Last week, Mary asked the following question: “Does this surreal feeling ever go away? Will I always shake my head and say, I cannot believe this has happened?” This is a feeling that many of us have and as you will see as you read the message that it happens often for a long time. What I have found is that the times between these feelings are longer as time goes by and when they happen, they are of shorter duration, but remember that each of us has a different experience.
Today, I heard the Canadian geese fly over my house and it made me think of one of my favorite authors about grief who is Dr. Alan Wolfelt. In his article in the last TAPS magazine, he talked about geese and how they fly south in the fall and north in the spring. He talked about the journey being a group effort with each goose relying on the others…sometimes to lead and sometimes to follow. That is how I perceive this path. Each one of us may need to heal in a unique way, but when we rely on a supportive group, we are able to make it better and we gain a group of friends who will be there whenever we need them.
It is my hope that is one way the Saturday Message can help. We can pose questions and hear from other survivors in a supportive environment. Thank you to all who responded this week. You will notice that the signatures for each piece may be a bit different as I tried to put your first name and your loved one’s first name as you sent them to me. Please feel free to send in your ideas or questions for future messages. Together, we make everything stronger.
The question for next week is at the end of the survivor responses.
Carol, surviving mother of Bryon
From Mary R., surviving mother of Kenneth:
Yes and no. I no longer spend my days feeling like I am in a nightmare wondering if I will ever wake up. It started with the knock on the door and simply faded as I worked on my grief.
It does come back. At the most unexpected moments and as part of the undulating nature of grief, there are times when I think it just can't be real. I have flashbacks to the notification, the airport to meet his body, the viewing ... They often seem like bad dreams and not memories.
But Kenneth is indeed dead. I need to work with that reality and do the best I can every day.
From Valerie, surviving mother of Kevin:
It has been over 2 yrs. since my son died and there are many days, moments when it is surreal.
From Bob, Lou's dad:
Yes, Mary. For us it's 7 yrs. and we still don't believe it.
From Pam, Joe’s mom:
Funny you should ask this. My daughter and I were just discussing this. We are approaching 3 years on 11/17. It's like standing still and time is passing me by. I can't quite accept the fact that he is not coming home. I'm still in denial. Things like this don't happen to us. I do the things I've always done before, but I put on a good front. People always tell me how happy they are to see me "move on" so well. What a joke, they haven't a clue. I'm not moving on, I'm not moving at all. LOL. So, yes, it is surreal. It's a crappy dream that we can't seem to wake from. God's peace to you.
From Bob and Kitty, surviving parents of John:
That surreal feeling that this could not possibly happen faded as we walked this journey called grief. Every time he was deployed we thought every nighttime phone call was "the call." when we received a call at 6 AM on April 10. 2008, that he had died during the night at home at the age of 36, that was not only surreal, but unreal to us. How could someone so physically fit just up and die? We took refuge in Job 1:21 that says “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised." Our faith in God and the support we received from our church and church members were instrumental in overcoming that surreal feeling.
From Mary-Ann, surviving mother of Blake:
Good question. A question that I still at times shake my head about, too, in
hopes it's a horrible nightmare instead of the truth. I know that it is real that our son, our baby boy, Blake, our middle child is in heaven now. After 2 years of living the nightmare, I've come to accept the fact that he is not coming home for Christmas or by surprising us with a short pop in and pop out visit on the way from here to there. His calls are not going to come anymore, nor will there be any more pictures of our handsome young sailor to share with friends and family. I feel there will always be a certain amount of that surreal feeling. Every parent I've ever talked to that has lost a child has said the same thing. "You never get over it. You just learn to handle it better in time."
That is just the way it is since life as we knew it will never be the same without our Blake. I've tried to treasure the memories, pictures and keepsakes knowing that the day will come that we'll all be together again in heaven. In God's time.
