Dear Asshat Fuckwad Idiot…

Dear Asshat Fuckwad who told me that they came back here, to read this blog, hoping that I had found peace. Who told me to go read, “Heaven is for Real.” Who told me to listen to the radio station, KLOVE to find comfort. FUCK OFF. Are you even fucking serious? Because if you are, I would quite possibly like to shove that book and that radio station, up your ass.

I did not cremate my dog. I did not cremate my grandmother. I cremated my son. I watched for 9 months as my beautiful boy, fought with everything he had for his life. I watched him take his last breaths. I watched as he was put on a table and taken away. I will NEVER come to peace with that. And for you, to sit back and tell me that I should… you are fucking sick. You are not a good human being. Do not tell me what do to/how to do this. Do not compare me to other mothers. I don’t give a flying FUCK, if heaven is for real. That does not diminish my pain, my missing him, and us having to be apart.

NEWSFLASH:::::: THERE WILL NEVER BE A DAY THAT I DO NOT MISS HIM. THERE WILL NEVER BE A DAY THAT I DO NOT HURT. THERE WILL NEVER BE A DAY THAT I WILL COME TO PEACE WITH THIS. THERE WILL NEVER BE ANY WORDS THAT CAN MAKE THIS PAIN ANY LESS. THERE WILL NEVER BE A DAY THAT I AM NOT SAD, ANGRY, HURT, or broken. THIS IS WHO I AM NOW. But I am also learning that I can have moments where I truly feel happy. I am also learning that I have the ability to feel love so much more deeply now. How watching my twins at a baseball game, have a great play, can make me feel so happy that I feel like I am floating on air. Every kiss from them, every victory, ever hit of a baseball, every basketball shot they make, every spelling test they ace, every smile they smile… brings me so much more joy then I have ever known in my life. Every I love you, means so much more now. And it is all due to his death. I am not o.k. with that, but I know this is just how this is, so I embrace all of the intense feelings that I now feel more often then I used to. Everything in life means so much more now. Even on the days I don’t want it to.

And yes, you closed minded but God Bless YOU, little thinker… It may be offensive to some that I would have traded my husbands life for Ronan’s. Obviously, I would have traded my life first… then Woody’s. If there would have been a choice, this is how it would have went. How the fuck is this offensive? It goes back to our basic animal instinct. Do you find it offensive, that a mother tiger would do anything to protect and save her cubs in the wild?? Even if that means fighting with her mate, killing him, in order to save her babies? I doubt it. Because that’s the nature of survival in the wild. We are not that much different from the wild animals in nature when it comes to our babies. I would go so far as to say, most mama’s out there, would save their kids, before their mates if given the choice. Some people may be too scared to admit this as it sounds so wrong and fucked up. I really don’t care how it sounds because for me, it’s the truth. Woody would tell you the same thing. I know he would have chosen Ronan’s life over mine and I would have happily given it up. I would think there was something wrong with him, if he would have not traded Ronan’s life, for mine. But we don’t get that choice, so we will stay here, and be HONEST with each other about how much we miss him/love him. If that offends you… once again, you can fuck off.

I am proud of myself. I can see the way I have grown from this. I look back at where I was last summer, and that scares the shit out of me. If I were still in that state of mind/not functioning/angry/sad…. I quite simply, would not be here. I pulled myself out of the darkest place I have ever been in my life and I did it with the strength and love that comes from Ronan. I did it for myself, for my family, for my friends, and for all the people out there who believe in me. I am a fighter. I will fight for the rest of my life for everything I have, but also for everything that was taken away. I will never stop fighting for good. I may have a day or even a week here or there, where I take a break from it all and just let myself feel and give into this pain. This is my process, my way, and nobody else has the right to tell me what I am doing or how I am doing this, is wrong.

