What’s Christmas Like This Year?

Dear Brady,

It’s easier this year.

I feel guilty saying those words, but that doesn’t make them any less true.

It’s been different every year since you left us. The first year, I was just trying to survive. To get through a time of year that was supposed to be happy, yet it wasn’t, not really. Not without you. Knowing you’d never come back (even though I hadn’t yet admitted it at that point. Stages of grief and all that.)

The second year, your sister got a full-sized bed for Christmas, and we had to pack away the cute, whimsical flannel sheets we’d procured for both of you when you were toddlers. That was hard. Not only was it packing away a piece of your childhood, but in your case, it felt like we were packing away even more of your memories. Because, you know, that’s all we’ve got.

The third year, I was angry. (As noted by THIS blog post.) I didn’t even realize at the time how furious I was, but yeah, that blog post I linked to will give you an idea.

And now we’re at Year Four.

Here’s what’s happened so far: We haven’t put a wreath or blanket on your grave. Every year since you died, we’ve bought a wreath from the Boy Scouts, but somehow, this year, we missed them. So your grave currently lays bare. I’m a little surprised your grandma hasn’t lectured me about this yet, to be honest.

And we cut down our tree. Just the three of us: me, your dad, and your sister. We went back to the place we used to go when you and your sister were babies. Babies, toddlers; young elementary school age. Back when it was hit or miss whether it would be fun, mostly because you still needed naps and daily naps aren’t exactly conducive to getting anything done outside of the house. Back when a Styrofoam cup full of hot cocoa with miniature marshmallows bobbing in the drink could cure practically any ailment, specifically, an overtired, cold toddler’s woes.

Your dad decided to go back there. We hadn’t been in a while because the last time we went, their selection had been pretty sparse. And then you died, and we were trying to figure out what to do that first year, and your aunt and uncle suggested we all go together, to start a new tradition. Similar, yet different enough from what we did when you were part of our lives. And so we went to a place over near them, instead of this tree farm we had gone to for years and years.

That new tradition carried on until this year. The day we decided to go, they had other things going on, and for a hot minute, your dad and sister and I actually considered going to a place that sold pre-cut trees and doing it the easy way.

And then last night, your dad, out of nowhere, announced that no, he didn’t want to do that. “Your mom and I have been cutting down a tree every year since we got married, and I don’t want to break that tradition,” he told your sister as we drove home from spending a lovely evening at his parents’ house, hanging out with his siblings and a favorite cousin who was visiting from out-of-town.

So we returned to where it all began. Okay, maybe not quite, but certainly this place holds a great many memories from yours and your sister’s early childhood.

I admit, I was hesitant, worried that I’d be “triggered.” I haven’t cried over your death in a fair while, and with the holidays upon us, I’m almost anticipating it happening. Probably, I should just head out to your grave, because that’s what I do when I feel the grief building up inside but it isn’t coming out, whether because it’s not convenient (don’t particularly want to become a blubbering mess at my workplace) or I don’t want to ruin the mood, as it were, or, honestly, I just don’t have the emotional strength at that moment to deal with the grief that never actually goes away.

It just…hovers. That’s the best way I can describe it. It’s always there, yes, usually in the background, but still…there.

I drive by a certain landmark. I hear a certain song. A commercial (God knows, advertising executives know how to tug at the heartstrings for their clients).

Or, I come across a few pictures of you. One I can handle. Two, even. Three, eh. But any more and my chest is tight and my stomach clenches as my eyes fill with liquid and I’m blinking rapidly and sucking in great, gasping breaths, and I know I sound like I’m writing one of my books but yeah, this is my reality.

Speaking of reality, so we went to the Christmas tree farm where we used to take you when you were little, and guess what?

It wasn’t bad. It was nice. It was fun. And we found the ‘perfect’ tree. We cut it down. We headed back to the warming shed for hot cocoa. With marshmallows. And then, once the tree was wrapped, we headed home, stopping on the way for a late lunch.

Even more astounding, we managed to decorate the entire tree that day. For the last few years, tree decorating has been a week-long event. We added ornaments little by little; not sure if that was our way of staving off the grieving or if it was because once upon a time we had a lot more ornaments (until the tree fell over and half our ornaments shattered – here’s the blog post).

So here we are, a week before Christmas. We’re chest deep in the holiday festivities. Your sister is in the middle of midterms; I’m wrapping up my last week of the day job for the year. Your cousins from Louisiana are coming into town this weekend, and we’re doing family Christmas at our house on Monday.

Everyone will be here. Well, everyone except you, and Grandpa Roger. Family gatherings are supposed to get bigger, yet ours has shrunk over the last four years.

Still, I’m looking forward to it. This is the first time we’ll all be together since you left us, and while there will be two empty places at the table, I am hopeful that we will enjoy ourselves. That we’ll laugh and joke and tease and talk over one another and make memories that will be bittersweet—because you aren’t there—and treasured for years to come.

