Be Brave

Today, I sent another message to the driver that killed my daughter. It’s been a little over a week since we last exchanged texts. Or has it been two? In the last response he sent me, in connection with meeting each other face to face, he said I could take my time in setting a date.

I sat with his words from a Sunday to a Tuesday. Either nine days . . . or sixteen. I guess the actual length of time doesn’t matter. What matters is why I sat passively as the days clicked past. My idleness wasn’t because I’d changed my mind in meeting him. Rather, I needed to digest what making contact with him meant. I had a lot to work through.

I’d purposefully decided to veer off course and take a new path. A path that will lead me into his world. One that will allow him to set foot in my life, welcomed. We will be creating a new reality, together. A new ending to a tragic story that could have had multiples tragedies along the way.

But, before I could do that, I had to come to terms with many ideas and feelings I’ve been carrying since January 21, 2017. Where I am now, though it’s a painful existence, it’s safe. There is a security in knowing that I feel a wrenching anguish, each day, concerning the absence of my only daughter. Today was sad, every day is sad, and tomorrow will be no different. There is an odd comfort in knowing this. A solid painful place is still solid.

So, I had to slow down and just “be” in the place I am for a little longer. For eleven years I have lived with him being the “drunk driver” in my head. He has been faceless for the entire time.  An undefined male image. As I’ve said before . . . he’s remained the twenty three year old he was when this all happened. He’s been a fleeting picture in my thoughts. One of Becca’s friends recently said to me “he isn’t a faceless monster any more”. And, indeed, he is not.

In reaching out to him I have set into motion an entirely different future for us both. It reminds me of the in between space I stood in on that cold highway wondering if it was my child who was dead. Moving from the life we all had together into the new one that didn’t include her. Waiting in the dark for the information that would catapult me into the “after”. Those precious moments from when I was told it was my Becca until someone I knew positively identified her at the crash scene. Minutes I could almost convince myself that I could stay put in the life I loved. Having someone who knew Becca, tell me that yes . . . it’s her, closed a door on our life together and forced me into a new room. It will forever be the point marking the before and the after.

Meeting him will be the same kind of moment. In a different way. I feel as if I will be exiting the dark room I’ve existed in for a little over a decade and entering another that will be much lighter. It is another before and after moment. These points are always life altering. And, I needed to rest and gain strength in order to face the shift. So, I lay on the plateau I had reached by connecting with him.

The years since her death have been heartbreaking. The path I’ve been on has some sharp ups and downs. But now I realize it’s been on a steady incline since the day she died. I never noticed this until right now. I have been ascending, all this time, to the upcoming meeting.

It’s been such a long climb up to this most recent ledge. I’ve found myself bare, bleeding, and bruised. Not sure I had enough strength to go any higher. Then, this level ground appeared and I decided I needed to rest in the “in between” for a little while. Remain in this new light pondering this new life. However, I know that I can not stay here indefinitely. It’s not the end destination for me. Or, for this story. Instead, it’s a place to take a respite from the gut wrenching reality of her being gone. And, it’s a new beginning.

I liked it here. In the in between. As I said . . . it is safely predictable. A segment of time bookended by the letter to him and meeting him. I know I can not set up household here. It’s not meant to be my new home. Being here is starting to feel wrong because it’s been too long. Not a place of deserved rest as it had initially, but a place to hide away from this big thing. Today, I finally sat up and acknowledged that my time here is done. No more inaction. The time has arrived to start climbing again.

So, in the spirit of moving toward healing, I messaged him again. I asked him what days and times work for our meeting. He said weekends. Weekend afternoons. I replied with “A Sunday”? He said yes.

There it is then. A more concrete plan. Not completely worked out . . . but forward movement.

Today I stepped firmly on the path that will lead to our meeting. I am glad I had a chance to rest because it’s made me feel strong enough to traverse this new section of my healing journey.

We will meet on a Sunday afternoon, which seems appropriate because Becca died on a Sunday, but I’m not sure of which one, yet.

Small steps give surety to my footing and balance to this journey.

Always, in memory of you my beautiful girl.

 

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This New Path

My life has had some profound shifts the past few weeks. For the better. Changes I set into motion . . . and not something that happened to me. I think that is an important distinction to acknowledge because not many life upheaving events have been by my doing. Instead, they’ve been in reaction to an event thrust upon me. The major changes in life can be easier to handle when we’ve made the choice to make the change.

