Happy New Year! A Mind-FULL Promise and Hope for ALL

 

 

 

 

 

New Year’s Eve was much harder than I had anticipated.

2017 was not a good year here at our house. I felt like I was leaving behind someone I did not want to leave behind, and by moving onto 2018, I felt I was doing just that. I left our friend’s house at 11:50 New Year’s Eve leaving my family and the ones that care for me most to celebrate without me. I just couldn’t bring in the New Year with Joy. It escaped me in those moments… for a few short minutes I forgot the plan of HOPE,  the year of heartache caught up with me in those last few minutes of 2017. I had a good old-fashioned grief cry in my driveway as the clock struck 12 and then went inside falling asleep with Ethan’s teddy bear in my arms. It was the absolution I needed to say farewell to the old year.

God is impressive on this journey and woke me up on day one of 2018 with a reminder of all there is.

A calendar reminder chimed and flashed on my phone next to my bed  “Have Courage & Forgive.” I had added that to my calendar weeks ago. It is set as a reminder every day for me.

I need the courage to move forward with the Hope of tomorrow. I need to forgive myself for my regrets and mistakes of my past. Sometimes, I still need a reminder of the goal I am working on. I need this to be a good mama, wife, a servant of Christ and human others want to know.

After Ethan died, I was lost….Everyone was reaching out asking WHY and WHAT can we do. At that time I was aware enough in my grief to know I wanted to do something but unsure of how God would move me forward.

Many of you know that writing was very healing to me…so was sharing. I felt the strongest pull to be open and transparent with our situation to help others out there who may be struggling with the very same issues our family was.

Raising kids, parenting without all of the answers, depression, anxiety, and self-medicating. 

I began to write Ethan’s story. I started by going back to my old journals and re-reading. Oh so painful and bittersweet. Some days I cannot read them, some days I cannot write as the emotions of heartache and sweet memories fading gush over into my day. I remembered the early years when he was a baby and so very healthy and growing just right. I remembered the days when he was 18 months and started to fall apart.

I remembered the way we fixed him up just right.

In the early months after Ethan’s death, my sister Wendy and I began to research depression and anxiety. Our family contains some genetic imperfections. Depression, cancer, thyroid disease, heart disease, brain tumors, dementia, ADHD and so the list goes on. Both Wendy and I became increasingly interested in prevention.

We asked ourselves what we could do to protect and provide our living children, husbands and our own bodies to live the most optimal life of wellness that we could.

We yearned to be free of the diseases holding our hearts hostage as we processed how unhealthy our family background was. Hours and hours of studying doctors seminars, videos and reading every book we could get our hands on filled our spring, summer, and fall.

What we discovered broke my heart further. Guilt lay on me like never before.

 

A change had to happen after we uncovered the devastating truth about the choices we were making in our own lives and families. So we did, we changed. It was hard….it was frustrating, and it is still a work in progress.

We are healing our mind, body and spirit and that of our children and husband one day at a time.

As I uncovered these truths for our family, I once again was driven to share what we had learned. I felt like screaming from the top of my lungs “Don’t do what I did! There is another way!!” The truth is I am introverted, so yelling was not going to work for me.

I needed a small group platform to share our story and provide an opportunity for immediate change that could begin instantly. That is something else I discovered when Ethan died. Everyone wanted to fix the issue immediately because let’s be real, that is the way the world rolls these days. Unfortunately, the lessons I learned will not change depression and anxiety overnight, they will not make perfect teenagers, and I still don’t have the answer to every parenting situation that comes up.

There was one thing that DID give me instant mind and body support, and that was my essential oils.

I had been using essential oils for years without recognizing the true power of them.  When Ethan died, my friend, Angie brought over a few oils I did not have and a diffuser necklace. Once I began wearing the necklace and the oils on me every day and night, I began to relax; my mind opened up to HOPE. I saw more than death; I saw life after death. For Ethan in heaven eternally and earthly life here for us. I can only say that those oils supported my emotional wellbeing so much that I am tearful with gratitude as I write this. That is how important they became in our healing journey. Mind, Body, and Spirit. Those oils eased me out of bed on the worst days, lifted my spirits when memories would flash in my head. Paralyzed by grief before, I was now able to smile back, and the hurt no longer brought me to my knees. The pain of losing a child does not leave.  I promise you that, however, it no longer paralyzed my heart and thoughts.

