Saturday, September 29, 2018

Ramblings from Maine Day 9

Yesterday I visited friends and there was a young woman there about my sons age, she was asked if she knew Zuka and she said yes. She started explaining how he always defended her when people talked about her and what a good person he was. It was great to hear such nice things about my son, when she didn't even know that his mother was in the room.

Maine has been nice, weather has been a relief from the Florida heat. I went with my parents for lobster rolls one day, we went to an orchard for real Maine cider another day. I have had Humpty Dumpty potato chips and red hot dogs with my brother, also some apple crisp made from fresh Maine apples. I may have had a whoopie pie or two. All things we do not have in Florida. I am getting the whole Maine experience.

I am thankful to be at my brothers and really feel at home here. Today I had a mental health day, where I stayed in and did next to nothing. I really needed a day just to relax and not talk about anything. It has been great seeing everyone and at first it helped me to talk about my sons death and talk about memories but overwhelmed me. Today I canceled all plans and stayed in. I had to for my own well being. It's hard keeping it together for long periods of time, sometimes you just need to be with your own thoughts. Sometimes you just need to fall apart a little.

This is a lonely journey, the road of grief. There are people all around me but I still feel alone. I have to work things out in my own head, I have to grieve my own way. Two people can experience the loss of the same person and still grieve in completely different ways, it's very personal and very lonely. There is no way to make someone understand what it feels like to lose a child, or to lose someone to suicide. I wouldn't want to if I could, I would never want to put that pain on anybody.

I just keep going, following my intuition to guide me towards what I need to heal. I have to do what's right for me right now and I really have no energy to care about what that looks like to anyone else. This is my road, and some roads you must walk alone.

It's chilly, I'm about to snuggle up and watch a documentary on Zuk's laptop before I go to sleep....

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Ramblings from Maine day 3

Here I am in Maine. A few weeks ago I realized I was not okay, not a big surprise given the circumstance but, after talking to my brother, I came to the conclusion that I just needed to head to Maine. Maine is where I am from, where my family is and where Zuka spent three years of his life before coming home to Florida for the summer. 30 days after Zuka passed I boarded a plane to Maine.

I had a lot of anxiety on the flight down, at one point having an anxiety attack and bawling while being pushed in a wheel chair through the airport. Mildly embarrassing but at this point in my life I don't care what other people think. I just couldn't wait to be "Home."

I went through Zuka's things at my parents house, I found a letter I wrote him when he moved to Maine that he had kept. It touched my heart that he had kept it all this time. I went outside in the crisp fall air and cried, then went in to finish going through his things. Who knew he had so many super hero themed clothing items?! He had another stack of cards he had kept, he was very sentimental like that.

It's been wonderful seeing my parents, spending time with my brother....I have spent time with family and friends and sharing the experience and stories about Zuka has been incredibly cathartic. I appreciate all their patience, love and support.

I am living on intuition, doing whatever feels right. I heard the homecoming parade go by and felt an overwhelming urge to go the the homecoming game. Never something the old me would have done on her own, but I had to go. I was in Florida during all of Zuka's games and sadly, though I watched and cheered from home, I never made it to see my son, number 44, play. I scanned the numbers on the field and found no number 44. That made me happy, in my heart Zuka will always be the only number 44. A couple of people recognized me and I teared up a bit but it was good that they came up to say hello and offer a hug. It felt good being there. The sun beamed down on me, I felt at peace, almost as if Zuk was there with me. I spent the last part of the game talking to two of his best friends, we shared stories and videos for the rest of the game and on the drive home. It was another one of those happy/sad times but I really enjoyed talking to them.

Today his two best female friends came over and we went through Zuka's clothes, It was great talking about clothing items and the memories that certain items had brought back for them, of course I wanted to share these items with them. It felt really good that they wanted them, something to feel closer to Zuk and remember him. Heartwarming.

It's been difficult and healing, it's been happy and sad, definitely a mixture of emotion. Being here is what I need right now. Maine embraced Zuka, and I feel so much of him here. I brought some of his ashes to stay here in Maine, a place he loved so much..... ❤

more to come....

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Day 27, nothing inspirational here...