Recently, I’ve written of communication with the man who killed my child eleven years ago. I have had just over a decade of time to react to my child’s untimely death. To wear down the edges of it so I’m not continually sliced open with its existence. To accept, a bit more each day, that it really happened and this is what my life is now. To accept that someone else’s choice forced a life altering reality into my own. I have had to react to Becca’s death, in a thousand different ways, over the course of the past eleven years.

But now, I have the chance to alter my life again by choosing what path I will take. Each day is full of healing possibilities for me. For every bereaved mom, I think. Sometimes we see them and can hold them close and learn from them. Other times, the air around us is heavy and the light is dim and we can’t see what possibilities lie at our feet.

Then there are the times when we see a path veering sideways off of the one we are walking on. I am sure the path has exposed itself to me before but I just wasn’t ready to see it. It’s always been there, I think, but my eyes couldn’t accept it as being a possibility. I think, when I did finally notice it, I might have tentatively set a foot onto it . . . leaving the safety of the uneven ground I knew so well . . . to peer into its shadowy depth. There were times that I didn’t think this new path was for me. No thank you. I’ll continue to travel the hazardous road of child loss instead of venturing into somewhere I don’t know. I know, by now, the monsters I will face on my journey. I don’t know what hides in the dark curves of the unknown terrain.

This new path exposed itself to me a few years ago. It didn’t seem so daunting, for once. It wasn’t as dark as before. But, I still wasn’t ready to leave the security of what I have known for a decade plus. I stopped, looked at the spot where one path met the other and decided to stay where I was for now. I knew it would present itself again, eventually. And that, one of these times, I would be ready to confidently set foot upon new earth and move forward into it.

This new path didn’t so much present itself to me as I was actively looking for it. I had been seeing it more frequently in the past few years so I knew it wouldn’t be too hard to find. I just had to gather a few things before I set forth upon it. An address. My boys blessing, or maybe just their acceptance. A willingness to face whatever was on the other side in the heart of the other person. The person who killed my Becca. Finally, one day, I had all of those things. I took the step.

I chose to move toward forgiveness and deeper healing rather than not explore what it could be for me. For him. For all of those who were impacted by my child’s death. I didn’t know exactly what I would face as I turned the corner that hid my former journey from me. I had bravely decided to see where this change in my journey would take me. I wasn’t sure. Would it open old wounds? Is there unknown anger lurking just under the surface of my conscious mind? I don’t think so. I am done being angry. The chance that something wonderful could come from forgiveness is worth the risk of changing course.

When I think of where I have been and where I am going I really visualize a path. A physical place with rocks and water and bushes that scratch me when I pass too close to them. Quicksand catching hold of my foot and anchoring me in place while I slowly sink. Sections that are ink black because the sun is blotted out and I can’t see any light. Anywhere. Others that are sweet with tall grass and clean air where I remember my child alive. Places where the horizon looks like a duplicate of what I just passed through and fought so hard to overcome.

Is this new path, I have chosen, a shortcut to the end? The end being complete healing? I don’t think there is complete healing. So probably not. But, it’s a chance for my healing to be wider as I veer from what I know. Will it lead me back to familiar ground? Probably. When I get back to the original path I will be more equipped to fight through the battles that are waiting for me.

I’ve chosen forgiveness and I believe it’s made me stronger.

Excavating Muskegon

I found another piece of my Becca.

A piece I knew I would stumble upon, sooner or later, it just happened to be sooner than expected. That’s ok, though. I wasn’t completely prepared to find it . . . but all of a sudden, there she was.

Muskegon holds very little history for my children and I. In fact, it’s the place that has the least amount of history along the Lake Michigan shoreline. There are other places, beaches mostly, that we spent much more time together. One in particular, Kirk Park, is the most difficult to think about visiting. My stomach clenches and my legs feel as if they can’t hold up my weight. I’m not ready to visit there, yet.

The knowledge that there is a soccer field, in Muskegon, that we’d been to has been in the back of my mind since moving here. I think a few weeks had passed before I remembered the name of the street we took to reach it happened to be the same one I drive down to get home every day. The field is about half a mile to the right of the first intersection I pass through when I exit the highway. In my memory, it wasn’t that close the freeway at all. In trying to figure it out I recalled that we had gotten lost and driven right past it and had to backtrack a good ways!