 

As I searched for a way to share our story and offer up what I learned, I realized after much prayer that I could host Wellness Classes through Young Living.

I do not know why I never thought of this option before. They go hand in hand. My love for the healing oils and my deepest desire to share what I have gleaned these past eight months after Ethan’s death about mental, physical and spiritual  Wellness or……the lack of.

I also took my writing and turned it in the direction of sharing the same lessons of HOPE. I have created a WELLNESS blog A MIND-FULL PROMISE that will launch in the coming weeks. You can click here to get to the new blog. This blog Stepfamily Blended will remain, but my focus will be on moving forward away from the grief of our story.

2018 does not seem so bleak without our boy when we can put our focus into HOPE, and a well-lived LIFE for ALL.

 

After Ethan died, hundreds of people reached out to us. We are filled with gratitude at the LOVE and SUPPORT we received. Humbled truly by the school system, community, friends and our family as well as the many strangers that reached out. So many told us they were in similar situations or knew of ones that were.

So many of you even asked, “what can we do?”

 You can fill my calendar with the opportunity to share our story and educate you on our story of mind, body and spirit  WELLNESS. It can be over coffee at a local spot, in your living room with a group of friends, or with a small group at the winery in town. Whatever feels comfortable to you.

 

This Wellness class includes:

The Art of Mindfulness, Using Essential Oils to banish A Toxic Lifestyle and Why SAD needs to go away.

I am happy to create a FB event, print out invites or help create an invite script to share with family and friends by text or messenger. I am willing to travel on the weekends to share our story of HOPE.

In addition please be on the lookout for our Blog,  A MIND-FULL PROMISE launching soon.

Full Disclosure –  both the class, through selling oils for wellness and advertising on my blog are income producing venues. As much as I would love for our story to be a mission I am still responsible for providing for my family. My goal is to work from home, spending my time completing Ethan’s story A S.A.D and Toxic Way to Die in writing to share with the world. I believe his story is truly one that MUST be told so those living can truly live a life well lived. By creating an income and sharing, I am fulfilling my responsibility to my family and to all who do not understand the importance of what Wendy and I have uncovered after months of researching the likely cause of my beautiful boy’s death. I share only what I truly believe will benefit all.  This class is not just for those who cross the destruction of depression and anxiety but those who find conflict passing through life.

 

It has not been easy, not even close to easy to forgive myself. That has come through much prayer and self-discovery. Some will say what do you have to forgive but when your child dies by suicide that is a natural feeling. I sometimes still need that calendar reminder to put me back into place.

Mindfulness has taught me to focus on now. The moment we are in. To be present, aware and filled with gratitude for the very place in life we are living.

Today, Looks bright with a year ahead to make a difference. A year to talk, share the tools we have learned and create relationships.

A year FULL OF a MIND-FULL PROMISE I have made to my son and ALL who struggle with what we have.

So if you are still on board with that long ago offer of “What can we do?” Invite me over with a few of your friends and let me open up your hearts and minds to a year of change.

Happy New Year Friends – Cheers to a New Year with every Possibility of a Life WELL lived and the Hope of Change one Body at a time. 

 

With Love and Hope,

Stephanie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mindset & Purpose – My Sticky Note Collection

 

In the weeks before my son Died, I had been reading a book called Mindset by Carol S Dweck, a PH. D. and leading researcher of motivation she is a Professor of Psychology at Stanford University.

The book was brought to my sister’s attention through work related training, but after spending some time digging deep into the well-researched concepts, she wondered if the principals would benefit our kids.

In early April she introduced the book to me, and I began reading one of the very crucial tools in my recovery as a suicide survivor (one who lives with the loss of a loved one who died by suicide). Reading the book helped me to become aware of my fixed mindset.

Unfortunately, I was too late in understanding the role my son’s mindset played with dealing with his depression and anxiety.

I believe had I introduced these principals early on in my parenting style they could have aided my children in coping with challenges, helping to significantly change the way my son grew up and perceived himself and the world around him. Had I introduced them even later in my parenting I am confident there still could have been a significant change. I base this on the short term knowledge I have of  Dweck’s  insight on mindset and the enormous gain I see in my own life.

Dweck explains in the book there are two main types of Mindset in our brains, Fixed and Growth.

In a fixed mindset, people believe their qualities are fixed traits.

