Tag Archive | Grief

Guest Post- A brave friend

Today’s post was not written by me. This is a true account of a friend of mine and her fight to keep her friend alive. You see, I know of suicide. I know children of parents that have committed suicide. It’s an ugly bitch. It leaves the people behind confused, angry and grieved. When my friend asked if she could use my blog as a space to share her story, I didn’t hesitate. I want her story to be shared without any worry of identities being discovered.
If this story speaks to you, then message me or her and we can get you help.

**************

First, I want to take the opportunity to thank Frugalista for allowing me to post anonymously on her blog.
You see, I am a blogger, however, given the nature of this situation, I could not post this on my blog, but I
had to get it out. I needed to get it out. For my own personal mental health and so maybe, just maybe
if you are having thoughts of ending your own life you will read my words and know you are loved and
that you are not alone. If you think you know who I am, please do not post anything about my identity
publicly. Instead, email me at youarelovedalways2012@gmail.com.
My best friend, Mary left her abusive, sociopath of a  husband earlier this year and her already precarious
mental health started to spiral downwards rather quickly after she left. She has always suffered from
depression. So this summer, when I received the first call for help, I was expecting it.
What I wasn’t expecting was to see someone so sad and so hysterical that no amount of words could get
through to her. She was convinced that her daughter would be better off without her. She convinced
herself that she was a burden to everyone and that she was worthless. She couldn’t work; she couldn’t
get out of bed. She was in a completely irrational state of mind. I tried everything I could to make her
see the devastation and destruction her daughter would face if she killed herself. It didn’t work.
Nothing worked. I have never in my life experienced someone in this state of mind, with so much raw
pain that it seemed to just emanate from her soul. It was heart-wrenching to experience and we didn’t
know what to do.
We got her to bed that night and in the morning after the pills and the booze wore off she seemed to be
okay. In her sober, rational state of mind, she knew she couldn’t kill herself, she knew it would destroy
people. She knew the pain would go away. We tried over and over to get her to seek counseling. But,
no matter what we said, she repeatedly stated that therapy wouldn’t work.
After that incident, we considered an intervention to force her to get help. It didn’t sit right. I can’t
really explain it, except to say, I knew it wasn’t the right time.
Over the next several months, we tried to brainstorm with her to figure out ways for her to make an
income, because her asshole husband refused to provide any support. We got her an attorney. Her
parents provided for her financially. She cashed in a 401K to support herself. We had a plan for her to
take some classes. Most days she felt good and positive. But it was just a mask.
Then, just a few weeks ago, she stopped returning my calls and texts.
Friday night our other friend, Carrie, called; she was the one I was with during the above episode. Mary
had called her wanting her jewelry out of the safety deposit box. Carrie was concerned and so I called
Mary and thankfully, she answered.
I asked her why she wanted her jewelry. She wanted to sell it so her daughter would be provided for.
She said she had found a place for her beloved dog and was giving up custody of her daughter to her
daughter’s father. She also stated that she was meeting with her attorney to make sure her will was
updated so that her soon to be ex-husband would not receive any of her assets, “in case something
happens.”
“What do you mean, in case something happens?” I asked, already knowing what she meant.
“Well, I’m not going to kill myself. But I just can’t do it anymore. I don’t want to burden anybody
anymore. My daughter will be fine. She doesn’t need me.”
The most terrifying and disturbing part about that conversation was the nonchalant manner in which
she was saying these things. She had a plan. She wasn’t the hysterical crying mess that she had been
previously. She was sober and serious. I knew that night that no words I could possibly say would make
a difference. I told her I loved her and I would talk to her tomorrow.
Saturday morning we got on the phone with her parents and conferenced in the suicide prevention
hotline. After repeating the conversation from the night before, he was understandably concerned and
advised us to dispatch a crisis van. He also informed us that if she didn’t go voluntarily then we could go
to the courthouse, file a petition and have her involuntarily placed in a treatment facility. We were
prepared to do that.
We met the crisis van at her house and she was pissed, angry and betrayed. It took nearly 2 hours to
convince her to go with them. We did have to threaten to file the petition, but she went.
I spoke to her that night and she said the place was miserable. She didn’t get a bed and she had to sit in
a room with 25 people, mostly men. She did not sleep.
She met with the nurse practitioner the following morning to be evaluated. She refused to say that she
was a danger to herself and they had no choice but to discharge her.
After learning this, I immediately starting searching for hospitals. I got on the phone to make payment
arrangements, as she does not have health insurance and cannot qualify for state or federal aid due to
the fact that her divorce is not final. I found one and I met our friend Carrie at the facility Mary was at
awaiting discharge. We sat down with her and a counselor and, again, tried to talk her into staying. She
refused. We then told her we found a hospital with a women’s unit. She refused. She didn’t care what
we did, she wasn’t going. She didn’t need counseling or therapy. She just needed to be left alone. She
slammed out of the room.
The counselor followed. And I have no idea what he said, but within 2 minutes she agreed to go with us.
I can only say that our prayers were answer.
We got in the car, chain smoked cigarettes, all of us nervously awaiting the next chapter. We arrived at
the hospital and began the 4 hour intake process. We stayed with her the entire time. She almost left.
She almost left again. But she didn’t.
At this point, she had been awake for nearly 30 hours. She was so tired. She agreed to stay. That’s
what matters. She is right where she needs to be to get better. To learn how to cope with what
happened to her. To deal with the ugly and the nasty. To learn how to prepare for the future.
I visited on Tuesday. It was difficult and a little awkward. But she seemed better.
I have no regrets about what I did. Nor am I concerned with the state of our friendship. I’m not sure
that she will forgive me. I’ve made peace with that.
I would rather her be angry with me than be dead.

