I realize I have come a long way since the early days of grief when I would find myself on my hands and knees because the pain (emotional) was so intense I couldn’t function. When the anxiety got the best of me and I felt like I was having a nervous breakdown.
Trust me when I say this, if you have ever lived through one of those episodes, you don’t take a good day for granted. Early on, my episodes seemed to last for months and over time they gradually went from weeks, to days and eventually hours. The thought of going back to those dark days is something I don’t even like to think about. They were as dark as it gets.
I have a new appreciation for people that live with mental health issues their entire life. I know my depression and anxiety was brought on by a “profound situation”, the death of my two children. I can honestly say because I put in the hard work of grieving and allowing myself to process my pain that I am able to function in life again. In fact, I would classify 99% of my days as good. Not as good as I was before the losses, but considering where I’ve been after the losses, I’ll take it.
However, the 1% of bad days still suck. They are nowhere as deep as the early episodes, but they still weigh you down. I recently experienced a couple of those days after coming down with mild flu symptoms last week. Not the kind of day that paralyzes you with sadness/despair/anxiety, but the kind of day that just weighs on you. I think even non-bereaved parents have these kind of days from time to time because of life’s events. However, these 1% days are new to me. I never experienced bad days before the loss of my two children. I thought everyone walked around with a smile and the feeling of being able to conquer the world, apparently not.
I bring this topic up because there are certain things the trigger those 1% days or emotional heaviness for me. I feel them when I am at my weakest moments. I can all most always count on having them when I am sick. I think my strength to fend “it” off becomes jeopardized due to immune system. I also get these unexpected attacks when I have an extremely intense workout.
It just goes to show its always lurking below the surface, waiting for an opportunity to reveal itself. The good thing is, these episodes are nowhere near as intense or last as long as the crippling episodes I had for a couple of years after the loss of my children. I’m not talking about a sadness episode, but more of “I’m not sure what to do with myself kind of moment”. They are kind of overwhelming, heavy, introspective type of moments.
Anyone else experience this type of behavior?
Allison passed away quietly on December 29th, 2010 at the age of 25. She and her husband had been married almost three years and had recently lost a child to a miscarriage. While the doctors insist this had nothing to do with her death, I still wonder. Allison was our only child.
The Grief Bandit begins lurking around my house about the beginning of November. As the holidays approach, it begins to cast a shadow over my life, a shadow of despair and a longing for the hugs and kisses of my daughter and the grandkids I’ll never have. Somehow I’ve managed to live through all the pain and misery of watching others have such a good time during the holidays while I can barely muster enough energy to go to work every day. As the anniversary approaches, I become more and more agitated at the slightest thing. My tolerance level sinks. I become annoyed at the slightest provocation. Here are the thoughts running through my head:
“Why can’t people understand? I just lost a child, my only child, my baby girl! Why won’t you cut me some slack here?”
I’m happy to report that this year is different in two respects.
The first I realized before I read this post, and that is that in order to help myself, I need to help others. It doesn’t matter who I’m helping or what circumstances they may be in, just that they need help. It needn’t involve money. There are plenty of people out there that just need an ear to hear their story…in person…one on one.
The second comes courtesy of the coiner of the term “Grief Bandit” and to Leif for putting it into a poem. No one has come close to putting a lid on my grief than you two. Make no mistake, I’ll still grieve for my daughter and the possibilities lost, but to be able to put a name to this demon goes a long way for me to set aside that demon and celebrate my daughter’s favorite time of the year.
November through the New Year has always been about family, remembering those who have passed and celebrating the new lives into the world. That’s what makes it so hard for those of us that have lost a child, no matter the age.
I am a changed man, and I would like to think for the better. It’s taken me almost 4 years to reach this conclusion. It might take you more, or less, but you will get there.
My conclusion? What would Allison want me to do?
John – I am humbled that I was able to help you ‘put a lid’ on your grief. We still have a long way to go, our memory box is still open. In two weeks it will be a year since we lost our son. I wrote about the Bandit back in February when it was on the rampage. Things have changed since, there has been some improvement in my outlook, and yet the big thing is the same; Jake is still gone. These few weeks, “The Holidays”, don’t seem to belong to us, this year they are someone else’s holidays. As you say, we will always grieve for our children, nothing will ever truly be the same. We are adapting to this different life as best we can, I know it takes time. Thank you for your insight and your encouragement.
HI john, First let me say thankyou. and then you are welcome.
I have often said that i write my poetry not just for myself, but for others. I publish them, not for recognition, but in the hope that they will help others. If they help just one person through this journey, then they have done their job.
