Flashbacks. Vivid memories of what happened. They count down to the minute of what we were doing. 8:02pm we fought for Owen to be declared brain dead so we could still donate his organs. 8:15 he was sent down for his MRI. 8:30 our doctor told us he was going home for the day and another doctor would deliver the test results. 9:14 I sat in the hospital room with my family, unknowing of the radiology doctor’s declaration. 9:34 the other doctor comes in and tells us the news before I had a chance to hold Owen’s hand. It’s over. That quick. But every milestone ticks away as I watch the clock here in reality.
A piece of wisdom I received was to try and stop the flashbacks. Perhaps memorizing scripture or sing a song. Something to stop your mind from going back in time. I’m not so sure I want the flashbacks to stop. The pain reminds me of what I have survived. The pain reminds me that I am alive. I’m not sure I want them to become a thing of the past, that I think of less and less often. Those flashbacks are Owen. They are my last memories of the life that was once in our home. My son.
Stopping the flashbacks is a scary thing to do. It’s acknowledging that it happened and it’s done. To relive it over and over gives the memories, as horrible as they are, some kind of life. It brings them from the past into the present. It’s the only thing I have left of Owen … memories. Giving CPR is part of him … I touched him, a watched him, i tasted the blood, I breathed life into him. It’s horrific, but I was trying to save his life. It’s part of my life memories of Owen. I wrote before … I wish I could have stayed in the hospital with Owen forever. Our families were there. Together. We had each other. The rest of the world seemed to stand still while my family and I were able to just feel. To be.
Now the world goes on. Real life is setting in. It’s real. Owen is dead. It is the past. The present and future do not have Owen in them.
I asked for help in my grief support group. How do I stay healthy through this? I just want to stay healthy. Even if it hurts more now, if the ending is what is best, then I can endure it. Just help me … help me find the energy to take care of my family, the peace to sleep at night and the wisdom to honor Owen’s spirit and love my God.
Five minutes at a time. When you are tired and worn, just look at the next five minutes. Then re-set. what’s the next five minutes going to be like? An entire day might seem overwhelming, but I can do five minutes!
I’m still not sure what I’m going to do with the flashbacks … do I stop myself abruptly and not let them enter my mind? Or do I embrace the pain, the memories. Knit them into my life blanket. Let them become apart of my reality. I think that’s what I’ve been doing until now. There is a new level of pain. I not only remember the hospital and Owen’s death, but I remember last year when he WAS alive. I find myself thinking “last year we were here and the three babies were doing this.”
I’ve entered into a new phase of remembering. I never had a day to compare today to before. Owen never had a birthday. He never lived through a Halloween. I didn’t know what it looked like to have all three babies in a costume. I didn’t know this pain before. Thinking about Christmas … I automatically think about the white sleepers my sister bought for the triplets that said something about being on Auntie’s nice list. I think of our family picture … the last picture taken of our entire family of 6. This year there will be two gifts. There will be five in our Christmas Day family photo. There will be a hole in my reality.
So what do I do now? How do I survive this part? Does it get easier? Do I want it to get easier? I cling to the pain as my only thing left. The nasty, dirty baby blanket that you just can’t throw away because it’s all you have left from your childhood. The flashbacks are my blanket. I embrace the pain. But is it healthy? Am I jut hurting myself more and in turn hurting my family when I can’t care for them in the way I want to?
ps I still have a post I’m working on about the rest of our holiday weekend 🙂 But I just had to get this post out of my head before I could focus on another one. Look for more family photos coming soon!
Just a note to let you know I love you!
Mel- I think you are doing an amazing job. I know this holiday season has got to be tough. The first Thanksgiving and Christmas without my Mom was awful. I know it isn’t the same as losing a child, but that is the closest I have to feeling that kind of pain, emptiness and loss. I continue to keep you and your beautiful family in my thoughts and prayers. Looking forward to the pictures!! God Bless you sweetie!