Because if there’s one thing that losing my son has taught me, it’s that grieving is a convoluted, layered emotion. It’s both heavy and light. Remembering a loved one we’ve lost brings smiles and tears. As much as we hate our loss, we don’t want to forget the time we had together. Even though it’s painful to remember. Because the memories are all we have, all we’ll ever have.

Which sucks.

I love you always and forever ~Mom

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Happy holidays to you and your loved ones. I hope you hug each other tight. I hope you make memories that you’ll recall fondly long after someone who played a part in those memories is gone.

Because with those memories, they won’t be gone, not entirely. They will always be with you.

In your heart.

xoxo ~Tami Lund 

Struggling With A Dual Reality

It’s been two years and four months since my son died.

Lately, I’ve been struggling with this dual reality my life has taken on. There was my life before and now my life after. The problem with after is before still intrudes. It’s still very much part of this new life; it’s the foundation, really.

Except we can’t focus on before and wish for what we can’t have, so our only option is to forge ahead, keep moving along this new path. Until four months ago, the second anniversary of my son’s death, that new path was shadowed by his ghost.

But now our new life is truly, entirely new. Everything we do, everything we experience from this point forward has never occurred before. He didn’t make it past this point. My daughter will be our first to finish seventh grade; first to start eighth grade. First to reach her fourteenth birthday. Every single day is a first, for the rest of her life.

One of the biggest struggles along this new path is the guilt. Because it’s true what “they” say: it does get easier. It gets easier because we think about it less. There’s really no choice; life charges on, whether we want to stay stagnant and drown in our memories or not. And eventually, we get caught up in life, and we think about those who are gone less and less. Even if we don’t want to let go.

Don’t be fooled into thinking they are ever very far away, though. They still regularly intrude on this new life, often in unexpected ways. Sometimes I see a toddler, going about his merry way, and he does something that reminds me of my son. The other day, in church, it was actually a little girl. She kept digging in her mom’s purse, pulling out small packages of fruit chews. Just like my son used to do.

Sometimes it’s a parent of one of his friends, posting something on Facebook about high school, driver’s training, homecoming, a first job; pretty much any step they take in life, that my son will never get to experience. The other day my husband and I had a conversation about high school graduation: when his friends graduate, will we go? Can we handle it? Do we want to put ourselves through that, what will be a day of celebration, happiness, joy, pride–for all those other parents?

We didn’t have the answers.

Sometimes it’s another death, someone’s parent or spouse. Very occasionally it’s the death of another child. Someone reaches out—another friend of theirs is suffering the same fate my family had, and they thought I might be able to help in some way.

Sometimes it’s simply life.

Did you know July is Bereaved Parents Awareness Month? I had no idea, and I’ve been part of that club for over two years now. I did a little research about it when I was thinking about writing this blog post. Just a little, though. Lord, it’s hard to read those stories. It’s a dual pain—I hate it for those other parents and I hate stirring up my own memories that are best left tucked away in the dark recesses of my mind, where they don’t make me cry. Not all the time, anyway.

But they are always still there, no matter what I do, where I go, what I think, what I wish. I can’t ever escape, not entirely. I can go for long bouts without thinking about them, but eventually they will surface, insist upon rearing their ugly, sad, depressing head. Which aren’t really ugly, sad, and depressing. Most of those memories are fun, wonderful, cheerful, sweet, any number of positive emotions.

Until I remember that this is all I have: memories. Old memories. Past memories. There will be no new ones.

And when that happens, all I really can do is cry. Seriously, there is no other cure. Having a wallowing in self-pity cry is the only way to shoo those memories back to where they belong, so I can continue on this journey called life.

I guess I don’t need to feel that guilt after all, do I?

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Tami Lund writes depressing blog posts as an outlet for the pain of losing her child. She also writes romance because she craves a happy ending, more so now that she’s suffered the sort of pain she often puts her characters through. Her next release is Dragon His Heels: A Bad Alpha Dads Romance.

 

Things You Don’t Think About Until Tragedy Strikes

It’s been two years and two and a half months since my son made the incredibly devastating decision to leave us behind forever. He was thirteen and in seventh grade when he took his own life.

My daughter, the one child I have left, is about to finish seventh grade, and will be thirteen in a few weeks. I am already counting down the days until her fourteenth birthday. Even though that age begins a whole new era of challenges (hello dating, driver’s ed. on the horizon, and making decisions about college…), none of those can remotely compare to the fear that my other child will do it too.

Sometimes I tell myself, Come on, Tami, you know she won’t. And then myself whispers back, That’s what you thought about him, too.

It’s an argument I’ll never win. But in my head, I’m convinced the argument will become less vocal, less at the forefront, once she moves from thirteen to fourteen. Subconsciously, I will believe the threat of suicide will have reduced significantly, even though, realistically, I don’t believe it is even there in the first place. Of course, tell that to Self…

Tragedy messes with your head, let me tell you. It’s like this living, breathing monster, hovering over you, whispering in your ear, exploiting every fear you’ve ever felt and blowing them up until it feels like they are crushing you.