Intelligence and talent are what they are. Individuals with a fixed mindset spend their time documenting their intelligence and not developing what they could do. They see talent as the only indicator that leads to success. Effort plays no roll in achievement.

In a Growth Mindset, Dweck explains people believe their basic abilities developed through dedication and hard work.

Brains and talent are the beginning. A growth mindset creates a love of learning and resilience that is needed for great accomplishment.

Taking the mindset test found here ( Fixed or Growth Mindset? Find out here) I discovered I was a mix of a Fixed mindset with a Growth mindset wanting to shine. Why I have a fixed mindset does not matter unless of course, I choose to let the Fixed mindset take over my days and mind.

If I want the Growth mindset to rise to the top, then I will pass on dwelling on my hold ups and hangs ups and put the focus back on what next.

You see in a Fixed Mindset it’s the internal conversation that says each day I am not good enough. I cannot get a better job. I am not a good wife. My Job is terrible, and it is my bosses fault. My kids are always going to make poor choices. My wife and I will never have a happy marriage if she does not do – A fixed mindset can come with judgment and blame.

A Fixed Mindset is like a little monkey who lives on your shoulder whispering the negatives in your ear, reminding you that nothing more can be done.

For a teenager or a child, it looks like this. I am not popular. I will never have any real friends. Those kids are always doing things without me. What did I do wrong? I cannot get into that college; I am not that smart. I am not good enough for that team. A fixed mindset is one of judging oneself.

It is not just suicide survivors and children that mindset shapes, Mindset affects us all; in the work place, our kids in school, the way we work with in our relationships.

A growth mindset differs in that the internal conversation is still present, even sensitive to the negatives around but rather than judging they take the information and ask questions to learn and take action to make a change.  A Growth Mindset is more solution based. What Can I learn from this? How Can I improve? What can my spouse and I do change where we are in our marriage. What classes do I need to take to get into the school? What steps are needed to get on that team at work?

Recently, I was sitting in a suicide survivor support meeting. Going around the room, I noticed that the mindset of many (not all) of the people was that of being in forever pain and loss. It seemed they were fixed on never getting past the deep hurt and loss they were in. Fixed on the death of their loved one paralyzing their minds and hearts.

  I understand that pain and loss all too well.

Three months ago my eighteen-year-old son took his life. He died by suicide. He had a disease called anxiety. I know the raw feeling of hopelessness, physical heart pain, and self-judgment as I think of all I should have done for my child and did not. The real reminders come each morning when I wake. It is the first thing that enters my mind as I come out of sleep and see a new day ahead. The feeling of sorrow still the last thing on my mind as I fall asleep at night. In my sleep, my loss runs my dreams and nightmares. Pain and hurt are not going away.

My son is dead. I can not bring him back. I can not change our past.

I was fortunate enough to begin to see the concept of Mindset at play in my own life in the few weeks before my beautiful boy’s death. I had decided I needed to rewire my brain. I needed to change the parts of me that thought with a fixed mindset to one of growth. My internal conversations had to change, and that has that made a huge difference in the weeks following my son’s death.

I know too, that beautiful boy of mine could have benefited from this mindset change. I will write more about my thoughts on this in my future post PARENT PRESSURE AND SELF ESTEEM: A KILLER MISTAKE. I am not implying that one factor took my son’s life. I am in no way saying he did not have a chemical imbalance. There are many factors that led to his death.

I am saying I believe his mindset played a role in how he handled life’s challenges.

His Mindset was fixed. He decided he was not successful enough. He saw himself as disappointing those around him. His mind was set on what he was not. I wonder if he had the tools to change his mindset if to one of growth if I would be writing a different post right now. That, I will never know. I did know even in the moments soon after his death that I had a choice to wither up and be parlayed by the loss of my precious boy or move in the direction of healing, helping and hope.

My mindset had already shifted toward the fixed side in my first forty-four years. Age alone would have been a challenge in turning the parts of my fixed mindset to one of growth. Now I was facing the suicide of my son along with all of the grief, blame, the stress of helping my other children through all of this and the pure mental and physical exhaustion.

It seemed impossible unless this mindset thing worked.

I knew early on I could not take care of my kids, keep my marriage or my mental health if I became FIXED on the constant hurt in my heart. I would not survive my child’s death. I had to work hard to rewire my brain. I had to be intentional with finding my Growth Mindset. I knew there had to be a way to find Joy once again.