DO NOT CONTINUE TO COME BACK HERE, TO CHECK ON ME, AND THEN LEAVE YOUR NASTY COMMENTS. YOU DO NOT CARE ABOUT ME, SO GO TAKE CARE OF THE OTHERS IN YOUR LIFE THAT YOU DO CARE ABOUT. I have the BEST people in the world surrounding me. I have no need for stupid idiots that tell me to find comfort in a fucking radio station or a book. The things I will find comfort in are the things in my everyday life. Real, tangible things like my twins, husband, and friends. In Ronan’s Foundation. In helping others. In trying to live this so very wrong life in a way that would make him proud, would make him smile, in the way that I am living it, not the way others want me to live it. That is such fucking bullshit. I am not here to be a sweet pea little angel who is peaceful and content with my son’s death. It was wrong. It is wrong that this is happening to so many babies/children/teenagers, yet people are more concerned that somebody threw flour on Kim Kardashian while she was walking the red carpet. It is offensive to me that shit like that is splattered all over the newspapers/on the television/in magazines. There are REAL problems in the world and until that world wakes up, I will not stop fighting, kicking and screaming for all that has been taken away from me and my family. And for all that is being taken away from all the other broken-hearted parents/friends/siblings/grandparents in the world.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Go back to your world of unicorns, rainbows and puppy dogs. Stop coming back here, hoping I have found peace and then being disappointed that I have not. If other parents, have found peace when it comes to losing a child, good for them. I will never be one of them. I have no doubt, that I will find something. But peace will NEVER be the word I will use. The only way I will be using this word is when I say, Peace out to you, A-hole.

I would also like to include a post from my Dr. JoRo that is on her blog http://drjoanne.blogspot.com/ Read it and weap. And then feel like the dumbass that you are.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Bereavement and Snorting Seaweed

When I broke the silence, posting my first public statement with regards to the DSM 5’s controversial plans for the bereavement exclusion, I had no idea the breadth and depth of its reach. Publicly, almost 100 comments on a registered site. Privately, hundreds and hundreds of emails came from the bereaved and the traumatized telling their painfully intimate stories. Thank you all so much for your courage. I’m so sorry I haven’t yet responded to each of you. I will, I promise.

Because I believe in Dr. Brene Brown’s research on vulnerability and shame, I’ve decided to give form to my own story as a bereaved mother in 1994.

First, let me set the stage. I had no history of mental illness, depression, or family suicidality. In fact, I had never been depressed a single day in my life.

Chey died in July of 1994. Let’s just say I was truly struggling in the early weeks and months and even years after her death.

Let me tell you about the first few weeks. I was absolutely numb. In fact, if someone told me that standing on my head or snorting seaweed would help ease the suffering, I may well have followed their instructions. It was, in my best description, a zombie-like state, where I was utterly unable to think clearly and relied on others’ wisdom to get me through the intolerably quiet nights and the unbearably chaotic days. I couldn’t remember to brush my teeth or comb my hair. I felt out-of-body, often like I was floating. I was convinced I was in a horrific dream state. I wasabsolutely more vulnerable to the influence of others than I’d ever been. This, to me, is symptomatic of acute trauma, and this state lasted until mid-September.

By the end of September, when the emotional anesthesia had run its course and my pain became increasingly apparent in affect and behavior, everyone was concerned. And no one knew what to do with me. Many of the traumatic grief markers that are often confused for “depression” were a part of my daily existence: insomnia, significant weight loss stemming from compromised appetite, anhedonia, intrusive thoughts, nightmares, heaviness in my chest, difficult concentrating, feelings of panic and dread, longing and pining for my dead child, forgetfulness, envy, long periods of weeping, social isolation, persistent feelings of guilt and shame, and yes even thoughts of ending my own life. My concerned family sent me to my first psychologist. After about 30 minutes together, he said I was “clinically depressed” and suggested psychotropic medications. Yet, I had a tingling sense that he didn’t understand me, that he hadn’t connected with me. I felt his quizzically judging gaze as I told him that I did not want psychiatric medication. I insisted that I was not depressed. I recognized this darkness as grief. I felt that her life and her death were worthy of my emotional and behavioral experiences, and the intolerance of those around me was baffling. This was not the answer for me. This was not my truth. Somewhere, deep inside me, I knew.

Still, he pressed me. And still, I resisted.

I walked out of his office hurting more when I left than when I entered.

That encounter was a dangerous one for me, resulting in some unexpected outcomes which added to my grief burden.

It took months for me to realize that her death was my burden to carry, not anyone else’s, and I would need to do it my way. And carry it I did. Clumsily, awkwardly, fearfully, mournfully, indeed. But I carried it. Still, at the enduring behest of family members, there were other therapists I saw after him, and while not all labeled me as “depressed”, I never felt that deep human connection. I would be the one-hit-wonder of therapy patients.

