I often wonder if there’s some part of the brain that protects us when we experience the trauma of losing our child? It has to be the only reason why I’m still breathing and living in this world. My brain simply could not process fully what actually happened. I kept so busy the first 12-14 months “doing things” my mind kept repeating these words “Joe might be back”. As ridiculous as that sounds, it’s true, and I’m not crazy. It’s been 511 days since we lost our Son. Over the past year, I felt as though I were living in two worlds; one amongst the living and one with Joe, in the non-living. I wanted to believe this was all one big mistake. Every possible scenario came thru my mind, thoughts like maybe Joe needed time away so he just disappeared, maybe it was a mistaken identity and it wasn’t actually Joe they found, maybe he just needed to become someone else, maybe he wanted a new life, or maybe he’ll come home and walk thru our front door telling me, “Momma, I’m sorry I put you thru this but I needed to figure stuff out, I’m good now and I’m home.” I’ve dreamt Joe so much over the past year, it honestly feels like he is still here with us. Until now.
Something shifted, my grief changed and it happened the moment I stopped “doing things.” Doing things meant entering pics and videos on his Memories page on Instagram, or his Facebook page, or the Tribute page I created on the ForeverMissed website, or his 1 year Angelversary where I created a virtual candlelighting prayer and everybody I know from the West Coast to East Coast simultaneously lit a candle on 5/28/19 @ 7:25 pm, or writing in my blog about the beginning of this journey along with every thought entering my mind, recording my life, or his birthday celebration where I had an entire mass dedicated in honor of Joseph, or trademarking his logo and ordering hats & beanies, creating a website for his business. Yes, all of those “doing things” kept me busy and it also prevented me from “being still”.
Being still meant I would have to think, I didn’t want to think because that would make all this too real! Then, one day I was reading about all the fentanyl deaths across the country and posts on Facebook. Parents telling their story about their child who suddenly died from fentanyl poisoning. I could relate to every word, it was like reading my life in front of the entire world. I wanted to help change the world, I wanted Joe’s story to be told, I was angry! I reached out to a very known reporter here in town who had been covering all the homicides related to fentanyl accidental deaths. I felt this desire to contribute my own story and tell the world about Joe and his beautiful life. I met the news reporter prior to the interview and I shared everything about Joe, including how he died (I hate that “d” word!). We decided to air the interview on Joe’s birthday (8/31/19), everything was set and I was going to introduce our Son to the world, he deserved to be known. I wanted to save another life or a family, I wanted to prevent another statistic of death by fentanyl. Every day I was hearing more and more young adults were dying as a result of fentanyl. I asked my husband and daughters what they thought about the interview. I didn’t get the reaction I expected, and I didn’t get the validation I needed to do this as a family. So that night I prayed. I stepped into Joes room and I prayed for a sign to either go forward or not with this interview. It would rehash of that final day in our Sons life, and it was about to change our life..again. I needed some kind of silent message, because I now had mixed feelings after talking with my family. The next morning, I received a message from the news reporter, she asked if we could reschedule our interview to Thursday! I replied kindly with a yes. But, I later realized..that was the answer to my prayer! Joe did not want me sharing our private family matters, at that point I know it was not suppose to happen. I also realized it had barely been 1 year and asked myself if it was too soon? It was too soon. I called the reporter back and asked to put everything on pause, she understood and that’s when I knew I needed to “be still” for a while. It was time to stop “doing things”.
Everything hit me all over again, it was this unexpected feeling of stepping backwards. As if every waking moment I had worked on becoming stronger and pushing myself every day just to breathe..it was all for nothing. Because suddenly, I could not look at Joes pictures or videos as the pain had become much deeper, music made me cry all over again, talking about Joe ruptured every bone in my body I thought had somewhat healed. I couldn’t do anything, I was STUCK in grief and any tiny bit of control I thought I had was messed up! Every day my tears got worse and my body ached in severe pain. Insomnia got worse too. God, this WAS ALL REAL and those thoughts of “maybe” disseminated, they were all gone. The “two worlds” collided and became one! It was the living world now, no more Joe world only the breathing world existed. What happened? I kept asking, why did everything suddenly change? I didn’t want it to change again but it did. Something shifted and it was like starting grief all over again! But, I did something different this time …I stood still and in a blink reality set in but it was deeper. I realized at that moment, Joe was really gone. There was no maybe this or maybe that. No what if’s, no questionable doubts, I came to back to this reality …he wasn’t coming home. Not now, not tomorrow, not ever! Here we go again, were my immediate thoughts. Once again, I didn’t understand and all these dam questions began rolling thru my head! Question I had no answers and I was absolutely on the floor, again.
So I ask these questions as I’m surrounded by this huge worldly place we call our universe. What the F…. happened? What stage am I suppose to be in now? Am I over the denial stage or am I still in it? Does this mean I’m in the acceptance stage? Or, am I back in the shock stage? Or the anger stage? Geez..what the?? Have I lost my mind? Where exactly am I with this jackedup piece of crap we call GRIEF? I thought I was moving forward. Nope. I thought I had read and re-read enough articles to become somewhat familiar with grief. Nope. But, I’ll tell you what I did learn and now know. I’ve learned that grief has its own version of what, when, why, and how. And, it’s needs no approval, especially from the one grieving! It’s 5,000 steps forward and it’s 10,000 steps back. I absolutely hate grief and I hate everything attached to it. I want it to leave me alone. I want it to leave my family alone! I take a deep breath in and look up to the clouds above asking, “How many more shifts will I have to endure?” Grief shifts every possible thought and action in life, absolutely everything! I now had to learn how to navigate thru and live with it, most likely forever. Yeah..this is forever, so I asked myself a couple questions: (1) what can I do differently? and (2) what is it that I control?
I began to let myself think quietly. If these shifts in grief were going to keep happening, it was extremely important for me to find another way to do this or I wasn’t going to make it. I had to be a “better me” in order to be a better Mother to my amazing beautiful daughters and my husband, as well as my granddaughter and my family. Same question keeps coming up, what do shifts in grief teach us? I’m no expert by far, like I mentioned earlier I’m only 511 days into this journey and I’m continuously struggling. But, I believe there can be Life after Death. It seems impossible, but I’m living proof it’s Very Possible. I’ve learned it’s many small steps forward and a lot of big steps backward. Grief can either make you stronger or it can shred you to pieces. I’m going to choose Stronger! As a Mother of 3 children, 2 living and 1 Angel, every day is a struggle to get myself out of bed and do life without Joe. But, I do it because the option to NOT simply doesn’t exist. I want our Son back with us, but that’s not going to happen. My heart hurts deeply and it burns from missing Joe’s beautiful life, but the ironic thing I’ve come to realize is this: He came into this life thru me, he grew inside of me. I still exist which means he is still right here inside my soul. Joe still gives me joy, he still makes me smile, he still shows me love, but mostly he still helps me to be stronger! It’s just in a different way now. I have no choice but to try and look at everything in life thru a new lens. I’m nowhere near fully accepting this loss, truthfully that may never happen as it still feels very unreal. However, I must continue trying to BE STILL when I need to and keep “DOING THINGS” when I need to because it’s possible to do both. Shifting in grief will continue to keep itself connected to us all, but life won’t stop for me or my family. This tragic road trenched in grief has got to lead somewhere, because I can see a very dim glimpse of light. It’s just going to take a really long time to get there. In the meantime, I’ll navigate thru the shifts in grief and focus on loving my two daughters who have this incredible life ahead; careers, marriage, children, love, everything the universe has to offer they got in the palm of their hands.
I learned a lot about life from an incredible woman I call my Mother. She never stopped trying in life, even after the loss of my Father, my Sister, her siblings and family. She kept trying FOR US, her children. I always wanted to be just like my Mom and now I can say that I am. I will keep trying for our beautiful daughters. Mommy, I love you and I miss you so much. Life is hard, it’s even harder when it throws a curve ball and hits you in every part of your body. My try..to live every day the best I can and embrace to the fullest ….even when “shifts in grief” begin to crowd your space.
Joseph Anthony, I Love You Son. As long as I’m breathing I know you’re here. You promised you would never leave me and you kept your promise. I feel your presence often. We will keep pushing thru life with you by our side. Always My Heart, Your Meh♥️🙏🏻🎚.