And then when I think things like that, I think, Gee, is that where my son’s monsters came from? Did they come from me? Was it my fault?

There’s a topic for discussion next time I’m parked on my therapist’s couch.

Here’s a perfect example of my fears running rampant and my internal self telling my, well, self, to calm the fuck down:

I have recently come to the (not popular) determination that housework was not meant for only one person. In fact, I proclaimed to my family, there are three of us living here, three of us making a mess of the place, so therefore three of us should clean it up.

I know, novel concept, eh?

The announcement, handily made over Mother’s Day weekend, spurred (extremely) grudging completion of chores by other members of my household, thus giving me a little bit more time to do what I love: write stories. Too bad for them there was such immediate and joyful gratification from the work they did, because now I have the expectation on the regular.

Yep, I’m a crazy one, all right.

So this past Saturday evening, I said to my husband, “Tomorrow’s the day. We all just need to pitch in one hour and the house will be clean.” He was amicable because, well, he knows I’m right.

Since I know my daughter well, I know she would rather do her portion when we aren’t around, versus all of us happily cleaning away together, like a family. So on Sunday, just before it was time to go to church, I gave her a list of chores to complete while her father and I were gone.

And she coped an attitude. One of those giant ones teenagers are so amazingly capable of.

I told her again what was expected of her, and she started with the questions, all of which basically came down to, “Why?” I explained that dust is gross and needed to be wiped away on occasion, and frankly, she should be glad because we sure as hell don’t dust this place as often as it needs it. It usually happens when I accidentally brush a finger along a shelf and it comes back gray—or worse, when the sun shines in the window at exactly the right angle and highlights all the dust motes with glowing little halos. (Every time that happens, I think, there is nothing heavenly about dust. Nothing. In fact, if heaven really is heaven, there will be no dust there ever.)

Not surprisingly, the conversation deteriorated until I uttered that ever-hated phrase, “Because I said so.” And to make matters worse, my husband stormed into the room at that point and had my back. “Here, let me help you listen better to your mother,” he said and promptly turned off her computer in the middle of whatever game she was playing.

Ouch.

So naturally, when we left, she was angry and not speaking to us.

And also naturally, I spent the entirety of mass completely tuning out whatever the priest was saying and instead stressing over my daughter, home alone, angry, sitting and stewing in what was once her brother’s room. And to be honest, I’m a little bit surprised I didn’t get up and leave in the middle of it because seriously, that internal angst shit is real, and it’s seven thousand times more potent when you’ve already experienced the fear you are imagining at the time.

Needless to say, my daughter was alive and well when we arrived home. And the dusting had been done, as well as vacuuming and making her bed. Damn, I should have given her a bigger list.

And none of us are angry anymore, either. So life goes on, and I can breathe easily again.

For the moment. Only 385 more days before she turns fourteen…

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Tami Lund writes books, drinks wine, wins awards, and writes quirky blogs about her life. She also recently released a brand new book called BABY, I’M HOME, if you want to check it out!

A Wreath On A Grave

This morning, I dropped my daughter off at school and then headed out to the cemetery to place a wreath at my son’s grave. Last year, our first Christmas without him, I hadn’t thought to do this, but to be fair, we were still reeling from the shock of his death, still struggling through all those firsts that one must go through those initial twelve months after an unexpected and tragic death. Luckily, my mother-in-law came to the rescue (as she so often does) and placed a wreath at his grave, even adding a blue ribbon instead of the traditional red, because that was his favorite color.

I admit, that hadn’t occurred to me as something we had to do after a loved one died. Probably because until last year, my husband and I were blessed with not having had to manage the death of a close loved one. Now we’ve discovered not only are we supposed to put a wreath at his gravesite each December, but we’re also supposed to maintain the area in the summer, too.

Okay, “supposed to” is a strong way to say it. You see, we chose to bury his ashes in a natural (aka green) cemetery. This means they don’t cut the grass, they don’t use pesticides to make it look perfect and pristine. The grave markers are boulders dug up from that very site, and you can either let the natural landscape (aka weeds) take over or you can plant your own flowers, so long as they’re native to Michigan.

I’ve had intentions since last spring to plant flowers: Bulbs for spring color and perennials from my own yard, selecting varietals that would ensure something was blooming for the entirety of the growing season. And it seems terribly appropriate that the flowers would come from my own yard, the one he played in, the one he grew up in.

Those intentions haven’t yet turned into reality because, well, I’m good at coming up with excuses to avoid doing things I don’t want to do. And kneeling in the dirt, digging into my son’s gravesite ranks damn high on the I Don’t Want To list. One of these years I’m sure that perspective will change. Hopefully, eventually, I’ll find some sort of comfort in doing that. If I keep telling myself that, it’ll come true, right?

