Wednesday, March 14, 2018

6 years later

At the beginning of every blog I let people know I write these in the raw.  Feelings, grammar etc.  I attempt to spell check but if you see a huge error please let me know because I do not catch every error when I'm extra emotional which I am as I write these then I just want to get it all out there.  How's that for my first run on sentence?

Its been 6 years since our oldest son died. There are things swirling in my mind today causing all sorts of panic.  I have been doing pretty good keeping panic at bay so I decided it was time to write another blog and get my feelings out.  Maybe sharing will someday will help someone.

For anyone reading this who do not know our story I'm going to briefly share.  If you go back through older blogs you can get a lot more details.  You are welcome to do so. I will put a star where you can begin reading if you know our story.

My husband and I married very young.  Before I was 24 years old we had 4 children each child approximately 1 year apart.  We intentionally learned as much as we could about marriage and family because we wanted to break the chains and cycles of our past.  We wanted nothing less than success in our relationship and we had a strong desire for our children to have better lives and futures than us.

At age 19 our oldest son was walking along a US Highway and decided to cross the road.  He crossed in front of a stopped trash truck.  As he was crossing an SUV swerved around the trash truck and struck him.  He died on impact. We saw it on the morning news as an "unidentified young man" before we heard the devastating news.  The day this occurred was our next oldest son's 18th birthday.
My husband and I had some decisions to make. Do we run into God, knowing we had 3 very vulnerable teenagers watching our reactions or do we bury our heads in the sand and let our family, hopes, and dreams die with our son?

*We chose to press hard into God.  We chose to rely on His people and allow His comfort to see us through.  There is obviously A LOT more to this story but for time sake to fast forward 6 years we miss Corey so much but have realized to keep his memory alive we have to live life.  We can use his memory and our story to help others find and keep faith in Christ.  We can use it to help others know there is hope in tragedy.  We can help others understand we serve a good God who doesn't cause death. But carries us through when we face it and gives us treasures on the other side.

Things I've learned over the past 6 years along with what I stated above.
We grieve many things in our lifetime.  We grieve any unmet expectation. If our friends or family act different than they are suppose to, we grieve. We grieve when there is a diagnosis. We grieve when goals aren't met.  We grieve any time our heart is set on something and whatever it is happens differently than we expected it to. The grief may be more intense for different losses. There is no way the loss of a bank card or cell phone hurts like the loss of a parent or child. But none the less it all hurts.

I have a visceral response starting right before each major holiday and beginning mid February until just after Easter.
Visceral is defined as felt in or as if in the internal organs of the body or not intellectual.
This is a thing.  It happens. It is a feeling I get deep inside and I walk around for days trying to figure out why I feel so different, then it either dawns on me or someone tells me, "Hey its grief. Its ok."

Then I breath a little easier knowing that it will soon become less intense. Interestingly, I am generally not even consciously thinking about the date or anything else it is a deep rooted pain that is unexplainable any other way.  I have tried.  I've went to the doctors, counselors, preachers, mentors, etc. they all have the same answer....its grief.
I decided that this might be ok to learn to live with.  If I didn't grieve forever I would question my love. I would be afraid I would forget what I had.  God created us so intricately.

I expect to grieve the rest of my life. When Corey first died I spoke with a few parents who had lost children years earlier.  They were still very emotional.  At the time I was scared and mad because I realized it never really gets better, I will never get over it.  Since then I have realized they likely were that emotional because they could feel my pain.  My pain and situation made theirs come to the forefront of their minds.  It reminded them of the intensity of the first days.  I have recently spoken with a momma who lost her child 30 years ago and she feels very similar to me.  It isn't quite as intense on a daily basis but it still hurts beyond measure.  I can still say not a day goes by I don't think about him in some capacity, goodness it's hard. The memory can bring a chuckle now.  It isn't always tears but it is always there.
The hardest day of the year for me is Corey's birthday.  Research shows a piece of a child's DNA is forever embedded inside the mom after the child is born. Our children's birthdays are as much about us as it is about them.  To know once upon a time it was one of the happiest days of my life yet to know he's not here to share it with me. Mercy it's painful.
So in 6 days is Corey's 25th birthday.  25, am I old enough for that.  I remember his birth like it was yesterday yet it seems like forever since I last spoke with him.