Here are the steps I took and continue to take to change my FIXED mindset to one of Growth

  1. I have to listen to my inner voice.

I have to listen to what I  am saying to myself.  What was the monkey on my shoulder saying? Mostly it is saying “You are a bad mom.” “You did not do enough for your son.”  “Maybe you are not good enough to be a parent.” There are a thousand other things that devil of a monkey is saying as he sits on my shoulder beating me up with self-doubt.

 

  1. I have to recognize I have a choice

I have to recognize I have a choice, Fixed or Growth Mindset. A fixed Mindset would keep me in bed, under the covers, crying about all I have done wrong. A growth mindset would recognize my pain, my sorrow and decide I want to heal and turn the pain into more.

 

  1. I have to use a Growth mindset voice to settle down the Fixed Mindset voice.

I have to remind myself intentionally with affirmations that I can take steps to heal, grow and help others through the loss of my son. No, the hurt would not leave my heart nor will the sorrow ever go away. Time will not heal my wounds or those of my children and my son’s loved ones. My son is gone. That is a forever pain. What I do with that pain is a choice.

 

  1. I have to take action-

Writing myself uplifting notes about serving others make a daily difference and remind me of purpose. Sometimes Purpose is just doing one kind thing for one other person in my day. Often purpose looks like a prayer for those who need help as much as I do.

 

I have to take responsibility for these steps. I write myself notes of encouragement before I go to bed each night so when I wake up faced with the unbearable loss of my son I  see I have a purpose and move towards growth and not stay fixed on the hurt I am feeling.

 

 I recognize the grief I am in. It’s healthy to grieve. It’s healthy to acknowledge my forever loss. It’s healthy to say now what can I do with this pain? What can I do to forgive? What can I do to let go of the should have’s, what if’s and could have been?

 

Action means taking care of myself to better care for my family. It means eating well, sleeping more and finding stress reducing activities in my day. Sometimes because life goes on I have to work harder to add these simple things in my day but the payoff is great. Self-care keeps me sane.

 

Action in Mindset rewiring is also prayer. There are times that this Loss business is very isolating and lonely. I know my kids have felt the same way as they grieve the loss of their brother. Keeping God at the forefront of my day is the greatest action and support in my mindset change.

 

I am a suicide survivor. My son is gone and that is an incredible burden. Unexplainable pain.  However, this mindset rewiring is not just for suicide survivors but for anyone who can benefit from moving forward. Don’t let my tragedy prevent you from seeing how MINDSET can change your life. Where ever you are in your journey, write yourself a few sticky notes and see the potential in mindset growth! It might just make a difference between joy and pain. Life or death.

 

I can do this!

What Can I do to make a difference today?

Lord How Can I bless someone today?

I will get up and find purpose in my day!

I am Thankful for ________

 

 

 

I have offered only a glimpse into the gift of mindset. Click here to learn more.

Good Mourning In Heaven – Three Month Day

Good Mourning in Heaven My Angel Boy-

It sure is hard to be your mama today.

Too many thoughts of yesterday. Days when you were little, curls hanging loose and eyes so blue. Smiles bright and healthy. This is the time of year where we lived barefoot and in bathing suits. Remember, the good old days? Let’s swim again on North Lake, let’s hang around a campfire with family and friends. Angel love want to go for a walk and talk about silly things? I do. Oh baby boy, gone so fast. Take me back to a time of happiness. I feel incomplete without you.

This day one of the hardest in a while.

Today my angel boy is the reminder of three months without your smile. Today, we see Monday the 17th on the calendar. You took your life on Monday the 17th, Three months ago.

Three months today since we heard your laugh. Three months since you called my name. Three months since you wrestled your brother or a told a random joke to your sister.

 I really can’t comprehend it all. You are gone.

You will not ever show up except in our memories. I still want you to walk in the door.  My mind, it knows the truth. My heart cannot seem to catch up to what it should.

You have missed all the stuff we dreamed up right when you were small. Graduation, celebrations and college orientations. Yes, little boy, I love so much. I finally called WMU and let them know you would not be there. I was transferred all around; I guess this kind of thing does not happen often. Finally, they put me in touch with the head of some department, and that poor woman cried along side of me when I had to explain why you would not be attending with all of the other freshmen. They wondered if I wanted my deposit back. No, I cried to a stranger on the other end, I just want my boy to live and see his dreams complete.