*******
If you or anyone in your life needs help- please contact these organizations-

National Suicide Prevention Hotline

1-800-273-8255

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: Warning Signs

RTLF #15- Siona’s Story

I had mentioned last week that I will do a series of stories for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. I’m reading Mary Tyler Mom’s account of her daughter Donna and their journey through her cancer. She chronicles Donna’s cancer in a series for Huffington Post for this month of September. You should follow it too if you aren’t yet. And share it. Please, please share it.

My friends, the Shahs, found out in 2008, their daughter Siona, had Leukemia. She was only 4 years old. Not that any age is okay to get cancer. Isn’t it funny when we say that? She was only 2 years old, or 10 years old?  How  about 90? Would that be okay?  I don’t know.

I asked Siona’s mom to write her own words for their story. She does a beautiful job. Please read and share to spread Siona’s words of strength. I’m amazed at the Mary Tyler Moms and the Reshmas that I know.

And pay attention to the end. Siona’s older brother Sohil included a list of Siona’s lessons. We forget sometimes how siblings are affected. How one day, you become an only child. What burden does that carry? Sohil is a clever, smart and easy going young man. I admire him too for his strength and wisdom. Everyone can learn from Siona’s story-

This is Siona. Smiling like always.

Written by Siona’s mom- Reshma~

When your children are born, as parents you have this feeling that everything is well with the world.  You actually wonder what you ever did prior to having them and couldn’t imagine your world without them in it.
As they grow, every now then, they get ill and for a moment you get that feeling in the pit of your stomach.   The wave of relief when the doctor tells you it’s nothing serious, puts you back in that ‘all is well with the world’ place.
On a hot summer day in 2008, I took the kids to their first swim lesson together.  My son did well, but Siona, my daughter, cried through the whole lesson.  It was very unusual for her to be clingy and cry so much.   I made a note to ask the doctor about it later that day.  I was taking Siona in for a checkup because she had been sleeping a lot and she had a low grade fever.
The doctor took a look and ordered blood work and said it was probably mono, but blood tests should confirm it.  I went about my business thinking it would all be fine…the doctor said so.
The next morning, my husband woke me up early to say the doctor had called (at 5:30 a.m.) to say that we had to get Siona into Children’s ER in Seattle.  No explanation.  They couldn’t discuss it over the phone.
From that day onward life was never the same and would never be ever again.  Siona was diagnosed with High Risk T-Cell Leukemia on June 26th 2008.  We didn’t go home that day.  Siona was admitted to an overflowing cancer ward.  I will always remember that first night…listening to the other children in the room crying in pain and being sick.  The thought of Siona going through what those children were going through was unbearable.
Siona showed spunk from the very beginning.  When the tech came in to draw blood for the tenth time that first day she had no more fingers left to poke, except one.  She was mad, it was late and the tech couldn’t get blood.  I screamed at him to leave and Siona calmly gave him her only unbandaged finger – the middle one.   Appropriately, it symbolized my feelings to a tee. ‘Take that cancer!’
Life puts many obstacles in our way and how we choose to deal with them makes us who we are.  Children don’t even see these obstacles.  They are usually experiencing everything for the first time, so to them, if it is new it must be normal…right?  To Siona, every kid was doing the things she was.
Siona never cried about what was happening to her.  She cried when she was in pain when it was at its worst.  She took the daily needles in the chest, feeding tubes shoved down her throat and the constant prodding and poking in stride.  The long hospital days and long stays were accepted without question.  She would look around in the waiting room and comment on another girl’s cute shoes or notice a child crying and say, ‘He/she is not happy today.’  I could tell it would affect her.  She was always smiling and wanted that for the other kids too.  Her goal was to get out of the hospital as fast as she could, so she would opt out of the ‘let’s count to 10 before we rip this tape off your chest’.  Honestly, there is no gentle way to take a needle out of your chest!  She would say, ‘Just do it!  I want to go home and ride my scooter!’
