29 July 2009

Losing My Child: Living In and Through Grief (Pt 7)

So, another set back occurred today...oh joy. We received notice on this past Saturday, that the life insurance check from my son's passing was in the mail. Well, today we received it...YAY!!! Then we opened it, and found it was made out payable to my SON'S name. Well, long story short, it was a typo and the insurance company is reissuing another check ASAP. My hope of using it to kill some of the surrounding debt before the end of the month, has been thwarted. So, I must patiently continue to wait...not one of my strong suits...lol.

OK, to continue in the look at the booklet Good Grief, we come to the seventh stage, which is the feeling of anger and resentment. Supposedly this stage will come after the depression, so I guess I have not been through this as fully as I could be, but I still relate to many aspects of it. While admitting that neither anger nor resentment are good or healthy emotions, they are nonetheless still common for most people, and therefore important to move past them.

When in this stage, we tend to become critical of everything related to the situation. I found this to be the case somewhat, when it came to the whole "what if" scenarios. I found myself questioning and casting blame on doctors, types of treatments, etc. What could have caused this? Who is to blame? What was done wrong, and by whom? These are areas he directly addresses in this chapter. No real solution is given, except to attempt to move from this quickly.

Stage eight is to resist returning to normal activities. I guess to a certain degree I have experienced this. It has to do with feeling like only we remember the great loss we have had, while others around us have returned to life as usual, so we seek to keep the memory (of pain) alive, leading to further depression, and a lack of desire to get on with life and try to get past it. We become too comfortable in our grief, and find it less painful to experiencing new situations in life.

One of the things he touches on in this section, is how people who surround the grieving one tend to make every attempt to avoid the issue...avoid bringing up the lost love one, for fear of bringing up painful emotions. He says that this tends to have the opposite effect, in that it makes the griever think everyone has all but forgotten the lost one. We should be open and free to discussed the one who has passed...to keep the memory alive, and to live and relive the joys of their lives. I often try to bring up my son in conversation with the family, and my other children do not grasp this point, and always think we should not speak of him. They do not bring him up, thinking it will make mom or dad cry again. But we really need to continue living, speaking, and remembering him in our normal conversations.

Stage nine is when things begin to clear up, and the dark clouds begin to break up, and a ray of hope begins to shine through. An example is given of the typical "Hollywood" little old lady who has lost her husband years earlier, and has become a recluse basically. She has kept her husbands belongings exactly as they were, and sits and ponders the memories on through the years, never letting anyone in, or seeking to experience life any further. This is what can happen if we do not move through the stages to reach the days of hope and life again.

Stage ten is to begin reaffirming reality again. We will never be able to return to our old selves again, with great loss comes great changes in life. But we should and can continue on in new experiences, and often, those of great faith will be better suited and able to assist others through similar issues due to their experience. So, in the end, we should come out different, but in ways, better than before.

I pray that I find my way through all of the steps and to this outcome myself. I appreciate those who have continued lifting me, and my family up in prayer during these times. I feel without it, we would not have made it this far. May God continue providing strength to us each minute of each day until I see the clouds break and the sun shine through once again.

This is the end of the examination of this little booklet, and I will return to my continued reading of the R.C. Sproul book Invisible Hand for my personal study on this issue further.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7

28 July 2009

Losing My Child: Living In and Through Grief (Pt 6)

OK, I have been negligent in finishing this up, so let me go ahead and cruise through the remaining sections of the Good Grief booklet. It has now been ten weeks since my son passed away, and I must say, it seems like it has been much longer than it sounds. It some ways it seems an eternity since I last saw him, or talked to him, or just saw him sitting on the computer. Yet, the pain is still very fresh in many ways.

We did, as mentioned in the last post, get the finalized death certificate. All of the insurance has been filed, and so some of that closure is in the process; but the grieving, at least for me, still goes on.

Stage four of the booklet, describes that physical symptoms of distress can occur when grieving. People who have had a major life loss or change, can become so depressed that it can actually begin to give them physical ailments and sickness. I did not connect as much with this section, I guess because I have not remained in a stage of grieving to the point of causing these ailments yet, as it mentions this may happen after a longer period of time. I am hopeful that my grieving and current depression level will not lead to a long enough time to cause this to be a problem (I am hopeful).

Stage five discusses how one may become panicky, concentrating and pondering over the loss to the point of disruption of living. Losing focus, not paying attention, asking people to repeat themselves when they speak with you...always kind of being "out of it" would be descriptive of this stage. Fortunately, I do not feel that I have experienced this phase, and pray to God I never cross over into this. I feel I have maintained a focus on work and my extra curricular activities.

I must admit, my motivation...my creative desire has become more slack or (more) lazy. Not so much in my 8-5 job, but more related to my extra side projects. I tend to spend less time accomplishing things at and around the house, and more time just "vegging out," reading and hanging with the family. Musically, one of my bands has been much more active the past few months, so that has greatly helped keep me going in that area; but the other band is kind of in a creative phase, and honestly, I just am not all there or feeling it. I am hopeful it will pass, but I guess it is a side effect of the depression I still am prone to.