And then there was the drive home. Taking my daughter to school has become routine, a new one created after my son died. She’s at a different school from the one he attended (on purpose), although we do have to drive past his old school every single day to get to hers. Today, because I dropped her off and then went to visit him, as I headed back to the house, my mind suddenly delved into territory I don’t often go into.

If he were still alive…

If today was just another day, and I’d dropped them both at school instead of have them take the bus. He would be in high school now, a freshman, so he’d get dropped off first, since high school has an earlier start than middle school. I would have made a giant circle, as the high school is further away from home than the middle school, and there are a couple lakes in between. The kids would have argued over who got to sit in the front seat. He probably would have won because he’d use the argument that he would get out of the car first, and then she could get into the front seat for the ride to her school. She would have acquiesced because she always deferred to him. He was the big brother, after all; larger than life, her idol.

Until he wasn’t.

That’s as far as I could get into that particular daydream. Not surprising. First, I’d just come from his gravesite, which is a guaranteed cry. Then, I’m thinking about things that simply cannot be, no matter how hard I wish for them. And when I think about it like that, it gets reeeeaaallly depressing, so I have to deliberately cut myself off and mentally change the channel to avoid that scary, dark path.

I sure wish he’d had that ability. Then I wouldn’t need it today.

 

Tami Lund Headshot 2014

Tami Lund is an author trying to juggle the various aspects of real life, some of which are damned depressing. That’s probably why she insists upon writing happily ever afters. Because everyone deserves them, and since life isn’t always so accommodating, she ensures her books are. Check out her website at: www.tamilund.com.

Trying to Figure Out the Hardest Job in the Universe

Parenting is one of the hardest jobs in the universe. Some would argue it’s the hardest. And when something goes wrong–say one of your kids commits suicide–well, it makes you question everything you thought you learned. Everything about yourself, your abilities–as a parent, as a human being.

All those years of trying to get it right, of working toward a positive outcome, of reading, studying, planning, hoping, praying; all of it was washed away over the course of one tragic evening during which the child I raised made the ultimate bad decision. In my case, it was thirteen years’ worth of on-the-job training.

To make it worse, while I’m grieving the loss of one kid–and doubting everything about myself–there’s still another to take care of. My son left behind his sister, who happened to have idolized him like any self-respecting younger sibling would. For the last nineteen months, I’ve been trying to figure out how to balance my own grief with ensuring she’s happy, well-adjusted, managing her way through this new life we’ve been forced to forge.

My daughter is now twelve. She’s in seventh grade. A year younger than he was when he made that horrible decision, but now in the same grade. I have no idea if it was the age or the grade or if both had a factor in his choice, but that hardly matters. I’m left to pick up the pieces—we’re left to try to make our way down a new path that has been twisted beyond recognition, and the suspension bridge leading to the way back has been cut, collapsed in on itself and plummeted to the ground a thousand feet below.

We’re all changed since that day; that’s inevitable. And none of us have changed in the same way. My husband golfs more—a lot more. I blog—a lot more. And cry. A lot more. My daughter, well, she’s quieter, more reserved, but bits of harsh, teenage personality flair up every now and then. I suspect these startling flair ups are as shocking to her as they are to me. I also believe they are a bit of stress relief, which I know she needs, because like her father, she keeps everything bottled up inside, tucked away near her heart, in a tiny box reserved specifically for emotions she doesn’t like to deal with. Unfortunately for her, those emotions aren’t very good at listening and following directions—much like the teenage mind she’s trying to lock them into.

I, of course, don’t think it’s a bad thing to let those emotions out. I believe they need to escape every now and then, they need to breathe, they need to cry, shout, scream, whatever it takes to help her find her equilibrium again. As much as I hate crying, I admit I always feel a bit cathartic afterward. I find I’m better able to handle tough situations such as when my daughter tells me she doesn’t like having anything to do with me because I’m so different since “it” happened nineteen months ago.

Thank God for that random, out-of-nowhere crying jag while I was driving in my car earlier in the day, because otherwise there was no way in hell I would have been able to hear something like that without losing my shit.

But I didn’t break down or go ape shit, much to my own surprise as well as my daughter’s. She fully expected me to have a meltdown or scream at her; I’m still not sure which. All I know is I took her completely by surprise by talking about the subject entirely rationally and calmly, and hopefully with a bit of intelligence to boot. Maybe I’m finally managing to become the parent I thought I was before my son died.

I told her everybody grieves differently. It’s okay if I cry at the slightest provocation or if her dad golfs all the damn time or if her grandma visits her grandson’s grave on a weekly basis or if her grandpa talks to him every night before he goes to bed—even if it’s a one-sided conversation. It’s okay because we aren’t curled up into balls in the bedroom, hiding from the world. We’re living, even if it’s differently from the way we were nineteen months ago. We’re making our way in this world, we’re figuring it out, and the process isn’t really something to be concerned about so long as we’re doing it. I let her know that if she wants me to do something differently, I’ll give it my best shot, because that’s what parents do. We try our damnest to make our kids’ lives easier/better/safer/happier. That’s part of why our jobs are so freaking hard, because we don’t have all the control; all we can do is our best and hope it’s good enough to overcome some of those external factors.

