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Topics - barb0617

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Child Loss / A msg from 2002
« on: September 27, 2016, 07:15:51 AM »
I was just putting together a folder of readings for a cousin who has lost her son to an overdose.  This one was so powerful when I found it so many years ago and I thought it might be good to post it here today.
The Agony of the Loss of a Child
The loss of a child is a tidal wave that overtakes you, smashes down upon you with unimaginable force, sweeps you up into its darkness, where you tumble and crash against unidentifiable surfaces, only to be thrown out onto an unknown beach, bruised, reshaped.  The loss of a child means not being able to read more than two sentences at a time.  It is walking into rooms with intention that suddenly vanishes.  The loss of a child is three o'clock in the morning sweats and shakes that won't stop.  It is dreadful Sundays, and Mondays that are no better.  It makes you look for a face in the crowd, knowing full well that the face we want to see cannot be found in that crowd.  The loss of a child is utter aloneness that razes the rational mind and makes room for the phantasmagoric.  It makes you suddenly get up and leave in the middle of a meeting, without saying a word.  The loss of a child makes what others think of you moot.  It shears away the masks of normal life and forces brutal honesty out of your mouth before propriety can stop you.  It shoves away family, scares away so-called friends, and rewrites address books for you.  The loss of a child makes you laugh at people who cry over spilled milk, right to their faces.  It tells the world that you are untouchable at the very moment when touch is the only contact that might reach you.  It makes lepers out of upstanding citizens.  The loss of a child discriminates against no one.  It kills. Maims. And cripples.  It is the ashes from which the phoenix rises, and the mettle of rebirth.  It returns life to the living dead.  It teaches that there is nothing absolutely true or untrue.  It assures the living that we know nothing for certain.  It humbles.  It shrouds.  It blackens.  It enlightens. 

Author unknown

Child Loss / Another anniversary
« on: April 01, 2014, 04:12:18 PM »
So tomorrow marks the 15th anniversary of that knock on the door at 3:30 in the morning, the news that changed our lives forever.  My Colleen was 15 at the time.  The first thing she said was Mom - nothing's ever gonna be the same, is it. I don't think I answered her question. I took charge, did what had to get done. Not sure how or where the strength came from. Then after the funeral my friend who had lost her husband to cancer at 47 wrote: you think the worst is over, but the worst is just beginning. She was so right. Got through the first year. Got through the 1st anniversary. Then I realized: after surviving all those days of that first year without him, I had to learn to live my life, the rest of my life, without my son.  As a family we've done a miraculous job learning to live as we know our Jimmy wants us to live. We suffer together.  We rejoice together. We try to glue together the million pieces of our broken hearts. We survive. We live.
Barb mom of Jim (1999) Tom (2007) and 2 surviving daughters

Child Loss / So I'm wondering
« on: March 04, 2014, 05:41:14 PM »
Where do the bereaved parents go for 24 hour anytime support? I so suffered for so long, and this place is where I learned that I might be able to survive the loss of my beloved son. And then, 8 years later - still more support when my surviving son died by suicide. Next month - the 15th anniversary of my Jimmy's fatal car accident. First I simply survived. I kept breathing. Later I learned to do more than survive - I learned to live in a way that honored my son.  And later, my sons. So who is here? Who visits quietly, looking for strength, survival?

Child Loss / So another year has gone by
« on: March 29, 2013, 07:15:48 PM »
I sang with the choir at church tonight, as usual for Good Friday.  Actually, not really as usual. For years I did, but then, for years I just couldn't. Fourteen years ago the Good Friday service at my church was special: the teens of the parish, including my youngest, the fourth of my four kids, did a special service from the point of view of Mary, mother of Jesus, according to the beliefs of my faith.  My choir sang, and I was so proud of my Colleen and her friends who did the narration. She and her friends went out for ice cream after; the rest of the family went home.  Son Jimmy called that night from Greenville, North Carolina, where he was a junior in college. He talked to everyone, and the last thing he said to me was, I love you Mom. Three-thirty in the morning we woke to the sound of a banging at the door. I had earlier told Deb (our 18-year-old daughter, a college freshman out of state, home for Easter) to stay home - "It's Good Friday!" I figured she'd gone out without her keys. My husband went to the front door. Debbie, in her pajamas, came into my room and told me to go downstairs. At the door were our deacon and two cops.  "Tommy?" Our first-born son had recently returned to college after a semester off, bi-polar, his mood swings had had us in constant worry.