It all happened so fast. In a moment you were gone, there was no going back, there was no note to tell me why. The world keeps going on around me, people slowly moving on and making it through. Not me, my world is stuck on August 20th 2018. The day replays in my brain. You told me you loved me so many times that day....but you left. You agreed that we bump heads so much because we were so much alike, kindred spirits. I felt like you were the only one who got me, I felt like I was the only one who really got you. I thought I knew the line, the line you would never cross... and I know you weren't weren't in your right mind because you never would have left. Every time we ever argued you would check on me to make sure I was okay, no matter how mad you might have been at me you called and asked "Are you okay?" and we always said "I love you!" no matter how bad it got... and I thought you were coming to check on me that day.... you were just feet away from me. You were angry that I wanted you to go to the hospital for help... and I thought you were coming to say "Are you okay?" and "I love you" but you left me with no Goodbye and I am so not okay this time and damn I love you so much...

I would give anything to go back, do that day over, make you get help...and maybe it would have only prolonged things but at least I would have had one more day. One more time to tell you how much I love you and it's hard to breathe without you.

I'm afraid I will never be happy again. Maybe I don't want to be happy again. All I know is this feels like hell. Do you have any idea how long this life is going to be without you?! It's unbearably long... every day is just empty with this Zuka sized hole in my heart... in my soul.... I hate that I have to go on without you.

There's so many things I want to say to you.... I love you....I'm so sorry I couldn't save you....

Zuka learning to play Piano

Zuka Learning to Play Piano 

Friday, September 14, 2018

Living With Suicide Loss, Day 25

It's been 25 days since Zuka passed away. How can 25 days have passed already, it still feels like yesterday, time passes differently, times makes no sense anymore. Without going into too much detail at this time, Zuka was maybe 4 feet from me when he died, he was in my bedroom and I was in my bedroom bathroom, he was just outside the door. Maybe one day I will be ready to talk about the events of that day openly but not today.

The first night was of course unimaginably horrible, I screamed, howled, cried, made noise I didn't know humanely possible. I was in shock, in complete disbelief. No, No, this didn't just happen, my brain refused to believe the fact that he was gone. Even as they carried his covered body out of my house, while people held me and prayed. No, that just couldn't be, that couldn't be my baby. I kept screaming "No ZUKA! NO ZUKA! this isn't real!" My whole neighborhood must have heard me.

I can't even tell you about the next few days, I remember not being able to eat. Each time I tried I would get sick immediately after. I barely slept and when I did fall asleep I had these horrible nightmares which made me wish I hadn't. My doctor gave me something to help me cope and help me sleep but again sleeping wasn't a peaceful rest for me, it was just as traumatic, if not more ,than being awake.  Loud noises scared me and I jumped and got nervous, had panic attacks. This has not gone away.

I didn't want to be alive, I wanted to be with Zuka but I COULD NOT put my daughter, husband and family through the pain that I was feeling. I would not do that to them and that kept me going. Kept me swimming, just trying to keep my head above water. My love for them was greater than my pain.

The days went by, people brought us food, I couldn't cook. I barely showered, I really didn't care about anything but missing Zuka. I answered Facebook messages and texts but I must have been in a daze because later I didn't even remember reading them or responding. We went to visit a friend that first week, after one night there I thought I had been there four nights. I could hardly believe them when they told me it had been only one night. I thought it was a cruel joke. I couldn't think clearly, words came out wrong, when I got upset I would stutter and my body would shake. I sat outside in 90+ degree weather smoking cigarettes (an old bad habit I picked back up) and people kept asking if I was hot but it was like my body wasn't regulating temperature.

I threw myself into making plans for his memorial and celebration of life here in Florida. I barely slept, I spent every moment planning the details, I told myself that I just had to focus on making everything perfect for Zuka. It was my duty and it had to be done, no matter how sick or tired I felt.

I remember the day it turned into a deep sense of emptiness and loneliness, I woke up from a nap I didn't want to take and these sense of emptiness and loneliness was overwhelming, I felt like I had nothing left. It was a switch from feeling sad about Zuka to a deeper sense of depression. It was one of the most horrible feelings I have ever felt. That day I decided that I needed help. I started calling counselors and admitted on social media to friends and family that I was not okay.