From Alice, Mom of Austin:
Surreal is the word I've used all along. I'll be driving along the road, sometimes now even having a good day. Poof, up comes that awful feeling from the pit of my stomach into my throat. And it's just like you say, I literally shake my head in an attempt to wake up, make the bad dream go away, this isn't real, it can't be real. Those moments are coming a little less often, but I've come to accept they will probably be with me the rest of my life. After all, can a Mom ever, ever truly accept that her child is gone? Not me, and I doubt any of the rest of my TAPS family can either. I'm so grateful we have each other. At least I know there are others who understand that sick feeling, the head shaking, and the disbelief.
I love you all and am most grateful to you, my TAPS family.
From Paula, Mom of Cory:
My answer to Mary's question for next week is that it has been 13 months now since Cory took his own life. He suffered from severe PTSD and all that goes with it. I am still shaking my head every single day and still cannot believe that he is gone. He was my only child and his wife was 7 months pregnant at the time. His son is now 11 months old and absolutely precious!!! I have the privilege of keeping him all the time. He is just like Cory in so many ways and yet he never got to feel Cory’s loving arms. I do believe that we will continue to shake our head....all of us.....but I do know that God has a plan. I do not always have to like his plan....I just have to follow it!!! We are blessed in so many ways and have to keep looking up and moving forward, never forgetting how much we love and miss our Soldier!
From Cyndi, Mom of Jerome:
To answer Mary's question I don't think it ever goes away. We learn to take steps forward, yet sometimes a few steps back. It will be 17 months on November 23rd that my beautiful boy Jerry is gone. I'd like to think I've built up scar tissue on my broken heart, but some days it just hurts and I still can't believe he's gone. So, no, it will never go away, we learn to live with it and when it surfaces we let it out and then push it back in and move forward.
From Michele, Mom of Tara:
It's two years since Tara died. I drive by her cemetery each morning and after school. I still cannot believe she is dead. I have the last saved voice message from her on my phone. I listen to her voice a few times a month. No, it is unbelievable my daughter is gone at 24. She really lived until she didn't.
She was amazing. Today, during the hurricane I am cleaning two of the four closets that are filled with her memories, personal items and thousands of photos, news clippings and shared family memories, her childhood drawings, cards she made for us, her baby toys, and saddest of all the candle from her birth we were supposed to burn at each of her birthdays. We only burned an inch and I am filled with grief that I let her time slip away and be unappreciated. I am so sorry Tara. I love you so much. Mom
From Frank, Father of "Shaky" Joe USN (forever):
I hope it goes away. I've been told the pain is there, but, we are given moments of peace. I look for those moments. This emotional "Sandy" has got to stop sometime. I pray for all of you. I wish you all well. This fraternity of tragedy was not the type of club anyone of us wanted. May we all find solace.
From Susan, surviving mother of Jeanne:
In answer to Mary's question for next week, the surreal feeling never goes away. Nor does the thought that how could this have happened.
I am 3-1/2 years into my grief and every day and every occasion reminds me of Jeanne. Perhaps because we will never know why she died or how she got sick and died without ever being sick a day of her life clouds my judgment. We have no closure.
If there is a worst part it is the realization that she isn't here to guide us through our senior years. She always said to me, "Don't worry, Mom, I’ll always be there for you".
My husband and I socialize with friends and seem very cheerful and full of fun but whenever conversation centers around children we cringe. Happy for our friends, but lonely for ourselves.
So, no, the feeling does not go away, but life goes on, different, but continues. I try to follow our daughters life and values, hard but doable.
The question for next week is: What is one gift your loved one left you? Now this could be an actual gift or it can also be a memory of the life your loved one lived. I look forward to reading your answers.
Note: The Saturday Morning Message (SMM) is a weekly communication; written and contributed to by survivors. The primary focus of the SMM is to foster peer based connection, survivors helping survivors, for support and encouragement along the grief journey. It is the goal of this communication to foster a safe, supportive atmosphere where we can openly share in a non-judgmental and caring manner. Read and contribute as you are comfortable, and explore any opinions/ideas shared that are most beneficial to you on your individual journey.
If you need to speak to someone regarding an urgent matter or just need a listening ear, the loving family at TAPS is available to you 24 hours a day. Please feel free to contact TAPS at 1-800-959-8277.