The sad thing is: I can not remember if Becca rode with us for the long drive or if she met us out there. I can’t call her to ask, either. That is one of the things I hate, among the thousands there are to hate, about her dying. I am the keeper of all the memories . . . and when I can not remember a detail, I fail. And she is erased a little more.

My car, at the time (and many other times in our life) wasn’t the most reliable, so the drive was stressful for me. I wonder if the boys could tell? But, I wanted to at least seem as if we were as carefree as all the other families seemed to be. I should have realized we had what really matters, love.. Anyway, I remember Becca and I sitting on the small section of bleachers next to the soccer field. Was it a hot day? Or a cold one? I can’t remember. The feeling of my daughter next to me, and my boys running around on the field, is what I can remember. I am happy I have not forgotten how she feels.

Becca was always over the top when it came to emotions. She was a very dramatic girl! Which grew into her being a very dramatic young woman. One of the things I both loved and admired about her!! She was not shy when it came to expressing her feelings! Happy or sad, you knew!. On that day, long ago, my girl – the boys big sister, jumped up and rushed down the bleachers. Before I knew it, she was running up and down the sidelines, jumping like a fool, and cheering for her brothers. She possessed an ability to behave ridiculously without any fear of what she might look like to others. Becca was wise. Wiser than me. I didn’t conquer that fear (and some days I haven’t at all) until after she’d been killed. What is there to fear? I’ve lived through the worst, haven’t I?

I imagine her brothers might have been a bit embarrassed, then. I wonder if they remember this day? Or how much their sister loved them. Could they tell they were everything to her? I hope they could. I hope they both realize that now. That girl would have done anything for them. And, I know, they would have done anything they could for her, too. The three of them loved each other more than I ever could have hoped for. She was theirs and they were hers and I am so blessed to have been a part of this family.

My boys have had days when I know they could have used a big sister. For advice. Or support. Maybe kick someone’s ass. (She would have done all three, happily.) I’ve had days when her words would have jerked me out of my low places and set me right again. Every day without her is hard, but, there are days that are nearly unbearable because of her absence.

Then there are the days when I find a bit of her and, for a moment, she’s next to me. Maybe my journey isn’t meant to be moving away from the explosive impact of her death. Instead, what if it’s about going forward to excavate the pieces of our life that landed far away?

When I was young, I wanted to be an archaeologist, digging up treasures from civilizations long gone from this earth. Like most children that dream about this career, we envision ourselves in a far away land, digging up the tomb of an ancient ruler filled with gold or finding proof of a people we weren’t sure existed. My younger self (the one who was still in consistent contact with my soul) possibly knew I would be searching out a different kind of treasure one day. Searching for and gathering my most precious memories.

Discovering this piece of Becca has allowed me to remember the joy of life in that girl! Her laughter is ringing through my head! The love the three of them felt for each other is warm as it surrounds me. The happiness we all had together, even though we didn’t have much materially, brings a smile to my face and new tears to my eyes. I found a perfect moment, again.

Carrying the weight of my dead child is exhausting. But, it’s a heaviness I can not put down. Yet, picking up pieces of her while I travel makes the weight a little lighter. It doesn’t make sense, I know, but I’m glad that those of you who don’t understand, don’t.

Maybe tomorrow I will be strong enough to walk up those bleachers from years ago. Or, maybe all I will be able to do is glance in that direction. Either way . . . I’ve found gold.

My Becca.

Mending The Broken

 

 

At first glance, I know the statue I used as the featured photo doesn’t look like much. However, she’s become very dear to me.

When I acquired her it had been just over a year since I’d lost my Becca. I’d seen her, in the store I worked in, every day. Having just gone back to work after nearly a year of being unable to perform any job . . . I didn’t have the money to purchase her. When I saw her face, and it’s serene look, I knew she belonged to me. I remember hoping that she would be there when I could afford her. Thankfully, she was.

A decade ago, when I finally owned her, she was much different looking. Delicately sculpted arms reached toward the heavens. Her graceful hands curved around the thick edge of a bowl she held aloft. Almost as if she was making an offering. Or sacrifice. She was sending energy upwards.

One day, I looked at her and thought, “maybe she’s gathering whatever the universe let’s fall down to earth.”. A few days later I realized that it could be both. So, I started to place natural objects into her vessel as my own gift to the powers that be. Or, I’d put in little things I’d bought for Becca, in hopes she would see them. Every time it rained, and the bowl caught the drops, I’d dip my fingers into the water. I’d wipe the wetness, imbued with energies from above, across my forehead and over my heart.

