Monday, January 12, 2009

My heart is missing a piece

I miss my little Drew so much!!!  I cannot begin to tell you how many times I think of him in a day or how much I yearn for him.  There are not words enough to describe what it feels like to be missing this piece of my heart, to not be able to draw him near to fix the pain, or to not be able to kiss his fuzzy little head.  All through his illness, as bad as it got, drawing him close somehow made it feel a little better and a lot less scary.  Now there is no salve for the pain other than my faith in God, which some days is more than enough and other days seems so inadequate (please don't misunderstand me there).  Some days are easier than others, but there are so many hard days.  I had no idea it could hurt this much.  I began to type "hurt this badly", but I can't say it hurts "badly" - the tears only serve to draw me a little closer to both God and Drew.  As much as it is hard to cry, it would hurt worse not to.  I will love you forever Drew, and time will only serve to remind me how much.  

The grief process has surprised me.  Intellectually we knew what to expect, but when you are in the middle of it nothing can prepare you for the experience of it.  For the first month we were walking in a fog, functioning, and attempting to make sense of our new normal.  The first half of the second month was much the same but after about 6 weeks the grief hit.  We quickly realized what a salve the shock had been and how much we had yet to deal with, though there is no way we could know how long we will be in the middle of it.  With each week since then it seems as if the grief has gotten a little stronger.  Am I depressed?  No.  Am I happy?  At times.  But how much can I live when I am always living missing half of every breath I breath?  What is it like?  Where do I begin?  Does anyone really care to know anyway, when what I have to share seems so sad and so hard to write.  The only thing that compels me to write is the thought that perhaps this will help someone else or will help someone else reach out to someone hurting.  

There are so many places I see Drew.  We hung all of our Christmas ornaments and as we reached into the box we found Drew's ornaments, one of which had his handprint on it.  We had dreamed of the day when he would look at that with us in awe that he was that small.  We had a conversation with our small group about babies and the lovely things they do and the topic turned to babies pooping.  Jordan and I were immediately transported to the hospital room where we cannot even write what our memories hold.  My beautiful niece comes up to me every time she sees me (she is 6 weeks older than Drew) and asks to see "Do", the pictures of Drew in the locket close to my heart.  I took the laundry out of Peyton's room this morning and went by Drew's room looking for random dirty articles and was poignantly reminded that there was no laundry in his room.  I sit at the computer this afternoon in the middle of what would have been naptime and hear a noise only to remember that it is not a baby summoning me.  I babysat my niece last week (which is such a blessing) and went to change her diaper and realized how natural that felt - but was struck immediately by the realization of why - I should be changing diapers too.  I have a preschooler who does not need diapers and who is so far away from "baby" - I have been so quickly transported out of baby world when my mind is still in the middle of it.  I walk by the corner of the living room where the tree was and realize how vacant it looks without the rocking chair that provided so many good cuddles over Drew's last 3 months and upon closer observation see a spot of milk on the floor below that must be left from him (I even cleaned it I'm sure before the tree took the spot over).  I look at the kitchen and appreciate the space it has now, but then realize that with that space is also an absence of Drew's special little chair that supported him while I was feeding Peyton and him.  I would say music touches me with him and a little bit of heaven every time I hear it, but I can't bear to listen to music that reminds me of him often right now - I know the time will come (I have to segregate those opportunities right now into very specific moments when I am prepared for it).  I loved going out with the kids during the day but now it is almost too hard some days because there are so many unpredictable elements - I never know what will remind me of Drew.  I know it's not bad to be reminded of him, but I would rather choose the things that remind me of him and the timing.  I walk home from dropping Peyton off at Kara's for a day and am reminded of walking that path home with Drew excited for the opportunity to spend a day one on one with him and now my arms are empty on that path.  I reach for a spoon for Peyton and see the one we got for Drew that he loved to chew on.  I watch Peyton kiss "Drew Bear" good night and kiss him where Peyton instructs me to, and then we say, "Good night Drew Bear" every night and then cuddle Peyton to sleep while my thoughts drift inevitably to thoughts of Drew and Peyton together.  I write a card or a letter and always stop abruptly when I begin to sign it wondering how to sign it.  What do I say when I am trying to say Drew died - how do I put it into words?  So many conversations with friends bring reminders of Drew and watching brothers together always pricks my heart.  Drew caresses me with his memories often and I am so glad for those.  I wish memories had smell and touch, but I will take the visions I have of him instead, thankful for the days we had with him.  My heart will go on without this piece, but as a bird without a wing I will always notice the fact that his presence is not one of physical body but of spirit.  I know God will repair my wings, but I have to learn to fly all over again.

