Sunday, May 19, 2019

Where I would take you, a house tour

Zuka if you came in this door today, 
the place you haven't seen in 9 months 
I think you would be surprised at how much has changed

When you left the shelves beside the front door had my favorite vase and a picture of a mermaid, reminding me of the Anais Nin Quote, "I must be a mermaid, I have no fear of depths and a great fear of shallow living."

Above the shelf hung a picture I painted, my first attempt at painting.

Your Urn sits where we had once placed decor,
 the picture we used at the memorial of your beautiful smiling face hangs on the wall where my artwork once hung. 

The living room once had very minimal decor, 
now has a curio cabinet filled with memories of you. 

Over the television hangs the beautiful picture Mr. Brewster took of you and your friends 
Your best friend, the one who loved you like a brother...

Let's go into the dining room. 
Jamilah and I had hung a monogrammed picture, representing our last names

Now, Look at the black and white picture of us, we took it the night you went out with my friends and I am we danced together for the last time. The night was epic, care-free. We sat by the pool after everyone had gone to sleep and we had extrodinary conversation, you shared your manifesto with me.

Maybe you want to see your room next? Your football banner still hangs on the wall. Storage boxes full of memories and clothing you once wore.
 This is the room I sat in for hours, staring at your face and asking why? 

Do you want to see the shelves of your memories, what remains we treasure?


The house you left has become a museum of you. 
The family you left behind torn part, going their separate ways. 
Forever Changed.

I wish you could see how much we miss you.
I wish you could have realized how much we love you.
I wish you understood that you were everything.

The home is about to crumble, it can no longer stand the pressure of your loss, I wish you could see. If you came home, this is where I would absolutely take you.... a tour of what you left behind.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Losing my son to suicide, month 9 update

Most of my recent posts have been my writings on grief so, I am writing an update about what's going on in my life, just 2 days short of 9 months from losing my son.

We are preparing for my daughter Jamilah's graduation. I am a ball of emotions, I am excited that she is graduating but not ready for her to be an adult. I can't believe she turned 18 this month!!

It hit me hard that my children are now the same age. 

Milah went to prom and maybe I am biased but I thought she looked like a QUEEN! 

This month she also graduates, so we had her 18th birthday (which was the same day as prom) and her graduation all in one month. Today we took her to look for a dress to wear to graduation and Antonio and I looked at graduation decorations and talked about her cake and gift... When I got back to the car, we sat and waited for her to try on another dress and I just cried.

It seems like YESTERDAY we were planning Zuka's graduation party. I am missing him so much, and I'm so sad that he won't be there to see his sister graduate. Like I said, a whirlwind of emotion!

Mother's day was difficult but my daughter made my day, she cooked me dinner, bought me a beautiful orchid, a lovely card and spent time watching movies with me. Antonio bought me breakfast in bed, a rose and a sweet card. I woke up feeling dread, wanting to melt into the sky and she saved me. Before she went to bed I gave her a huge hug and told her she gave me an amazing mother's day. It was sad and amazing at the same time. Complicated feelings are something I am becoming accustomed to.

I have suffered some other huge losses and grief that I am not yet ready to talk about, because they involve other people and it's not the right time to talk about what is going on. I definitely could use support, prayer, good vibes or whatever it is you do. There will be a lot of changes coming soon. Change scares me so much. I feel like eventually, things will be okay, but there is a lot more pain coming before I get to that place.

I plan to return to college in the fall. I am finally finishing my bachelor's degree in mental health and want to go on to get my masters. I am working on my book.

 I can't say too much except everything in my life is changing and I am petrified! Tough decisions need to be made.... I am heartbroken. It's one of those "cuts both ways" kind of situations, neither path is easy.

At 9 months I have started putting my grief on a shelf and only dealing a little at a time. Right now it's easier to stuff those emotions down a little so I don't become overwhelmed so that I can function. I will never move on, but I must carry on. I no longer cry every day, I try not to cry in front of people. The shower and my pillow are the two places that see the most tears.

I am thankful for the continued support of friends and family. I would not make it through without you! There are a few friends who have really gone out of their way for me recently, I don't want to embarrass them by posting their names but you know who you are and I am so grateful for you!

 I am thankful for my amazing daughter...