25 days, I have cried every day. After getting through both memorials the reality started to set in that he isn't coming back.  I feel so angry, angry at nothing, angry at everything, I hold it inside. I have never been angry at Zuka because if he was feeling anything close to what I am feeling, I understand but I wish more than anything that he would have found a different way, he would have thought about a different way to cope. I feel emptiness. I worry these feelings will never go away. I smile and try to laugh but I am not happy, I worry I will never feel happiness again.

I feel numb sometimes, like I can't possibly feel anymore. The first time I got a tattoo it hurt really bad and then suddenly it went numb, like my body was like "That's enough, I'm not feeling this anymore" sometimes I feel like that. I lay in Zuka's bed and just do nothing. I have never been able to do nothing, I have to have like 3 things going at once. Even when I am home, the tv is going, I'm talking and chatting and checking facebook. For the first time I sit in numbness and do nothing. I don't find any pleasure in television, I have tried to read or watch a movie. Everything is dull and food doesn't even taste the same since he is gone. Life is not the same. It never will be.

Without my husband, my daughter, my family and friends, even support from people I don't know I never would have made it 25 days. Especially the couple of friends that have been through the same loss, they helped me realize I am not going insane and what I am feeling and changes I am going through are my new "normal." I would text a certain friend and tell her what I was doing or feeling, and ask "have a lost my mind yet?" and she would assure me that I had not. That helped me stay grounded.

I haven't done my hair, put on makeup or cared what I look like since Zuka passed away. So many things just seem trivial or I don't have the energy to do them. I get tired fast, sometimes from doing nothing at all. Grieving takes a lot of work and energy. I spend a lot of time in Zuka's room. I have gone through his things and cried. I know I can't keep everything, I can't keep his room like this forever but I am not ready to change anything. I don't know what to do with his clothes. I have tattooed my body with his memory, I wear an urn around my neck every day, I wear the ring I bought in his memory. I sleep with his t-shirt beside me. He is constantly on my mind. I can barely think about anything else. The only other thing that consumes me right now is how can I make a difference in the lives of others in his memory. He cared so deeply for others and I want to honor his memory by devoting my time making a difference. This spring I will finish my bachelors in mental health and human services and somehow I will use this pain to make a difference, even if it's just one life.

I cannot describe to you the pain and emotions I have felt in the past 25 days. There are no words. I don't say this to make you feel sorry for me but maybe one person will read this and think, "wow, I could never put my family through that!" To those people, please understand....People care about you more than you will ever realize. If you are thinking of hurting yourself, please seek help! You are not a burden! You matter! 

You're never alone. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) if you are struggling emotionally or thinking about suicide

Zuka's football jersey will not be retired

I am very sad to share the news that Zuka's football jersey will not be retired. It will not be placed in a glass cabinet as a memorial to him, nor will his helmet.

The news came to me when one of Zuka's friends told me they were very upset by the fact the school was refusing to retire his jersey. I found that another friend of Zuka's had contacted the school, he was told that they were following the direction of NAMI .

I emailed the principal of Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School who confirmed that there would be no memorial in the school to Zuka and that his football jersey would not be retired, again they said that they were following the advice of NAMI.

I called NAMI and though they seemed empathetic to our pain, they believe that this could encourage suicide with future students. It hurt to hear that. My son had a mental health disorder which like any other disease he could not help. He battled for many years before it overtook him and he ended his life.

I am not angry with NAMI, I am trying to not be upset with the school. I asked them what they were doing for suicide prevention and received the following reply:

 "The first issue we are tackling this year is a training for all staff around gender identification.  The plan for future months is some training on mental health issues.  All staff have gone through suicide prevention training. "

I plan to meet with the school, I think it's important that they try to get someone to come in and speak with the students about Mental health and suicide. Though I agree that gender identification is an important topic, I feel like right now the priority should be suicide awareness. Not only is this Suicide Awareness month but they also just lost a former student who seems to be be pretty well know throughout the grades. 

This is where it currently stands, if you have any questions, comments, concerns you are certainly welcome to reach out to me at or comment below. Thank you. 