The second winter I had her I decided to leave her outside instead of putting her in the garage. Crisp white snow piled up in the little bowl and her face looked beautiful decorated with the lacy snowflakes that fell onto it. Her dark gray figure surrounded by the pureness of the snow made life look like a black and white photograph. She was beautiful.
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Being that she was made of resin, and not cement, the weather weakened her arms. First, the bowl fell to the ground. Her arms, minus hands, still reached upward. I wasn’t sure if she was worth keeping any longer. But, her face remained peaceful.

Shortly after that both arms broke at the shoulder and dropped to the ground. She could no longer offer or receive anything, I surmised. Yet, the calm expression remained. This girl was armless and it hadn’t phased her one bit. Her delicate chin and closed eyes still faced the heavens. If she could stay centered, in the midst of her tragedy, then so could I.

In the past year I have moved five times. This statue has travelled with me to each new location. It’s one of the first things I need to unpack and find a place where I feel she belongs. Her presence is consistent.

If you look closely at her you can see the large cracks that wrap her body. More than once I’ve carefully spread glue along their edges and put her back together. On her side there is a hole that I can’t fully repair. The piece was lost when Cecily wrapped her leash around the statue’s waist and pulled her into the bushes. This hole has come to represent the piece, we all have, that is missing . . . never to be returned. We learn to live with the empty spot, don’t we? That is part of the healing, I believe, the acceptance that life will never be fully whole again. The realization that we have no other choice but to come to terms with our loss. Maybe that is the start of true healing?

When you heal you start from somewhere deep and unseen in your soul. The tiniest broken connection is mended together and a spark of the divine glows again. Then, like a ripple from a stone tossed into still water, the spark spreads outward. Broken pathways are reconnected. Our soul grows warmer as the spark travels throughout. I’ve learned it’s a slow process.A process that will continue occurring until we take our last breath.

Our new house has a large front porch with a wide staircase down to the front yard. On either side of the stairs there are wide pieces of cement meant to hold flower pots. Stacey placed a small statue, a little girl and her mother, on one side of the stairs. When I saw her put it there I said, “maybe I will put my statue on the other side!” Knowing what my statue looked like she kind of made a face. I said, “I know . . . she needs some fixing.”

But, she doesn’t, really.

She’s perfectly imperfect. My scars are represented by hers. If I fix her so that they don’t show should I fix myself as well? The line you can see across her abdomen is where the glue seeped out of the crack while she was drying. Now, that spot is stronger for having been repaired. That line is beautiful because you can see the repair! To make her physically perfect again would be a disservice to all she has been through.

Our scars are where people can reach into us. They show those around us that we are not perfect. Our inner healing can be seen beneath them. Their glow is a light to guide others. Scars, both physical and emotional, are the truth of our stories. They are the unspoken heartbreak that we have in common.

I won’t put her on the front porch, not because she is an eyesore, but because I don’t want anything to happen to her. She means too much to me.

Mend your brokenness but don’t ever hide it. It’s what brings us together.

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When She Laughed

As I was getting ready to sit down and write a blog my eyes swept across a picture I keep on a table in my bedroom. It’s a photograph of Becca and I laughing hysterically, while sitting next to each other, at a friend’s going away dinner. The moment is embedded so deep within my memories that I can feel her sitting to my right and telling me a wildly inappropriate joke. That daughter of mine was hilarious! She never failed to make us laugh!! And, we laughed a lot. I miss her laugh.

Being a single mom I couldn’t always afford everything we needed. So, once in a while, I had to let a bill slide. Generally it was the cable bill because it wasn’t a necessity. I remember one of those tv-less nights when we were all tired of board games and were just sitting around. Becca jumped up and started to act out scenes from her favorite movie, “Clueless”. The boys and I were entertained for at least an hour while she acted and re enacted the scene where one of the girls gets hit in the head with a shoe. Every time Becca fell to the floor the boys would squeal with laughter! Which just made her fall more theatrical the next time. After that we would often turn off the TV and shout out scenes for her to act for us. I would give anything to go back to those times. The four of us safe in the house and in love with each other and life.

I have a few questions for grieving moms. Do you remember the day the laughter stopped? Did it die with your child? Were you, too, sure that you would never laugh again? And, when you did, were you disgusted with yourself? Was there shame?? Is there still shame and guilt if you’ve found laughter again?