I do not have the panic that this sections starts off with, but I definitely relate practically word-for-word with the last paragraph of this chapter, which states:
To help ourselves through such a period when we can think of nothing but our loss, we must be open to new and different human relationships. At a time like this all we want to do is run away from life. The last thing we care to do is to try anything new. We can think of a hundred different reasons why we prefer to stay at home and be gloomy rather than go out and be forced to be nice to people and think new thoughts. Such an attitude is natural; it is to be expected.
This I feel is me right now. I may not necessarily just sit around being gloomy, but I definitely do not have the motivation to go out and do anything, or meet anyone "new" like this. Actually, on top of the grief issue, other recent experiences with a close "friend" have made me even more desirous to not make any new friends or relationships. At this time, I am content to be with my family and my book "friends." I have no desire to open up to, get close to, or confide in anyone else outside of my current direct circle. Call it depression, or lack of trust in so called "friends," either way, for right now at least, I have no desire for new friends or relationships. So, I guess I may be stuck in a portion of this stage at present.

Stage six discusses the guilt we may feel over the loss. There are two types of guilt, the normal guilt we feel over time not well spent, words not said, etc. We always wish we had a chance to do things over, to do things better, to say "I Love You" more, to spend more quality time with them. This I do feel, and is said to be normal.

The second set of guilt discussed is called neurotic guilt. It states every person will have some of this, and it may be hard to separate which guilt is which when dealing with it. I do admit I have some of this, but feel I have come to terms with it. The example of neurotic guilt that is given is a story of a daughter who spends day and night for a long period of time, by her aged mother's bedside. Finally, the doctors order the girl to go home and get some rest, and she does, and that same night the mother dies.

In my case, it is the "what if" question of why, upon arriving home early that morning (3AM), did I not put the pulse oximeter on my son's finger just to see how his levels were doing? My wife said he had recently stirred and was fine, and I did not want to wake him, so I was simply satisfied with holding his hand and seeing his head move. If I had put the meter on, and had noticed something was wrong (if there was anything wrong at that time of the night, that is) then I would have had him rushed to the hospital, where I am sure he would have been tubed, poked, prodded, stuck, etc. and who knows what other "torture" in the attempt to preserve him. If after all of that he were to still have died, it would have been a most horrible way to go...conscious, fighting, and in discomfort. I am thankful that the Lord directed me to not take steps to further check him and possibly lead to that; but instead my son went very, very peacefully, without a word, without pain, and just slept away.

OK, I will stop for now, and try to cover the last four sections in the next post. I am glad to be re-reading parts of this now and being able to pour out my thoughts here, whether anyone reads them or not, it refreshes my mind on the subject and hopefully helps me make it through some of this time.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7

17 July 2009

Jonathan - The Truth Revealed


That was the first thing out of my mouth when I spoke to the funeral home, who revealed to me the official cause of death on the death certificate for my 17 year old son Jonathan. Two days ago, they called and left a message stating that the medical examiner's office had called and the finalized death certificates were in. They told me they were submitting the request for the copies I had ordered, and should have them for me to get in a couple of days. Being impatient as I am after waiting now eight weeks for this, I called them back and asked if they could contact the medical examiner and see if they would tell us the actual cause of death. When I received a return call from the funeral home yesterday, just fifteen minutes from the time I left work, the answer simply blew my mind.

Cause of death: Brain Tumor. More specifically, Neurocytoma. I could not believe it. A brain tumor?? There had never been any symptoms that led anyone to even examine him for that.

At first, this was a shock, and it overwhelmed my emotions with a ton of additional "what if" questions. What if we knew and treated it? What if it was something simply fixable? UGH!!! It was a flood of pain and emotion all over again.

My initial attempts to find answers on line were less than stellar. There was a bit about it online, but I was finding mostly case studies, with technical jargon that I did not understand or want. I wanted a page to simply tell me what it was, how it is caused, and the treatment and survival rate. Instead I found bits of information on types of treatment and other less clear stats.

I did find many in the case study, even after surgery, still died, some in as little as six months, some lasted a couple more years. So I did not find any clear cut wording that says yes, it was easily treatable and survivable. I think the increased difficulty of finding a quick answer was God's way of telling me to stop. I gave up looking after a few moments.

Now, the day after, I realize that for me to dig for an answer is not a good idea at all. No matter what the answer I find, it will not bring him back, and it will not make me feel more whole. Worst case, it could make me far worse than I currently am. All of the "what if" scenarios in the world won't do anything to lead to peace of mind to me, but in fact could push me deeper. I am pretty sure if we had discovered it, in his weakened condition due to lack of weight, he probably would not have survived the surgery to fix it (some of the case studies showed people not surviving the surgery part).