She said,  “I am so sorry.” I said “Me too.”

I told her how you wanted to be an accountant. How much you loved Hayworth College of Business when you did your tour of the school. I explained to this stranger on the other end with a tear filled laugh how you begged us to pay extra for a dorm with air conditioning, and we simply agreed because you are you and we wanted you to feel comfortable. I do not know why I told her those things; it does not matter now. Except to me…To me, you are my every day. You are my morning and my evening. You Angel boy are everything. When you were born, I felt complete.

I am writing about us beautiful boy.

I started to write what I think will become a book. I have so many words all pent up. Blog posts do not leave enough space to get it all out, my journals stacking up. Now the chapters do.  I think also, The way you are, I mean, the way you were. I think it might help another parent to know what we did not. Maybe they will see our bumpy road and stop them in their tracks. Maybe, Angel, there is a boy like you who will live his life complete because his mom will read the horror of our travels and take another path.

 

Three months brings quieter times.

We do not hear from others as often. Some still know the valley we are in and throw a rope and remind us to climb high. I am forever humbled and grateful for those friends and even strangers who remember your name and our hearts cry. Those who reach out and intentionally hold our hand in the chaos of their own lives.

.

The other kids, well that is the hardest part of all.

Some days are normal. Normal being a shadow of what used to be. The kids, they plug away at all of the things they did before. Some days I see smiles and laughter. Those are good days. Some, well, this is the part where I still hold anger at you although I know in my heart you completely lost control that day. I know the anger has to go.  When I see their hurt and the way it comes out. I want to scream at you; I want the kids to have hearts that don’t carry a burden of losing a brother this way. I wish you could have seen the ripple of pain that is the gift you left in your absence. Had you thought that out Angel boy you would still be here today.

We have had to go on vacation without you now. It is the worst to sit around a place where everyone should be,  your seat sits empty. When I see the beautiful sights of our travel, I think of you in  Heaven and remind myself you are free.

I am fighting the ongoing battle of heart hurt and normal life.

The day to day must get done, and I work hard at finding joy. I know the only way to heal this hurting heart of mine that feels a mess with you gone is to serve those who need more. That helps, it does. To look out at all those who have less and think of what we still are gifted each day and share a bit of what we have left.

 Angel boy if I could do anything I would bring you back to Earthly life.

I know it’s a silly dream and not the plan for this mom.  So I pray that God uses you to make a difference in someone’s day. I pray that your death brings reality to a kid who hurts in your same way. I think back to the angel of goodness you were here on Earth, and I know without a doubt you are a gift in Heaven.

You are so deeply missed, I hope in Heaven when you met Jesus, he played a movie of life and death before your eyes. First reminding you of the ones you left and should not have, and then I pray he washed the mistakes away with love and insight.  I pray it swelled your heart a million times it ever was here, I pray the light of Jesus took all your pain away and replaced it with gifts and joy to share in Heaven.

Angel boy, I know a friend who is not doing well here on Earth. Her time is near, and soon she will find her way to where you are. If you see her, guide her to the right place to go. Let her know that all will be ok.

Remind her of the love of Jesus and that the most beautiful forever is about to begin.

Angel, my sweet love, I cannot ever seem to end my notes to you with our tears in my eyes. Three months is too long for a mother to not have her boy. I love you, Angel. Sing praise to our King for the gracious gifts he gives us in eternity. One day, when our story is done, I will see you, sweet son.

I love you forever, I love you for Always, forever my baby you will be.

 

 

 

Freedom Road

 

I am trying to decide if this July week was better than the same one this time last year. That is most likely not what you would think a mother  grieving her son would write. I am a bit confused myself, to be honest. It is a confusing concept to find a bit of relief in my week when most would think I am hiding under my covers and crying myself to sleep each night.

Let me explain that a bit, by sharing last July at this time.

Last July this week was an up and down battle, an anxiety attack for any mother and father. A blended family nightmare. It started with a phone call. The father of my children gave me a late night call. “Your boy is in trouble he said.” “What”?  I am confused. He was to go home and spend time with his girlfriend and work the next day.

A simple plan and a chance for independence.