No, they said, Jimmy- he's had an accident. "Where is he?" "He's gone - ejected from the vehicle." My youngest, 15, said, "Mom, nothing will ever be the same, will it?" Truer words were never spoken.  And there was a lot of awful horrible. The worst was 8 years later when Jim's brother Tom exhausted his ability to live without his little brother and ended his life.
So tonight I'm sad. I miss my son. I miss my sons. I miss the life I'd planned when I had my four kids. I figured I'd have at least a dozen grand kids by now. But I am so very grateful for my blessings. My surviving daughters. My little grandson and granddaughter who live around the corner. My son-in-law who loves living just around the corner from us.
I have suffered greatly. And tonight, this anniversary, I miss my son Jimmy terribly. But - I pushed through the worst of the worst, and came through to the light on the other side of the suffering. I guess that's my message in the midst of this 14th anniversary sorrow. It's horrible, child-loss. But when we push through and beyond there can be another state of being, not quite what we'd planned, actually not at all what we'd planned - but still a positive place.

Child Loss / Finally did it
« on: January 14, 2012, 05:00:12 PM »
I lost my 21-year-old Jim in a car accident in 1999.  My Tom ended his 11 year struggle with bipolar disorder eight years later in 2007 at the age of 31.  Since then, boxes of his things from his work have been in the middle of our basement.  Surrounded by lots of other things.  And I like to be orderly but you'd never know it seeing the state of my basement. With all the funeral cards and those big leather-bound things, perpetual prayer stuff.  I'd pass by on my way to the washing machine, look at it and say - I have to deal with this.  No, I can't - I'm in a good mood, and I know what it will do to me if I start to go through all the details of his life.  And I didn't want my husband to have to go there - he's the one who  found him, in his apartment,  and settled all the legal details.  Well, I couldn't put the Christmas stuff away with all that chaos in the basement.  So I did it.  I sorted out the stuff that showed all the beauty of his life, the kindness of his life, so his sisters will be able to find it one day.  It was his birthday on Wed.  The 5th anniversary next month.  I'm glad I could face it and do it.  Love you Tom!
Barb - Mother of Jim and Tom and two great daughters

Child Loss / What's a happy holiday memory for you?
« on: December 22, 2007, 01:02:50 PM »
Someone did this a while back.  in a separate post I just wrote about Cherry Mismas.  Here's a Jimmy memory.  He was a late talker.  He also never needed or wanted much.  The Christmas he was 2, we'd ask him what he wanted and all he wanted was a candy cane - he would say "Key cane!  Key cane!."  So of course his stocking had one of thos big peppermint sticks popping out of the top.  Well, that was it for presents for Jim that Christmas morning.  He had his "key cane," started licking it, and refused to even look at anything else! 
How about you?  What story brings a smile to your face?
Barb, Mom of Jim (1999) and Tom (2007) and two beautiful daughters

