Sunday, February 24, 2013

Baptism Day for Isaac!

It's been another week.  I'm not sure how I'm doing.  The tears have dried up the past few days, still no panic attacks, but I still don't feel... normal.  I really feel numb.  Like I'm in survival mode with the auto-pilot switch turned on.

I've been mindful that today is Isaac's baptism.  I'm sad because I know Chrishel would have wanted to be there.  I wonder if she was, in fact, present in spirit?  If so, was she saddened that she could not be there in person?  She would be so proud of him.  And so proud of Tim for carrying through for the both of them.  I texted Tim to ask how the day went today, and he said it went as well as it could have, but Chrishel's absence was noticeable.  Family support has been good, so I'm sure he's relieved about having all her family around...

I want to post about the funeral, but I'm soooo tired.  Soon.  ANd then I will take down the condolence cards and her funeral program that have been sitting atop the piano in my living room since.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Tender Mercies

Yesterday was an interesting day.  At church, all the youth in the ward took over the primary so all the adults could have a combined meeting in the chapel.  (Our ward is H.U.G.E.)  The bishop had arranged for a counselor from LDS Family Services to come and speak about Suicide and Depression.

It was well timed, considering the loss of one of our former ward members and neighbor.  It was a pretty good meeting.  There were some helpful things said, but overall, I was just relieved and grateful for our bishop's insight in discussing such a sensitive topic, and being open about it so we all can move forward and heal.

Julie sat by us, and she and I had trouble keeping composure.  Bad day to forget tissues...

After that meeting, the other ward was anxious to come in to the chapel for their sacrament meeting.  One of my good friends took one look at me and asked, "That must have been some topic!  Are you okay?"  ANd she opened her arms and hugged me.

I had cried a river during that meeting, and I was exhausted.  After church, I came home and took a two-hour nap.  I was awoken to find a neighbor in a different ward standing on my porch with homemade hot rolls and jam in hand.

A few hours later, two more dear friends brought plates of goodies.

I know these kindnesses seem so insignificant, but they touch me and feed my soul.  My heart has felt so broken since January 14.  But God in his mercy, has sent so much generosity my way through caring family members and friends.

I want to do another post when I am not so tired, and journal the many other kindnesses shown to us this past month, but because yesterday was recently difficult, and so many people reached out, I wanted to testify that God notices me.  And I love Him.

Incidentally, more bad news from Tropic:  the husband of Chrishel's second cousin shot himself over the weekend.  His funeral will be later this week.  He left behind a wife and 3 young children.  I really hope their ward does something similar.  I don't know how a community that small can recover from these tragedies so close together, and the vulnerability of the youth would frighten me.

Tim called a few days ago and reported that he survived Valentine's Day.  He took red roses to each of Chrishel's sisters.  How sweet is that???  I sure look up to him.  He doesn't feel too courageous right now, and things are getting harder, but I pray he recognizes how truly good he is.

God is good:)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Good Days and Bad Days

Since my grief counseling session last week, I have been doing much better.  I have felt more like I am emerging out of a dark fog that has been prevalent since January 14.

The good news is I went to Walmart by myself today and I didn't have a panic attack.  (Going into stores or being around a lot of people has been triggering the anxiety attacks.  I've been a Young Women's President twice, and I teach regular violin group lessons to dozens of kids each month, but I haven't been able to walk into a grocery store without feeling like I can't breathe or function?  Pathetic, I know.)  Baby steps...

I talked to Tim on the phone for a good 40 minutes yesterday.  I miss that man and his beautiful wife.  But it is healing to keep in touch with their family.  I hope I didn't tire him out with all my questions and memories.  He's trying so hard to pick up the pieces.

Julie and I sent off a Valentine's Care Package to Tim and the kids yesterday.  We sure love them.  And since Chrishel isn't here to help me cook our men our annual steak and shrimp candlelight dinner, we're sending a bit of Idaho love to them.  I find comfort spending so much time with Julie since we got back from Utah.  I cling to her because she understands my pain.  And I understand hers.

Today has been kind of rough.  I dreamed about Chrishel again last night.  But not the good kind.  It's the one where we're still in the hospital.  Waiting, weeping, and hoping.  I remember the callouses on her heels and the remnants of silver sparkly toe nail polish on her toes.  (I spent a good deal of time rubbing her petite feet.  I tried to memorize all the details of her physical body.)  I miss her so much.  I can't even imagine how intense this ordeal is for Tim.

As I was driving home from the store today, the Phil Collins song, "You'll Be in My Heart" came on the radio.  This made me nostalgic for her. The lyrics to this song were printed on the back of her funeral program.  It was the lullaby Chrishel would sing to Sierra every night.  So tender:)

Tonight I spent most of the evening rereading old texts from her, as well as going through pictures of happier times.  I don't want to forget.  I wish I could talk to her one more time.  I wish I had done more.  I wish, I wish, I wish...

And then my sweet next door neighbor sent over a plate of the most delicious, warm chocolate chip cookies and it reminded me that I have other good people in my corner.  I can do this.  I will keep going.  I have so much to be thankful for.

When I met with Bro. H for my grief therapy session last week, I told him that when I start to feel joy, it is immediately shut down by this feeling of grief and guilt.  He assured me that was very normal.  "The survivors often feel disloyal if they start to move forward in their lives when their loved ones have died.  Frankly, I'd be worried if you didn't feel this way.  It simply means you love her."

"What about the fact that I wear my Bryce Canyon sweatshirt over and over and over?  That's not normal, is it?"

