Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Ups and Downs

Well, here we are, four months into Christopher's passing.  I still can't wrap my head around it.  Easter weekend was very hard for me.  I was at the threshold of a new form of loss in missing Chris. There was such emptiness in the air and too much quiet for me. It was so hard to be joyful on what is such an amazing religious event.  None of us seemed hungry or inspired so we watched The Bible series on TV as we picked at our food.
Easter proved to be much more difficult than Christmas.  I'm going to guess because Christmas came upon us fairly quickly and the house was hectic with activity still.  It was so early in his passing that there was never a quiet moment.  Plus I know my mind was elsewhere at that time.  I was worried about the students and players, Bailey and Matt.  I remember checking on them by call, text or tweet. I had them over to the house to talk and sit in Chris's room to help alleviate some of their angst and grief.  I felt I had myself in check at that time.  I was feeling strong. I suppose I hadn't accepted what was truly unfolding in my life.

I felt detached during Christmas.  Like there was a fog around me.  The day seemed slow and sluggish. I remember my brother in-law came up to visit, we opened presents and then we went to Baileys. It all seems so fuzzy to me, even now.  Easter appeared clearer but desperately sadder, the most inconsolable day for me so far.  My eyes streamed non-stop.  They never dried up no matter what kind of talk I gave myself to pull it together.  The fragility of my mind and body was beyond anything I have felt up until this point.  I really believed I was capable of breaking into pieces.  I felt so vulnerable that a wrong look from anyone would shatter me.  I even make some strange guttural noise once in a while.  I don’t know what it is, never heard it come from me before but I guess it's a parent’s wail of despair.  As much as it’s foreign to me, I suppose it's good in its own way because it means I'm recognizing my loss and grieving it.
I had gone to the Northway Church for Good Friday services and felt I did a pretty good job of holding myself together.  I was engaged in the evening and enjoyed the music and Pastor Buddy's sermon. The crowd was enthusiastic and there was a wonderful energy in the room.  By Saturday I was getting mildly grumpy and reclusive.  On Easter Sunday I knew I needed to do something so I decided to try 10am mass at St. Francis of Assisi (the old St. James on Delaware Ave. in Albany).  I should have known better than to stay seated once I felt a wave of panic as I sat in the pew.  I had already been sobbing from the time I got up but I continuously talked to myself and tried deep breathing to relax.  I use that technique on myself many time to calm down and it typically works great.  During mass it was not helping.  I felt like I would either burst like a volcano with my insides spewing out my head or I was going to run frantically past the poor old woman who had me blocked in my row.  I didn't know what to do.  Of course neither of these happened but I felt like I came damn close to losing it.  I held off the outburst but I couldn't control the tears. They streamed at their own pace and so I just let myself cry.  I suppose the congregation wouldn't care too much if they saw me sobbing, I didn't try to hide it, it was quite apparent I didn't have myself together.  I was just praying that guttural sound stayed away.  

It didn't help mea any that the pew in from of me had two of the most adorable little girls ever.  They were in their colorful dresses and white patent leather shoes.  The little one was barely walking and held her baggie full of pretzels to keep her busy during the mass.  My mind wandered the entire hour as I looked at the girls and remembered when we would suit up the boys and do the very same thing. I wanted so much to lean forward and tell those parents to snuggle their girls tight and never let them go.  I wished so hard to go back in time although I knew full well it wasn't going to happen.
I apologized repeatedly to Chris throughout Easter day.  I kept thinking he was mad at me for not filling his basket and hiding it.  It broke me in two seeing it sit there in his room with nothing in it but the purple straw.  I put it away early Monday morning.  I couldn't take it anymore. I faced the day and got through it but couldn’t prolong living with it.  I pray next year won't be as cutting as this one was.

I do hope that by reading this you are able to take something from it other than feeling bad for me. By that, I mean, I hope there's some sort of information you glean so that maybe you can help someone else in the future?  Maybe by my sharing you will better understand what happens in the mind of a grieving parent so that you are better equipped to help another should you encounter something like this in your own life.