The Gift

She walks into the room a wiser woman than she once was, eyes look upon her with uneasiness. She has seen things they have never seen, felt things they have not felt. Some believe they can comprehend the pain, and they rush to tell her this. Others look in awe, wondering how she survives.
She brings a gift. A box she places on the table which no one has the courage to touch.  She is the crone, the survivor, the one who lived through the unlivable. There is a knowledge inside of her that no one wants to truly understand but there it sits on the table, waiting for someone to open.
There is tension in the room as apprehensive dwellers circle around the package. Do they have the resolve to poke at the box? Will they receive her gift or retreat and pretend not to have noticed the sage and her bundle.

This is a gift she offers, the only thing she has left to give. Within is an appreciation for life, that can only be gained through death. There is knowledge of what it feels like to be stripped of her own skin and cling to life.
A woman steps towards the table and slides the piece of gold ribbon, untying the bow and the box falls open. They gasp as the sorrow forms a cloud above the table, not comprehending how this could be a gift she is giving them. 
The cloud is her knowledge, her comprehension, her compassion, her strength, and her tenderness. Her gift is a safe space to lay your burden. Her gift is guidance and wisdom. She holds keys to understanding and unlocking the darkest nightmares and staring them straight in the eyes. Her gift is an understanding, true perception of the deepest pain imaginable. She can look you in the eyes and say "I feel your pain" and you will glance back and believe her. She senses loss, undoing, destruction,  and she never looks away. She holds it in her hands, she knows it can no longer bite her, she has become to unsusceptible to the venom. She will never come undone again. 
Her gift is hard to receive, to someone not in the circumstance to receive it. So she keeps her gift, writing down the contents of the box, the words within the cloud of darkness. Only giving her gift to those who seek it, and who are ready to receive it. She knows it's too much weight, a burden to those not ready, and a relief to those already there.

Friday, May 17, 2019

What is left behind

Grief swept over me like a fire. Everything left scorched. My hard edges were burned away. All trivial things now ashes. The future I thought I had, burned away. I am a tree without bark, bleeding my sap wherever I go. I used to feel shielded and now I stand naked in a world that seems so sharp.
My selfhood is gone, what do I do with what is left?

I want to behave better, people look at me and see possibility, they see strength, they ponder why I would choose to stay stagnant. I want to progress. How do I overcome the trepidation, when I feel nothing but nakedness, vulnerability?

My burned edges are clothed with the love of defenders, those who wish me well. Even the cover of love hurts right now. I have to shake it from me, I have to stand like a singed tree whose missing bark will never grow back. Hoping the parts of me that remain will grow and protect the holes left from pieces burned away.

A talk with Grief

Grief. I speak of you often but fear to open my eyes to peer into your depths. I know you want to be seen, you want to be felt, you need to be heard. I attempt to turn my back to you, a fantasy in which you do not exist.
 Now, under the warmth of this prayer shawl, given to me but a fellow griever, I will sit with you. I will lean into you and understand that beneath the terror, the trauma, you are the remnants of love. The fragments of memories, hopes, and dreams, you are what is left behind.
Honestly, you have made me softer, not weaker, but a soft place for others to lay their grief. You have given me understanding, compassion. You are unbearable and have left my heart gaping. Though you are heinous and to some unspeakable, I have also learned from you. One day grief, I will sit with other's who face you, I will show them the things I have learned. I will be a safe space.
You are a fire, one that I can warm myself with, with bittersweet memories, and cry tears of love. You are also a fire that can destroy me if I let you, you could swallow me whole and leave other's to grieve. For now, I need to fold up my shawl of comfort and put you back on your shelf. You are too much for me to handle all at once, I will take bits of you and work through you, let you work through me. A little a time, so that you will never consume me again.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

the hollow

evening falling - a soft lamenting
I find myself in desolation
In a haze between wake and sleep
not heaven nor hell
A place where the grieving go

I am there
When darkness falls
I hear my sons voice, calling my name
Unable to answer his outcry

Darkness and hollow
Overtaken by sorrow
It’s the present and the past
But there is no tomorrow

Time has stopped
In this purgatory of shattered hopes
I hear his cries, I see his shadow
My hands will never hold him again

Colors of Grief

White. White is symbolic of purity and peace. Your pure heart as delicate as the eighteen white roses we placed beside your urn. Even at your angriest moments, you reminded me you loved me and asked if I was alright. You cared deeply, maybe too deeply for this world.
White. The color of peace, the waving of the white flag. You couldn't bear another moment and you left us. The turmoil boiling inside you laid to rest. I know you are at peace. I wish I was too.