Days like this I have to cling to the promises of my savior.
Train up a child in the way he should go and he will not depart from it.
There will come a day standing face to face in a moment we'll be like Him, He will wipe our eyes dry take us up to His side and FOREVER we will be HIS. (reworded by a Phillips Craig and Dean)
On those days where I want to give up I can look around and know beyond a shadow of a doubt there is a God. If there is a God His word is True. If His word is True I WILL see my boy again.  He will be up in Heaven with a new body, no disabilities, no scars, no pain.
I can see him surfing the clouds, worshiping with the angels, and asking God if he can give us a little hint that he is still near.

Even in the chaos it is an exciting time in our lives.  It seems we are all starting or have started new chapters.  My husband and I are both working on our Masters Degrees.  Both of our boys are marrying this summer and our daughter is graduating from nursing school.  We are excited about all of the upcoming events.
In all of the excitement there is a small part of me that wonders where Corey would be.  What big changes would his life be taking?  Is it ok to rejoice with my other children even in my pain and heartache.  Is it ok to move forward with my life even though it feels like I'm leaving him behind?  I'm certain these are questions I will forever ask myself.  I know the answers deep in my heart these are just questions forever in my mind.
I am starting to laugh and smile again.  The first time I laughed out loud I startled myself.  Then I went through a slew of emotions and had to process through the fact that Corey was a clown.  He always wanted people laughing so much so he went out of his way to make people laugh.  I think if he is looking down on us he is smiling.  He is happy for us.

I thank God that in my weakness He is made strong.

2 Corinthians 12:19f
Revelation 21:4f
Proverbs 22:6

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Fight for my Honor

I use to always sing my own version of the Karate Kid theme song. "I need a man who will fight for my honor. I need the hero I been dreaming of. We'll live forever knowing together that we did all for the glory of love." Oddly I had no idea at the time why I would always sing this song this way, but I did. This did not ever bother anyone before I was married. After marriage, my husband did not necessarily like that I would sing this all of the time.

As most people in my life know, generally speaking, I will jump in and "handle" problems, most of the time without fore thought. Where this use to make me feel better, as I have matured it has burdened me. People would say I was over reacting or making a fool of myself. These comments would only make me angry at them. It took me facing this for myself to see the results of my actions then for me to feel guilty enough to notice where it might not be working out in my best interest. 

My family, friends, and later my husband and I had many conversations about this. They would tell me to calm down you are overreacting. I remember my mom on many occasions saying, you have to learn to think before you talk. I would complain that no one else was handling issues in my life so I had to jump in and handle them myself before I got hurt any more. As one could imagine, I was in constant trouble for this behavior. For a long time I would argue with my mother about this. I frequently saw her in volatile relationships, I was under the impression that this was an appropriate way to handle problems.

As an adult I began to draw off of the experiences I had seen in other households as a child. I was able to see that there were better ways to handle conflict it did not always have to resort to abuse or end a relationship. 

I have a theory about a huge issue this mindset causes. I have not done any academic research on this theory this is all based on the experience of myself and others. I think that in situations where a child is abused they adopt a mindset that there is no one to protect them so they have to protect themselves. Thus jumping in and fighting when it may not actually be necessary.  This mindset is even further provoked when a person asks for help and they are blown off.  I am going to give some examples to help defend my thought.

I have been blessed to know a young lady who is very similar to me in many ways.  This young lady did not experience the amount of abuse I did but she was hurt by someone very close to her as a young teen.  A few months later she had another very traumatic event occur in her life. We will call her Tracy.  Where Tracy was very much like me in personality, she was somewhat more tempered in her approach.  She hit the ground running and faced ever challenge with football pads on ready to find healing.

I truly believe most parents do the best with what they are given. For example, I know my mom did not necessarily do a good job at protecting me but she did the best she could in the circumstances and with her knowledge base.  Could she have changed the circumstances, yes, but she didn't so within them she did all she could do. Just like this, Tracy's parents and family did all they could do within their power to protect her from any harm.

Tracy's first bad experience happened when an uncle violated her. She was actually in a room full of people when this occurred, a sleepover setting.  Not in a million years would her parents have dreamed that her uncle would touch her but especially not with 7 other kids in the same room. The other traumatic event that happened in her life no one could have possibly controlled but it happened.
When situations like either of these occur we begin to ask questions. Why did God let this happen? Why didn't He stop it? Some of the questions we ask can become irrational and sometimes subconscious.  Where was my dad, why didn't he help me?  We ask these questions even though there is no possible way anyone could foresee what was going to happen.