I think it's important to articulate as best as I can what filters through my mind on any given day.   I can't say that what I experience is normal grief or that anyone else feels even remotely like I do.  I'm just sharing me.  I'm sharing my love of my son and the anguish that goes along with the loss of him. If I didn't love him so deeply and completely I imagine my grief wouldn't cause such suffering each day.
I know wholeheartedly that God is good. I also know my son doesn't hurt.  He is the happiest he has ever been and he is wrapped in love in heaven.  I have no doubts about any of this and I take tremendous comfort in it.  I also know I cry and I ache because I miss him so much and I was not ready to part with him.  My schedule was not the same as God's.  I selfishly want him here with me - with us.  It will take more time, much more than a mere four months for me to understand.  In the meantime, I will share with you how I feel and what is happening.
For now, I am focusing on renovating the memorial garden, I'm preparing my mind and heart for the May senior awards night and the June graduation.  As much as I want to run away and cry a million tears rather than stand on the stage and hand out a scholarship in my son’s name, I will do it proudly because Christopher deserves a voice and he was well loved.  There isn't anything I wouldn't do for either of my boys.  They are both incredible and I am blessed.

Thank you for reading.


  1. Regina,
    I do get something out of your posts and I know so many others do as well. I know I can only speak for myself when I say that, yes I my heart is broken when I read your post today. I so want your pain to go away, but if I were in your shoes I know the only way the pain would go away for me would be for my son to be back. So, I am truly at a loss for words other than to say, thank you again for sharing. I pray that next year at this time your Easter is a bit less painful than it was this year and each year gets just that much easier. You are much, much stronger than you give yourself credit for as most of us reading this would be in the fetal position through the holidays and not making it out to church like you did. You push yourself and I am not sure that sometimes you may be pushing yourself too hard. Maybe, just maybe, you need that time to just cry at home like you did. Regina, again, I can't speak for all the readers, I can only speak for myself when I say that I wish I had just a fraction of your strength. You will get through this. One day at a time. Remember if you have one day where you feel like you are in need of a break, then take it. Step back and take it. Don't worry about anyone, but you.
    Ok, when I started this I didn't mean to go off on a tangent. Hope this doesn't sound like a lecture. I just really care about you and your heart. I hope you take care of it.

  2. Regina....
    I get so many things when I read your post's. I get that I need to hug my child who by the way just turned 15 yesterday,closer each and every day and to not really sweat the small stuff. I take time now more then I did before and I was told by everyone close to me that they know how I feel about them, so thank you for that. Regina this is your new normal,I have told you before that I lost my Mom its now 20 years ago and I remember when that happened how mad I would be at people when they would tell me it would get better with time....I know they were meaning well but most of them had not lost a parent so how would they really know, they just wanted to make me feel better at the time. I do not know what it is to lose a child...but I did see my grandmother lose 3 of her 8 children before she passed away herself,I seen the pain in her eyes that never went away...but I also saw a strength that I had never grandmother was my best friend...I could tell her anything (I was only 18 when my Gram passed) and I remember asking her when her son passed away how did she do it???? And she said to be...Kathy this is my new "normal" with each child I lost a piece of my heart went with them, but I can't crumple I have to live on for them....Regina this is what I see that you are doing.....your living your life to the fullest for Chris....I thank god that you have his friends to help you thru this as well....I pray for your family everyday...and I hope that today will be a little better for my prayers always...Kathy

  3. Regina:
    Your blogs over the last couple of months have been so strong, maybe now it's just natural that you're starting your grieving process full blown. I cannot even imagine how you must feel but I do remember when I lost my parents. My mom had been sick for a while and when she died it was almost a blessing because she did not want to live the way she was. Her and my dad had been married almost 40 years when she passed. My dad held it together pretty well because there was a lot of people around him and my brother and I were around. After a couple of months when he finally was able to start cleaning her closet and dresser, he came across some Christmas gifts she had purchased (she always shopped way ahead of time). She died in September and I think it was around Easter time when he found the gifts. He was devastated and I think that those few weeks were his personal grieving time. I know several years later when he died, it didn't really hit me until probably eight months after he died. I was at the closing for his house (the house they lived in for 30+ years) and I just started crying at the table in front of the buyers, lawyers, realtors. It just hit me that they were really gone. I think of you often and also of the kids. I especially think of the kids whenever my 18 year old senior heads out in his car to meet friends. He thinks I'm crazy because I'm constantly saying "be safe" and "I love you".