And sometimes good enough isn’t enough.

She left the table after my little spiel, and I didn’t call out to her or yell at her and demand she stay or even ask for a response. I finished my dinner and then began to clean up. And a little while later she came back, hovering in the hallway outside the kitchen, and said, “You know how you said everyone grieves differently? Well, I grieve differently than you, and I need you to respect that.”

And you know what? She’s right. And I told her so. And I promised to try.

This grieving process has turned into a learning process. Learning how to live again. Learning how to be a parent and a daughter with the dark cloud of a lost son/sibling hovering over our lives. Learning how to communicate with my remaining child, the one who is suffering as much as I am—just differently.

Because we all grieve differently. And that’s okay.

Tami Lund Headshot 2014

Tami Lund is an award winner, wine drinker, and writer of happy endings. Because life sometimes sucks, and we all need an escape. Check out her website here: http://tamilund.com

Ghosts & Graduation

The era of family graduations has begun. My oldest niece graduated from high school last weekend.

I have eight nieces and nephews; four in my husband’s family, four in mine. Next year will be another niece, then a nephew the year after, then two more nephews the next year. After that, we’ll have a small break in high school graduations, which is perfect, as we’ll start to celebrate the college grads at that point. Then, over the next few years, there’ll be three more nieces and my daughter.

It’s pretty cool how little has changed about the ceremony itself. Although the one thing I found fascinating about this graduation that I don’t recall from my own was the trend of decorating the tops of the caps. Many proclaimed the logo of the college they would be attending in the fall; some wrote funny or sentimental sayings, while a few simply pasted sparkling gems to add a bit of bling.

Everything else was pretty much the same. Including how looooooooong the ceremony was. How hot it became with so many people packed into the facility for all those hours. By the time it was over, it felt like the air hadn’t even been on, yet when we arrived it had been almost cold in the building.

The pics with family were the same as they had been back in the day, too. And we managed to capture one of all the grandkids; a rare occurrence, actually.

Well, almost all the grandkids.

While we sat at dinner afterward, my father-in-law said, “Five more to go.” And then he paused. “Well, four. Should be five, though.”

Yeah, it should be. And if I could pinpoint one aspect of this grieving process that sucks beyond all others, it’s that my son’s ghost now puts a damper on every event in our lives. Moments that should be full of joy are tampered by the fact that there will be no more memories with him in them.

This was the second event recently where I noticed that sensation, that frustration because I couldn’t simply enjoy the moment. Where he hovered in the background, reminding me of what I lost, and not allowing me to simply revel, live my life.

A couple weeks ago, there was an awards ceremony at my daughter’s school. She’s at a new school this year, her first year of middle school. And she managed to make First Honor Roll, as well as was one of only two kids in the whole school with perfect attendance. We were so freaking proud.

And the next day, as I drove to the day job, I started crying. It was one of those moments where it hit with no forewarning. Because two years prior, we’d attended a similar awards ceremony for my son. The one and only one we’d ever attend for him, because he was gone before the end of his seventh grade year.

Now, the school year is almost over, and my daughter will be a seventh grader. I’ll live the entire year in fear, no doubt. His ghost hovering in the shadows, eclipsing everything that happens. It makes me so angry because I don’t want to detract from her successes, from the fact that she’s still here with us, living, moving forward every single day. Growing. Flourishing. Being happy.

That’s what my husband said the other day. “The biggest difference between him and her is she’s always happy.”

Just like I want to be.

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Tami Lund is an author, wine drinker, and award winner. Despite the sometimes depressing blog posts she writes, her books all have happy endings. Because that’s how it should be. Check out her website at: http://tamilund.com

Mind Over Matter with Tami Lund

Participated in my first 5k marathon this past weekend. No, no I didn’t run—don’t be silly. I did walk fast, though, and that counts for something, right?

It was the annual Mind Over Matter Marathon, or better known as “MOM.” It’s been around for a while, twelve years, actually. The goal is to raise funds and awareness for the prevention of, and to erase the stigma surrounding mental illness and suicide. A cause that’s pretty near and dear to my heart, as you know.

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I did it. The race is over and I crossed the finish line.

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But I didn’t participate in any of the activities they had planned for afterward, didn’t stay to listen to the live band or enter to win any of the raffle drawings for some really cool prizes. I didn’t pick up one of the colored bracelets—each one signifying exactly how your life has been touched by suicide—either. Didn’t write my son’s name on any of the banners or the big paper hearts people were carrying around. Didn’t write a note and stick it to the giant M-O-M set up near the registration booth. I didn’t tell anyone my story; no one knew why I was there, other than to support a worthy cause.

