I also write with a hope in my heart that Caleb and I are encouraging parents to begin open-ended conversations with their children about suicide and what to do when self-harming thoughts come up in their minds. If what I write about can be a ray of light in another parent’s darkness or it gets them talking to their kids about suicide awareness and prevention, then this website is serving its purpose well. The logo explained: the life preserver represents Caleb’s job as a Lifeguard and also, suicide prevention. The water is rough looking to represent how difficult this grief journey is. The Eagle represents Caleb’s high school mascot and is also a symbol of inspiration for me to share my grief journey with the world. Having this outlet in one of the ways I’m working out my grief and it is absolutely saving my life right now.
The Caleb Cares Project
I was not done being Caleb’s mom when he left me on August 12, 2019. This nonprofit organization is my heart work since losing him. It gives me an avenue to keep Caleb’s heart, light and legacy alive by showing love and meeting needs for the under-resourced children, youth and families in our community. When a project is completed or an event is over, I feel Caleb’s presence with me so much so that it’s as if I had just spent time with him. The logo explained: The orange hands represent Caleb’s hands and his love for all things orange in Tennessee (I.e. UT Vols). The red heart represents Caleb’s heart. Together the hands and the heart represents, that through us and through the organization, Caleb’s hands are still giving and his heart is still showing love. The Caleb Cares Project is my beauty in the brokenness, it gives purpose to my pain, and it is a big part of what’s saving my life right now.
The Outdoors and Traveling
Exploring and adventuring are good for my heart and mind! From a simple walk in my neighborhood or local park to taking a day trip or long trip to a place I’ve not yet been helps refresh my mind and spirit. Sometimes a change of scenery makes all the difference in how I take the next step forward on this path I didn’t choose.
Check out my inspiration for this post: