by Kristin Schlegel
How are you dealing with your loss?
Have you shut down, barricaded yourself in your home and stopped living life?
Are you self-medicating to drown out the pain?
Are you taking medication and visiting weekly with a therapist?
Have you taken your grief on the road and turned it into a non-profit to help others?
Have you found faith or lost your faith?
What does your motivation for getting out of bed each morning look like to you?
Friend, I’m with you. This grief, this dealing with devastating loss – it’s just so hard.
What happened to you? What brought you to this site to read about loss? Are you here because you lost a loved one?
Or are you looking for ways to support someone who has?
That’s a step in the right direction.
Good for you. It’s proactive. You are relating – functioning on some level.
Are you looking for someone who understands how you’re feeling?
Hoping to find someone to talk to who knows what it feels like to have your world ripped out from under you?
Yes, it’s so important.
Some things cannot be understood unless they’ve been lived, and I’m assuming that you’ve lived something awful. I have too.
We lost our son at 24. He had been injured while playing hockey in the Army. He was 3,250 miles away from home – and we had no idea the journey that his injury took him on.
I’ve been relatively naive until recently, as I studied his medical records. He was prescribed a lot of pain meds while stationed in Alaska, and unbeknownst to us, he was delivered back with a mighty addiction, and still in pain.
After an agonizing year and a half after he was discharged, we found him in his room, snuggled up in his bed – cold and lifeless, on a snowy day in November of 2017.
That image is burned into my mind and I imagine it will be until I join him, or I lose my mind. Which is a valid possibility after a loss of this type.
It makes you feel crazy.
The questions, the searching for answers, the desire to lay down at the cemetery and join them.
No, you’re not losing it, and you’re not alone.
It’s normal to feel this way.
At first, we were in shock. We just did what needed doing – and I believe that God gives you grace and strength for that.
As the months ensued, I found myself writing, listening to audiobooks that took me to different places and helped me sleep at night.
They helped me escape from my own story and immerse myself in someone else’s.
Always fiction though. I had enough truth of my own.
I reached out to child loss groups and found people that I could relate to and who could relate to me. I spent a lot of time communicating with other moms that were in the trenches with me, and it helped.
After all, how do your friends relate to your loss when all their kids are living?
I drew back from everyone. I felt like unless they had experienced this loss, they wouldn’t want to talk to me, have my situation bring them down, or be exposed to this “disease” I was afflicted with.
Not a lot of people want to deal with that, so I gave them the choice.
I sat back and learned to be alone.
I needed to learn to rely on my faith and to be okay with myself. After all, if I couldn’t stand to be around me, how would I expect others to want to?
I was lonely, yes – but I needed time to grieve and to be alone. As time went on, however, I was surprised by the people who reached out to me.
Some were loss parents, but not all. I learned that some people are just truly gifted with coming alongside others. Or that God placed it on their heart to reach out to me, or that their sorrow in life, whatever that was, had changed them too.
These relationships were so incredibly honest. What they saw was me at my worst, and yet they continued to show up. Every time I found myself needing a friend, after too much solitude, I whispered a prayer and God provided.
When I felt like John was forgotten, someone popped up with a photo, a story, or they just reached out because they missed him too – and it was gold.
After the two-year mark, I decided that the tears maybe weren’t going to stop and my inability to speak of John was keeping me from educating others on the dangers of opioids.
I wanted to be able to share his story in person, not just from my keyboard, but every time I tried to say that he died, the tears came, and I couldn’t represent him well, or speak about our journey. So, I took some advice, asked a lot of questions, and called my doctor.
She prescribed a low dose of anti-anxiety/depression meds, and I virtually felt change overnight. I stopped crying all the time, and my ruminating thoughts were so much better.
It didn’t heal my heart or dull the ache I have every minute I can’t see him, but I did not understand all the ways your mind and body can be affected by a brain that is struggling to regulate its serotonin supply.
The medication allows it to work more normally, and for now, it’s been a welcome relief.
I’ve also relied heavily on my faith to get me through each day.
I believe we serve a compassionate God who understands our struggle more than we can realize. I believe that John’s death was not a surprise to Him and that He was present to receive him.
I believe in heaven and hell. I believe that I will see John again. However, I don’t believe that John “watches” over me or has become some sort of angel.
I know that gives great comfort to some, and I’m not here to debate it, I just believe the Bible and I understand that to be assigned to watch over us would not be a heavenly reward but another heartache.
I can’t wait until I see him again, and until then, I understand that each day will be different.
I am thankful for the moments where he is remembered, and my grief is understood.
You won’t find me reciting all the great things that have happened because of our loss, because I don’t believe God allowed his death to teach us a lesson or bring something good out of it.
I believe that all our days are numbered, and we will all pass from this life into the next – and while we are here, I believe we are called to use our gifts to help others and to share our burdens and sorrows, and our joys in whatever way we can, and if we are able.
I hope that as time passes, I can help others more, to remember John with laughter and good memories, instead of all this pain and sorrow, and I hope you are finding your way too.