Green. Your school colors. Your green wrestling singlet. Your green state champion jacket. Your green letterman jacket for football. Your green tracksuit. Most of what I have left from you is green. Your memorial pages, all done in green. You were proud of that color, you accomplished so many goals in green. We placed a green ribbon on your memorial bouquet. Green brings images of spring, green grass, new life. A life I don't feel equipped to commence.

Red. No one knows about this color. No one would understand and I keep it secretly stuffed down inside my heart. A red pool on the carpet. No one understood why I would want to sit by that massive red stain. They washed the walls, threw away every stained article of clothing. They put new bedding on the bed. They couldn't wash away the red stain. They didn't understand that it was the last piece of you. I just wanted to sit there with the last piece of you. They used a box cutter and cut away the red piece of carpet and disposed of it. I felt robbed,  it would be absurd to keep but, I wasn't ready to let go.

Grey. The shorts you were wearing, once blue had faded to grey. I remember only grey, was your shirt grey? Grey is what I feel now. Grey is uncertainty, precariousness. Grey is emotional and yet emotionless. Grey is somewhere in the middle, stagnant. Grey feels like rainfall is imminent. Tears looming behind my eyes.

This is my life now, remembering green, holding on to red, hoping for white and living in the grey. These are the colors of my grief.

Monday, May 13, 2019

She is Strength

      She wiped the last tears from her eyes and resolved to move forward. Other's said they were concerned that she was blocking out the pain, keeping it hidden. They were concerned about her emotional well being. I wasn't. I know this is how she handles pain, she puts it away and carries on.
I was a bundle of nerves when I put her little 5-year-old body onto this giant school bus in a strange new state. With no hesitation, she walked on, assured me she was fine and never looked back. She was brave. She has always been brave.
When she was eight years old and her father told her he no longer had any children, she didn't cry. She stuck out her chin as if to say "f*ck him." and moved forward. She never needed anyone who didn't need her. I looked at her with awe, how is it she was born so so strong? She thinks with her head, she works towards her goals, she needs no one but herself.
She walked home from work the night her brother took his life. Flashing lights were everywhere, emergency vehicles scattered the street. There were people gathered around me. She emerged through the crowd, and after hugging me she went over to the car by herself. She laid her head on the car, her arms blocking her face and she cried. She cried by herself, the way she prefers to cry and I allowed her her time alone to grieve. When they allowed us into the house she went to her room grieve in peace. She came into my room to check on me,  I could see she had been crying but she wouldn't let us see her tears.
She isn't a cold person, she feels things deeply but she has this amazing capacity to compartmentalize her feelings. She can put them on a shelf and carry on, deciding when she wants to take them down and feel them. She was soon ready to get back to work, get back to school, and continue on with life. I was frozen, overtaken by grief and unable to even function. She was my one reason for wanting to be alive. She was what gave me strength.
I curled up on the couch beside her the other day and asked, "do you ever think about him?" She doesn't often talk about her brother. "of course I do," she replied, "I just know he is at peace now." She is so rational. What can't I be rational? Why am I consumed by emotion?
I have so many changes going on in my life right now. I am grieving the loss of my son, also grieving things I don't talk about. I try to be more like her, I try to learn from her. I try to put my emotions on the shelf for right now so I can make the choices I know I need to make instead of letting the fear and the pain hold me back.
Funny, I am her mother, but she has taught me far more than I feel like I could teach her. She has taught me to be strong. She has taught me not to need anyone who doesn't need me. She has taught me it's okay to feel but it's also okay to put the feelings aside and do what needs to be done. She is my strength, my reason to go on. She wouldn't want that though, she would tell me to be my own strength. She would tell me to live for myself. I will, my girl, I will.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Who are you? A new face appears...

She stumbles into the room, clothed entirely in black. Her face a distorted expression of exasperation and trepidation. She catches a quick glimpse of me and I see loathing in her eyes. "I am anger." She sneers at me. Anger picks up the vase where 18 white roses had wilted and hurls it towards the wall shattering, it into jagged pieces. Water trickling down the wall, pooling onto the floor. Seemingly unsatisfied she pics up a picture, holds it in her hands a moment. I think I see a tear in her eye as she too hurls it at the wall. Again, the shattering of glass and the jagged edges fall along the floor.