This too Shall Pass (Zuka's words)

Written by Zuka: July 1, 2018

So the Hebrew proverb for “this too shall pass “ is a story about King Solomon attempting to humble his minister Benaiah by requesting a magic ring to make a man both happy and sad at the same time to show of before the Jewish festival off sukkot which was about 6 months away . So benaiah had looked for this magic ring far and wide but couldn’t find anything.the night before sukkot he came across a merchant. So he asks this merchant if he has heard of the ring and the man took a golden band and inscribed on the ring “gam zeh Ya’avor “ . King Solomon takes this ring and reads it . He instantly looks at it and loses the smile on his face . The inscription in The in English reads “this too shall pass “ Nothing lasts forever so if you’re sad it will pass but also the happy moments won’t last forever. Everything is always fleeting and impermanent And the arrow symbolizes moving to keep moving forward past these things.

Zuka's Tattoo

Zuka's Best Friend's Tattoo

My Tattoo (Mom)
Dad's Tattoo (Antonio)

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Zuka's Celebration of Life Service

Currently I am unable to embed this video but to watch on facebook click the link above "watch on facebook" As soon as it is available I will post the actual video here.

Thank you

The Awesome slide show created by his cousin, Jordan Burnham starts around 44 minutes!

The impact of Bullying

In October 2014 Zuka was in the locker room conversing with his friends before wrestling practice. Another student, Micah, walked into the wrestling room and told Zuka to get out. Zuka told him "No" and the young man wanted to fight him, he started to swing on Zuka. Zuka put him in a move he had learned in wrestling to detain him, he tried to calm Micah down, telling him, "I don't want to fight you, chill out man."

Zuka told him he was going to let him go but that he didn't want any trouble. As soon as Zuka let Micah go, the boy exclaimed, "Gross I touched a "N*gger."! " and he punched Zuka in the face so hard that he left a swollen black eye.

Zuka came home in tears, he was angry that he didn't fight back but he was so afraid of being kicked off the wrestling team. He was sad, embarrassed and ashamed. Zuka barely ever talked about the bullying he received in Florida. He would not want to go to school but he was embarrassed to say why.  He one time broke down and told us kids made fun of him for his weight, his clothing, and just teased and harassed him in general. He begged us not to talk to the school because he didn't want it to become worse. Zuka ended up attempting suicide and moved to Maine to start fresh. After he left more people came forward to tell me ways that Zuka had been bullied and the stories broke my heart, if only I had known how bad it was.

Maine was a completely new experience for Zuka, he flourished, he made friends, he played football, track and became state wrestling champ. When we talked however, I could still hear how that bullying had impacted him, He NEVER felt good enough and he struggled and threw his whole heart into proving those people wrong.

Zuka's Manifesto

Preface: Zuka shared this with me a month before he took his life. It gave me hope that maybe he was doing better.... 

Zuka's Manifesto 

I have never truly looked at my life and hated it enough to end it. All of my “suicide attempts ” have been in spite and anger . After a good 9 years of dealing with the consciousness of having mood disorders I have spent time thinking of what truly has caused me to feign my death at my own hand. And using feign as in if really wanted to die, I would actually do it. 0-4 in my tryings shows a sign of not truly wanting to die or Iʼm a fucking superhero. I have no actual reason to end my existence beside what emotions are going through my head at the times of these occurrences. 

But do I actually need a concrete reason ? Does the culmination of what Iʼve experienced in life manifest into my ticket for putting a bullet in my head? Truly the root of all my suicidal thoughts is the connotation in which I hold my memories in. 

To elaborate I actually havenʼt had a sniff of a bad childhood. Never missed a meal unless on my own volition. Yeah I didnʼt have the newest and best shit growing up but was I eating mud as a kid ? I havenʼt been abused and yeah my mother may be not compatible with me as Iʼm becoming my own person but Sheʼs not a horrible person. My fathers a shit head but also thatʼs because of how he views the memories of his life also I donʼt know how good eating mud and witnessing war and his family dying having to flee his own country or be killed is on the cerebrum growing up as munchkin but itʼs all about how you see it. I digress. 