    Anyway, I hope it gets easier for you and that each day you feel a little better.

  4. thank you for sharing. thinking of you!

  5. Good morning, Mrs. Stewart.
    I am so proud of you being so strong. I'm inspired by your strength as I've said time and time again, but I'm also inspired by your ability to let go. Too many times in our lives, I feel, we hold everything in instead of letting it go and sometimes, this can prolong what we are going through. Easter was difficult for me too. I thought of you and your family. I also thought, however, about a little tradition that my family has. For the major holidays or every once in a while, my family would head over to my Aunt's house right near my grandparents' and we would have a huge, early dinner on Sundays. We've done it for Easter, birthdays... sometimes just for a get-together. This Easter, I missed that. My nana would always make her warm rolls (nobody can compare to them) and make center pieces from her sweet garden. Words can't even explain how much I miss that. I would give everything, and I know you would too, to be able to experience these things again. It really is those small things, like the Easter basket.

    I'm rowing with my team in South Carolina right now and yesterday, something pretty amazing happened. Every once in a while, I can physically feel my Nana with me. I can't explain how it is but it's just a feeling. It was our fourth and last practice of the day at around seven o'clock and we had just finished a section of practice that just felt extremely strong. As we rowed back to our docks (we were a pretty long ways away) I looked out to the sunset and watched the water rush past us. All of a sudden, I felt an overwhelming feeling of serenity and it felt as if my Nana was running her fingers through my hair. She always did that. I knew she was there. When we got off the water, I promptly went into my room and broke down in the shower. I've been crying less and laughing more but when it hits me, it hits me like a ton of bricks. It was happy and sad tears all at once because the pain of what is gone was just so real.

    I pray that you feel this same feeling with Chris often. It's painful but so necessary.

    Love and prayers sent your way.

    Love always,

  6. I think of you each and every day. Keeping you in my prayers for strength and healing.

  7. Hi Regina:

    I read your blog every day, but have never commented before. I've wanted to many times, but just never quite knew what to say. Through your writings I've gotten to know you and Chris, and I think I have a pretty good idea now what kind of kid he was and what kind of parent you are -- a GREAT one! My husband and I have two little girls, ages 7 and 9, and that accident had such a profound affect on us as parents. It still does. I've never met you and I never knew Chris or Deanna, but every week I drive I-87 from Colonie to Clifton Park to my chiropractor's office, and every week I think of Chris and the other kids when I drive by those 2 scarred trees. But recently, while at the Kenny Chesney concert, tears came without control, much like they are now while I type this. During his song, "The Boys of Fall", Kenny has a slide/video show on the big screens behind him. I'm not sure if you're familiar with the song, but The Boys of Fall is about football -- high school football. So during that song he flashes images of little kids all the way to high school, playing football. The sweat and dirt, the pride, the love of the game, the smiles on the boys' faces, the player with his arm around his girl. Every image made me think of Chris, and my heart broke. It broke for him and it broke for you and for Bailey. It broke for every parent who has lost a child. My husband is a police officer (and firefighter) and he has seen more than his share of parents grieving over the loss of their child. Some cases were due to a sudden illness; others were drugs or DWIs and speeding or the like. I think what hit us so hard with this accident was simply a car full of good kids not doing anything wrong. The unfairness of it all is what is so hard to accept. It was just simply unfair. I don't think anyone can fault you for whatever you are feeling on any given day. You lost a huge part of your life and I won't pretend to imagine what that is like. But I will say after reading your blogs, I do try to slow the pace down and appreciate all I have been blessed with. I've studied my girls' hands and body freckles and try to appreciate what I have during the daily frenetic activities when I want to pull my hair out. I'd like to think I'm becoming a better parent, too. My sincere condolences to you for what you have lost, but thank you for sharing your thoughts with us so that we remember to hug our little ones a little tighter before we run off and start our crazy days.
    God bless you, Regina

  8. Regina
    I was so worried about you on Easter.
    I am sooo very sorry and my heart breaks for you, Mike & Jeremy.
    You are so brave and the fact that you went to church on Easter, after all you had gone through all weekend, is a miracle in itself.
    Please know that I along with this entire town pray for you daily.
    I know may & June will be so hard for you, but I believe you will get thru it with the utmost grace & you will have your Christopher there beside you as you honor him at his beloved school . I will be praying for you that day, as I sit in the audience.
    its horrible and heartbreaking.
    God bless you

  9. Regina - I get something from you each every time you write! Thank you so much for sharing your soul and your family! I make sure I enjoy my family more and stress out less that I spend time in each moment and that I know what my children's hands, feet and face feel like. I thought about you, Mike and Jeremy on Easter day and wondered how you were doing.