It is my belief when situations like this occur a child builds a distrust of people. Not only the people who violated them but also the people that should have protected them. At birth we begin to acknowledge who will be there to protect us. Who answers are cries for food and fresh clothing.  I also think the child will build a distrust or a skewed understanding of God. If they are raised in a home where they are taught God is always with them, then they blame God for not protecting them from the extreme pains of life. The child begins to feel like no one is there to protect them, not even God cares or he wouldn't allow this pain to occur.   Along with this or because of this the person begins to get a general distrust of everyone and everything.

When this occurs the mindset of the person changes. I believe once a situation like this builds up non trust for anyone protecting the child they begin to believe they have to protect themselves. This is an irrational belief for the most part. But nevertheless, it is a real belief in the mind of the person. In light of this belief system the child will attempt to fight all of their own battles. Why would they ask for help when everyone that "should have" protected them didn't? As they age they are taught that there is no possible way you can survive fighting for your life all on your own. This lifestyle becomes dangerous. With constant love and guidance they may learn to build trust again over time. There is still the nugget of thought in the back of their mind that says, "If this doesn't get handled quickly, I will jump in and protect myself. I will not be hurt again. If I get hurt in the fight, at least I tried." This is obviously a thought process error for the way life is suppose to go.

We would like for these kiddos to go back to the trusting naive kids they use to be. This is impossible. The pain is ingrained in their minds.
When they do learn to trust and ask for help it is very unlikely it will be a full trust. The child may not like the way the situations is handled. This is because it will not be handled in the way they would do it. This has been a frequent constant battle for me.  I work through this on a daily basis.  I know now it is not reality for me to  handle all life's battles. 
I have been really digging deep, praying, fasting etc.  I feel like last week God made a clearing for me to see the truth. 

There were some events that occurred within my extended family. I knew I could not handle the situation alone nor was it even my place to step in.  I would have really liked to fix it all.  God stepped in to fix the situation, of course not how I would have done it.
God stepped in in a way that was a bit ironic. He spoke to me through the same song that I remember from the Karate Kid Movie all those years ago.

As I the song began playing through my head I began to cry.  He very clearly said to me, "I am the Man who will fight for your honor. I'll be the hero you've been dreaming of. You will live forever knowing together that we did it all for the glory of love." Thank You Lord Jesus for being our Protector and Comforter.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

too many whys here in this moment

Here in this moment. I struggle. 
I struggle with the ever thorn in my side, depression and anxiety.
I struggle with the why's. 
Why life why death, 
why love why hate, 
why comfort why not. 
Why pain and anger
Why lust and passion
Why when I know God's still on his throne do I die a little inside some days
Why does it hurt so bad
Why are smiles so hard and small
Why do I love so hard and care so much 
Why do I fight and struggle 
why this hard personality 
why the difficult gifts.
I want to sing a new song I want to dance I want to speak with gracefulness why less beauty and more body
Why when I know God's still on his throne do I die a little inside some days

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Reflections on Mother's Day After Year 1

One thing that has really bothered me recently is all of the people posting things about their children being their reason for living. There have been times in my life where I could completely relate to this statement but it is a very difficult reality for me to grasp right now.  I know that my children were my reason for carrying on many days when they were toddlers.  As a young mother, sometimes my identity was found solely in being a mom.  I guess right now I feel like if this has to be a person's reality for a short time, it is okay but it is not okay long term.

There are two very big issues that are smacking my reality right now as to why this cannot be a good thing.  One thing that happens is: They grow up.  These little ones that we spent so much time loving and caring for, teaching, leading and guiding are one day going to turn 18.  Not that we will no longer be their mothers, but they will not need us nearly to the extent that they once did. I realized from a very young age the reality is, as parents, from the point of birth we are preparing our children to become independent adults.

We teach them to walk, talk, feed themselves and potty. Then we teach them to write their names, fill out checks, make purchases and pay bills. We teach them responsibility through getting their homework done on time and putting their bicycles away when they are done riding them.  It is good that we teach them to be independent. Upon creating the earth God instructed Adam to care for his family, care for creation and not be dependent on any one person for his livelihood.  So it seems in following our creator we should be promoting independence in our children.

The Bible also instructs us to leave our parents and cleave to our spouse.  Knowing this commandment we should be on a constant quest to prepare our children to be responsible adults, spouses and parents.  The reality of this is; although I would love to have my children around forever, I do not want them to be dependent on me. Thus if my sole reason for living is my children once they marry, parent and or age out of my care, do I still have a reason for living?