She wails loud guttural sounds, sounds I have never before heard. "There is nothing left here!" she roars. "I want to burn this place to the ground!" Her fists swing into the air, punching at imaginary demons, she slams her hands against the walls of the tiny room. "F*ck this! F*ck life! I can't do this anymore!" I stand back in the corner as not to provoke her. She is ferocious, snarling her teeth at me, "I hate you!" "I know," I whisper.

She sits down, the strap of her black dress sliding down her shoulder, her shaking hands try to light a cigarette. She grits her teeth and inhales her smoke quickly, she throws her head back and lets the smoke blow from her mouth forming a cloud over her head. This exhale is the tiniest sense of relief I have seen her allow. I cautiously sit down next to her, her face weary and I see droplets forming in her eyes. I'm intimidated, nervous to say the wrong thing. I sit with her in silence, she continues to put the cigarette to her lips and each exhale she let's go a little more.

Black streaks of makeup now smeared down her pale face. She lets them flow, never breaking to wipe them away. Her gnarled face, now more tender. she slides down in the chair, her chin towards the ceiling, she slumps back, her long hair hanging down the back of the chair. She doesn't make eye contact again, her words float up towards the ceiling. "I don't know how much more I can take" her wails, now whispers. She isn't talking to me, my purpose is just to observe. There aren't any words for me to say if she had wanted me to say anything anyway.

She let's go, her body completely slumped back into the chair. She stares blankly at the ceiling, her eyes are vacant, lost. Her body gives in, surrenders, she slides onto the floor. Her back against the chair, tears cascading down her face. She is breaking down and I am seeing through her veil. "Who are you REALLY?" I ask her gently. Without making eye contact she quietly divulges, "My name is Grief."

Thursday, May 9, 2019

The Scent of Grief

Young men and their body sprays. Some days we had to laugh because we could smell you coming down the hallway before we could even see you. There were times I joked about hiding it from him because it seemed like he would bathe in the stuff. He would ask before heading out "Do I smell okay?" I would smile, "Yes, it may be a little strong there kiddo." He would assure me that the scent would wear off during the day. The times he sprayed it in the car, we would be gasping for air and need to roll the windows down. That kind of gave me a clue as to why he got suspended from the bus for a week when he "accidentally" sprayed it on the bus. That boy loved his cologne and body spray. It was a bit of an annoyance and a bit humorous at the same time.
Every now and then I will walk past a young man wearing just a little bit too much of one of Zuka's favorite scents and his memory whisps by me. I catch it and breath him in. For a moment I even turn my head in hopes that maybe he is there. It's silly, of course, he isn't there but for a moment my olfactory sense sends a message to my brain that Zuka's scent is near and my heart yearns to believe it to be true.

I find myself opening the storage containers to smell his deodorant, his old shirts, anything that smells like him. Incredible how much memory is sparked by a scent. It's funny what you miss when someone is gone.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Life In this new Land

Zuka was like an ocean, his mood swings currents, waves back and forth. There were storms, of course, and some days it felt like the waves might engulf me and drag me out with them. Still, it was beautiful living by the ocean. He was sunlight beaming down onto my face. I sat on the shore and watched his magnificence. We had fun frolicking in the sand, building castles with the family and dreaming of future homes, future places. How do you move an ocean? How do you take all that power and that turbulence and fit it into anywhere but the sea? So we stayed there with him. We weathered the storms with him.

His death. Instantly, every drop of water dried dissipated, evaporated into the heavens. I found myself standing in what was now a desert. A deserted place, lonely, dry, thirsting for water. The sun didn't shine the same. Instead of lighting my face with a warm glow, it was now harsh and scorching. The desert feels endless and meaningless. I keep walking, I find nothingness. I search for beads of water, pieces of him but there isn't one drop to be found. How does anything grow in one of the earth's least hospitable environments?

 How do I start a new life here? How does one adapt to a climate so harsh?  Nothing here is alive except me. I am all I have left now everything has been stripped away.

