Three Choices

Choice #1  Kill yourself quickly (suicide) or slowly (this is what I was doing by drinking myself on the way to death).

Choice #2  Relive the losses, day after day at infinitum!!000_0003

Choice #3  Made a decision to surrender to a better life, to carry on, to accept and to change.

Use of alcohol to numb my sense of loss, loneliness and depression was proving futile. The more I drank, the deeper my feeling of hopelessness became. My choices seemed to be: end my tragic life quickly with a single suicidal act, or slowly by drinking myself to death.

I realized that if I never let go of the loss, my misery would be with me to the grave. It seemed impossible to accept reality, find a new purpose and move on. But I had to do that to survive. I’ll never quite understand just how I made the decision to seek help when I did. But it was a life-saver. I quickly found myself detoxifying for two weeks in hospital, then entering a 28-day treatment program. That’s where I was given the tools to change my life.

I didn’t just have to quit drinking. I had to fix the cause, the grief and hopelessness that at first seemed insurmountable. How do you overcome the loss of three beautiful, loving children, the break-up of a marriage and the end of 19 years as mother and wife? Is life from now on just going to work and returning to an empty house?

I returned to work right after treatment. But I also joined the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous and found a sponsor with whom I could discuss my dead spirit and emptiness. I attended meetings and heard amazing stories of recovery from loss and despair. I soon made friends, many of whom have become my new family.

My first year without alcohol was a huge relief. My physical health improved remarkably and with it my emotional and spiritual suffering faded. I started my days clearheaded. I made a conscious effort to find positives in my life. I consciously set aside thoughts of my losses until I was healthy enough to deal with them. By the second year, I started grieving, not in an alcoholic fog of self-pity but in a real world that moves on. I remembered the accident, the funeral, court proceedings, separation, the second fatal accident. Thousands of memories of my beautiful children returned. I cried. I felt tremendous pain but I was able to share it and to lean on my sponsor for comfort.

The clichés are true. We have to play the cards we are dealt, live life on life’s terms or give up and suffer misery until we die. So we develop ways to cope. I had to learn how to deal with special occasions such as Christmas (which I have already written about). On my children’s birthdays, depending on the month, I usually buy a bush, flowers to plant or a bouquet for my table. I calculate what their age would be. I wonder what they would look like and what kind of career they might have, if they would have married and had children. I do not share with anyone that it’s my child’s birthday that day. I don’t feel the need to mention it. I feel sharing this information makes the recipient uncomfortable. It also initiates a conversation I don’t want. Nor do I want pity. This special day will cross my mind a few times during the day as I proceed with other activities but I do not drag my feet with my head bowed in self pity.

I was a mother and feel I am no longer a mother. I am a woman with stretch marks, but have no children. Even though I talked about moving on, and not dwelling on the loss, there are many things that still and always will come up to twist the knife. I detest Mother’s Day. I’m certain Father’s Day is the same for my children’s father. To escape the special occasion I go cycling, golfing, watch television. But the following day I would be among my coworkers who were sharing happy stories about gifts and cards from their children, special dinners and so on. I don’t indulge in drama or self-pity but I am anxious for this day to end. Occasions where my painful loss strikes me will continue to throughout my life. I can indulge them for a moment or two but I know I cannot wallow in those feelings so I move on.

For example, like anyone my age, I am often asked, “do you have children Helene?” My answer most of the time is no. If I say yes I am compelled to tell the rest of the story and kill the conversation uncomfortably in its tracks. I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to see jaws drop, receive condolences and be told, “I can’t imagine, three children, so sad. How do you cope?” The moment becomes awkward and any chance of a normal, light-hearted exchange is lost.

I learned early on that people in a social situation don’t want to hear my personal account of tragedy, depression and drunkenness. It makes them too uncomfortable. But I also know there are important lessons to pass on about my near-fatal descent and recovery.

Hence this blog.

Since I began writing it I have had cards made with the link to it. As I’m leaving someone who has inquired about children I will pass them a card. I gently tell them, “I did have children, please read this”. I make it clear that I want to be friendly but I don’t care to discuss this further.

To be continued …

 

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7 Comments

  1. As usual beautifully written.
    We both grieve differently, but I understand why you chose one direction and I chose the other.
    I find I want to share, openly my loss and Dylan’s birthday. But I understand why you would , or anyone would keep that day private. I was and will always be an active griever and share despite people’s discomfort, but yes it can be awkward those conversations howevee I’ve learned sharing openly is just as important and writing, as I have been fortunate to share my type of loss with support groups. The first year was always the worst…didn’t even want to go back to work. As time has moved on it gets ‘easier’. Each year we still do a golf tournament to raise awareness, not about Dylan, but of the place be passed in and it gets easier to sit there and see his face in pictures.
    Everyone deals with grief different, as I learned from 3 years of therapy – it doesn’t make it pity it makes it how one deals, I’ve never wanted pity – I wanted understanding and people to be educated about child loas despite their discomfort. Thankfully I never walked down the road of addiction, but my circumstances were different than yours so I don’t know what I would do in your situation.
    Keep writing Helene, keep letting people know what you went through , but please remember just because one is an ‘ active griever’ they aren’t looking for pity they are keeping their child’s memory alive and so many of us in the ‘community’ do that through hours of charitable work … So I’ve been told in my sessions.:)

  2. Hi sweetie, I am so very proud of you that you went to get help with therapy and AA. No one for a second can know what you are going through, unless they have lost all of their children and husband. Everyone has had some kind of loss, but you have endured more then anyone I have ever met. You are the kindest, sweetest person I know and I feel so lucky to have met you and am able to call you my friend. My arms are around you sweetie and my love goes your way…….If anyone deserves love and understanding in this life it is you. Keep writing…you are helping so many people who read your blog. Please remember there are so many out here who admire and love you….. xoxooxo

  3. Hi Helene
    Thank you for expressing yourself so incredibly well
    I know this will help others too.
    I feel very privileged to have shared some time with you and look forward to keeping in touch.

  4. I feel it because I lost my mom from illness, my husband from accident then my mother in law from illness and my brother from leukemia and then two pole husband and wife both in one week ad they were very close to me.

  5. I saw your story on Facebook tonight and I was very touched are your heartfelt story. I am so sorry for the loss of your three beautiful children. Your strength and courage and your ability to move on in your life, trying to be happy despite your pain, is a testament to those 3 beautiful souls who were taken so tragically. Your children would want you to be happy and they would want you to remember them with a smile on your face. They are looking down at you with so much love and they are so proud of you.

  6. You communicate very well Helene. Very well written. I have not lost as dearly as you have of course, children or a husband, but I have lost a father and two brothers I loved dearly, so know how grief feels, I still grieve for them today. I wish you health and happiness and strength, in the future.

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