Some friends have asked whether we would rather not talk about certain things and to that my current answer is that every parent always wants to talk about their children.  Our conversation will just have a different spin on it, but does that mean we don't want to talk about Drew?  Not at all!  What do we have left of him but thoughts, memories, and conversations?  Please let us talk about him if the opportunity arises and don't be afraid to ask the questions.  If the timing is not right we will let you know.  If we are with someone who is afraid to talk about him or our experience there may be an awareness of the unspoken in the room regardless.  It's a strange place to be because talking about him often brings tears but working through it is therapeutic I suppose - if someone gets in an accident, has a stressful run-in with someone, or experiences a challenging event the first thing many want to do is to talk through that situation.  In grief though, I think people are afraid they will hurt the one who experienced the loss when they talk about their loved one, when really, that person might need nothing more than to be able to talk about them.  There may be moments we do not want to open up, as it seems there is a period of not wanting to talk, or rather, of wanting to be able to control the moment of opening up as one moves through the grief process, but by asking, you allow us to decide.  There are so many parts to the grief process!  How did we wake up here?!

I feel we are at the stage of withdrawal right now and if we have not returned a call or sent a thank you, please forgive me/us.  We will, but when the time is right.  If I think about what withdrawal is for many experiences, it is a stage of the body yearning for what it is missing and experiencing extreme symptoms while it attempts to readjust to the new way.  I feel a little like that - in a stage where we are so intensely trying to make sense of things that all our energy is applied to survival and little energy is left over for anything else.  If we nudge ourselves out of our comfort zone we realize life is still good and involvement with community is a blessing.  Getting there is another matter.  I guess I need to yield to the stage instead of trying to fight it (thanks Amber for this advice so long ago!) and then it will be a little bit easier to face.

One more random thought occurred to me as I reread this post - are there certain things that have been hard to hear over the last 3 months?  I think the hardest things to hear are: 1)"At least you still have Peyton." (I realize many times every day what a blessing he is and am extremely thankful for him, but saying that feels a little like saying, "At least you still have your front wheels to drive with even though you lost your back wheels." or, "At least you have one wing to fly your plane with.")  2) "How are you doing?" (What can I answer to this?  Especially if we only have 2 minutes to talk.  This question seems like a question one asks expecting me to open up about my deepest feelings in whatever time we have available and regardless of our relationship depth.  A better way to express concern and curiosity might be done by saying, "You have been on my thoughts a lot lately and I hope you are doing alright."  This allows me to open up if I am ready to and expresses concern, but doesn't force me to talk about it if I'm not ready to).  3) "Call me if you need to talk, or just stop by." (Thanks for the offer, but when in the middle of a crisis the last thing I feel inclined to do is pick up the phone or go over to someone else's house.  As mentioned before the focus is on survival, not maintenance of friendships as selfish as that sounds.  It's not intentional, not for a moment.  It's just part of breathing.  It would be better if you call me, or stop by (after calling) to see how we are doing.)
What things have people done that have really helped?  Apart from the cards, visits and meals immediately after Drew died here are a few of the things so far that have been the most helpful: 1) Random cards or flowers sent after the immediate rush often come on a day that needs a pick-me-up.  2) Anyone providing a memory or picture of Drew is always like a ray of sunshine in my day.  3) Telling me what Drew meant to you always helps bring a smile.  4) One of the most special things that someone has done for us is to give us a gift certificate to buy a tree to plant in his memory.  I could list more but my brain is on freeze right now so I will list some ideas over time.  

