Friday, March 15, 2019


People ask me how I’m doing and I never know how to answer.

I do know that on most mornings I wake up and I’m surprised that I’m still here. Stunned really, how I am enduring the most devastating and unrelenting pain I could have ever have imagined—every second of every hour of every day, and that somehow, I’m still breathing.

But more than anything I'm just shocked that Patrick is not here.
I'm aghast. Astounded every time I allow the sheer horror of the accident to seep into my awareness, and to realize in that split second that I am still living ---but my precious, extraordinary son is not. 

I am still here and my child is not. 

This is a peek into my quiet mind where this one sickening thought pops into my head at random moments, like the mumblings of a trauma victim trying to grasp the enormity of their experience; although honestly I still cannot believe it. 

If you were lucky enough to have traveled in Patrick's orbit you know what I mean. He was such a force of exuberant energy and light in this world, you can't believe he's gone. He was the kind of person you gravitated to in a crowd. Even in his most absurd and funniest moments he exuded a raw goodness from every cell of his body. And Lord help you if you ever heard him laugh--in his husky, loud voice-- because you were instantly captivated. 

There are no words in a mother's language that can explain how perverse and wrong and shattering this new world feels without him in it, no way to describe how it feels when everything you thought you knew about life --is now annihilated in pieces at your feet.
I don't say this to make you feel bad for me, it's just a statement of fact.

Because one thing I’m learning about surviving the most devastating trauma of my life, is that truthfulness is everything. Not just honesty with others—but honesty first and foremost with my Self. 

I've learned. When you're standing in the middle of a black tunnel with no end in sight, truth becomes that flicker of light that shows you where to place your next wobbly step. And unless you make space for all those staggering emotions --without judging or hiding or pretending--you'll remain in darkness.

This is why I write...some of which I share here. Writing for me is a way of scavenging through these numb-minding moments. I pick them up. I examine them. As I try to make it through to the next moment. Although strangely, it's this ragged commitment to showing up and being present for whatever is coming at me--that seems to offer me some skeletal roadmap.

One foot in front of the other. One breath. Then another. This is how I live right now.

And I guess I have some flimsy hope that if you can see me  surviving this---a loss I once thought would kill me-- that maybe it might help you someday.

Today, on the six-month date of Patrick’s accident—six agonizingly long months of not hearing his voice or seeing him in person—I thought I would tell you about this in-between place I find myself.

I had been chatting with a woman for several minutes before she mentioned that she had tried to kill herself in the early months following her 23-year-old son’s death.

This is the messy, raw world I live in now and honestly, it feels relieving. When you’re a mother who has lost a child, you walk around completely stripped to your barest core. No more glossy ego and silly worries about what others think of you. 

In fact, you crave realness. 

Sometimes it’s as simple as running into someone else whose life has also included some profound tragedy. Only instead of the typical awkward moment that others might feel in that conversation, you edge closer. And you feel right at home.

 In fact, you welcome the details of their story, if only to be in the midst of that mystical hint of hope dangling in front of you. 

You survived this unbearable thing too? You silently think.

And even though you can’t possibly imagine clawing your way to that emotional ledge they now rest on, you want to bow your head and have them touch it with some magical energy. 

You want them to look into your eyes and tell you forcefully: Yes, you will survive all this horrendous pain. At least that's how I feel.

The interesting thing about this woman—whose name I didn’t know—is that I was instantly drawn to her warm smile and her upbeat energy. 

I would never have guessed that she had once swallowed too many sleeping pills and awoke hours later vomiting, and with her son’s voice in her head telling her, “No mama—it’s not your time yet.” 

But suffering brings mysterious powers. One minute you're talking about your child and the next second all those polite boundaries that separate one mother from another, have melted away.

Of course I felt a thunderous kinship with her.
And-- no, not because I’ve thought about killing myself.
But because I could relate to the unbearable pain this mother had felt on that one night, when she couldn’t imagine living in a world one second longer without her son. 

Of all the books I’ve received since Patrick’s accident, one of the most comforting books to me has been a memoir by an author named Mirabai Starr. 

On the day that Starr’s first book was published--a translation of the Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross ---her teenage daughter Jenny was killed in a car accident. And despite her decades of living a life of contemplative prayer and meditation. And decades of studying the lives of religious mystics and saints, and years of giving international talks about her well-traveled life, she plummeted into darkness.
She could no longer pray. She could no longer sit through a simple meditation. And she couldn’t stop her outrage and anger at God for this inexplicable loss of her youngest child.
She was in fact, like any other mother after losing her child, completely devastated and inconsolable. 