I havenʼt truly experienced anything of any emotional value that you could truly put on the scale and understand why that person took their own life. I now understand that I have a mental disorder and that disorder has shaped how I view my life at different points in time. Like putting different filters on my memories. Saying this as a mentally sound Zuka doesnʼt always mean Iʼll always look at life the same way but now The realization is that no matter what life throws at me , itʼs all about how you spin it. 

And I can stop now with the rawrXD (EMO) shit and not always thinking that I can try death as an out for things when really Iʼm just a fucking stupid kid who thinks they understand what they want is death at times but really itʼs just they need to think of a different way out of whatever shit sandwhich I think Iʼm about to take a bite of. I think this is a piece of me becoming a little bit more well I donʼt think itʼs maturing as a person but becoming more experienced and wiser as a small blip on a dirtball rotating around a ball of gas that is a part of a universe far more vast than to give a fuck about a kid reflecting on him having problems with noggin. 

(He ends with short shout outs to friends and an inappropriate joke because, well, that's Zuka)

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Men and Grieving

According to the American Foundation for Suicide prevention ( men die by suicide 3.53 times more than women. I am sure there are many factors behind that but one prominent factor that I noticed while going through this grieving process is society's expectations of males concerning expression of emotion.

When those close to me found out Zuka had passed away they would express things to me like, "I am a man and I am supposed to be strong" or "I'm a man, I'm not supposed to cry." Those statements made me incredibly sad for them. Gender has no baring on emotions, every human being has emotions and has the same need to express them. It is heartbreaking to me to think that a man would not feel comfortable expressing grief, sadness, pain and depression because they grew up in a society that told them men don't cry.

Not only is it incredibly sad but it's also incredibly dangerous to put expectations on males to not express their emotions. 3.53 times more men die by suicide, that's a huge number. We need to start teaching our sons that it's okay to cry, it's okay to express emotion. We need to explain that there is no gender/sex when it comes to emotion, no one should have to act "stronger" than anyone else.

We as women, and other men as well need to be a safe place for men to express their feelings. When we hear statements like "I am a man, I am not supposed to......" we need to tell to them that it's completely okay to express their emotions and that there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

We need to check in with men in our lives as much as we do women, we need to check on the "strong" people, the "happy" people. We need to check in with people in general and offer to be a safe, confidential, non-judgmental place to talk, or at least know where to refer them to.

I want all the men in my life, and any males reading this to understand that your emotions are okay, expressing your emotions is normal and healthy. Everyone needs to cry sometimes, every needs to grieve in whatever way works for them and there is absolutely no shame in that!

Lots of love to you!

Sunday, September 9, 2018

4 am and broken hearts

Its 4 something in the morning. I'm in so much pain emotionally and physically. Everything hurts. I know people think I shouldn't share posts like this on social media.... I need to stay strong.... I owe it to those around me. I promise I'm trying to stay strong for you all... 
I don't know how you just sit in so much pain and just be. I try to keep distracted, keep up a strong front.... but the pain is so bad and there's no pain reliever. There's nothing that helps. I feel empty and deeply alone. I know I HAVE to be alive... I HAVE to.... but every second hurts... this just is a hurt way more than I never knew existed. I know social norms say that we should keep such feelings to ourselves but maybe that's the problem. We walk around and act like we aren't dying on the inside as to not make other's uncomfortable. But I can't just sit here, a shell of myself and act like I'm just coasting through. My heart has been shattered, my world torn apart. Our hearts have been shattered. I feel like nothing will ever be the same....

If you are thinking of taking your own life, if you are hurting PLEASE seek help... People love you and would be devastated by losing you. 
          You are not a burden. You matter!! 

Friday, September 7, 2018

Zuka's Playlist

Songs Submitted by friends and family that reminded them of Zuka or that Zuka Loved

How to support a grieving loved one

Everyone grieves differently. My process may not look at all like yours, and that's completely okay. Everyone is free to grieve in their own way.

These is no "right" thing to say..... But here are some things we have found helpful and not some helpful...

Please do:

1. Do reach out, do come by, do call. Even if you don't know what to say, even if you are afraid of bothering them. Chances are good they needed the distraction.