Laughter. Such a normal, and necessary, part of human existence. It comes from sensations of joy. Joy: delight, pleasure, happiness, glee. I am willing to bet that joy disappeared immediately from your emotional condition when your child died. As did laughter. For me it did. I never imagined myself laughing again. And . . . I didn’t for a very long time. Which was, among other things, very unfair to my surviving children. It was also unfair to me and her memory.

Everyone who knew Becca still remarks, to me, about her laugh. It came from her belly and was loud and she was unapologetic for the noise. Her laugh made me laugh. It’s true, it’s contagious. And a wonderfully beautiful thing!! We don’t laugh enough, us grieving moms, for various reasons.

How can I laugh when my child is dead?
There must be something wrong with me to be able to feel joy.
Do I love my child as much as I think I do because if I do I should be beyond repair and unable to find happiness without them.

The reasons we don’t laugh are as varied as each of us. Though there is some commonality in the experience, each of us must find a reason to laugh again.

The dictionary defines joy as follows: the emotion evoked by well being, success or good fortune or the prospect of getting what one desires. NONE of those pertain to our situation after child loss. Yet, we must come to a place where we can feel some of what is listed above. But why?

Our grandmothers had it right when they told us that laughter is the best medicine. There are so many physical benefits to a good chuckle. For one, our immune systems take a dive when we are thrust into bereavement. In that first year after my daughter was killed I had diarrhea continually. Constant headaches. Little sleep. My body was physically going through grief, too. A good laugh can help strengthen our immune system, release tension and anxiety, make us feel more positive and hopeful. Laughter can help diminish pain and protect us from the damage that stress from losing a child puts on our systems.

Laughter relaxes the body.
Laughter lightens the heaviness of anger. (and boy do we feel anger)
Laughter triggers the release of endorphins.
Laughter protects the heart. (our broken hearts need all the help we can find)
Laughter strengthens resilience.
Laughter shifts perspective.
Laughter bonds people to each other.

Stacey and I laugh. A lot. Probably more than we ever thought we would be laughing again. I think we are learning that though we find a reason to giggle . . . the sadness never goes away. It’s takes a while, but you can and hopefully will, find your way to laughter again. It is a necessary part of life and a large component to healing from the loss we’ve experienced.

If none of the reasons in the list above are enough for you to find your way to laughter again, how about this one:

Your child would want you to laugh.

Don’t you think so?

I know when it’s my time to join my daughter . . . my sons are going to be heartbroken. They will mourn my passing and grieve the loss of their mother. But I hope, with all of my heart, that they can remember how much we laughed and find a reason to laugh again. I want them to.

My daughter would say to me: laugh mom. Laugh because I laughed. Because I existed. For the boys. But mostly, for you. I want you to be happy.

I remember a story I heard about Jesus in the garden with the children in Heaven. He invites them all to join him in a walk. Gleefully, they all get up to follow him except for one little boy. Jesus asks the little boy why he isn’t coming along. The boy responds that his mother is crying and he is worried so he has to stay and look out for her.

Hearing that story made me think of how horrible it would be to have my daughter, with the entirety of heaven and space at her fingertips, won’t enjoy it because I am keeping her anchored to me. Anchored to me because of my sadness.

Don’t let your child’s legacy be one of continued and complete sorrow. What a horrible thing it would be for your life to end when your child’s did. It takes so incredibly long, and a lot of inner emotional work, to come to the place where you celebrate your child’s life with laughter. But, I know you can do it.

Find a reason to laugh today. I know our children rejoice when we do.

Caring For Ourselves

It is important that bereaved mothers take time to wash their hair.

In the past I’ve shared why it’s important for grieving mothers to do so much for others. Though I can not speak for everyone, I will say, most of those I have talked to have agreed it’s something we are compelled to do. Of the half dozen moms who have lost children, in my “real” life, each one has found a way to make the world a better place. The few who haven’t are still searching for what will be the right fit to do in memory of their child.

The reasons we do this can be as varied as each mother herself. From nonprofits to help children in need or to providing free clothing to those who are without all the way through to scholarships given at the deceased child’s high school. We must “do” something.

We know the world can be a very ugly place. The truth of what can happen to our precious child(ren) is real in our lives. We’ve experienced it. Having been (and being) at the very depths of despair and hopelessness we are more attune to those who are hurting. We can see it in their eyes. Hear it in their voice. Their struggle isn’t lost on us. This is something we can (maybe) help make better. So, we try.