Yet the reason I kept coming back to her memoir, was because she was the first person to talk with cringing honesty about her despair, and things no one else talked about.

 On page 234 she wrote:

"I have never met a bereaved mother who did not, at some point anyway--maybe in a place so secret that it is even a secret from herself— crave death."

And no.
She doesn't mean that every mother literally struggles with suicidal ideation, she means that when you lose your child your entire world is cracked wide open and one of the most dramatic changes is this sudden and new allure you have with the Other World.

The unseen dimension.
The luminous spirit world.
The Afterlife.

Whatever you call it, it is now where your missing child lives.

And tell me. What loving mother doesn’t want to visit her child? What loving mother doesn’t feel the urgency to check on her child herself?  Make sure they are truly ok and (please-dear-Lord) confirm that they are in that promised light of peace and happiness.

This is the reason I've noticed a strange detachment to my physical body right now.

This is why for months after the accident--every time I got on my yoga mat in a gentle child’s pose, with my forehead resting deep in the earth,  loud, piercing sobs would pour from my chest. 

This is why I have not gone to a single yoga class since Patrick’s accident.

This is why I struggle to sit through the silence of meditation.

This is why I have not returned to the gym again.

The reason is simple. All of these actions involve my singular attention to my breath.

All of these actions require my awareness of life’s vibrant energy flowing through my physical body and it’s this stunning awareness that I should be inhaling and exhaling precious air when my son is not---that feels utterly unbearable to me.

To me it makes perfect sense.
Do you remember that feeling of oneness that existed between you and your baby? That would allow you to hear the subtle differences between your baby's cry of hunger vs tiredness?
Do you remember wanting to feed your baby before yourself when time was an issue? 

These are deep, primal instincts that simply don't disappear with chronological age.

Or with Death. 

And I wonder why nobody talks about this inner struggle I feel as Patrick's mother. It is an agonizing dilemma, to make that pivot toward Life when every guttural impulse in my body is pulling me toward my missing child.

And so what do I do, Mirabai?
How do I choose to move forward without Patrick?

And I found comfort in her words:

  "It’s just unbearable anguish" became my mantra which I uttered silently and with an ironic smile whenever the pain came at me like a freight train. Then I lay down in its tracks and investigated what it felt like be run over.
And.... a realization began to grow in me:
You are shattered, said my inner voice. Do not be in a rush to put the pieces back together. Go ahead and be nobody for as long as you can."

And so here I am. Surrendering to it all.

Six months into our catastrophic loss of Patrick and I have no idea how I've survived 182 days without him. Nor can I imagine how I will endure living the rest of my life without him.
It's simply too unbearable to contemplate.
But I do know this.
I know that I can survive this one moment. 

And today, that's enough.

Sharing this post with friends:
Imparting Grace


michele said...

Thank you, Leslie. Your words are such honorably raw reflections that make me grateful for humans brave enough to welcome such discovery. I love Mirabai. And John of the Cross. Whatever was flickering for St. John is flickering in me. I wrote a song two years ago about beauty...the gist is: we know beauty fades, but does it drift away to outer space? What if it is being stored up somewhere as opposed to being erased forever? Isn't love the same? Isn't grief powerful because our love SEEMS to not reach its object? My song lyrics sort of resolve the issue for me with hope "maybe we can find its hiding place." My thoughts turn to Rilke's brilliance: "Believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it." Isn't that breathtaking? I don't know anything at all and have so little to give, but if I could, I would give you hope seeds and fertile soil to water with your holy tears.

Blondie's Journal said...

You have exhausted me with every single word of this post, my friend. You are so utterly raw and wise. Beaten down and still grasping for realness. I wish I could file every one of your posts about your loss into a folder to guide me if my worst nightmare happens. As mothers we don't sleep. We worry with our eyes closed. And sometimes when people experience loss, they are adamant that no one feels the loss they do in the same circumstances. You have kept your circle open but you have owned your own grief.

I truly believe that your sharing is so very, very good for you because your are a writer and thinker and you need to "put it out there". I truly hope you continue to do so. You have made me touch feelings in myself that I never knew existed--my bond with my children. The narrow line of wanting to live and wanting to die, a world so empty and a vast space so unsure. And a love that can force us to choose.