My Mr. and I along with our blended family of ten had spent the week at my sisters on the other side of the state. All should go well with my far away family in town. That is what you would think; it is all I had hoped in my naive parent heart. That all of my teenage kids and two that scream not just there at under twelve would be one big happy family celebrating the stars and stripes with Grandpa and Grandpa and Aunts and uncles. The hot, warm sun and lazy river we floated down would be enough for our kids.

The poolside laughter and potluck dinners the very icing on the cake to have them see the good life they live each day.

That same week on the other side of the state even brought the first visit to the school my blond haired boy of seventeen would ultimately choose for his college education. The dreams I had for him that day. As we toured with the other families. Looking at the dorm, we would sign him up for, thinking of the business man he would one day be. Thoughts they drift for a mom like me. I often dream of life for my babies, even now that they are teens.

 

My dreams all made up in my mama’s head differed from my teenage child that week.  Our oldest boy at seventeen and a half had other plans. With his Dad on the east of the state and close to home we agreed to let our oldest boy drive the ninety minutes in his car and head home to his dad’s house for the night. His dad would not be home, near but not in the house. Our boy would stay alone that night.

He left our family celebration, and with a kiss and hug and assurance, he would behave. I watched him drive away.

Why I let him go, I do not know. I think because I had learned that a few of my friends had successfully left their teens on their own. Also, I think because I remember the days of seventeen when I wanted to be free pretending independence was complete. Maybe too, the fact that he was soon to be eighteen. One more school year and he would be off to college and dorm life. The time now to start to grow up and prove some independence.

He had been doing great, working hard and no issues of late.

Moms know that sinking feeling in the pit of your heart that says something is not right. When the phone rang, it was not a shock.  My boy’s dad said our boy had been caught with friends that differed from the original plan we were told. The other boy had snuck away; his parents came across the lies that were all behind our back. Worst yet was the light. The light from the parked car they found our kids in as they drove by. That light was the scent of sorrow. The drug that some think should be legal. I think not.

Our boy, who had been given a chance at freedom was caught in a lie, where and who he had been with and the reason why.

Some will say big deal; my kid too has done these things. Others will question, why I let him leave a family gathering. What kind of parent chooses to let their child go? The sides will be torn and it does not matter what is said in the end my child is not here this Fourth of July Weekend.

Last July was the start of our decline.

It was embarrassing at the time. The choices my boy made. I was humbled by the mistake I had made as well. Letting him go that hot July day.

My family knew of my boy’s antics as they overheard the late night call. My husband who still has children young enough to not deal with teenage things just yet, listened quietly as I had hashed things out and came up with a plan with the man I was married before. The patience of a saint my Mr. of now, as he listened often to the husband of before and I figure out our first born. We did not raise our boy to lie and hide. Why would he do this?  I wanted to trust him.

Now he turns our week of family time into turmoil and deceit.

 

The next week was our annual Up North Family camping trip. We were all together. No tricks to separate. That week was hard. I am writing this post in the very same campground just one year, and one week ago my party of ten camped …our blended family vacation.

 My oldest boys’ demons set in.

 

There is no space or time for him to be alone when your home for a week is a pop-up camper.  He would ask to run to the store; he would take long walks to get away. I get that, the need for solitary space. To think, to read, to write to just be. That part of my boy is just like me. His dad too always needed that place of escape. So when my boy of almost eighteen leaves for a walk after a rough past week I let him go. I keep a close watch, but I try and let him heal his demons with space.

I made a poor choice my heart pain reminds me. Letting him be.

He hated this vacation one year ago. I know he tried to make the best of it, but it was there, the dislike of our company. His mood was down I could see. His girlfriend had just broken off their new found relationship. It came to an end much faster than he had hoped. He was hurting. I could see. How do you know as a mother where to step in? He has to learn real life somehow someway.

Today, my heart wants to cut off the world and protect him once again.

I hated the hurt he felt. It was a pain that in most kids at this age would give him experience and then would go on to other things. Not this boy. He thought hard and deep and was critical of himself and others that were not like him.

His sulky ways and overwhelmed head made it difficult for him to enjoy anything we did that week. This boy of mine, deeper than most. His head works like a faucet with a constant drip of remembering; he cannot shut things out. He cannot turn the faucet off.

Normal teen experiences were a trigger to something darker we can now see.