    You are a strong person - the fact you got out of bed, celebrated the holiday and went to church shows exactly how strong you are!

    We will be here to hold you up, provide support, virtual love and hugs!

  10. Regina,
    My heart aches for you. That's not why you wrote this blog....I am aware of that, but nevertheless you need a hug! I have been one of your blog readers.....followers from the start. You have helped my relationships with both my sons, you really have. I thought about you on Easter weekend and wondered how you were. You are right, as time goes on your head clears and you are able to understand the immense magnitude and permenance of your loss (not that you werent already painfully aware). Crying is normal. Allow yourself to grieve in any way that you want. I don't think that your Christopher is angry with you....never....I just believe that he sees you sad and that he is always with you wrapping his arms around you. As you said, he is have no doubt about that. He wants you happy too.

  11. Hi Regina. I have been milling over what you wrote throughout the day. What I have come up with so far is the fact that as time goes on I have been worried about you and hearing, eventually from you that what happened this past weekend, did in fact happen. You said it so perfectly "emptiness in the air and too much quiet for me". Up until now you have been so busy with fundraisers and events and the scholarship process and I was worried about the day when there was time for you to just sit and reflect and have that "crash" like you had this past weekend. I can only assume adding the holiday to the weekend made it harder. Over the years, I have adapted to not putting a lot of emphasis on a holiday and tend to look at it as just another day, but that is me. I am not a holiday person. I think I got jaded when I missed out on so much with my kids when they had visitation. Single mother juggling life syndrome. None of us in my house really focus on the holidays. I had my share of those dark holidays where I just cried and felt so alone. But on a different level obviously.

    I know about loss and grief, but of an unborn child, 2 to be exact, but it's not the same. I know what it is like to miss holidays with my children because they were with their dad and I know how I handled it. The quiet times were the worst but dealing with them, like you did is the only way to get through it, as you so obviously know.

    I can say at this time that your comment about faith in God and Chris being the happiest he has ever been and he is wrapped in love in heaven was so brave of you to write and more importantly acknowledge! It takes tremendous faith to be comfortable with that, and then the honesty to admit selfishly you want him here. Of course you do! I learned a long time ago that we have so little we have control over and for you not to be angry with God takes a lot of strength. When we were dealing with some serious stuff with a family member, I remember my mom and siblings being so angry all the time. I stood apart from that and rationalized the situation differently and that frustrated them, but I did it for self-preservation, with a lot of support groups and counseling. I tend to look at the way I chose to look at the situation as a mini-vacation from the harshness of it all. Then eventually I became numb, all while letting it go and knowing God had a plan. I know this probably doesn't make a lot of sense because the person I'm talking about is still alive, but in a lot of ways stopped living 30 years ago... there is just so much sadness in the things we cannot control so we all pick up our pieces and deal, grieve and exist in the way that makes most sense to us.

    I thought of you so much over the weekend. I wept for you privately, I shed some tears in church for you and Chris when I said my prayers for you and I secretly believed or knew that this past weekend was a hard one for you. I wish I knew you better and could have showed up at your house and kidnapped you and brought you into our crazy home. We had a totally non-traditional Easter. Ally and I did go to church (which was beautiful) while my husband raked the yard and my son went on a lunch date and then to work! Ally and I then disappeared and went to the movies at the mall for hours. I wish we could have brought you with us to fill the emptiness you were feeling.

    You are in my thoughts daily and I hope you know you can reach out whenever you need to.

    God bless...

  12. Dear Regina,

    What do I take away from your blog? A chance to hear your story, to hopefully absorb some of your heart ache. If reading and feeling your pain helps take some of the sting away from you, then there are many people in the 518 trying to help make this happen.I feel I am a better person after reading about you and your day, and Christopher. I know that if Jesus is anything like you, I can't wait to meet him.

