Sharing my mourning journey as my family learns to live a new normal after the death of my 19 y.o. son in an auto accident on 10/12/08.

Learning to Exhale

My husband and I took my daughter to see a specialist on Wednesday. She has been ill and fatigued for much of the past month. Our family physician arranged for this exam by a specialist. As we sat in the waiting room prior to our appointment, I was so anxious. I sat absorbing all the sights and sounds around me. I watched a father giving an IV medication to his daughter who looked to be the same age as my daughter. It was clear this was a typical routine as he rooted through his bag pulling out syringes and alcohol pads to seal off the IV tubing when the medication was complete. I saw children of varying ages leave the office after the appointment knowing that soon it would be our turn. My daughter looked over at me from her seat and mouthed, “I’m nervous.” I mouthed back, “I know, it’s okay.” She smiled at me and returned to fiddling with the cellphone she received for her birthday two days prior. Then her name was called and we rose up and took our turn.

The doctor couldn’t quite pinpoint the cause of my daughter’s symptoms but through reviewing her lab results and his exam of her, he was able to rule out the more serious illnesses we were concerned about. He changed her medication regimen and wants to wait a few more weeks to see if her symptoms subside. Speaking in a bit of code because my daughter was in the room I told him that we were relieved by what he felt she didn’t have as much as his reassurances that it was something minor. He was optimistic and realistic at the same time. He told us that as a precaution if her symptoms didn’t improve in 3 weeks or so, there would be another round of tests and different specialists to see. For now I’m happy that she’s resting easier and getting her energy back. We weren’t given any guarantees but I know that my husband and I are doing the best we can to ensure our daughter’s well being. We left feeling more relieved than anxious.

In the ride home after the appointment I sat quietly, realizing how exhausted I was. I’ve spent much of this summer in an anxious, vigilant state. I dropped my son off at a 6-week summer program at the end of June. The first week he was gone my mind raced with thoughts about his safety. I felt as though I was holding my breath. I caught myself so many times with my fists clenched having to force myself to take a deep breath. In those first weeks of Merrick being away, I decided I wasn’t going to spend the six weeks he was gone tense and afraid while he was experiencing an adventure he was so excited about. I was going to borrow some of his excitement and learn to exhale and let go of some of my fears. I breathed in deeply and exhaled on the way home from the doctor’s appointment releasing some of the anxiety that was travelling with me.

I am still learning to exhale. I am learning that I want my children to live full lives even when it means they travel far from home. I am learning that even after one of my children dies my other children may get sick and I have to care for them and advocate for them; something I can’t do if I’m crouched in fear. I am learning that the quiet that envelops my home when my children are away is not a death knell, even though death has come to call. I am learning that grief takes so many forms and is not on any timetable. I am learning to feel what I’m feeling without fear that grief will destroy me. With my daughter’s illness this summer I’ve cried out of fear and from relief. I’m doing the best I can for my children. Merrick comes home today from his 6 week sojourn. It is a triumph for him, immersing himself in a pre-college program with such passion and dedication. It is a triumph for me that fear has not stopped me from allowing my children adventures. I am learning to exhale.

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Comments on: "Learning to Exhale" (4)

  1. Bless you. I have such admiration for your strength. I hope the girlie feels much better and that whatever it is just crawls off and is gone in a puff of smoke. I would be a wreck all the time. Enjoy the reunion with Merrick. You have so much to be proud of.
    Claire

  2. ((Hugs))) To you, from one grieving mother to another…..Fear has become my constant companion with my 3 other children. Since my 10 year old daughter died in 2007, I just have to learn to let go and TRY not to worry over every little bump and bruise….In fact just this past week, I rushed my 17 year old daughter to the hospital because she was having a major headache…..She has headaches, but these last two were different so I was waiting in anticipation for the CT results and then they placed us across the room where I saw my youngest daughter after her accident, she was already gone…… well lets just say it was a very emotional night…..My oldest daughter’s CT scan results were normal but just passing by and looking into that room again after 3 1/2 years triggered a flood of memories and emotions….And her 14th birthday is in just 5 days. And like you I do have to remember to breath, it is almost like I forget…..

    Thinking of you and your family, Big hugs….

  3. So glad to hear that the worst of your fears were allayed. And, as always, looking up to you as an amazing model of parenting after the death of a child– even on the days when you may not feel like you are very strong, you just exude strength. Thank you so much.

  4. Jackie – While I was in Jamaica, Natalie got the stomach bug which put her in the hospital. I freaked out and went to “what if she has some flesh eating parasite?” Or, some virus that my husband gave her b/c he goes to africa so much.

    I was texting and praying, and wringing my hands b/c just the thought of a bug that had hit her so hard that she couldn’t keep water down had gripped me. Thankfully, this past Friday, 3 weeks after the first symptoms, she ate pizza and was quite please. I pray that this fear will go away one day, but unless you lose a child like we have, it’s the normal, natural thing to experience. As you encourage me, Dear Sister, it’s all breath by breath.

    With love,
    Carmen

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