It does help me in many matters though. First off, it clears my mind of any thoughts that the recent supplement IV treatments had anything to do with his death. It clears out the possibility that the diet he was on caused any problems. It also clears the thoughts that maybe we didn't start aggressively treating the weight gain issue sooner. None of those seem related to his eventual death, but instead, out of left field, a new undetected issue swoops in beyond our control to take him away.

Strangely, he had no symptoms of this brain tumor that we were aware of. From what little I found online, the common symptoms included chronic headaches, vision issues, and loss of coordination and tingling sensations in the limbs. None of these were issues that Jonathan ever brought up as having. Of course, he was so secretive of many issues and symptoms, one can only wonder if he did, but never shared them. Since the most common symptom was chronic headache, something he never seemed to complain of, then I have to assume he wasn't hiding it from us.

Anyway, while it does raise some additional questions, it also answers some of my already plaguing questions, so in the long run, I have to learn to let it go; there is nothing we could have done more as far as what we did know he had, so not knowing, puts the situation that much further out of our hands.

04 July 2009

Losing My Child: Living In and Through Grief (Pt 5)

Part three of the "Good Grief" book discussed feeling depressed and very lonely. The one thing about this book, is obviously these things do not have to proceed in the order given in the book, nor does everyone experience every step (as I will touch on in future segments). This particular step though, still seems to be lingering some in my process of grief.

The grief tends to make you think no one else has ever grieved as bad as we are. I can't say I have ever felt that way, because I know that no matter how absolutely horrible and painful I feel now, there are plenty of others who have experienced even worse (Job comes to mind for one that I hold up as worse off than me, though even more modern contemporaries could easily be mentioned).

The part of this that does touch base with me some is the feeling of being alone in this pain (even though I am surrounded by family also directly affected). I walk around as if in a haze. It is as if the sun is never shining, and while others around me go on with life as usual, I am stuck under a cloud. I work and work to keep my mind off of it, and do as much as I can to distract myself and enjoy things and people around me, but at the first sign of quiet, my mind drifts back to the reality at hand. In those cases, I tend to feel alone and isolated.

One small point he makes really hit home greatly. He says:
When we are depressed, we find ourselves thinking thoughts we never have otherwise. We say God does not care. We may even doubt there is a God.
I have said previously how it is a battle between the mental and the emotional, and this is exactly it. I know in my mind God is there. I know in my mind God is in control. I know that every aspect of this situation is brought and controlled, down to the minutest detail, by the hand of God, yet emotionally the grief and depression tear away at that knowledge. That is where these books have come in handy, to help remind, shape and mold the emotions to adhere to the logical knowledge of the mental.

This booklet speaks of the eventual end of these "dark days" which seem so far away and impossible while living in them, but I put faith in the fact that they will one day end, and I will see sunshine again. There is a part of me though, that does not want that to happen, as it is almost like I am moving past my son, and forgetting him (which I know will never happen, but again, emotions rage). He states these dark days can last for some people much quicker than other, so who knows how these things will play out.

I have seen comments by some of our friends, feeling helpless as to what they can do to help us through this. Honestly, even I do not know the answers, and when people ask if there is anything we need or anything they can do, I do not have a clue. The books states:
One of the most helpful things we can do for a friend at such a time is to stand by that friend in quiet confidence, and assure him o her that this, too, shall pass. The friend will not believe us at first, and will tell us we do not know what we are talking about. We may even be asked to leave. But the friend usually does not mean it. Once it is realized that our concern is genuine, the quiet assertion of our own confidence in God's continuing care and concern will assist tremendously in the friend's recovery.
Now, whether this is true, I do not know, yet..lol.

I do appreciate all of the prayers and assistance from those around us that have been offered so far. At this time, we must forge on and attempt to live as normally as possible; but we could still use prayer for strength and peace of mind (especially me, as I am much more prone to depression than my wife tends to be). I must say, being able to "unload" some of this here is serving to be somewhat therapeutic, whether anyone reads it or not...it just "gets it out" I guess. Also, working through these books again is giving some comfort thankfully.

As part of a recent "what if" segment in my brain recently, I was struck with an increased awe and thankfulness to God in this situation. What if I had noticed an issue with him those few hours before he was gone? What if I had rushed him to the hospital?
I won't go into any real detail as to the horrors my mind went to, but in the end I was ultimately thankful that Jonathan passed so peacefully in his sleep, and not in conscious pain in a hospital, trying to be kept alive through intervention that would have still led to his passing, though in a much more torturous manner. So, the fact that things went the way they did, can be viewed as nothing less than pure mercy from God for both us and our dear son. While I still do not understand how or why he passed when he did, I am thankful that it happened the way it did.

As of today, we are at the end of the sixth week since his passing (in ways it feels so much longer). We were told after the initial autopsy, that the final death certificate would be about six to eight weeks out, awaiting the toxicology results. So, we hope to have a bit of closure in that area any time now. I pray that whatever the outcome, it would somehow provide some closure in my mind mentally and emotionally, and help eliminate some of the "what if" issues that still bounce around inside. His condition was somewhat of a mystery in life, I fear his death may end up being the same...we'll see.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7