Mel-my heart just breaks into pieces when I read this (& other posts like this). I want to cry and scream that it’s not fair…not fair for any parent to lose a child! When my nephew died unexpectedly at the age of 3 I felt that way too…it wasn’t fair…why not someone old with dementia? Why him? The pain got easier for me as the years went by although the first few years/holidays were especially difficult, but if it was my own child I don’t know if it would. I would be devastated to lose one of my kids. I guess all you can do is take it 5 minutes, 1 hour, 1 day at a time. As awful as the feelings may be there are 3 other little boys that love you here and now…and I’m sure Owen’s spirit is with you and he’s sending you his love from Heaven!!
I wish I could comfort you and say the right things to make u feel better and make the pain go away. I know it’s got to be extremely hard to go threw these holidays without one of your little boys. I know from what I’ve read that you are a strong women/mother. God bless you and you and your family are always in my thoughts and prayers.
I can’t wait to see more thanksgiving photos.
I love the days I get to read a post from you. It makes me feel like I am not alone in my greif. I hope you never feel alone in your greif. I had twin boys born on Nov. 7, 2010. One of my sons became very sick and died 4 days later. Although I was only blessed with 4 days, they were a rough 4 days. When you talk about your hospital exprience, it reminds me so much of ours. I also have flash backs. I realized I try anything I can to keep my mind busy at all times. It’s not because I want the flashbacks to end becuase I don’t think I do. I just don’t want them to comsume me and take away from being the best mom I can to my three living kids.
We celebrated my son’s first birthday earlier this month and it was hard but I just had to focus on what I have and not what I don’t have. I do have to say that for me around 6 months of my son being gone was the hardest. I think reality was finally hitting me and I was learning to live in my new reality. I think my pain will never go away becasue I will always think there should be two boys doing this. But I have learned to celebrate those things and not focus on there only being one but feel blessed to have that one! I also think for me the flashbacks will always be there because It’s my way of remembering, I never want to forget. I am working on when and where I should let the flashbacks come. Which is not easy. I just want you to know that you are not alone. The thing I was tell my daughter is that there is no right or wrong way to feel. It’s about how you let those feelings affect you and the people around you. It’s not something any of us ever thought we would deal with but here we are.
You are doing an amazing job honoring Owen!
Oh Mel… I ache for you.
I encourage you to read the book “I Will Carry You” by Angie Smith. While your stories are different, the grief is very similar. Losing a baby. Her Christian outlook and the very real way in which she grieved and wrote about is SO inspiring and you may find comfort in her words. She also has a blog: http://angiesmithonline.com. Read Audrey’s Story (from the beginning) and allow yourself to feel that your pain is not unique.
The world does go on, sweet friend… society forces us to rush and put a band-aid on the wounds – but Angie’s book actually DISCOURAGES that! You take all the time you need to feel that pain… tend to it in the way you feel is best. Don’t give up on your family – but when the world sleeps and you have time for yourself, then grieve. It is ok!
Hi Mel- we’ve never met but I faithfully pray for you all and read your blog.
(I am a friend of Sarah B in St Louis Pk).
When I lost my mom two years ago very suddenly, I had lots of flashbacks to those 4 days she was in the hospital- what happened, why, what else could I have done….. the questions haunted me and the visions of those days kept coming to my mind throughout the first year after her death. I even went to the hospital and met with them to see what went wrong and what can be avoided so no one else dies needlessly. It helped a bit, but really, those flashbacks were pulling me deeper into sadness and frustration and I had to make a decision on HOW I wanted to remember my mom. I started focusing on the fun times and sweet memories.
I know it hasn’t been very long for you, but I can say will confidence that the negative flashbacks will stop as you focus on the sweet, happy memories of Owen. He wouldn’t want you to linger on the last day. He would want you to remember him in his “alive” and happy times.
If the flashbacks of his last days have tender, loving moments – then focus on those sweet times. You will always have a hole in your heart left there when Owen left but the grieving will change and not be as painful- you will still grieve- just differently.
I still miss my mom and little things remind me of her and I smile and Thanks God for that moment I had with her. I still have a hard, long cry sometimes for the day. It is good- it is ok.
I still will never feel the pain you are feeling- all of our losses are so different. My prayers and my heart go out to you constantly.