The first year was the hardest.  The chemo made Siona very sick and also shut down her adrenal system.  She was on a feeding tube most of the first year.  She was a sight!  She would be running, riding her bike, and playing without a care – all with the tubes hanging out of her.  Cancer wasn’t going to slow her down.    As she grew older, Siona started to notice that she wasn’t getting to do the normal things other kids her age were doing.  The first day of kindergarten and getting on the school bus she had always wanted to get on weren’t going to happen for her.  We would keep the windows shut so that she couldn’t hear the kids outside.  Once, and only once, did she say to me, ‘Mama, I wish I was normal.’
Children with Leukemia go through a longer course of therapy.  Girls go a total of 2 years, boys 3.  After the first intense year, Siona went on maintenance therapy for the next year.  She was doing well until March 26th of 2010 (ahhh the 26th again!).  After a routine blood test the results showed some abnormalities.  Siona had relapsed.  It was like re-living the first time we found out, but worse.
With cancer you are bombarded with statistics.  Your child’s chances of survival are based on percentages.  It’s terrifying.  Siona’s chances weren’t great this time around.  The first time she had had an 85 % chance of surviving.  Now?  5% if she was lucky.   Siona needed a bone marrow transplant and donors for children of Asian descent are hard to match.  Her brother, who had decided he was going to save her, wasn’t a match for her.  We found two blood cords that may have worked, but first we needed to get Siona into remission.
We went to St. Jude’s in Memphis where they are 10 years ahead of all institutions in the search for a cure for childhood cancer.  We found out that Siona actually had a rare subset of Leukemia called ETP Leukemia.  It was newly discovered by doctors at St. Judes.  We were thrown back to the beginning…again.  A whole new diagnosis for which chemo is useless.  Siona should have had a transplant while she was in remission.  We were devastated.
We brought Siona home because that is where she wanted to be.  St Jude’s had new treatments, but they were all experimental.  No guarantees.  Siona was all about ‘Home’.  She just wanted to be home with her brother and family.
Through Siona’s illness she remained positive and would tell US everything was going to be okay.  We would call her the ‘wise one’ because she would say things that a 4 or 5 year old would never say.  She observed people closely and if she heard or saw that someone was hurt or down, she would try to cheer them up.
She once said to her brother who was sad to see grandparents go home, ‘Just because they are gone doesn’t mean that you won’t see them again one day.’  She was very practical girl in matters of the heart.  Her fashion sense on the other hand was a different story.  She was all about purple (a happy color in her mind), pink, and lots of bling!
She lived everyday to the fullest.  At least to the point her body would let her.  She loved holidays; Halloween, Diwali, and Christmas.  She loved to be with family and sing, do her arts and crafts, dance in her princess dresses and heels, and to giggle with her cousins.  She would look into the sky at butterflies and birds and wondered how it would feel to fly ‘free’ as she put it.  She taught many of us so much about life.  It was hard to think someone so young could be so mature and matter of fact.
She was so excited for Christmas 2010 to get here.  We know she hung on for that reason.  During her last week with us, she said her goodbyes in her way.  She told me, ‘Mama, I’m tired now.’ She made calls to family and left messages in the middle of the night.  She told me to ‘Be calm Mama, be calm’ right before the paramedics came to get her.  The night before she passed she told her Dad, ‘Daddy, I’m flying free!’
She is free to fly high in the sky now.  Free from pain.   We miss her terribly.  The house is too quiet without her loud voice and happy chatter and singing.   How do you learn to be an only child if all you can remember is having a sibling?  How do you parent an only child when all you remember is parenting two?  We are all re-learning how to live life without Siona.  As she said, ‘Just because she is gone doesn’t mean we won’t see her again one day.’
After Siona passed away, her brother sat down with his Dad to write down everything he had learned from his little sister.   He learned the most from his sister.   Her lessons to him became Siona’s Life Lessons for us.   He tries to live everyday with as much zest and enthusiasm as she did.  She would be proud.  We have included ‘Siona’s Life Lessons below.  They keep us strong and focused…living everyday with the way she would want us to – with purpose, making a difference.