Often just giving a name to our own boogeyman gives us the power to overcome him. Edcol52 and Kelly have given him a name, we have now labeled him. He is no longer this mysterious monster hiding the dark recesses of our minds. He is now in full floodlight, with nowhere to hide.
There is no greater power given over fears than when we name them and bring them into the light.
You ask what would Allison want you to do? Let’s reverse that, If the roles were reversed and it was you that had died, what would you want her to do?
have a great Christmas.
Yours in the Journey
Nineteen years later & the dark days still pounce on you when you least expect it! Surround yourself with good people who understand without your having to explain, but are there to listen when you need them to.
I just posted this week that I was “filled with anxiety over nothing and over everything”. It was a rough weekend for me! It comes out of the blue. I hate when it hits. I want to just crawl into a cave and hide when it does. thankfully the really bad times, are few and far between now, but when the hit, BAM, it is horrible
Yes. My Erin died in August and I am perplexed at the times it hits me again. Today is her 11th birthday, and because my husband is not ok today, I am feeling ok because I am caring for him. The rest of this week I was a wreck. So you never know. I know what you mean though. Everything you said. #missingerin
The Grief Bandit is always hiding in the rocks, waiting to pounce. We are nearly one year in from the loss of our 24-year-old son, Jake, and while those ambushes are coming less and less frequently, and they are not nearly as debilitating as they were in the first six months, they still have the power to take my breath away. Not quite 1% yet, more like 9% now. Way better than the 100% of January and February. I do have ‘those days’, usually on the 28th of the month. Jake died on December 28th and as I have written, even though I don’t always know what day it is, my body does and often I am stricken with that unnamed depression whiteout quite knowing why. A glance at the calendar answers that question. On the 28th of October, I could barely get out of bed for a cup of tea, and then back under the covers.
As the anniversary of that dark day approaches, I find tears in my eyes more frequently. The triggers can be random and unlooked for, and strike without warning. Yes, the pool of sorrow is always lurking just below the surface, held in check by the uneasy truce I have forged with my emotions. We will have a family and friends gathering at his gravesite on Sunday, I am not looking forward to crossing that threshold, but it is something we all have to do. Time doesn’t wait for anyone, and as we move farther and farther along, the days get better and better. As you say, never excellent. I’ll take ‘better’ any time. Peace to all of you.
Grief bandit!,, i love that phrase.. gonna borrow that one 🙂
The Grief Bandit
He lurks in the darkest corners of your mind
Seeking unguarded moments,
Moments that bring joy to your heart
He seeks to steal.
He seeks to remind you of pain,
To rob you of any moments of happiness.
To hijack your memories.
No cage can hold him, no chains can bind.
He will fool you in thinking he has gone
He will lay in wait biding his time,
…. Waiting till you are unprepared.
Beware the Grief Bandit.!
Leif Kelly (2014)
Leif, that is it exactly. I am going to post this on my blog, with your permission. Thank you.
Please share as you like. Your phrase struck a chord and muse insisted I write it down.
I would like to post it also. Thanks for writing it.
I know exactly what you mean. It’s been just over 10 months since my newborn daughter passed away and although I still feel the sadness of her not being her, I’m able to “live” each day and keep moving. Some days though, it just doesn’t happen. Not as bad as those first 3-5 months, but still intense breakdowns. I too was recently sick, maybe about a month or two ago and I couldn’t help but being overwhelmed, emotionally, at this time, maybe because of the reasoning you explained. Another more recent breakdown I had was about a week ago. I was home alone, eating, and I almost choked on my food. Took a few seconds but I got the food out. And a few minutes after that I thought to myself, “if i didn’t just save myself, then i could see my daughter.” Then I started thinking of her and what she went through and had a pretty bad breakdown. Now, I would never intentionally do anything to hurt myself, i love my wife too much and I can’t wait to meet my future son that is due in April. But for that moment I just thought how great it would be to see Jewel again!
But i’m surviving. Like you said, some days are tougher than others, and those really rough days are a lot less than previously. But, man, the pain is tough to hide sometimes. Holiday’s are definitely not helping either… Plus January/Feb is her one year birthday and angelversary. Quickly approaching and also always lurking
Funny you should ask… I had one of those days yesterday. It is all part of my month leading up to the Anniversary of Zac’s death which is something i normally cope with. This year is different due to issues with my ex wanting to move 3 hours away with my youngest kids and my oldest daughter moving to Sydney for uni next year. Each of these on their own, i could probably deal with, but all of them together found me yesterday with the almost overpowering cloud of darkness. It was all my strength to just stand there.
and now sleep is not a friend.. I know i will get through this, but damn its hard.