We have received an update on Drew's disease and the impact it could have on any future family members.  We will post an update when Jordan and I can sit down and write about it together.  Thank you for all your prayers and thoughts - we appreciate every one!  Please pray right now that God will grant us wisdom and peace over our decisions that must be made soon.  Thank you so much.


The Harper Family said...

You are on my mind and in my prayers so often, though we have never met. I prayed for Drew's healing and mourned with you during his passing. If only we could peak into heaven and see him smiling and sitting on the lap of Jesus. I will keep lifting you up in my prayers for comfort during this difficult time. May God wrap his arms around you.

Nicola said...

Thank you for the post, Kari. Even though we see and speak with you often, it is helpful for me to learn what is on your mind and of what questions not to ask (even though I am sure that I've not said the right thing many times). I think of your Drew every day, and dream of him several times a week. Sometimes it makes me sad, and other times peaceful. But lately, I just plain miss him. I can always see him smiling and doing his mischievious little giggle, and although it brings a tear to my eye, he always makes me smile. We will continue to pray for you and Jord and Peyton too. We love you guys and very much appreciate your friendship.

Matt Clement said...

Kari, I don't know what to say except that our(Marie and I) sincere prayers are being offered on your behalf. With three kids of our own(6,4 and 3) I can only imagine what the loss of one would feel like or how it would impact my life. I know nothing I say can really help in your healing process, but I just wanted to let you know that my heart hurts for you. I pray God will grant you the peace that you need.

Anonymous said...

Wow...Kari...Wow. It is difficult to read your thoughts about Drew knowing that we should be hearing these thoughts from your voice. And given that Jordo doesn't blog, I am concerned about what outlets he has for his own grief.
You know Nic, Maggs and I love you, Jordo, Peyts & Drew so very much...and though we tend to try to focus on making you laugh, I think it would be good for all of us to talk more heart to heart about such deep and emotional feelings.
Thanks for taking the time to share all this.
Uncle Mooney

reeceandrachel said...

Thank you for writing again, Kari. I check your blog nearly every day for new posts and always wonder what you're feeling when there's a gap. I think it's really helpful for all of us to hear how you need us to support your family and to share in your thoughts that maybe are too difficult to express quickly or coherently in conversation. And I’m sure this is one of the healthiest ways you can work through your grief.

I didn't even know your family that well before this journey began, and I still feel like I can't breathe whenever something reminds me of Drew. I can only imagine how it is for you, his mother. I pray that the pain begins to dull soon so that one day you only have a sense of fond nostalgia (and anticipation) when you think of Drew, rather than heartache.

Kari, I've actually wondered about the rocking chair all this time -- whether you had replaced it and whether you missed it. I smelled the cushions before I washed them just in case they had Drew's scent on them, but there was only a slight musty smell. Even so, I was wondering if you would like the chair back. It's been wonderful to have, but I don't feed Cariana in it as often anymore, and if it would help you at all to bring it home again, please tell me.

I do have two questions I've wanted to ask you, and I guess this is as good a chance as any. The first is whether you feel like you're ever allowed to have a "bad day" with Peyton now. I think we both have kids who are a little more high strung and sensitive than most, and I know that there are some days with Abby I just want to survive rather than savour. I've been thinking that it might be hard to give yourself permission now to admit that Peyton frustrates you sometimes or that you don't absolutely love every moment of being a mother. I admired your patience and tenderness with Peyton even before you went through this crisis, and I'm sure some days of parenting are very, very hard now, even though you feel like you should be treasuring them. I guess I just wanted you to know that I would never fault you for talking about any struggles you have in raising Peyton, and I don't think anyone else would either. We all know how deeply you love your children.

The second is whether you ever thought of getting a little tattoo of Drew’s footprint or handprint. It’s hard not to obsess sometimes about what I’d do in your situation, and I decided that would be my way of remembering. I don’t know if the idea is as meaningful to you as it is to me, but I just thought I’d mention it.

