We got through Thanksgiving this year. Another first on a whole list of firsts marked off for us. To anyone who saw us yesterday, we looked OK, right? And we were OK. We enjoyed seeing our family and eating good food.
But we also desperately wished that our son was with us. What I didn’t tell anyone was that the night before, on Thanksgiving Eve, I had an emotional breakdown.
That day I had gone to work, then the hair salon and finished my evening by shopping at JoAnn Fabrics and then Target. For some reason, shopping at Target was what broke me. I started sobbing on the way home. The kind of deep sobbing where tears steadily stream down your face, and you can barely see or catch your breath. The despair and devastation had overtaken me. I kept saying “I want my baby” and “Why JJ?” over and over. I just wanted to get home because I could barely drive.
I pulled into my driveway and sat in my car for 5 minutes before I called Andy. I was frozen. I couldn’t bring myself to get out. To anyone else, I was hysterical. To me, I was a bereaved mother. Andy came out to get me.
I was finally able to get inside of the house. I was still sobbing. He asked me what happened. I didn’t know. I had been fine all day. I knew Thanksgiving was the next day, but it hadn’t really hit me yet. I guess it finally had.
I found myself trying to figure out what brought on my breakdown. This is the tricky thing about grief. Grief is confusing. Grief is unpredictable. You can be completely fine, and then the next moment you aren’t. It can come on suddenly, or it can be something that has been there lying in wait for you to just break. I think it had been waiting for the right moment to trigger it.
Apparently my trip to Target was what broke me. I explained to Andy that as I was walking down the aisles in Target, I had noticed how quiet it was. The only noise was from the workers busily putting items out for Black Friday. I realized it was quiet because people were at home. They were home with their families – their children. Preparing for the biggest family day of the year. And I had no child to go home to. My child was dead. I was the childless person walking the empty aisles at Target when everyone else was snug at home with their families. It just made me really depressed. How was I supposed to live like this? Without my son?
I just cried and expressed my feelings of anger. After talking a bit more, I stopped crying. I felt better. Andy had sat there and just listened to me. In a situation where there is nothing that can be done to make it better, a listening ear is all that you can provide so I can get to the other side of the storm.
And we ended up making it through Thanksgiving. With a lot of laughs, smiles and some really tasty food. (McG family: my mom made her famous 7-layer salad. Burt family: my dad made Grandpa’s legendary stuffing).
Now for the rest of our weekend… today is Black Friday. Instead of going out shopping like I have in years past (I wasn’t really feeling it), I spent the day making ornaments.
As you can see, my dining room has become my craft haven.
I love putting my energy and craftiness into a project like this that matters to so many people. It truly helps my heart.
I have been looking forward to this four day weekend for a little while now. It means extra time for me to work on ornaments for the Angel Tree. I know these mothers and fathers had a hard time yesterday, so I want to make as many ornaments as possible this weekend to brighten their spirits. So each day this weekend I will be posting pictures of the ornaments I made to the blog. Today, there are 15 new ornaments, and a few of them were made for some people very special to me.
The first ornament I hung on the tree today was for my cousin Sarah, who passed away in 2010.
Sarah had the most beautiful smile. Her parents (my aunt and uncle) and her siblings (my cousins) do incredible things in her name. They are very inspiring. They have helped me get through our own loss. I think of Sarah often, and I wonder if Jensen is with her. I like to think that he is.
Her ornament actually sits next to Jensen’s. Family always sticks together.
I then hung up Joey’s ornament.
Joey’s mom is Erika – – I went to school with her and she reached out to me soon after Jensen passed. She provided words of support and love. Joey was also the first child in his family. He now has a younger sister and a younger brother.
Next was Charlie’s.
Charlie’s mom is Sarah. I have never met Sarah, but her dad knows my dad. Sarah also reached out to me soon after Jensen passed. She was so caring and supportive and helped me in so many ways. Charlie now has a younger sister.
Next was Janelle’s ornament.
Janelle’s mom is Dianna. Dianna is part of an online support group that I belong to for parents who have lost a child with Down syndrome. When I’ve felt pretty low, she (along with all of the others in the group) have been there to listen, understand, and provide words of encouragement.
My cat Chloe had to check out the new ornaments too.
I then finished adding the ornaments to the Angel Tree. You can see the additional ornaments in the Ornament Gallery. And then I stood back and noticed how the tree was beginning to fill in a little bit more. Seeing all of these names together is so moving. Each child has a set of parents who love them so much and who will always remember them. This tree is so full of love.