There is also, in us, a burning need to make sure our child is not forgotten by the world that keeps moving forth. Eventually, our family and friends move back into their normal routines. Often times, when the third or fourth death anniversary (or birthday) passes by . . . very few reach out to us to say “hey, you and your child are not forgotten”. Realizing this is a slicing pain through our already fractured heart. When we do things “in our child’s memory” we keep their name more current in a world that seems to be erasing them a little at a time. Good acts that our child would have done had they lived.

Often times, though, we give at the expense of ourselves.

I am not sure why we lower ourselves on the list of “to do’s”. For myself, I know I didn’t think I deserved to be alive. I was an old 42 when Becca was killed. She was a much too young 23. I’d lived more life than she would ever have a chance to experience. I had children. She won’t ever know the joy of holding her brand new baby. I had a wedding. My beautiful girl won’t be nervous as she walks the aisle to her soon to be husband. I had lived plenty of years and I didn’t need anymore . . . she did.

When we don’t think we deserve anything we don’t take care of ourselves. Are we punishing ourselves for still being alive after our child has died? I am often ashamed that I managed to survive her death. My inner dialogue is this: how can you be happy? How can you laugh? A loving mother would have died, herself, from the heartbreak. You don’t deserve happiness.

Many times, we think nothing matters. Worrying about clean clothes seems ridiculous to us when our child is gone. Shortly after losing Becca, my cousin Tammy called me. She was distraught and asked why we bother to do the right thing when it’s all a game of chance in the end. I didn’t have an answer for her. I still don’t have an answer as to why. But, I do know we are worthing caring for.

Quite recently, a dear friend of mine overextended herself with a promise she made to four girls. Even though she knew there was very little hope of fulfilling the promise she tried her damndest. For days I watched her run herself ragged trying to provide what she said she would. I was pretty sure it wouldn’t come to fruition but I knew she needed to try. She could barely stand up straight but she kept working hard to give what they’d agreed upon even though the last girl she helped had stolen from her. Why? Because it’s what we do. We give, even if (and especially when) it’s at a cost to our own well being.

We have to be very careful that we don’t continually put ourselves in last place.

I thought I was doing pretty well in this respect. Turns out I wasn’t. Want to know what made me realize this? Ragged underwear. Old underwear I wasn’t able to throw away. They had no sentimental value (as if underwear could) but I kept wearing them anyway. While doing laundry with Stacey she made a comment about how we deserve nice things. I agree. But then I held up a pair of my very tattered underwear and she said: throw them away. You deserve better. And, she’s right.

Caring for ourselves has to be a priority. Giving all we have to others and saving very little for ourselves just makes this journey harder. Our souls can not heal if our bodies are neglected. Our well being, physical, mental, and spiritual is braided together. When we care for our bodies we care for our souls. The best thing we can do for ourselves is to care for our child’s mother. I know Becca would want that for me. And, I’m pretty sure your child would want that for you.

I threw the old underwear in the trash. Then, I took a shower and washed my hair.

If you are having a difficult time caring for yourself . . . try doing one small thing just for you today. Then tomorrow, add one more. You don’t have to stop “doing” for others . . . but put yourself at the top of the list.

With all you’ve been through . . . you truly deserve it.

 

Puncture Wounds

About ten days ago we had a fight between two of the dogs in our household. Both large animals, and used to being in charge, once in a while they have a scuffle. Neither wanted to back down, so I foolishly and without thinking, put my arm in to separate them. In the frenzy of fur and flashing teeth, my dog mistook my reach for her collar as the “death bite” and she laid into my forearm. When it was all said and done . . . I realized I had must have been bitten pretty bad. Blood was running down my hand and when I took my jacket off I could see two very deep puncture wounds.

My first thought was: shit. Now I have to go to the hospital and I can’t afford it!! The second thought was: shit. Now Cecily is going to have to be put down for being an aggressive dog. I was wrong on both accounts.

Fortunately, Stacey is an RN. She pulled out her emergency kit and went to work. Within a few minutes, the bleeding had stopped and I was feeling less pain. Twice a day she checked the wounds for me and, to her surprise, they began to heal up very quickly. Each time she said she was satisfied with how they were looking. I kept asking her if I should leave them uncovered so they could dry out. Her response: “No, puncture wounds have to heal from the inside out or all of the infection gets trapped inside and festers.”