 

It was hard to even like him those days if you want to know. He was short with me, soon came the walking on eggshells to keep things smooth. There are ten of us after all. Seven more kids who want to have fun. Three of them my step kids, whom we have limited time, only summers and holidays to enjoy. I went back to some old habits to keep things even. Letting him get his way with his mood to keep things cool. He was sometimes mean to his brothers, Moody, up and down, high and low. It was a rollercoaster that changed all of our moods. It was tiring for us all. If you have a child with anxiety and depression than you know the crumbly road of crunchy shells I walked those days just being a mom.

In that moment, I still was not sure if this was normal teenage behavior or something more.

 

When the rain came in droves, we packed our family camp trip up and shipped him on the road home. I was so thankful that day, to pack up our kids and get off the eggshell road of camping with my son. I felt a freedom and some rest on the drive back. He in the other car and us in the van of peace.

The regrets are there. Today, sitting in the same space as a year ago.

I wish it back again. I’d take the eggshell road and stomp my way through that mess to love on my boy just for a moment again.

I would sit in the rain as ten, huddled in one pop up camper playing cards and listening to bickering kids just to touch my first born boy’s shoulder again, to simply remind him he was loved.

I would give anything to teach him hope.

 

This year, this week of celebrating time, my other four…oh so hard to say, when it should be five. They are with their dad this year. I am glad. A new place to visit to keep things different. Time with family and not a reminder of here. A reminder of the sand and water play, a reminder of dinners on summer nights around a campfire. Change in space to escape the horror of our boy’s death. I am glad my four are with their dad, sunning themselves and boating on the big Great Lake.

 

I am filled with gratitude that this week there is no Parade of eggshells on the street for my far north three. Eggshells are no walk for the other kids.

So little time I get to be stepmom in their day. Only the summer and vacations from school. Never enough to be complete. So this week, the eggshells are swept away. We ride our bikes to this summer town for fun. We paddle boats in the Hidden Lake. Pancakes and bacon outside with the birds chirping above. Sandy beaches and Mackinaw Fudge. New memories to make.

 

Regrets, yes. Looking back is hard when you start to see the beginning of the end. The tears still come. Almost every day at some point. Most often when I am alone or late at night. Daytime brings our new normal. My oldest boy is not the only one. There are seven more to love each day and our adopted adult that lives in her own home with the support of staff. That does not take it away, the sorrow we hold. It makes it impossible to not go on. Seven more kids, three this week in a place that once held so much distress, it is more predictable than last July. We work towards each new step. Looking forward to the hope God brings. Praying our boy has found freedom from all of his pain.

We picture our angel walking the path of light with Christ not the eggshell road of depression and anxiety.

 

The smell of bacon and coffee run through my quiet site sneaking over from the tents to our right. I take in the sounds of this place. The quiet chatter of people waking. The nature sounds of outside that make me think of Heaven. The rest are still asleep. I pray often that God hears my cry to help us heal from this pain. The heart hurt that is a constant beat. The last months my mama bear fight to not curl up in my den all day and sleep if I could not save my first born bear than maybe this is not the job for me, I wonder late at night when no one sees my tears and my internal head heart fight.

A little blond girl walks out the camper door. She needs step mama closeness this morning. The chill and dampness are still in the air. She looks up with freckles I did not create and her far away north mama’s face.

I am overcome with hope for all we already have. Once again I am reminded I am gifted a chance to raise up children even if for a short time. That my day is a choice, how I choose to live it will serve or take. Although, I never imagined stepmom as my name. Never dreamed my other four on a separate vacation. Wishing more than anything I could change our reservations in life back to a party of ten, not the five we are now today. I am warmed in my heart to the very core by God’s grace when my stepdaughter sits close and needs me just a bit. Enough to remind me to get out of my mama bear cave and do the job God created for me.

No, this July is no better than the years before. It is different. I know more. Hurting deeper. Now, seeing things with a slow awakening of purpose.  This July makes me want Freedom. Freedom for the kids like my son, the ones fighting the hopeless war. The ones that battle depression and mental illness. This year the fireworks shine a light on our boy’s absence, a brilliant glare and searing bang that make me realize we do not have our son but we have his story.

We are walking the slow going Freedom road this July.

 

I cannot see it all just yet.  The good that will come of our hurt. The purpose that will come from the pain that plagued my son.  My hope is there. My faith in one who created all. A love so great.

 

 

Romans 8:24

For in this hope we were saved. Now Hope that is seen is not hope. For Who Hopes for what he sees? However, if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.