2. Do bring something if you can, a food item, a drink of some sort. The last thing a grieving person thinks to do is take care of themselves so bringing them prepared food and drinks is so helpful in making sure they are caring for themselves.

3. Do use the deceased persons name, unless the grieving person doesn't want you to. Personally, I love to hear people use my sons name. 

4. Listen, you don't have to say a word, or preach a sermon or have the perfect words to say, the best thing you can do it to listen! Let the grieving person talk, cry, yell or whatever it is they need to do.

Please do not:

1. Ask too many questions. I am open about the fact he passed away via suicide, Zuka was not ashamed that he was bipolar, we always felt like shame kept people from getting the help they need. I had strangers writing to me to know exactly how he "did it." They wanted intimate details of my sons death! It upset me, it made me angry. Please don't do that to a grieving person. I am sure if they want to talk about it they will when they are ready. Should they wish to keep it private please respect that. 

2. Don't say "if you need anything reach out to me" This is a nice statement but if you really want to be there, BE THERE. You reach out, Go visit, send a card, text, email them. If you want to do something don't wait for them to ask, just do it. Bring food, pick up some fresh fruit of flowers. The grieving person cannot even think straight enough to ask for what they need.  Tell them exactly what you are offering them, a shoulder to cry on? say it! A home cooked meal? offer that! 

3. Get offended. At one point when there were a lot of people at my house I thought, Man I wish everyone would go home. I didn't want them to leave, I enjoyed their company very much, What I needed was a little private time to scream and cry without someone being worried or upset by my process. As soon as everyone left I was lonely and wanted them back. Please understand, the death of a loved one is an emotional roller coaster and they LAST thing anyone wants to do in difficult times is to hurt anyone's feelings. 

4. Cancel Plans. If at all avoidable, Do not cancel plans with a loved one who if grieving. I ended up having people who called me their "best" and "closest" friend not show up at my sons memorial or celebration of life! People who I thought cared so much, disappeared. Your grieving loved one needs you, if any way possible do what you can to be there. There are, of course, understandable circumstance but let them know why you can't be there. Your visit might have been the high point of their day they were waiting for, the distraction they needed from the pain. Though it may seem like a small deal to you, it might not be for your grieving friend or loved one.

5. Say you understand. Unless you have been in the same situation please do not say, 'I understand what you are going through.' Unless you have lost a child you really have no idea how it feels. I made the mistake myself. A friend has lost her son and came to visit. I told her, "I think I can understand because my son has had similar things happen." When he passed I called her and I told her I was so sorry, I had no idea how she felt, no idea! Even two people who have been through the same experience don't experience it the same way.

6. Comment on their ability to handle grief. One of the things that well meaning people have said is you are handling this great, or you are so strong. I know this is said with nothing but the kindest intentions. All I could think when I heard this is guilty that I had put on a facade. Yes, I can pull it together most of the time when people are around, and yes I can talk about it by disassociating myself from my feelings and talking almost like it was a movie. When everyone goes home, I often fall completely apart, I cry, I scream "WHY", I blast him music and bawl in the shower and that's ok but know that I am no stronger than anyone else. I am just swimming and swimming and trying to keep my head above water, like anyone else would do. I didn't chose to deal with this pain, I have to.

7. Disappear. When speaking with other survivors of suicide, I have found that many were surprised by how fast people stopped calling and coming by. The first week I was almost overwhelmed by all the support, it really helped me through. By the second week it started to trickle off and now by the third week there are very few people stopping by. I get that people are busy and need to go about their own lives but after the funerals, memorials, after the support ends is when the grieving person needs you the most. 

Zuka's Passing

It is with unimaginable and indescribable sorrow I tell you that my precious son Zuka lost his life to his mental illness August 20, 2018 
There are no words and there is no grief like this.
Regardless of how it happened, he is gone. A piece of us is gone. 
Please send us your prayers and love, but not your questions just yet.

That was first Facebook Post announcing Zuka's passing to the world
It didn't even feel like reality at the time, It still doesn't

Zuka was a beautiful person who wanted to make a difference in the world
I couldn't save his life but if his legacy could change just one life, I know that's what Zuka would have wanted!!