Child Loss / Christmas shopping mood swings
« on: December 22, 2007, 12:54:30 PM »
Hi All - Yesterday I decided I was ready to handle starting ( yes - I know it's 12/22...) some Christmas shopping.  One good thing about the present state of my life is that no one anywhere expects anything of me, so anything i'm able to put together is unexpected and especially appreciated.  All that pressure and stress of creating the perfect Christmas - not that i ever completely succeeded in the olden days of yore - well, i sure don't feel those pressures anymore.  So my daughters 27 and 24 - the younger moved home in July - were supposed to meet me for girls' night:  shopping at the mall , dinner, more shopping.  I rushed home from work and learned that they were out for a drink and conversation with Debbie's colleagues.  By the time they got home 2 1/2 hours after me I was like a deflated balloon, my strength and energy done for the day.  I had bolstered myself up to try to have a good time with them, but the delay did me in.  We went, had dinner, split up for some shopping, and i just wandered around leaking tears.  No shopping.  Still, I wasn't mad at them - i was just happy that they'd had some respite from their own grief.  Tomorrow a couple of Jimmy's fraternity brothers will visit for a while.  Those guys and their wives are so great to us - they're driving quite a distance from out of state to spend some time here.  And now each couple has a little baby, so it will be a happy time.  Fraternities get such bad press but it's nearly nine years since Jim was killed in the car accident (he was alone in the car, fell asleep at the wheel), but so many of his fraternity brothers are still very present in our lives.  Anyway, with company coming in tomorrow, I knew I had to get my act together today, now or never, and guess what - I did!  I actually got into it!  My Tom, when he was manic, liked to play with words and would greet everyone with "Cherry Mismas."  So I went to a kiosk and got ornaments personalized with Cherry Mismas.  Expensive but worth it.   The lady said, there must be a story to this, tell me.  I declined: umm, no, that's a story you don't want to hear.  She asked again, and I was proud of myself that I didn't tell her that Tommy's not around any more to say Cherry Mismas.   There's that piece inside me that wants to make others share my suffering.  And then there's the kind piece that says no, don't ruin her day.  I never know which one will prevail, and I'm pretty happy with myself that I was able to leave her smiling not reeling.  Then - I went to TJ Maxx and found a three foot mini skinny tree decorated with cherries!  I think they're really oversized cranberries, but it's close enough to me.  And then I found a wreath with the words "let's be jolly" so I bought that too.  The first Christmas without Jimmy I bought in a crafter's store a wooden wall hanging that said "No Pouting Zone."    You know, in the middle of this surprisingly productive shopping trip this morning, I thought to myself - what if something happened to one of us in the next year?  What kind of memories would we/they have of this Christmas?  I really don't mean that in a morbid fearful way, but as a means of strengthening and empowering.  After Jimmy died I wasn't much of a mother to my youngest who was only 15.  I know I did the best I could,  but I also know that for a while there, my best was not enough for her.  I remember that I read a post from a young woman who had lost a sibling years before.  She wrote to say that she never got her parents back after that.  She said she was writing to give a surviving sibling's point of view and hoped we would try to be present to our surviving children if we were blessed enough to have other children.  I remember that her words hit me hard and helped me to push myself a little harder along this journey we all share.   I've been walking the walk for nearly nine years and then went back to square one when Tommy ended his life in February.  I know full well that 10 minutes from now something could set me off and smash me down flat of my face sobbing again.  I'm grateful that this morning I had a few hours filled with happy moments.  I hope that you, my companions on the road, will be able to find a few moments of relief over the next week or so.  I'm glad we have each other.
Barb, mom of Jim (9/8/77-4/2/99) and Tom (1/11/76-2/16/07) and two beautiful daughters

Child Loss / Feeling better
« on: December 20, 2007, 07:49:03 PM »
It's hard to remember this when you're battered down into that black hole of child grief - that the moment passes.  I think that's what has sustained me - staying in the moment, getting through a day, an hour, a minute at a time, knowing that the worst will pass and i'll have a few ordinary moments.  I am so grateful to have all of you to turn to for support.  Thank you for your kind words. 
Barb, mom to Jim (4/2/99), Tom (2/16/07), Deb and Coll