She continued on to say that I needed to keep the wounds covered and moist so they wouldn’t form a scab and seal themselves off. I was intrigued by this concept. As a kid, I was always told to uncover cuts so they would heal faster. I told my children the same thing. Always checking the outer condition of the wound without thinking of what was happening inside the flesh. I’m very glad my lack of knowledge never cost my children in their healing!!

I kept picturing the bottoms of the wounds on my arm. How they would heal and become less deep with each day. Eventually, working the healing up until there was no longer a hole. Amazing!! Then the itching began. It drove me mad and I wanted to claw at the skin. I mentioned this to someone else and they said: “That’s just your flesh literally knitting itself back together.” Not quite as clinical as Stacey’s explanations but it made sense to me.

As I have explained before, much of what happens to me passes through the spider web of Becca’s loss that stretches around my mind. We process things through our experiences and perceptions.So, as I often do, the facts I had learned about puncture wounds wrapped themselves around the aftermath of my daughter’s death. How could they not?

The two words themselves are so accurate as to what happens to our hearts, aren’t they? Our hearts were punctured in a single moment. So deep that we are sure there can never be healing. Puncture wounds take time to heal. And, time is all that can help us heal the loss of a child. There are many other ways these two things heal that run parallel in my mind.

The wound must be kept moist so it doesn’t dry up, scab over and seal what’s inside. My heart wound was moistened by my tears every day. For hours I would cry until there just weren’t any tears left. I wonder, can you become dehydrated from turning all of the liquid in your body into tears? (I’ll have to ask Stacey tomorrow.) In those first months, I remember sitting still, and having wave after wave of tears falling down my face. I couldn’t stop them. Now, I don’t think we should. They serve a purpose. Our pain is moved up and out and isn’t left to fester inside of us.
If we don’t start to move the anguish around it will quietly grow into something much worse.

Covering the punctures keeps other infectious material from getting into the wound. We are protecting it from further problems. Our damaged hearts need to be protected, too. There is never a time when a person is more vulnerable, I think, than when their heart has been cleaved in two by the death of their child. Cover yourself with your faith. Or your family. Or your beliefs. Or solitude. Or whatever you choose. Just protect the wound.

It’s going to take time. A puncture wound takes much longer to heal than a cut. A cut heals in a linear fashion. Across its length. A puncture, in it’s depth. This takes time. And patience. And the belief that the healing is taking place even though we can’t see it. Even though it’s not evident as quickly. But we can feel it . . . oh we can feel it.

The image of my flesh knitting itself back together immediately made me think of my wounded heart. We heal in the smallest of places every day. Though we don’t often see it we feel it in our spirit. We laugh, genuinely. Or see the beauty in a flower. We walk into the sun and realize it isn’t making us angry that day. The laughter of children is a pleasing sound again. It’s amazing to have a singular experience wherein we can say: “That tiny piece has changed. Has healed.”

A puncture wound that appears to be healed on the surface may be holding back a very dark truth. Just as if we fake being “more healed” in order to make others happy . . . our dark truth is we are carrying the pain in a way that will eventually erupt. For healing to stick it must be true. And for it to be true we have to handle it enough to make it’s edges smooth.

Two days ago I took the bandages off of my puncture wounds. I am going to have a set of nice scars. It looks like a vampire with a crooked smile chomped on my arm. Even without stitches the skin healed together nicely. The edges are raised and red still. There is a hard bump under each. Scar tissue Stacey said. For the most part, though, I think they won’t be very noticeable.

This, too, is common to both. My heart will heal as my arm is. But, I’ll always have a scar. When I run my finger across my arm, there is some pain when I hit the healing wounds, and it’s the same for my damaged heart. I just have to give both injuries time to do so.

At the beginning of this blog I shared my fear that Cecily would have to put down. She doesn’t. I talked to a few people who work with dogs and it was explained to me that the fight wasn’t about aggression. It’s called a “kennel fight” and happens when dogs are stuck together, in small places, and get sick of each other. Like kids. Cecily is an old lady with arthritis and she needs her space. So, I patiently maneuver the animals around so none of them are in tight quarters.

I was also told that this isn’t a situation we can fix. Rather it has to be “managed”. This piece of truth is also applicable to grief and a punctured heart.

We can never fix the death of our child . . . we have to manage it.

Heal yourself, slowly. You deserve it.