"You'll know when it starts to stink.  Give yourself some slack.  It's kinda like a child and a teddy bear. If it's providing some tie to her and comfort to you, let it serve it's purpose."

We talked about a lot of concerns I have had, but the $85 bottom line, according to him, is this:

I'm supposed to give myself permission to grieve.  That means allow myself to fully feel all the feelings that accompany this tragic death.  Let myself cry when I need to, let myself wear that sweatshirt one more week, and embrace the tender feelings of mourning someone so brilliant.  Because if we place restrictions on our grief, it will ooze out in unhealthy ways later on.  Exercise, sleep well, and share memories... Take the grieving one day at a time.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Haunting Questions, Very Few Answers Except the Only One that Really Matters...

*This picture was taken in June of 2011 when we were down in Tropic visiting them. Julie, Chrishel and I were taking a walk around town (it took all of 30 minutes to complete the grid) and Julie and I couldn't figure out these random little concrete tiles with various townspeople carved into them.  Kinda like the Hollywood Boulevard I had visited as a teenager many years ago.  Only not.  

Why wasn't I prompted to call her?  Why weren't we motivated to go see them New Years Eve?

Why was she making specific plans with me just days before she did this?

Was it an impulse on a very dark day, or had she been planning a specific deadline for herself???

Why did she choose to hang herself at home, perhaps not thinking ahead to the fact that the sleeping family would at some point find her?  Why not overdosing on a cocktail of pills?

Was her spirit aware of what was happening in the hospital?  Did she have a choice at the end to fight or 'go home to the God who gave her life?'

Why do I feel guilt if I start to enjoy something?  Chrishel wouldn't want me to feel this way, but knowing Tim and the kids are suffering so makes me hesitate to feel joy.  Not so healthy, I know.

Why have I started having these blasted panic attacks since the hospital?  What's up with normal mundane activities like going to Walmart or teaching group lesson that seem to trigger the anxiety attacks???  Why the heaviness in my chest, and feeling like I am running out of air and am I going crazy?  What is wrong with me?

Is she aware of the anguish her loved ones feel over her absence?

Can she feel our love for her?  Can she hear me whisper softly to her?  When I pray to Heavenly Father and ask Him to let her know how much we miss her, does He relay my message?

Will I ever be able to pass her  frozen, barren garden on the way to the mailbox without feeling a longing for her in my life?

Will her children know that none of this was their fault, or will they mistakenly think, 'If I had kept my room cleaner, she would still be here..."?  (When I found out as a child that my mom was suffering from severe depression and having suicidal thoughts, my faulty belief system caused me to own her problem... I specifically remember thinking that if I tried harder, if I was a better, more successful kid, she would be happier.  I warned Sierra that the Adversary might steer the blame in those directions.)

One night last week, as usual, I was the last one eating dinner (I'm a notoriously slow eater).  My sons were wrestling in the living room.  Josh is about a hundred pounds heavier than Caleb, and, well, you can probably predict the result of their wrestling sessions.  Caleb came in crying, "Mommy!  I want my mommy!  Josh hurt me!"

He curled up on my lap and I stroked his back and loved on him for a moment, when all of the sudden, a starting realization occurred to me--  Who will do this for Isaac?  Who will snuggle him and reassure him and wipe his tears?  Her babies are kinda like mine.  I've bathed and fed and babysat hers, as she had mine many, many times.  And I started to cry and the tears would not stop.

Another evening at dinnertime, Liz was saying the blessing on the food, and she asked Heavenly Father to help Chrishel feel better.

Caleb immediately saw fit to correct her after the "Amens", by saying, "Lizzy, Chrishel is dead.  Right, Mom?"

I nodded numbly and whispered, "Yes, son, she is."  And the tears spilled down my cheeks.  (The younger two were told that Chrishel was sick and died.  No specifics on the rest.  The older two know she took her life.  I hope I never have to have those kind of conversations again.  In fact, Caleb drew a picture for Isaac with the sentence, "Dear Isaac, I hope you can be happy again even though your mom is dead."  I didn't send it...)

When will my emotional strength return?

When will my tears dry up?

When will my two youngest children feel secure again?  They are both having major separation anxiety issues from me since the funeral.  Neither of them has experienced a viewing or funeral prior to this.  We have had some good Family Home Evenings the past couple of weeks about God's Plan, and how death is part of that Plan.  *I recommend a book available at Deseret Book called, "What Happens to my Spirit When I Die".  (Can't think of the author at the moment, but perfect for young children.  Beautifully written.)  If I leave to run an errand, Caleb calls every few minutes asking when I'm coming home.  When I left on one errand last week without telling him, he called me on my cell in a panic.  "Mom!  You promised me you would always tell me if you had to leave me!"  "Buddy, I told Josh where I was going.  I'll be home soon.  Everything is fine."

I can't get Lizzy to stay in Primary by herself.  Joseph had to sit with her in her class on Sunday because she was crying so hard.  (She is 6!)

Tomorrow night I have an appointment with a therapist at the BYU-I Counseling Center.  He is a dear friend.  I hope he will have some answers for me.  But I know there aren't any to many of these questions, so I pray the counselor will be able to help me let go of the things I cannot control.

That's what I'm learning-- grieving a loved one whom we lost to suicide has so many layers of grief and sorrow to work through.

I cling to my knowledge and resolution that Christ is our Redeemer.  He is our only Hope.  Somehow, someday, it will all be made well.  I know this fervently.  This carries me.  And it is enough.