Grief is EXHAUSTING

20130619-162424.jpgMost people don’t like Mondays… As the weeks go by I realize Mondays are fine… I hate Wednesdays. If you are working or in school you celebrate Wednesday. It’s hump day. Half of the week is over and the weekend is in your horizon. There is now even a commercial with a hysterical camel reminding you that its hump day and the week is almost over (if you have never seen the commercial click here. It’s good for a chuckle). For us, Wednesday is a day that signifies our highest highs and the day of our lowest low. It’s a day I can’t avoid and a day that weekly creeps up on me and weekly brings with it a plethora of emotions that I am unable to box up and spread out among other days.

Owen was born on a Wednesday and each week I would excitedly wake up to celebrate another week conquered and another week won. I would get him dressed up in his cutest outfit and we would have a fun photo op with blocks or signs of victory. I was never sure if Owen liked them as much as I did but he never failed to give me at least one little smirk during the process which most of the time I would miss with the camera (sorry about that).Those smiles will forever be engraved in my memory and I thank God for that. Every week we would celebrate around the world and your comments would reenergize us. We would embrace the tiny miracle growing and thriving in front of us and put on our armor of strength and love to battle another week. The day would progress, Owen would go down for a nap, and we would head up to the Literally Healing Library on the 6th floor at CHLA. Our favorite volunteer Librarians, Patsy and Elaina, would always be there to greet us with the biggest smiles and even larger hugs! We would gush over Owen and the new first that he encountered for his week birthday; we would cry in their arms if he was having a tough day; and above all we would just be thankful that they were there, without fail, always constant.  The day would always end with the three of us celebrating the time together or coming united to take on the next hurdle.

We will all never forget the morning of his 16th week birthday. There were no signs, no photo ops, no morning of joy and celebration. There was a heavy weight in the room and the feeling that God would be taking our precious angel home. Rounds were concerning and there was not a clear plan for the day. Jeff and I were taken into a conference room with his entire team and we were told that there was a strong possibility Owen would not make it through the day. We walked out of the meeting lost, scared and unsure how to proceed. We did not want it to be real. This could not be his last birthday that we celebrated on earth. We called our family and looked at Owen who was peaceful and asleep. How could this be? We needed a breather to process everything that was about to happen. We rushed upstairs and fell in the arms of Patsy and Elaina. Then we raced back down to spend every breath with Owen. Doctors and nurses came in and out of the room, some to pay their respects and others to check on our son, family surrounded us, and time kept moving forward. But the three of us in each other’s arms stood still and prayed that this was not the end. We eventually gained the courage to tell Owen it was okay to go. God was ready for him and it was time for us to give him his baby back. We breathed together as a family for a little over 6 hours until Owen took his last breath in my arms at 5:05 pm on Wednesday, September 4, 2013. There was no ending of the day united, victorious, and celebratory. It was just done. Our fight was done and it was time to go home. We loaded our car with our material things, memories, and a weight of sadness that we will carry for a long time.

Today is Wednesday. They will always be here. They are constant. They will always show up. There will never be a week without a Wednesday. They will always mean one more week since the last time I held Owen; since the last time I smelled him, since the last time I whispered in his ear “I love you”. So, today marks 5 weeks since that dark Wednesday that Owen took his last breath in my arms.  I know over time they will get easier and life will have a way to distract me from the glaring reality that Wednesday is here. One day we will be in heaven and there will be no night and no day and there will be no Wednesday. And as I write to you about Owen’s last Wednesday I realize that through our feelings of sadness, loss, confusion and anger that Wednesday 5 weeks ago truly was a day of celebration. Our prayers were answered. God took away all of Owen’s pain. There was a huge victory… Owen won! He went on to eternal life, he went safely home, with Jesus free of the hospital, free of disease, with a healed heart. He entered a world of daily parties, regular celebration and days that always end well. No more fighting, no more tears, no more fear… Just joy! We will one day be united again and for that promise I can get through this Wednesday. Like every other statistic and probability we heard with Owen’s condition we will chose to look at the positive. This is not 5 weeks since being with Owen. This is 5 weeks closer to being with Owen.

I have to take a pause here and thank you for continuing to travel with us through our journey. I know as of late we have had a lot of “administrative” type things on our site… Owen’s celebration, t-shirt sales, OC walk to remember, and now the LionHeart Owen walking club. This act of keeping myself VERY busy, I’m pretty sure is all part of the Denial stage of grief. As our life evolves, the Foundation takes on a new life of its own, and life without Owen hits us I will be using his website to announce a lot of this “administrative” type stuff. I will send out updates when things have been added but –please feel free to check the “Events” section of our website. Phew… Glad that all got out of the way and we still have our Heart Family bearing with us.

So, as I woke up thinking about 5 weeks in Life without Owen, I was brought to thoughts about the stages of grief. First off, I have to share with you that grief is EXHAUSTING. As you know, I have a psychology degree (that every month I am reminded of that I have through my student loan payment… UGH!). I never knew what I was going to do with it. I just wanted to have a degree. Education is something that no one can take away. I wanted to have a degree and be proud of the accomplishment. I wanted to one day sit and tell my kids the importance of going to college and look them square in the eye and be able to say “trust me… I know because I graduated”. When they ask what I did with my degree I will tell them, I survived Life! One thing I never expected was that my Psychology degree would be like the most expensive and effective counseling I would ever have. My degree gave me a text book definition of what grief would be like. There would be 5 stages. One who grieves should be prepared to go through all stages; denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. What those text books didn’t tell me was that you can go through all of them in ONE day! Wow! It is crazy. Stages of grief can creep up on you when you least expect it. There you are having what seems to be a perfect sunshiney day and in creeps grief. Right there smack dab in the middle of it. Oh and it doesn’t call or text you to tell you it’s coming. No tweet, no #yoimabouttomessupyourday! It is just there. But, what my degree did tell me to do is be kind to myself and know that those stages will come and I should embrace every stage. Whenever it creeps up… Live in it, process it and move on from it. If you are experiencing grief or loss and you cannot move on from a stage please seek professional help. Shoot take it from me a Psych major, Psychology is awesome and an incredible tool for your mental health. Talk to someone. No one is alone in this world. Thank you again for being there for us and reminding us that we are not alone. We are in this struggle together…

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5 thoughts on “Grief is EXHAUSTING

  1. Alissa
    Thank you so much for sharing your life with us. I really appreciate it! Your my hero! These journeys are often ones people want to take alone or just want to bottle up and not relive or remember, but with the help of others we can heal. If you ever wanna share or talk, let me know, I can bring the wine over and we can struggle and heal together.

  2. Alissa, I grieve with you, and for you, Jeff and your family!
    God is using you in such a mighty way–through your hopes, your
    pain, your loss and your awesome faith in Him. Thank you for sharing!
    I think (and hope) that it is helping you as you are helping others!
    May God continue to lift you up on His wings of love and
    comfort on Wednesdays (and all the days). Blessings and Love, Polly

  3. My heart skips a little beat when I see an update from you. Thank you for continuing to share your story with us. In tears as usual but grateful. Ox

  4. Owen was so lucky to have you as parents, god knew exactly what he was doing when he blessed you with Owen. Thank you for your stories they are sad and happy at the same time. God bless you…..

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