I would hope that before such a time I find some other reasons to live so that I am not tempted to give up on life and not enjoy my children as the strong independent adults I have assisted in forming.  I also hear a lot about the blessings and how enjoyable grandchildren are.  I would hate to loose out on the many blessings God provides for parents of adult children by giving up on life soon after they leave the nest.

The other less obvious reason for not having our children be our sole reason for living is we may out live them. I realize this is a taboo subject and we would like to think this will never happen to us but it happens around us daily. There is nothing we can do to prevent it. Obviously if a parent could prevent out living a child they would do everything in their power to do so.  I once saw a saying once, "If I had to choose breathing or loving you I would take my last breath loving you." This is so true for mothers. We would do absolutely anything for our children. We have an innate desire to keep our children safe from birth to forever.  The reality is this is not reality.  There is no way to protect our children forever.

This is one truth that I wish I didn't know anything about thus would not think to mention it in a blog like this, but in my world this is my truth. God saw fit for me to out live my oldest child.  The irony of this situation is I lived for this child for a long time.  He had some special needs and I did everything in my power to insure that he was advocated for and then learned to advocate for himself.  I did my very best to make sure he was on a level playing field as his peers.  There were sometimes things we could not always provide, but these things were never hindrances to his well-being.

I have always been blessed to have an amazingly supportive husband so that we could attempt to meet all the needs of each of our children.  A lot of times it would be one parent with our oldest and the other parent with our other three children.  This was our world and we functioned well in it.  This reality came crashing down, when our oldest son was killed, we were devastated to say the least. Had my sole reason for living been this one child I would feel very worthless and without reason to live now.

I can honestly say that I do struggle with the world of worthlessness at times.  I did, for a very long time, find my entire self worth in caring for my children.  I found my full identity in being a wife and a mom.  I will always be a wife and mom and can find great pleasure in this. I cannot however, find my full worth in this identity because changes in the structure of things occur.  Sometimes these changes sneak up on us and sometimes they hit us square in the nose.  Nonetheless, the point remains, if our entire worth is wrapped up in being a mom when one of these two situations occur it will flatten us.

The reason I believe I am so passionate about this topic is both of these situations happened to me simultaneously. I had a child pass away and another leave for college within months of each other.  We would like to think both happen with no warning, but that is not the case.  Although, college years or adulthood seems to sneak up, we know the ages of our children and where they are in life.  We may not want to readily accept it, but adulthood doesn't really sneak up.  We need to be responsible parents and prepare ourselves for the departure of our children or their "leave and cleave" as much as we prepare them.

The other situation, in fact, may sneak up on us. We need to be proactive as parents to not find our full self worth in our children knowing that anything is possible.  Tomorrow is not guaranteed. My grandmother would say, "Don't put all of your eggs in one basket." This is a hard concept to face when we are in the thick of parenting.  We must keep focused on the true goal which is preparing them to be successful independent adults.  We need to find our self worth in God alone not in the jobs He has blessed us with here on this earth.  With our sole focus being on the fact that, "This is not the end."  "We are not home yet."

Thursday, March 28, 2013

A year out

Today is one year from when I last saw Corey alive.  I still have the same regrets.  I still have the pain in my heart that is indescribable.  It is a pain that makes a person wonder if life is really worth living.  Of course it is worth living especially when you have a husband and 3 other children along with family and friends.  So with that I have had to figure out how to live in the pain because one thing that is certain, the pain doesn't go away.

There are days when I think the pain isn't as intense and days that it may not feel as intense. I have learned to not let that fool me because even though it may not be at the fore front it may knock me out for the count if a memory comes to mind or a person walks by that reminds me of Corey. I heard it once described as waves of an ocean.  You can see them and feel them in short burst but at times they are intense enough to knock the wind out of you.  These waves supposedly get further and further apart in this grief journey.  I have to have faith that this is true but I haven't fully experienced it yet.  My grief still feels like I am standing in the middle of the ocean instead of at the edges.

I really can not say that the fog of denial has fully lifted because there are still days that I wonder what he is doing or when he will come home.  Some days I let myself ponder in these thoughts.  He must be hanging out with a various group of friends.  He is 19 so he will be around when he needs something.  It feels good sometimes to just let my mind wonder and imagine what could or would be happening.  I do not know if this ever stops.  Maybe one day I won't let my mind continue in the story line but for now it gives me comfort.