I couldn’t. For one thing, I don’t want a badge that proclaims me as the mother of a suicide victim. I don’t want strangers to talk to me about it, even if they have had the same experience. Not because of the stigma, but because I don’t want to.

I don’t want to deal with that reality. I can’t stand the fact that other mothers have gone through what I went through—am going through. It makes my heart hurt knowing there are so many people suffering in this world.

I also can’t talk about it. I’m not there yet. Hell, I spend half my sessions with my therapist dancing around the subject because I hate it. I hate talking about it because that makes it even more real, brings it to the surface, forces me to acknowledge it. And acknowledging it generally makes me cry, and I don’t like crying and certainly not in public.

And ultimately, talking about it makes me wish for something I can’t have: My son.

Despite all this, I’m glad I participated. There’s a definite sense of accomplishment to completing a 5k, even if you’re a walker. And this organization promotes a worthy cause. Maybe, just maybe, the work they do will save a life or a few. Maybe another family will be made aware early enough, and someone else’s son will live out his life the way he’s supposed to. Maybe. I hope so.

Tami Lund Headshot 2014

Tami Lund is an author, wine drinker, award winner, and now, apparently, marathon walker. She also believes in supporting worthy causes because if they can save even one life, it’s worth it.

Check out her website for other stuff she writes. You know, like books: http://tamilund.com

Today’s the Anniversary by Tami Lund

It’s an anniversary today. One year ago, my son died, and my life was turned upside, forever altered in a way I could never have imagined, not even in the deepest, darkest part of my overactive imagination.

This date has been hanging over our heads since March first, a depressing sort of anticipation building as each square on the calendar was crossed off. I’ve dreaded it for two reasons: 1) because, well, it’s The Day and this date will suck for the rest of my life; and 2) because this means beginning tomorrow we will enter Year Two of Life Without My Son, this new reality I neither wanted nor expected to be forced to live.

So what does one do on the first anniversary of one’s son’s death?

Well, my husband and I both took the day off work. I did because I wanted to have the inevitable emotional breakdown in the privacy of my own home (or at his graveside, as it were) and not in front of my co-workers, even as supportive as they all have been. My husband did it because he feels this overwhelming need to be there for me.

As I drove my daughter to school this morning, I asked if she wanted to visit her brother’s grave with us. She looked at me and said, “Why are you visiting today?”

“Well, it’s the day this all happened, so it seems appropriate.”

“It is? Huh. I thought it was later in the month.” She paused and said, “Is that why you and Dad both took the day off work?”

“Yes.”

“Awe, how come I don’t get to take the day off school?”

“You didn’t even know what day it was. How can I justify you taking a day off?”

We both chuckled, a nice deviation from the usual half-awake state she’s normally in each morning as we head toward school.

I spent the morning writing. If you’re a fan of Sexy Bad Neighbor, you’ll be pleased to know we’re up to chapter nine of Sexy Bad Daddy (and hoping to release it in June). My husband, I don’t know what he did. I was too busy getting lost in a reality in which I know without a single doubt there will be a happy ending.

I took the dog for a walk. The poor thing hadn’t had one in two days, thanks to crazy weather and my emotional breakdown last night.

We checked up on the grandparents, made sure they were making it through this horrible day.

And then, around noon, we headed out to run errands, including an amusing stop at the drug store to buy the necessary supplies to prepare for a colonoscopy (not me—him, although I’m sure the experience will be part of a future blog post—never fear).

And then we headed out to the cemetery, to visit my son. The temperature was in the twenties, with a bitter wind that made it feel more like single digits. The sun was shining, and there were sandhill cranes slowly wandering about, which my husband informed me are the ‘filet mignon of the sky’ and whoever manages that sort of thing is considering allowing people to legally hunt them. Yes, this was a conversation we had while standing over my son’s grave.

And then we talked about depression and mental health and the frustrations we have as the ones who were left behind; the ones who didn’t know anything was wrong until it was too late. The state of mind neither of us can imagine, that leads someone to convince themselves death is the optimal solution to making the demons in their head stop screaming.

We talked about my daughter, my sadness over the fact that she doesn’t have a brother anymore, that her future children won’t know their Uncle Brady; that she now goes to a Catholic school and that it’s entirely likely she’s the only kid there without a sibling. We gratefully acknowledged that she is generally happy, a glass-half-full kind of kid, and that we do not have to worry about any demons in her head. My son, on the other hand, had been largely miserable for the last year or so of his life, and we’d attributed it to “typical” teenage angst, when in fact, it was much, much more than that.

And then we had a late lunch, ate at a small sports bar that we didn’t start frequenting until after my son’s death. I commented that I liked this place because it was a new fave for us, and I’m a big fan of starting new traditions instead of holding onto the old. My husband pointed out that the first time we went to this place was the day we picked out our own gravestone, at which point I’d commented, “This feels more binding than even getting married did.”

After that, we picked up my daughter from school. She was thrilled to see us and chatted all the way home, exchanging snarky comments with my husband and laughing each time, even telling us a bit about her day in between. That seven minute ride was the highlight of my day thus far.