Child Loss / The Christmas letter I can't send - triggers
« on: December 19, 2007, 05:31:19 PM »
I know whoever reads this will understand, and I just have to express it in a place that I know is safe. 
It's not an easy read.
It's great hearing all the good news about your family.  Sorry it's been a while since I've been in touch.  After losing our beloved Jim in a car accident at the age of 21 - April 2, 1999, 3 1/2 years after his older brother Tom began his fight against bipolar disease - it's been pretty hard to celebrate the holiday.  With enormous effort to live and not just survive without Jimmy, we put our lives back together as best as we could.  Then my parents began to fail - mom with a heart attack and stroke that destroyed her former brilliant mind - she'd been a Mensa member and after the stroke couldn't remember that her favorite grandchild had died (a blessing, I suppose).  We finally placed her in a nursing home so that my dad, her caregiver, could survive, and then learned that dad had Alzheimer's.  We lost mom in January 2006 and dad 6 months later to the day.  They'd been married 60 years, and we were amazed that he was able to survive that long without her.  I told my husband even before dad's funeral that I refused to do Christmas that year - it had never been right after we lost Jimmy, though, ever the mom, I did my best to make it nice for the family.  Bill was taking early retirement at the end of December - he'd worked for his company for 30 years - so he didn't have to worry about vacation days.  So we went on a cruise out of Florida for Christmas last year.  Daughter Colleen flew in from California - she'd been working there since April - and it was so much fun all together:  my husband and me, our firstborn son, Tom, daughter Debbie and her fiance Kyle, and Colleen.  I led the singing for midnight Mass on the ship.  I knew that my parents, who loved to travel and so loved their kids and grandkids, would be happy that we were traveling and celebrating together.  Cozumel was the best.  Tom, an accountant, booked an ATV excursion for his sisters and Kyle - his treat.  Afterwards we all met up for wild and crazy times at Carlos and Charlie's and Senior Frog's.  The only thing that would have made it better would have been for Jimmy to be there.  We know he was there with us in spirit, but we just couldn't see him and hug him.  Tom was in a manic phase all through that vacation, but not too bad.  We were family, and that was good.  Shortly after we returned, Tom experienced yet another loss - a friend died - an accidental overdose - and the loss threw him into a depression - rare in his 11 year battle with his illness.  Mostly he was manic and then stable.  He had a doctor and meds but preferred not to take them.  He was very bright and a perfectionist and really couldn't accept the reality of his illness.  He concealed from us how profoundly he was suffering.  We thought it was just another depressive bout that we would love him through.  Mid-February we were all together for my husband's big retirement dinner - except Colleen.  She sent a DVD with her message of regret and congratulations to her dad.  After all, we'd just been all together, and another trip to the East coast would have been expensive.  Two days later we grew concerned because Tom wasn't answering his cell phone.  Bill drove to Tom's office and didn't see his car.  He went to the apartment and then saw Tom's car still covered with the snow that had fallen the day after the retirement party.  He called the police who went to the office to learn that Tom had not been at work since the day of the retirement party.  They broke into the apartment and found that Tom had chosen to end his battle with depression.   I'm grateful that the way he did it, he suffer any violence or pain.
In June I did a 20 mile overnight fundraising walk in Manhattan for American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.  I carried the pictures of two children from my online bereavement site, Corey and Donnie.  It's the site that allowed me to survive after the loss of my Jimmy.  When I would wake up in the middle of the night, unable to sleep, I could go online and seek comfort from those who understood what it was to lose a child.  I would never have survived without the love and support of the only ones who can truly understand what it is to lose a child.
I can honestly say that I am happy that those of you who send me cheerful messages will never know what it is to face life without a beloved child.  Ever since I lost my Jimmy, on April 2, 1999, I prayed that no other parent should ever know this sorrow.  And now here I am - facing the first Christmas without not one but two sons.  I will survive.  I know that.  For nearly 9 years, I've been developing the skills of surviving the death of a son.  Still - please pray for me.  Pray that as his mother, I will be able to rejoice that my Tom is finally happy with his brother.

