Wednesday, October 9, 2013

I'm a Professional ......

...... Griever.  No kidding.  It seems that I can reach into someone's deep, dark and cold grief and speak to them.  I can tell them what I see in that blackness, which is really telling them what I see.
Or more precisely, what I saw.
I know that I'm not the only one who can do this.  I've seen, and read, many of you doing it for others, too.  I guess it comes with the territory.

I'm certain that if someone would've told me 6 years ago that I would have this "gift", I would've either ran in the opposite direction to get away from the crazy person ...... or I would've called the men in the white coats to come take her away.
Because seriously?
Who wants to be a professional griever??

While I may not like that role, or the reason I have it, I'm starting to recognize that this role is more of a blessing than it is a drain on me.
It blesses others, which blesses me.

And today I found out that I don't need to limit it to widowed people.
Other people grieve, too.

One such person is my 21 year old middle son.  He has just found out that a relationship he thought he'd have for the rest of his life ...... is over, never to be started up again.

This child has always been challenging to raise, and challenged by life.  Nothing has come easy for him, especially since his dad died.  He has fought fiercely to walk to the beat of a different drummer ...... which has sometimes caused our relationship to be fierce.
Fiercely strained and yet fiercely loving.
And he has fiercely struggled.

I think most mothers are strong people.  Parenting is not for the faint of heart.  When your child is hurting, physically as well as psychologically, the pain you feel is excruciating. Your job has always been to help your child, and to keep them from getting hurt when they're small.
When they're older and they hurt in a way that we cannot fix, we struggle with feeling like we've failed them.

Since Jim's death, it has slowly become clear (to me at least) that this child is depressed.
Over the last several years,  I have broached the subject of medication with him.
He has consistently resisted my thoughts and advice about looking into anti-depressants.
And that has been infuriatingly frustrating.
Frustrating for an only parent who hurts for her child ...... and who knows that had Jim not died that Christmas season ......  my son would not have struggled quite so fiercely.

He has been beyond depressed this week.  Yesterday was the first time he allowed me to sit and talk with him about it.
You all know the signs.  He can't eat, and if he tries to force himself to eat something, it doesn't stay down.
He can't focus on anything, other than the pain he's feeling and the future that dissolved in a moment.
The tears and the anger come in waves, sometimes crashing down on him at the same time.
This has brought back the cold, dark memories that I hate to remember ...... the days of feeling those waves and the strength of the undertow and barely managing to get enough air to breathe, or strength to keep swimming.

His grief is different than mine, and yours, in many ways.  The loss is not the same.
But at the age of 21 he can't see that.
And really, grief is grief.
And loss brings grief.

Today I sat next to him as he lay on his bed in a fetal position, crying.
It was awful.
I knew that he thought I couldn't understand.
So I began to tell him exactly where he was.
"Son, you are in the deepest, darkest cave you've ever been in.  It's very cold and it's beyond dark.  It's inky black.  You can't see your hand in front of your face, let alone the future you had planned.  No one is with you in that cave.  You're in the very deepest part of it, alone.  You can't see any light, so of course you can't see any way out of it.  You think that this is always where you'll be......always how you'll feel.
Does that sum it up for you?", I asked him.

He had slowly calmed down as I spoke.  When I asked that last question, he looked into my eyes and I could see a glimmer of relief in there.
"Yes.", he said.  "That's where I am and that's how I feel."

I looked at him for a moment or two, and then whispered, "Honey, I was in that cave."
Those words seemed to reach him.  He looked at me with different eyes.  Or maybe he looked at me like I was a different person.  But in that moment, he knew that I had, indeed, been in the inky-black cave of grief ...... and that I had made it out.

I started telling him all of the things I've told so many of you,
"You will NOT always feel this way."
"This is grief.  I can't carry you out of it, but I will be here to walk beside you, no matter how long it takes."
"Put one foot in front of the other and before long, you'll be in the middle of the cave and then you'll be able to see that it's lighter there.  And that discovery gives you energy to keep walking forward."

For the first time ever, he really heard me as I talked about grief.  And for the first time EVER, he agreed to start anti-depressants, which he did.
One day at a time.

I pray that he's able to keep moving forward.  His young life has been full of so much hurt, the biggest hurt being the death of his dad.
And while he and I both know that there's nothing I can say or do to take the pain away, he now knows that I "get it".  He's daring to hope that this dark cave will not always be his home.
And he knows that I'm here and will do my best to always be here to give him strength and to remind him that things will get better and life will get easier.

I know that my passion, here in my "After", is to help other widowed people know that they aren't crazy, but just very normal.
I never expected (or wanted) to be able to share that passion with one of my children.
But I'm glad I did.  His grief and my grief helped us grow closer today.  He knows that I get it and he knows that I know what I'm talking about (a feat that sometimes takes many, many years, and a couple of grandchildren(!), for our children to find out for themselves).

Who would've thought that my grief, my time in a deep, black, cold cave, would turn me into a professional griever?  And one who may be able show her children (though I hope that none of them know the grief that we know here) that she "gets it".

I'm just glad that I do have the ability to relate to others who grieve and to help them feel hope is out there.
Because when that happens, it's like Jim is here with me, encouraging me to use what I went through to help others.
And when that happens, I know that his death has not only brought about deep, dark grief, but it's also brought goodness.  Any time I can reach someone down in that cold, dark cave ...... I feel blessed.

And close to professional.


  1. This is brilliant, Janine, and well worth sharing. Thank you so much for writing this! ♥

  2. You have me in tears, Janine, and who, better than his own mother, to tell your son she does know EXACTLY how he's feeling. I will be thinking about you both, and hoping that he finds some relief as his medicine starts helping him.


  3. As you know -being still on your journey."It is not a quick fix" - and psychotropic meds needs to be in combination with therapy for depression. As he continues on his journey- keep your eye on his behavior.... ps no-one is alone in that dark cave - "GOD is always there with you...

  4. Wow Janine,, I too am in tears. My 26 year old son was already struggling when his dad passed suddenly. I have tried to reach him without success. I am planning on calling him tonight and using your same approach.

    So strange that your tragic and senseless loss of Jim has turned into a giant GAIN for this burdened and beat up widow community. Thanks seems so empty for all you have done!

  5. Wishing the best for your son. Mom's love is strong for sure!

  6. Thank you for this. My son 25 has been struggling since his Dad died on January 2nd ( he took care of his Dad with me for 14 months ), he realized that he is depressed and has been on 2 medications and has had some side effects so he is not sure about trying another one.. He has started talking with a Psychologist and I can see a difference even thou I don't think he can. Many times he says Mom you are like me and need to go also, but I keep saying no I'm just so very, very, VERY sad that it is different. BUT after reading this he may need to hear from me that yes I am where he is and I understand. Thank you.

  7. This is one of the best posts I've read. Thank you for sharing and God bless you and your son.

  8. good one, Janine. We need your insights.. please keep them coming...