Now we’re off to dinner, going back to an old tradition. My therapist suggested we do something to honor Brady on this day, perhaps make his favorite meal. Instead, we decided to go to his favorite restaurant. Hopefully, we’ll have a nice, relaxing dinner and we’ll laugh through the tears.

And tomorrow, we go back to reality, this new reality that, while it was forced upon us, we’re doing our best to make as happy and satisfying as we can.

Tami Lund Talks Dragons & Loss

Almost a year after his death, we’re slowly beginning to use my son’s bedroom again. Not surprisingly, it’s being taken over by my daughter. Her Lego dragons are on the shelves; there are pictures next to the computer monitor. We’ve moved the dog’s crate in there, too, which is nice if only to get it out of the living room.

We offered to move her in there entirely (it’s bigger than her bedroom), but she declined. I think it’s a combination of it being “his” room and the fact that she isn’t keen on change. Moving her bed is one thing; firing up the computer in there is entirely another. And the dragons are there because she’s run out of room in her own bedroom.

My husband and I refer to it as the “annex” now. My daughter recently said, “Why do you call it that? It’s Brady’s room.”

I replied, “Because honestly, saying his name hurts. It’s easier this way.”

And she said, “Why can’t you remember the good times? Why can’t you enjoy the time we had with him, instead of wishing it never happened?”

That hurt, because I admit, sometimes I wish he never had been born, but only because that way I’d never have had to suffer this immense pain that never quite goes away, now that he’s dead, far, far too soon.

When I think that way, my overactive mind goes a few steps further, and tries to analyze what the world would be like if my husband and I had not tried to get pregnant for those six months; if I had not gone to my gynecologist and she had not prescribed a pill that would (finally) make me ovulate. If we had not had sex on that specific day, at that specific moment.

My daughter came around when she did because of the timing of my son’s birth; we wanted them roughly three years apart, and we got lucky because they were two years and nine months apart. It was Halloween, eleven days after his second birthday, when I found out I was pregnant with her.

If we had not had him, would we still have her? We never intended to only have one. If it had taken us another six months to get pregnant, we might have had an entirely different kid. Maybe even a girl first. And then we probably would have waited another six months to try to get pregnant with number two. And maybe she would have been a boy. And since I cannot fathom my life without my daughter in it, I suppose I cannot say I wish my son had never been born, because then I might not have her, too.

So after a few moments, I responded, and I said, “I don’t wish it had never happened. I wish it were still happening.”

Tami Lund Headshot 2014

Tami Lund writes funny, award-winning books and depressing blog posts. But the blogging helps her deal, so she can do everything else in life–like write more books for your reading pleasure. Check out her books here: https://www.amazon.com/Tami-Lund/e/B00AXJH5MY/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_2

Tami Lund Talks Babies

I’ve been thinking about having another baby.

Okay, relax. I said thinking about, not I’m taking my temperature daily and purchasing a giant bottle of pre-natal vitamins and new lingerie (sorry, honey). And when I say thinking about, what I really mean is, Oh my God, look at that adorable baby! Oh, look at that sweet little toddler. Oh, that chubby cheeked smile. Oh, that little-kid voice. Oh, they’re all so darn adorable when they’re somewhere between utterly and completely helpless and, say, middle school.

Let’s be real here, though. As much as I try to deny it, the cold, hard reality is, I’ve passed my fortieth birthday. More than a year ago. More than a couple years ago. Hell, I don’t even know if my ovaries still work. I didn’t ovulate often when I was in my prime, and I’m pretty sure I’m peri-menopausal.

I also have a love affair with wine that I’m not keen on breaking off, even for what would amount to a short period of time. And if wine and I are calling it quits, I’d better be shedding pounds, not growing a basketball in my belly. Because let’s face it, the only reason I can’t let go of those extra ten has everything to do with that giant bottle of red on my counter. Well, actually, it’s the ones in the recycle bin that are to blame, but that one on my counter will be added to the ranks soon enough.

And let’s get even more real… I once had two kids. Now I have one. And one is so much easier than two. So much. Compound that with the fact that my husband and I feel this need to put our remaining child in a bubble, to bestow upon her all the love and attention and focus that perhaps we had not given enough of to my son.

She seems to be thriving as a result. So far, she isn’t turning into a spoiled little princess, which I admit, was a fear. Not that we’d do it consciously, of course, but I worried we would put her on a pedestal in an attempt to keep her from doubting her own self-worth, and then she’d develop an attitude or personality to match the attention showered upon her.

Lucky for us, she’s simply becoming more confident, trying a little bit harder, suffering the spotlight more than she probably ever thought she’d have to. Once upon a time, she hovered in her brother’s shadow, and she swears she was happy there. Now there is no shadow, and she’s figuring it out, one day at a time, helped along by one hundred percent of mine and my husband’s focus and love. No more sharing our time, no more hiding behind the bigger personality.