I did eventually meet two bereaved moms through a local support group, Compassionate Friends, who would just sit and listen to me. That was, by far, more therapeutic than any of the professionals I had seen to that point. Mostly, I just needed someone to bear witness to my pain. Then, I began to allow the ‘doing’ to come from the ‘being.’ I started theKindness Project wherein I began committing random acts of kindnesses for strangers anonymously. My heart was turning outward toward others, and I began to see the suffering of the entire world through my own broken heart. Because the pain is so imbued with self-focus, perhaps a defensive type of narcissism, serving others provided an imperative toward a new paradigm. Slowly, the darkness lifted and I began to rejoin the world of the living. And slowly, my family began to understand that this was an unending process I needed to experience.

The next year, I received a phone call at home. A quavering voice on the other end of the phone turned out to be the first psychologist I’d seen.

He told me that he wanted to apologize to me, and that he was sorry for the way he’d treated me. Then, he told me the real reason for his call: his daughter died.

I went to his office that night and we talked. It was a very important turning point for me, a moment of perspicuity for us both. He now knew. He was an insider. No, he agreed, I had not been depressed. He understood what this was, and his entire worldview had been irreparably altered.

Now, I realize that this is my story. Not everyone’s. Only mine. What I did not realize was that I was the expert in my grief. (Check this amazing story about patients as experts!)

But I’ve seen, literally, countless bereaved parents through the years and I’ve heard their stories of interactions with others. We have six counselors trained in mindfulness based interventions in our Phoenix offices, and they’ve heard the stories. In fact, we get the painful privilege of seeing them from the early moments of death to years, sometimes decades, later. To assert that mindful, existential psychotherapy is commonplace amongst providers of psychiatric care might be- well- a stretch. Good bereavement care and competent interventions are a necessary social offering. However, time and time again, research demonstrates that thequality of the relationship between provider and client/patient is what makes the difference in outcomes.

Trained providers who are mindful (and especially those who practice mindfulness), humble, and present are a gift. Irvin Yalom calls this “thegift of therapy.” Truly, good therapy can be life-altering. Conversely, inadequate therapy with an unskilled, unmindful provider can exacerbate feelings of aloneness and emotional angst.

But, when a child dies, even “good therapy” doesn’t cure or fix. Good therapy is merely joining the sufferer in their pain, non judgmentally with full acceptance and compassion.

Some of my colleagues disagree with my position on the bereavement exclusion and I’m okay with that. Philosophical inquiry leaves plenty of room for discourse. But there are some misnomers: Some assert that achemical imbalance in the brain causes depression so the two are not mutually exclusive. I agree that they are not mutually exclusive however to date, I have not seen, as Dr. Paula Caplan says, “a shred of evidence” supporting the chemical imbalance theory. I also disagree with colleagues who assert that we should, as a profession, acquiesce to systemic “labeling” merely because mourners can get help (need I remind readers that the DSM III “labeled” homosexuality as a mental disorder?). If the only way people can get help is to “label” them, then the system is woefully broken and we’d better get busy repairing it not further harming the vulnerable. Finally, in our single minded quest for biological determinants, we must remember that psychiatry is not an absolute science. Unlike diabetes or other biological diseases, there is no objective blood test that can definitively diagnose grief or depression. Rather, it’s a field of value judgments and clinical prudence (or imprudence). And let’s not forget that psychopharmacology as an isolated ‘treatment’ is gaining and psychotherapy is not; rather psychotherapy is “assuming a less prominent role”(Olfson & Marcus, 2010). I’ll write more about this on another day as I do have an opinion on trauma focused practice.

For now, what I can say is that, for me, those nights on the closet floor curled up in a ball and those many days of skipped meals and the added burden of existential loneliness might have been more manageable had someone just been present and mindful with me.

And like the relativity, they can keep the label. Endogenous sadness is certainly nothing for which to be ashamed. But assigning that label to me was inappropriate, premature, and yes offensive. Let me restate something I said earlier in this article: I am not depressed now, nor was I ever. And almost 18 years later, I continue to grieve and mourn for my child because my love for her will never end. And that is, as they say, the price we pay for love. And yes, for that, I’d snort seaweed.