You know how much I love you, dear. Keep writing. Find the small things.

Jane x

NanaDiana said...

Oh, Gwen. I have been in and out of blogging and missed what happened completely. I am so so so sorry-inadequate words I know. I have a son like your son- one that lights up the world around him and I cannot IMAGINE losing him-having him move from the realm of this world into another--one I don't know, can't see--one where I can't offer motherly guidance (whether it was wanted or not).

My heart aches for you and I will keep you in my prayers--often now as I move through the days and think of your pain.

I wish I could say or do more. I know some people say or do nothing because they don't know what to say--or how to act. They quickly turn away because they can't stand to enter into your pain-it is too close to home--it could be them so, whistling in the dark, they skirt you and/or the issue.

I lost a beautiful baby granddaughter....the child of a child.... so I understand just a bit of your pain Gwen.

I know you can do this-surmount the insurmountable loss; moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day. I hope soon you will be able to look back and laugh out loud at something dumb he did or said and, just for that moment, the pain of loss will be replaced by one bright, happy memory.

Much love to you- Diana

Kim said...

Leslie, I have thought of you every single day since your first post after Patrick's accident. I'm so glad that you continue to write. I wish I could give you a hug.

Simply LKJ said...

Think of you often precious friend. While what we experienced this past year pales in comparison, i can moment at a time. There were times I found myself "not breathing'. I would have to tell myself, "just get through this next minute, hour, day."

auntp said...

Thank you again for sharing so poignantly and beautifully what you are going through right now. It gets right to heart of what we all fear and/or go through in this life in one way or another. My heart aches for you no matter that we've never met and probably never will in this life.


Calypso In The Country said...

Your words leave me breathless. You are an amazing writer and an amazing mother. Never have I felt so close to someone I haven't met in person. You are frequently on my mind and I hope you can feel the love and healing vibes from all of us who care so much about you. Take care, my dear friend. One day at a time...

Brenda said...

No words! Prayers
Keep your writings!!
One day perhaps they will be in book to give others grieving hope and solace.

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Dearest Leslie, how poignant of a post this is. This subject lives with us every moment...the truth that we are dual beings. Enough said on my end. I pray you are holding up as you lean on the faith that brings you peace. And thank you so much for coming to visit my blog. Many hugs to you.

Christine @ Rustic-Refined said...

I do not know the devastation of losing a child. But having read your eloquent and poignant post I can honestly say I have never cried so hard after reading another's bloggers article as I did reading yours. I know there is nothing soothing anyone can say except that we are here for whatever type of support you need. Whether it's to scream and break things in anger that your beloved Son was ripped from you. Or a shoulder to let out the tears for as long as you need. But one thing I do believe is that no matter what religion (if any) that people have. Their loved ones are still here with us in spirit, hanging out in our hearts and ears to let us know that we are a living tribute to the smiles they brought and to help us stay here until it's our time.


La Contessa said...

I found your post today in my AOL account.I need to fix that so it goes to my GMAIL account!
AOL is retired.
GMAIL is what I see on a daily basis except weekends now I try NOT TO LOOK!
I am glad you have found comfort in BOOKS.The yoga and the GYM and all that other STUFF can wait!It unlike PATRICK will ALWAYS be THERE!
I think the WRITING IS A GREAT COMFORT for YOU right NOW and that is what YOU need.
MAY I ask how is your OTHER SON COPING?
None of my business I know but I am thinking of him at this time too.
My Boys shared a bedroom all through Life at Home.A PSYCHIC told me once in Florence, Italy that they were SO different it was BEST that they share a room so they could learn to know one another.
I followed her advise.
I would Love to hear your voice.
When your ready DM me your number and we can chat about OUR BOYS or the FLOWERS in Bloom YOUR CHOICE!

C-ingspots said...