Six months after we were forced into this new, smaller family unit, I’d say we’re doing okay. We still have some lows, and actually, they feel really, really low when they hit, because there are longer periods of normalcy, even highs, in between. But we’re working through them, figuring it out, living our lives. We’ve found a comfortable place for the moment, and given the obscene amount of change that’s occurred in my life this year, I’m not overly keen on shaking things up again any time soon. Not even nine months down the road.

So yeah, when I say I’m thinking about having another baby, what I really mean is… Can I hold yours? Just for a minute? I’m more than happy to give him/her back when I’m done.

Cinderella

 

 

Tami Lund is an author, wine drinker, and adorer of other people’s kids. She’s written a few books, if you’re interested in checking them out HERE.

The Pros and Cons of Fall

The docks are coming out of the water.

Every day as I drive to the day job, I cruise along the western shore of a rather large lake with an active lake community. The people who live and play here take their responsibilities seriously. There have been years when they’ve put their docks out before the last snowfall, and others when there was ice on the water before all the docks were pulled in and stored away for winter. This is the time of year when the owners gradually start to call it quits on summer, and they pack away the lake toys, the boats, the docks, the sun-bleached Adirondack chairs. Each Monday, the lake feels slightly more desolate, as fewer and fewer wooden pathways stretch into its depths. Okay, yes, I’m being melodramatic, but that’s what it feels like.

It’s fall in Michigan. And I have a love/hate relationship with this season.

Although I hate giving up my cute summer skirts and sandals, I do love getting reacquainted with my sweaters and jeans and boots again. Oh how I love my boots. Undoubtedly I have too many pair but I just don’t care.

1964959_10152853724226579_4234588001598667889_nI love the pumpkins and apples and warm donuts and fresh apple cider—heated, with a healthy dose of spiced rum, please. I love the colors, driving through the country and admiring nature’s display. The decorations—aside from Christmas, there is no comparison to fall adornments. I grow corn every year in the hopes of enjoying a few delicious ears straight off the stalk, but I rarely manage to pluck it before the neighborhood deer find it. And yet I continue to grow it anyway because those stalks become natural fall decorations on my front porch.

Okay, I admit, I love the nip in the air, too. I love walking the dog without needing a shower immediately thereafter. And while you will never hear me complain about summer being too long, I admit it is nice to open the windows and enjoy the outdoors even when there isn’t a lake handy to take a dip in.

I love my flowerbeds in the fall. I have a few flowers that are absolutely in their glory in September: sedum, aster, turtleheads, perennial geraniums. My roses seem to like fall best of all, too. Even my Shasta daisies are more prolific right now than they have been all season.

1920471_10152828526401579_9123249303782586428_nThe rest put on a show, too. The leaves on my peonies turn a lovely shade of burgundy. The lilies turn bright yellow. The flowering cherry and crabapple leaves will be red soon, the fern-like leaves on my locust tree, yellow. My flowering pear is a bit of a showoff and holds out until nearly everything else is spent, and then it is like a bright flame in my front yard. The strawberries, the hydrangea, even the hostas are almost more pretty at this time of year than all summer long. Oh, and let’s not forget those glorious burning bushes, named for the ridiculous bright red color they don at this time of year.

(PS – I tend to post pics on my Facebook page, if you wanna have a “like.”)

Yeah, fall is certainly beautiful. But it has it’s downside. The days get shorter—quickly, it seems. Already, it’s dark when I wake up, barely light when I leave for the day job each day.

That’s another aspect I hate. Fall is ‘busy season’ at my day job, and coupled with a far-too-long commute, last minute construction projects, and back to school traffic, I spend far too much time away from my family—and my writing. It’s mid-September and I’m already resentful, and I still at least another month before life becomes reasonable again.

This year I have new reasons to dislike fall. My son, who I lost this past spring, was born in October. I was doing all right, moving along the road toward management after such a horrible, tragic situation, when back-to-school hit—and all those Facebook memories, reminding me of how utterly adorable he was on each of his first days of school. Maybe it’s the reduced sunlight, the long hours spent in the car (seriously, I have a stupid long commute), or knowing he’ll never have another first day of school again; I don’t know, but it’s been extra hard these past couple weeks.

Besides the birthday, we also have Halloween, family gatherings at Thanksgiving, and Christmas to look forward to dreading. Those who have been through it say the first year is the hardest; experiencing all those “firsts” without your loved one in your life. I’m right smack in the middle of it, and so far, I hope they’re right. I hope it gets better.

So yeah, you can see where I might be a tad conflicted about fall. Now, I think it’s time for one of those delicious freshly pressed ciders—heavy on the rum, please.

LightbearerSeries4x6

 

Tami Lund is an author, wine drinker, blogger, and occasional introspector. She also happens to have a book on sale right now, so if you’re interested in trying out a paranormal series about shifters and magic, give INTO THE LIGHT a try. Tami suspects you’ll like it.