Child Loss / I did it! 20 miles!
« on: June 10, 2007, 02:39:51 PM »
At 57 my mother had her second hip replacement.  Last nightt 57 I did the AFSP Overnight walk, "Out of the Darkness" to raise funds for education, prevention, research, and support for those, who, like me, have lost a loved one to suicide.  The metaphor is so appropriate - we began at dusk, walked 20 miles throughout  the borough of Manhattan, arriving back at South Street Seaport at sunrise.  A primary goal is to bring into the light the fact that mental illness is a physical biological condition that can and must be treated, and treated like any other medical condition, not viewed with shame.   My Tommy dealt with the effects of his bipolar disorder for 11 years till he could bear it no longer.  Losing his brother in a car accident eight years years ago made his life even more difficult to bear.  Tho we encouraged treatment, he could never quite accept his condition and rarely took his meds.  The stigma he felt cost him his life - a sudden and profound depression after the death of yet another friend -and stole our son from our lives.  Walking with thousands who share this kind of loss through suicide , each with a story, each filled with empathy and offering support, was an awesome - in the truest sense of the word - experience.  In the closing ceremony we were surrounded by the luminaries we created at the end of the all-night walk.  What made it even more special was carrying the pictures of Cory and Donny.  I also had their names printed  on the back of my tee-shirt.  Many people asked about the pictures I was wearing, so their memories were honored, too.  I think that's what our survival of the loss of a child is all about.  Somehow finding ways to make good of the most horrible thing that could possible happen to a parent.
Barb, Mom of Tom, 1/11/76-2/7/07, Jim, 9/8/77-4/2/99, and two beautiful daughters

Child Loss / For Donnie's dad and Cory's mom
« on: June 09, 2007, 08:22:17 AM »
The pics arrived and are on my lanyard.  I also put your sons' names on my official walk t-shirt.  I'm alternating between elation that I'll be surrounded and comforted by so many who know our particular sorrow; pride that perhaps I'm able to do a little to spare others this tragedy of suicide; and tearful reflection that I should be in this position, doing a walk to honor my son Tom.  I'll be leaving in about 4 hours.  Please keep me in your prayers that I'll manage to keep my feet moving for 20 miles and that through this walk, the stigma of mental illness will be brought "Out of the Darkness" - the name of the walk.  Because of that stigma, Tom resisted treatment and hid from those who love him the depth of his despair.  If anyone is interested in more info visit
Barb, mom of Jim 9/8/77-4/2/99, Tom 1/11/76-2/16/07,  and two lovely daughters

Child Loss / For donnie's dad
« on: June 03, 2007, 04:16:15 AM »
I know you're in the countdown days to the third anniversary and I figure you have no strength to post.  I hope you're reading when you can.  I wanted to let you know that a week ago I decided to do the AFSP 20 mile walk in NY next weekend.  Have you heard of it?  It's called "Out of the Darkness"  and the Foundation is dedicated to education - that mental illness is a physical illness that can and should be treated - prevention of suicide, and provision of support to survivors.   I'm walking for my son Tom , but with the team walking for the boy from a neighboring town who ended his life also in February this year.  I had been part of the crisis team who immediately went to his high school for two days to help the students and the staff in their tragedy.  Not knowing that the following week, I'd have my own.  Anyway, I'd like to honor you and Donnie by carrying his picture while I walk, if that's something you'd like.  If anyone else on this board who has lost their child to suicide would like to send a picture for me to carry, contact me by email and I'll give you my address so you can send it to me.
Barb, mom of Jim 9/8/77-4/2/99 and Tom, 1/11/76-2/16/07, and two beautiful daughters.

Child Loss / I don't want to do this again
« on: February 16, 2007, 05:24:47 PM »
It's been a long while since I've been here.  Most will not know me.  I lost my Jimmy 21 in a car accident on April 2, 1999 and this board allowed me to survive.  My surviving son 31 - I also have two daughters - is bipolar.   Was bipolar.  He was found dead in his apartment today.  The house is filled with people.  I'll be back soon.

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