Love to you and your family. You're constantly in my thoughts and prayers.

Rachel = )

P.S. Sorry for the absurdly long post. I never start out intending to write this much! = P

Svetlana said...

Kari, thank you so much or sharing this! Apparently I've done a few wrong things (not intentionally of course) and though I know we don't see each other as often now (which is completely my fault!) I hope I will get a chance to talk about Drew with you.

I think about Drew and your family very often, I still have his photo and magnet on my fridge and I look at them many times a day...Please keep us updated on the results from the doctors!


Anonymous said...

Again, thanks for your thoughts Kari! Of course Drew can never be replaced, and we miss seeing you tote him around. However I hope by our boys playing with Peyton it brings some sort of relief or satisfatction to you and Jordan that Peyton knows he has other "brothers" to play with. (Seeing Josh and him expecially connect this past weekend). I pray that we do not unintentionally heighten the sadness and grief with our boys presence, although at times it is probably just inevitable.

Kari, I remember when you were pregnant with Peyton, and how you cared so much for our yearning for children at the time that you did not know how to share this joyful news with us. (You even said to me you wished it was Aisling instead). I am guessing it was a bit of a "guilty" feeling. I must admit that I personally have a tint of that feeling now, in this situation. Again, I pray that you and Jordan know that our family continues to grieve with you. The next time we have some one-on-one family time, we will be sure to open up the conversation funnel to your thoughts and feelings of Drew. I would also love to hear those thoughts from Jordan if willing.

Thanks for updating us, and letting you know exactly how you feel. I am certain your blog is medicating to not only yourself, but many others who are, have been, or will be in similar situations.

Love you guys and see you Friday!


Anonymous said...

Jordan & Kari,

I can only speak for myself when I say it is sometimes difficult to try to find the right words to say or the right actions to convey. Therefore I sometimes find myself saying nothing at all or making a feeble attempt at idle chit chat. But whether said or not, you can be rest assured that your family is always on our thoughts and prayers. I appreciate your openness in regards to what you find helpful and what you don't. As life continues to move forward we will always be there for you knowing that the pain of your loss will not evaporate over a few short weeks or months.

Jason & Leigh-Ann

the Clarke 6 said...

We love you guys and want be there for you in any way we can. But we often are overcome with human emotion and don't know what to say.We know you will open up when the time and place is right.

Having gone through greif of our own (though a much different type) we know how long it can take. But like your friend said you can not rush to get through, because it will drag you back to the point you need to be at, whether you want to or not.

We understand that there will be times you need to be alone, and times you will not want to be alone. Those are the times we will be there for you even if we don't have a clue what to say or do.When the time comes feel free to lean on us.

Curtis & Mandy

Melinda said...

Hi Kari,
Thank you for the update. I've been thinking about you; checking your blog regularly. I'm sure it's mentally taxing to write those blog entries and process through all your thoughts but we really appreciate knowing how you're doing. You're in my prayers.

Courtney said...

Today has been three years since I lost my brother in Iraq. The loss is still so fresh, still amazing to me it can get more difficult as time passes in some ways. As difficult as it has been, he was not my child. Everything you said was so right on, I was shaking my head in agreement through much of your post. Thanks for sharing, I think that people so want to be soothing and helpful when we hurt, but just dont always know the words to say. Even having been there, I dont.

The thing that was the most helpful for me was when a friend hugged me, and said "my heart is hurting for you."

I know too, that as Christians we often hold each other to a standard that doesnt allow for pain and faith combined. I am learning that pain, and missing our loved ones doesnt mean a lack of faith. It means that we were so blessed by their love, and that our heart aches for that.

To give over to that pain is not a lack of faith, its even a precious blessing to hurt that way and know that your Father holds you close when your heart cries with the deepest hurts its ever felt. True pain realizes true comfort in Christ.