    I feel for the most part I am kind, caring and generous. But when I read your blog and hear about Christopher, it makes me realize that there is so much more good I can do, and your blog helps me to re-focus and get centered when I have strayed.

    Your faith in God and trust even in light of all that you have been through just inspires me. I know Easter being the holiday that it is is very emotional to begin with. There is not an Easter that goes by that I do not suffer and cry realizing first what Jesus has done for us...and second as a mother realizing what Mary must have gone through, unfortunately a burden you now share with our Holy Mother.

    As we know Jesus died for our sins, and for us to have eternal life, Christopher is basking in heavenly glory, embraced in the loving arms of our heavenly father thanks to the sacrifice of Mary's son. Chris died to help us grow closer to Jesus, thanks to you and this blog, we are all a little better people because you have allowed us to see into your world and the good that your son did and the good that you do. You truly are a remarkable person, and I feel very blessed and privileged to read your blog when you write.

    I know how broken your heart is, it is evident in your writing, you are so strong it just amazes me. I know as your heart mends there will always be this little piece that is missing that will never quite heal, and in the deepest part of your heart is where your joy will lie, because it is there where you hold what you love the most, your two beautiful sons.

    I pray for you Regina, I pray for Mike and Jeremy and the Rivers, oh how I pray for the Rivers, being a softball coach, I think about them often, and I have heard how difficult this journey has been for them too. I pray for Matt and Bailey too, I also pray for me, to grow and be a better person thanks to your blog.

    God Bless you always, XO <3

  13. Regina,
    I am reading and wishing that I could just reach out and make your pain go away. I do take something away from each and every blog you write. I am not the same person I used to be. I take all my troubles and try not to stress too much. My family has become my number 1 priority. I mean they always have been but now I make sure that I am out of work on time so I can get home to them. I also communicate alot more with them. I have even developed a very civil relationship with my ex. I try to be the best person I can. I am so much more compassionate and understanding. This is all because of reading your blog. I want to thank you for helping me change my life. You are an amazing, strong and courageous woman. I admire you so much. Thank you and God bless.

  14. Regina,
    We cannot know your pain. But you do such an incredible job of letting us into your world a little bit. I hope that in the mere sharing of the ups and downs, which are filled with so much truth, that you allow us to touch the edges of your grief and soften those edges just a little bit. We are in Myrtle Beach for Easter break and on Sunday I read this, and thought of you and Debbie all day. Truth be told... you have been in front of mind much of this week. We say things about surrendering your pain to God, and take things one day at a time,... not because we know, but because we hope. We hope for you - your broken heart - that this is a way through. And truth be told we suffer a little bit each day with you. No... we do not know your individual pain, and cannot carry this cross. But we are connected nonetheless. And we ache for you. I ache for you. Our common human brains try to make some sort of "sense" or derive some sort of "meaning" from our lives. And when this deep deep loss hits, it throws everything we thought or believed into chaos.

    There is a thread you will find that brings you a small degree of peace. I don't know what that is for you... but keep writing, listening, and receiving from those around you. And when you find that thread... grab it. Reinforce it by affirming this thread over-and-over again until life brings you back. We love you and want you to continue this life journey with us. Be not afraid... you are not alone... and the peace, rest, and even joy of a new spring... they are right here still. I hope, I trust, I believe that deep in your soul you will find these again.

    Praying for you today and always,

  15. Hi Regina,

    I don't know if you'll see this or not but I was thinking of you. I hope you're doing well. Miss you!


  16. May God bless you and give you the strength to just keep going. My heart breaks from your loss and rejoices with your resolve and faith. Praying for you always.

  17. I check daily to see if you have put up a new post. I continue to keep you in my prayers daily for strength and healing.
    Please know that I am thinking of you.

  18. I miss you and reading your posts. I think of you often. Praying for you and your family.

  19. I saw your story on the news tonight and wanted to let you know you will be in my prayers! I can't imagine the magnitude of emotions that come with such a loss. I wish I had magic words to make it all better but I don't other than to say I will be thinking about you and think you are so great to share your story like this.