Oh Leslie, I can't even imagine the loss of a child. You see, I have no children and therefore have always had horses and dogs to fill that void. And in that sense, I have lost several and have lived through that grief. I've also lost my parents to death. And I am so very, very sorry for your loss. Over the agony that I can only imagine feels like it could rip you apart to your very being. The reliving of that tragedy to try and come to the realization that this is the way your world is now. Simply unbelievable.
And from this humble place, I offer you another perspective. I am a believer in God, our Creator and His One and Only Son, Jesus Christ our Savior. Without that assurance and hope, I don't understand how people can make it through the trials of this life. Just ponder for a moment that our children, our dead loved ones do not go somewhere else to live...they are sleeping in Christ. They are unaware of anything that goes on in the living world. Pain, happiness, any thoughts at all, for them have ceased. If they were to wake up this minute, for them, not a single moment of time would have passed since that final memory, or event that happened to them. If we can believe this, if we can wrap our minds around that for a bit, we realize that this is a kinder way. The Bible tells us that one day soon, Jesus will return and the "dead in Christ" will rise first, and then we who are still alive, will be caught up in the clouds with Him and ascend to heaven. The evil dead, or those who died not knowing God, will arise to a final judgement and eternal death. Again, where they know nothing - no eternal hell - just eternal sleep with no knowledge of anything. You can let your beautiful, beloved boy rest in peace...knowing full well and with all confidence that when Jesus comes back, he will be called forth to life.
I certainly don't mean to infringe my personal beliefs upon you, but I've done a lot of studying of God's Word and have this belief that so many of the world's religions mislead their followers into a false sense that death doesn't equate to being dead. I think that makes it much harder to let our loved ones go. We grieve their loss, we miss them greatly and so does God. He too, misses them so much. But on that day, they will be risen. In that we have hope. You will see your son again.
I hope you feel some comfort from this, or if not today, maybe soon. Your words have touched me deeply and my only wish is for you to heal and have faith that you will have brighter days. And your son is alright. He's just sleeping and has no knowledge of the world. I hope it's okay to keep you in my prayers for comfort and love, guidance and hope. May God our Father keep you safe and may you be blessed...

Carla from The River said...

Hello Friend,
Keep writing..
Praying for you.
Love, Carla

I shared on IG that my sister is ill. She was diagnosed today with Leukocytoclastic Vasculitis. She will need more testing in 6 weeks. At this time praying it is Non-Serious!

Stonecropsister said...

Hi Leslie, I feel the exhaustion of this nightmare that you and your family are enduring. Oh how i wish we had the ability to turn back the clock; and I want just as much to be able to fast forward time for you through this grief. The pinpoints of light are michael and Jim and all your friends and family and those of us here for you, watching that bright light that is Leslie struggle to stay on. I know it must be so hard to keep going. Keep reaching out, we will try and send you comfort. Xx nancy

Preppy Empty Nester said...

Beautifully written and so touching. I never have the right words to leave you and yet I want you to know that I was here and thinking of you, Leslie. I can't imagine your heartache.

Melanie said...

I don't even know what to say in response to this heartbreaking, raw post. As a mom who has also lost her son, I of course, recognize every word and emotion you expressed. I don't know how you write so beautifully and manage to express these things - you have such a gift. I hope that writing about your grief journey and about Patrick is somewhat cathartic for you. And you never know, you might be helping someone else. Much love and blessings to you.

Sophie said...

Love your decor style especially that diningroom. How calming and inviting. Sending you & yours warm thoughts and hugs from North Carolina. Btw, your a gifted writer.

Robin in Umbria said...

Hey Leslie,
Please know I am thinking of you. You are always in my thoughts, dear one.
Love and Hugs, Robin

Splenderosa said...

I think that a shocking, unexpected death of anyone in our family is the most difficult to survive. The "WHY?" is always there, and there is no answer. Remember the good things as a tribute to his life. You must carry on and find a new happiness in flowers, having lunch with a girlfriend, cooking, travelling, experience NEW things. The door is open, all you have to do is walk through, and if you need help from a counselor, please go, no matter the cost. I can only tell you that, for me, it was worth every penny. You beloved son is in heaven, peacefully abiding with our Lord.

penny said...

Dearest never -met friend
I lost my oldest daughter Feb. 6, 2018. There is no pain to compare with losing a child. I get some comfort in picturing her re-united with her beloved dad and friends who have gone before.
I know how difficult writing about your loss must be, but please know that it is so loving of you to share your feelings, because it helps me and others who belong to a club we never wanted to join feel less alone.
I have good days and days when I want to stay in bed and hide(I don't , but it's so tempting)I keep trying to focus on the good things I have. I hope the day comes for both of us when we are able think about our lost child without breaking into tears. For now, I just want my little girl back, because she will always be that to me.
I am keeping you in my heart.

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