Also, the farther that it gets away people often assume that the pain gets better ...three years from our loss, and I can tell you it doesnt get better..but it changes. Our loss is felt differently than it did at first. Now, my heart hurts for what he has missed and what we have missed. He wont know my children, he wont have children of his own. My children wont know him, except as a hero who protected the place where they live (one of many, many).

We feel the loss differently as time passes, but it doesnt really go away or fade. I think that that is something that people should try to remember ..that you arent weak, or unable to "get over" it or "not dealing well" when its been a long time and you still can fall apart when you see a milk stain on the floor ...part of your heart is missing, it doesnt just grow back. It will always be gone.

Thanks for sharing your words I hurt a bit today, your words are comforting.

My heart hurts for your loss.

Sister, CPL Dustin Kendall
KIA 1/15/06

laura said...

Kari, you are still in our hearts and prayers... thank you for giving us a peek into your hearts and letting us walk alongside you in this journey. Your strength, the depth of your love for Drew and your love for your family amaze me as you always have! God bless!

Tracy said...

Jordan and Kari,

How brave of you to open and up and share how you are dealing with your grief. My dear friend Sharon lost her son this past summer in a tornado in Iowa. He was 13 and part of our youth group. I have learned so much from her including how to help people when they are grieving. I think it is natural for people to feel unsure...should they mention Drew's name or a memory...they think that would be too painful. I know for Sharon she craves for people to talk about Sam and memories they have of him. I found this poem online and I gave it to her...she loved it and said, "Can we put this in the church bulletin?" She was kidding, but I think it spoke to her so much!

Go ahead and mention my child,
The one that died, you know.
Don't worry about hurting me further.
The depth of my pain doesn't show.
Don't worry about making me cry.
I'm already crying inside.
Help me to heal by releasing the tears that I try to hide.
I'm hurt when you just keep silent,
Pretending he didn't exist.
I'd rather you mention my child,
Knowing that he has been missed.
You asked me how I was doing.
I say "pretty good" or "fine".
But healing is something ongoing
I feel it will take a lifetime.
~ Elizabeth Dent ~

Phoebe said...


Your post was very moving. And again, thank you for being a voice for all of the bereaved.

You wrote the exact feelings in my heart. The emptiness, the void, the questions. The enormity of loss to death.

I too, really wish that people would be more curious and not assume that we are "over" it. It will be four years since my brother's suicide on February 10, 2009. But those who have not experienced grief just don't know how to respond, or perhaps your pain reminds them too much of their own pain which has not yet been dealt with in a healthy way. Education of the community is imperative to getting the support you need though, and God bless you for providing this education.

Thank you for saying it, Kari.

Much Love in Christ,

Kevin and Laura said...

You are so special Kari, your ability to express your thoughts and feelings is unmatched by anyone else I know. Thank you for blessing me with your words. I know you know, but this journey of grief is in our prayers daily.

I was invisioning Peyton playing with Landon and Liam yesterday as they were romping around. We hope that we can be together soon. We miss you and love you all very much.

Anonymous said...

We love you, Kari, Jordan, Peyton and Drew. Kari, thanks for sharing your innermost broken heart. I can only imagine from my limited experience what you might possibly be feeling, and I'm sure it isn't even close to what you really do feel. And my heart aches. I haven't gone through what you have. When I see you, do I want to help your eyes sparkle again? Always, and more than anything I wish I had that power. If I could, I would do "whatever it takes". And knowing there's no magic recipe or easy fix, I will continue to selfishly bumble along, as so many others, praying that sometimes I am able to touch you with the friendship and love I feel, in a way that you can feel it, too. Perhaps, over the long haul, it will help to ease the pain and help your heart to heal. You will cry until you have cried enough and I am honoured when you can share those tears. Thank you for helping me to be a better friend.

TexasNeals said...

oh, kari, what to say. my heart absolutely breaks for you. i have watched my parents go through what you are going through now and i am just so sorry. our prayers are with you. we love y'all and pray that God will comfort you and bring to mind beautiful memories of your precious baby.
thank you so much for sharing your heart....