Then there are days that the reality of cold cruel death stare me in the face.  These are days that I am stifled in life.  I can't get out of bed.  I might not shower or even eat.  I don't answer the phone or text.  I am just overwhelmed with pain.  These days I can't think of anyone but myself and the child I carried inside me and then went through hours of labor to birth.  I forget that there are others in pain who may be struggling, whose life Corey touched.  In these moments of pain no one else can possibly relate.  It just hurts.

There are days that I am in intense pain but it is different than what I have described above it is a sympathetic or empathetic pain.  It is the pain that is ever present in the eyes, words and actions of my other children and my husband.  I see it in the eyes and words of our sisters and brothers, our parents, and grandparents.  I see it in the eyes and words of Corey's dearest friends. It is a pain I won't ever understand.  Pain that is all about knowing that my closest and his closest loved ones are hurting, hurting with the intensity that I hurt.  Oh how this breaks my heart all over again.  I can not imagine loosing a sibling, a grandson, a nephew, a best friend.
It gives me joy to know that he had so many important people in his life.

He made such a big impact on so many people.  I am certain it was in part due to his infectious smile and laugh.  He could make anyone laugh no matter the situation.  He had a dance he would do that would make the worst mood lighten.  He could also tell stories or jokes that fit any situation.  He was a well cultured well rounded young man and new how to play to that end. Because of some social issues he had, he didn't know when this was appropriate or not so he would literally make everyone laugh even if it wasn't "the right time."

My boy, my heart.  The kids have a saying "The struggle is real"  I could certainly echo that right now.  This day, this year mark.  This struggle is real.  More real than seems possible.  It hurts and it is real.

Princess Carrissa our favorite daughter turns 17

When I found out I was pregnant with our 3rd child it took us a little bit longer to get excited.  We already had 2 boys who were only 1 and 2.  The 1 year old still had multiple surgeries ahead of him.  We had no idea how we would handle another baby.  We had been using the latest form of birth control it was implanted into my arm right after the birth of our second child.  There were several complications very early. There were thought to be 2 babies, then what was thought to be a miscarriage.  This was a very difficult time.  When we went back to the doctor several weeks after this trauma to have test ran we found out there was still a baby and SHE had a heartbeat.  The doctors ran test and said she was a normal forming, healthy little girl.
We had decided that Gene could name the girls and I could name the boys.  We had been tossing around several names for this baby and could not make a decision we both agreed on.  One day we were shopping at a church rumage sale and a little girl came up to us and asked about our young boys.  This little girl was very pretty.  When she asked what the boys names were she volunteered her name, Carrissa.  When the child walked away Gene looked at me and smiled and said that's it that is what I want to name our baby.  We quickly agreed on the name Carrissa.
Several months later, we gave birth to a very healthy baby girl, Carrissa Elaine Whitten.  Born November 22, 1995.  She was the most beautiful little girl we had ever seen.  Her big brothers instantly fell in love.  Carrissa was a delight.  She had a big smile and big brown eyes.  She was a joy.  Eleven short months later we gave birth to her best friend Isaac.  So she is the 3rd of 4 children and our only girl.  She has enjoyed this position from the start.  She loved baby dolls and dresses.  She also had a very special bond with mommy and daddy and each of her brothers adored her.  

Carrissa loved dresses, baby dolls and having her hair done.  She also liked to be a little helper, taking great care for her brothers and making certain they did not get into trouble.  Right before Carrissa turned 2 we moved our young family to Lincoln, Illinios and both Gene and I attended Lincoln Christian University.  We moved into Married Student Housing where there were a lot of other young families.
As a toddler, Carrissa loved tea parties, lady bugs and her brothers.
As Carrissa grew into a little girl she wanted some separation from the world of boys.  She joined girl scouts and played softball and was very good in school.  During her teen years Carrissa has found a love for serving and worshiping at church in various areas.   She has enjoyed student athletic training and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. She also enjoys throwing the discus for the track team.  Carrissa is a very strong young woman in heart mind soul and spirit along with physically.  She can certainly hold her own with anyone she meets if she needs to.  Most people that meet Carrissa love her.  She is very easy to get along with and has an amazing worldview.  We are VERY proud of this young lady.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

20 years, to have and to hold, till death do us part

Monday, December 14, 1992

I, Dana Elaine Sanders, take Eugene K Whitten to be my lawfully wedded husband to live together in marriage!

I promise to love, comfort, honor and keep him for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, being faithful only to him so long as you both shall live!