Grieve when you need to and try to focus on the sweet times you had with him, not on what you don’t have.
love and prayers
My heart is broken…yet again…for you. Your Heavenly Father has the answers you are seeking. He really is the only one. Wouldn’t it be nice if he just spelled these things out for us, instead of making us think through them. It would make life a lot easier…maybe not better…just easier.
My prayers are with you, and your sweet boys, dear girl.
Oh Mel :(. I know and hear you on the flashbacks. My son has been gone 21 years now and I ended up having E.M.D.R about 6 years ago (it is a therapy used for post traumatic stress). The first night I slept without going through flashbacks was the day I had my first session. I went way too many years with the flashbacks and it was way past time to find any way to help me with them. You are doing all the right things Mel. You are going through all of your emotions with such strength and I am here and thinking about you. By you having this blog and getting out every thought and emotion is huge. I wish I would have wrote my feelings down or got them out. Now when i do get a hint of a flashback trying to get in, I do try to push them out. Minute by minute, day by day is all you can do right now. You are a wonderful person Mel. Lots of people are here for you and are listening.
Lots of love to you Mel….
Kristie (Sarah K.’s Aunt)
One more thing…
I have trained myself to put in a good or peaceful flashback in place of the sad or hard ones. I know that is really hard to do right now, but it is ok to do that Mel, it really is..
Hi Mel- So terribly sorry that u r going through any of this. =( I know this holiday season will be different and hard for u .Just please know that a ton of friends and family and people who have only read ur blog n never met u r all praying for u and ur family. Before I had my son and daughter I miscarried. It was any early miscarriage but it felt like it broke me for awhile. All my dreams of r future of a family with children felt wrecked.I kept thinking oh my God will we never have children? What did I do for this to happen? Why us? I wanted that baby so much. I found that once that first anniversary of the misscarriage and what was suppose to be my baby’s due date past it did get a little bit easier and I felt myself able to start healing and accepting it. I look back and just know I am soooo blessed and thankful that God gave my husband and I r wonderful son and daughter. I still don’t understand why it happen but I am so grateful that I have the children I do.What I went through doesn’t compare to ur’s but I hope u know God is with u even when it seems like he is’nt he is. Love ya girl! Always here for ya! -Stacey ( fellow Super mommy)
Dear Mel, I am so sorry for all the grief you continue to deal with as each day brings new “firsts” and new painful reminders of the past. I don’t believe there are any short cuts to grief, or that you should try to forget or ignore those reminders.
However, the way you describe those intense and intrusive flashbacks with images, touch, sound, even smell and taste, makes me think of the anxiety, panic attacks and disturbing “flashback” memories I was troubled by after the premature birth of our triplets (I had serious complications, they were in NICU, no need for a detailed story – it was very hard at the time but not compared to all you and your family have been through.)
I don’t know whether I had postpartum depression or post-traumatic shock, or a bit of both, but seeing a counsellor weekly was very helpful. He helped me with some cognitive behaviour therapy techniques, and also EMDR to help gently recall and re-process the most disturbing memories, and for me it was very effective. I haven’t forgotten those distressing times or images, but those images became no more intense than the happier ones, and I could easily put them in context, acknowledge them when they came up, but also choose to remember better times. And I could “change the channel” and choose to focus on present tasks and concerns when needed, and keep the memories for when I had a quiet time to remember.
If these flashback memories of the worst moments continue to intrude on your daily life, upset you and get in the way of what you need to accomplish with your boys, you might like to ask about rational emotive behaviour therapy (REBT) and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). You can look them both up on Wikipedia. It sounds weird, but for me it worked. It would be good to embrace the memories of Owen’s whole life, not only the traumatic last few days over and over again.
All the same, I don’t want to sound like there is a problem here that needs to be “fixed”. Your grief journey is unique, and beautiful, and necessary. If what I’ve written here sounds relevant and useful, great, and if not then please ignore it. Your blog is a beautiful tribute to Owen and to all your family life. Thank you for sharing your journey so openly to help others. You’re in my heart and in my prayers.
God. This is beautiful and tragic and terrible. A completely perfect description of learning to live after loss. The fear of letting that go is so real and poignant, and only someone who has a loss of this magnitude could say it quite so well. Thank you for sharing it. You are all deeply in my thoughts and prayers.