Siona and her mom, Reshma

‘Siona’s Life Lessons’:

  1. Live with a smile.
  2. Never give up and always try your best.
  3. Be kind and accepting of people.
  4. Don’t complain about things that aren’t fair.
  5. Be happy with the small things in life such as hot cocoa at Starbucks or going to lunch with daddy, mommy or Mr. Lampy (as she called Sohil sometimes).
  6. Be positive and laugh out loud.
  7.  It’s okay to fly into the sky as long as you have lived with a purpose.
  8.  Always be kind to spiders, because they too have a Mommy and Daddy.
  9.  Always be truthful and tell it like it is.
  10.  Always enjoy moments – big or small.
  11. Be “just the way you are”.
  12.  Make a difference in people’s lives.

The backs of the shirts for our Team in Training for the Rock n Roll marathon and the Big Climb for the Leukemia Society. We are proud to wear Siona’s angel wings.

Thank you Reshma for sharing Siona’s story with us. It’s beautiful and inspiring. I know it was hard. I love you for helping me spread the word for you.

http://www.sionashah.com/

Rainbow Goblins and Holes in the Sky

I think of what life would be like if something happened to my children or my husband. Like a hole in the sky.

I was just picturing how life seems normal, the usual everyday grind, but for those grieving, what looks like normal is really just a shell with a dark hole underneath.

If you are sad, grieving, mourning, the universe is never going to be the same. You might as well live on Jupiter. This Earth might as well have chunks of blue sky missing.

Not to worry folks. All is well. My kids are fine.  McSweetie is great. Today that is. But what if suddenly things changed.  I went to a funeral last week for a friend who passed unexpectedly and far too soon, leaving a wife and child in a path of shock and grief. I arrived thinking how much I hate funerals. It’s so hard to be composed in your sadness, especially if you didn’t know the person well. I’m always emotional. What can I say? I laugh loud, and cry ugly. It’s just who I am. I prefer to be goofy. So being serious and composed is hard for me. I am likely to say something ridiculous and inappropriate. So I keep my mouth shut. I don’t want to draw away any attention to why people are really there.

Listening to the comforting words of family and friends give their respects to this man that passed away. This husband, father, son and brother who died before his 50th birthday leaving a wife and a child, I was comforted by the stories, peaceful in the hymns, almost lulled into the recollections of his childhood, the courtship of his wife, his days as a Cub Scout leader. And then when it all came to end, and it was time to rise while the casket was to be lead outside, I had to hold back the tears. The pain of what it must be like for those closest to this loved one to say good bye. To really, actually, truly say good bye to the person. The physical person being taken away, in a box, covered in flowers. To put that person in the ground. And I thought how truly painful this part is. How do you let go?? Then I realized, oh if only the funeral could last forever, sitting there in the warmth and comfort of people who love and have understanding, compassion!  Not to go out in the cold, cruel world of bills, deadlines, work and struggle. The dark of night, alone in a bed that you’ve shared for so many years.  Or for parents who have lost a child-  a child’s room, quiet, bed un-made, clothes everywhere, never to be worn again. Oh, THAT is the painful part.

Sitting in the church singing and talking, crying and laughing, hugging and comforting. How easy that is compared to the days ahead.

I know parents who have lost children.

Or people who desperately want to be parents. Sometimes you grieve over a child you never had. Or only had for a short time, either unborn or born unwell.

I’m not sure why but it made me think of a book I was fascinated by as a kid.

Remember the book the Rainbow Goblins? These creepy ass little mo-fo goblins stole the colors of the rainbow. The story intrigued, creeped, and compelled me as a child. The illustrations were fantastic. These goblins ate the colors of the rainbow. They sucked the color from this world for their greedy selves. How much the thought of death feels like it just sucks the color from our world. How your loved one gone is like the sun missing, or a world without rainbows, a night sky without any stars or moon.

Sometimes my imagination runs rampant. I get weird thoughts on horrible things that could happen to my children. I become hyper-sensitive to the dangers of the outside world. I want to wrap them in bubble wrap. I want to spend the day in bed curled up next to them watching Tom and Jerry all day. This will never work, because they will constantly be asking me to bring them stuff like juice and Poptarts. And I’ll be like, ‘what about me? Who’s bringing mommy lattes and waffles?’

THEM- “you can get those for yourself mommy while you get us our juice and Poptarts.”  Gee thanks.

Okay, back to the hole in the sky and the Rainbow Goblins. Today I will remember to be glad that I have my children to smush and snuggle.  That I have my husband to not load the dishwasher properly, put his socks away or roll his eyes at me. I would miss that terribly. He has really pretty eyes- by the way.

