Musings of a Dinosaur

A Family Doctor in solo private practice; I may be going the way of the dinosaur, but I'm not dead yet.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Shattered Lives - Part Three

(Click here for Part One and Part Two)

What do you do when lightning strikes twice?

What do you do when a brother, unable to handle the stress of his loss, is voluntarily admitted for his own safety and then found in cardiac arrest?

The full facts aren't yet known but none of it will change this: my friend has now buried both of her sons within ten weeks of each other.

I'm getting really sick of viewings: ornately decorated rooms filled with young people wearing memorial t-shirts; standing around outside funeral homes surrounded by cars with tributes written in soap on their back windows. Bodies of children I know, their faces caked with makeup in the most unnatural gray-brown tone I've ever seen, lying in boxes surrounded by white velvet padding, flowers and notes scribbled in a childish hand.

I'm getting sick of not knowing what to say, because there isn't anything to say. Of hugging sisters and aunts and cousins and grandmothers when there aren't enough tissues in the world to dry the tears that just keep coming. Of holding my friend as we take turns sobbing uncontrollably. Of trying to talk to a father of four who has seen his family literally torn in half. There is nothing to say except, "There's nothing to say."

I'm getting really tired of funerals.

This one, with a biting, wind-blown drizzle, was as cold and miserable a day as the last one was oppressively hot and muggy. The church was filled with kids who didn't quite know what they were supposed to do. There's no reason why they should. Kids shouldn't be burying their friends. And parents shouldn't be burying their children.

After losing a child, there's the expectation that things will be awful. You talk about it and you read about it. You go to counseling and support groups. You find out that everything you're going through is "normal," as if that helps. But there's also the expectation that things will gradually --oh, so gradually -- become perhaps a little less awful. The phrase "a new normal" is used, and even though you don't really know what that means, there's a sense that eventually something will change, and you won't feel quite as awful as you do now.

But then it happens again. The wound is ripped wider than before, when it hasn't even begun to heal in the first place. How do you even begin to pick up the pieces, ripped so small and scattered so widely you don't even know where to start?

I don't know.

I just don't know.


At Mon Nov 19, 09:56:00 PM, Blogger rlbates said...

Dino, I've been "sick" of funerals since going to my first one at age eight. That one was my dad's.

You begin to pick up the pieces by doing just that, as hard as it may be and as inadequate as it seems--one piece at a time. It's like putting broken china back together or a puzzle together. It takes time, often lots of it. It is usually not easy or simple. It just is.

So sorry you have had three in such a relatively short time.

At Tue Nov 20, 09:13:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So sorry for the family.
Condolences to your friend.

At Tue Nov 20, 04:08:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, I am so, so sorry. I wish there was something I could do or say to make things better, but I don't have that power. Please pass my condolences along to the family.

At Tue Nov 20, 05:12:00 PM, Blogger Lynn Price said...

All the platitudes we use for those who lived a full and long life fail to hit their mark when it's a kid lying in the coffin. You're right, Dino, there are simply no words.

At Tue Nov 20, 08:04:00 PM, Blogger CrankyProf said...

My condolences. Please know you and your friends are in my prayers.

At Wed Nov 21, 08:33:00 AM, Blogger tk said...

Oh. My. God. ((hugs)) Like Crankyprof, know that you and your friends are in my prayers as well . . .

At Wed Nov 21, 03:17:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hugs. And keep an eye on the rest of the family.

At Thu Nov 22, 08:08:00 PM, Blogger Dreaming again said...

There are not enough words in the english language. I'm sorry seems so trite, but it's all I have.

I'm sorry. I'm praying for you, for them.

I'm sorry.

At Sun Dec 02, 02:40:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I can even begin to understand how you are feeling. What losses! You describe so well how there isn't even enough time to understand the impact and to grieve, and then another loss!

I've been feeling very sad about a medblogger's suicide, too. I don't even know what to write - how do you grieve someone you only "know" by their writing on blogs? All I know is that I feel the losses.

Hope you are able to find some peace for yourself - I'm glad you write about these things. You aren't alone.


At Mon Dec 03, 04:05:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr. Dino, I just found this on Dear Abby and thought your friend and their family might find some comfort during this extremely difficult time. Please pass on as you see appropriate:

DEAR ABBY: The holidays are one of the most difficult times of the year for families mourning the death of a child. A time of festivity becomes instead one of great emptiness and sadness.

I would like to make the tens of thousands of bereaved families who read your column aware of the Worldwide Candle Lighting sponsored by The Compassionate Friends, a non-profit self-help bereavement organization with 600 chapters in the United States, and a national presence in nearly 30 countries around the world.

The Worldwide Candle Lighting is held at 7 p.m. local time for one hour on the second Sunday in December (this year, Dec. 9), creating a 24-hour wave of light in remembrance of all children who have died, no matter their age or the cause of death. Also available that day at The Compassionate Friends Web site will be a remembrance book where visitors can post a message in memory of the child who died.

Last year, nearly 375 formal services were held in the United States by chapters of The Compassionate Friends, allied organizations and bereaved parent groups in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, and this year Dear Abby readers are invited to participate. Services will also be held throughout Canada and more than a dozen countries abroad.

Anyone who is unable or who doesn't wish to attend a formal service is welcome to light a candle in their home and share this time with family and friends. -- PATRICIA LODER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, THE COMPASSIONATE FRIENDS, USA


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