I am free here, freer than I ever wanted to be. Freedom can be daunting when you don't know what to do with it. I have no map to lead me out of this wasteland.  I turn inwards and let what is inside my guide me slowly this rugged terrain. At some point I can't walk anymore, I am thirsty, I am weak, burned, exhausted and I decide it's time to put the anger aside and I begin calling out to God for direction.  Step by treacherous step, I slowly walk, praying one day I will no longer be lost in this wilderness, that I will find life again. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

What's beneath the surface, a look inside the box

    When people ask me how I am doing, my usual answer is “ok.” If I am feeling deeply pained at that particular moment I say, “I am surviving.” I don’t want to hand them the box of emotions I am truly feeling, it’s too heavy for anyone to carry, including myself. I feign a smile and change the subject. They may truly want to know what's below the surface but I can guarantee they don't know how to deal with it. They may drop my box of emotions and run, quickly throwing it back into my arms. "Take this back, it's too much!" They will surely try and make my box try to feel lighter, "at least you have another child," "He is in a better place," "God has a plan for everything," "Everything will be okay." They think these are hands reaching out to lighten the load. They are bricks stacked upon the box of emotion making it harder to carry, making me feel like I am not carrying the box correctly at all.
What's in the box? What is beneath the surface? There is a woman hidden in there, broken to pieces and terrified that life will never be okay again, that she will never be happy again. She wants to die sometimes, not kill herself but just slowly dissipate into the atmosphere and no longer feel.  There is so much fear. There is so much regret. Questions float around inside the box, "what if you hadn't tried to take him to the hospital that day?" "Did he know how much you loved and needed him, could you have told him more?" "You are a psychology major dammit, why couldn't you save your own child?" "What if you could have said the right words that day, what would they have been? Why couldn't you figure out what to say?" "If you had stayed with him, instead of going to the bathroom he wouldn't have been alone long enough to shoot himself" The thoughts I don't "allow" myself to entertain but they are all right there, floating around inside my head, inside the box, waiting for me to catch on to it and give it attention. I stuff it down, deep inside and try not to think.
The box is filled with loneliness. I didn't lose my child alone, I lost myself, I lost the relationships with people around me. Everything changed in the instant he made the decision to end everything. He took half of me with him that night. I live in two worlds, one foot in life, one in death. I walk around, a half a person, trying to pretend I am whole. Trying to keep in tears. Trying not to sleep all day to avoid life.
  When I open the box, I feel arms reach out and tighten around my throat. It's hard to breathe and my throat continues to tighten. I panic and feel like I am suffocating. I fumble with the lid, trying to stuff it all back in and secure the lid before the contents seep out and envelop me. See, I don't just hide them from the people around me, I am trying so hard to hide them from myself. I am not ready to revisit the box now I have packed it tight. For right now, it's safer for me to just carry it with me, strap it to my back and carry on, one step at a time through this new life I never wanted but must learn to live.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Who I was before Zuka died?

I thought I knew who I was before Zuka died. When I left my children’s father Zuka was a baby and I was pregnant with our second child. It was an incredibly difficult relationship that involved violence. I wasn’t strong enough to leave on my own but when the abuse continued I knew I could be strong for them. I was strong. I went to college full time, worked and raised my children. I was proud of myself. I knew whatever happened that I had my children to be strong for. No matter who came in and out of my life I had one thing I could always count on, my children would be there.
I had worked through past trauma, I had goals. I felt whole for the first time in my life. I thought I knew what my future looked like. I looked forward to watching him graduate college, see him getting married, having grandchildren. I had this whole exciting picture in my mind of what life was going to be. I saw both of my children coming home for holidays, still teasing one another, joking around, and doing their crazy dances. My husband and I having a beautiful home for that the kids and grandchildren could always come home to. I had security, or so I thought.
When Zuka took his life that night, everything fell apart. I didn’t know who I was anymore. I fell apart. I lost my job. I lost myself. I lost my foundation, my sense of security. I lost myself. I am not the person I used to be, I am working hard to figure out what that new picture will look like. Who am I and who am I becoming? It's frightening. For months I just stayed stuck, frozen in time. I am now working hard to figure out all the changes in my mind. Where will I be in 5 years? Hell, where will I be in one year. Am I finding myself or creating myself? I don't know what I am doing but struggling like hell to move on from this frozen place, find happiness again. I have hope, that's all I can cling to right now. At least I have hope.