But for anyone out there who feels like there’s a hole in the sky. Or the goblins stole your rainbow- my heart is with you.

The good news, is in the end, the goblins were consumed by the flowers of the valley. Colors were vivid once again in the butterflies, birds and flowers. The valley celebrated and rainbows never let themselves to touch the earth again for fear of being stolen.

I do believe in heaven, resurrection and the great hereafter. I do know that regardless of pain here on earth, the dull shades of black, white and gray- there will be color and rainbows and happiness for all eternity. I know that is very optimistic of me. I’m a faithful believer in my Savior. That is what gets me through. I wish others the hope in their hearts for the rainbow again, whatever their faith may be.

Heartbreak and parenting. There is not one without the other.

Warning- this post gets preachy, sentimental, and down right tearful. Some sing through their sadness, paint or go running. I write. So read and bear with me. Get a latte, a cocktail, whatever- this is going to take awhile.

I gripe a lot about my children, and my poor husband. But the reality is, I could not live without them. And I hope I never have to. With that said, I have seen a lot of heartache from parents I know. Losing a child is THE most devastating part of life I can think of. And anyone who knows someone who has lost, thinks, “Gosh, I’m guilty of thinking, Glad it’s not my kid. But how horrible for them.”

I was originally going to write about the upcoming anniversary of our friends’ daughter’s passing, Siona Shah. She went to be an angel on New Years Day 2011. As a community and neighborhood we were heartbroken for this family’s loss. Siona bravely battled Leukemia and was only 6 when she died. Her parents, Nigam and Reshma and her older brother, Sohil, like to talk about her passion for purple, her love of princesses, unicorns, the color pink and butterflies. We climbed the Columbia Tower to raise money for LLS (Leukemia and Lymphoma Society) and dozens of people ran with Team Siona in the Rock n Roll marathon to raise money for LLS. I have a new found respect and admiration for the Be the Match Foundation and St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. Both organizations were there for Siona and her family. I know many lives have been touched and maybe saved because of her legacy. My heart is always with you Shahs.

But then this week of holiday happiness between Christmas and New Year’s, when kids are playing with their toys, parents are trying to gain headway on the mess, and looking forward to when school starts again- a sad stream of Facebook statuses was coming through my feed. A little 10 year old boy had accidentally strangled himself with a necktie and his family was praying for him to come through. For two days they kept a prayerful vigil at Harborview, our renowned trauma hospital in Seattle. Hundreds of people prayed for his recovery, there were rosaries, vigils and masses said for him. But to everyone’s dismay, he passed on Thursday to be with his Lord. Little 10 year old Anthony Strauss was now an angel. But what some of us knew, he is joining his sister Gloria, an angel who passed before him.

Little Gloria Strauss’ story was covered in our Seattle Times in the months before she died of a rare, incurable cancer. Many grew to be fond of Gloria, prayed for her and her parents, her then 6 siblings. She passed away at age 11 in 2007. Her family knew she was now an angel. No question. They set up a non-profit to help others going through grief and loss. To lift them in prayer, hope and faith. The way their family, church and friends did for them.

Now they face it all over again. To grieve over their child. What good could come of this? How could God let this happen?

I don’t know.

But this I do know. We have the power to reach each other. To send whatever we can, whether it’s money, prayers, sympathy. There is always death and sadness. There is always birth and joy. Without one, there isn’t another. So we cry, we comfort, we carry on.

And most importantly- we love our kids no matter how crazy they drive us. The night I found out Anthony died- (I didn’t know this boy, to be clear, but the power of Facebook makes you feel like you know perfect strangers.) I was ready to shake my kids and tell them to please go away to their rooms. Let me be and not bother me. I was exhausted, irritated and completely done for. It was about 10 pm. Then I went on Facebook and saw the tremendous grief a family was feeling over not having their boy to run, jump on the furniture, pester his sister, terrorize the cat and ask his mom a million different questions. And I thought- they would trade places with me in a heartbeat.

So I went upstairs, hugged my children, rubbed their backs while they lay in their beds. Kissed their mussed up, sweaty hair. And blessed them each for being there. I thanked God for this. And went downstairs and cried to James.

I have blog readers in Australia, the UK, Asia and of course, the US. If you’d like to reach out to the Strauss family, share their story or  help make a difference, I’ve included several links. And gosh darn, just hug and squeeze those crazy monkeys in your life!

Gloria’s Angels

Be the Match Foundation

St. Jude’s Hospital

St. Jude’s Fundraising page