Hoping to share the love, joy, and grace I have received in my own life.

I’m Not Normal

on July 7, 2015

Just a few days after Trevor’s funeral I was given a duplicated handout describing the 7 Stages of grief.  With it was a note that if I “knew to expect these stages, it may be helpful in knowing how to deal with them.”

1.  Shock or Disbelief

2. Denial

3.  Anger

4. Bargaining

5. Guilt

6.  Depression

7.  Acceptance and Hope

The original model of this was first documented by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her book, “On Death and Dying”, and it was meant for those that were facing their own death, listing only 5 stages, with shock/disbelief & denial and bargaining/guilt put together.

When I first received this information, I had nearly experienced every emotion on this list and it had only been a week following Trevor’s death.  I remember thinking then, “Well, I have experienced most of these things.  “Acceptance and Hope” should be right around the corner.”  Boy was I wrong!  Although I am basing the stages solely on my own experience, I have had numerous conversations with others experiencing grief and we all agree that there isn’t a road map and everyone has their own journey.  I am only sharing my own personal experience.  Here’s how I progressed through the stages:

Our Pastor happened to be driving by our house as the helicopter was landing that horrible day.  Police cars lined our road and an ambulance sat in the driveway.  She came to offer help and ended up driving Jeff and the girls and I to the hospital (about a 40 minute drive.)  We knew that Trevor was still alive and people were doing everything they could to save him.  I remember thinking in the car that he would be alright.  I was in shock, I am sure, as my husband and daughters were too.   I had called our family on the way to the hospital and many of them came. The doctor came shortly after we arrived at the hospital and talked to Jeff and I.  Trevor was not going to survive.  I asked if we could be with him and the doctor said we could and that a nurse would come to get us in just a minute.

I remember walking into that tiny waiting room and having to look at the faces of my grandparents, my parents, my brother, Jeff’s parents and sisters, and especially my precious daughters.  I told them the news and just as I finished, the nurse came to get Jeff and I.  I asked Pastor Kim if she would join us.  I didn’t even think about how this experience would effect her.  I just needed her there.  I thought Trevor needed her there.  The time that Pastor Kim, Jeff, and I spent with Trevor still is too hard to talk about.

My grandparents took my girls home with them that night.  Jeff and I went back to our house with my dad and stepmom and my best friend, Jodi.  By the time we arrived home that night, it was late.  My cell phone rang about 10 p.m.  It was a call from the hospital, regarding organ donation.  I asked if they could call back in the morning, but they said if Trevor was going to be a donor, the conversation had to happen right then.  That call was excruciating.  I don’t even remember half of it, but it seemed to take forever.  Just a few hours had passed since Trevor’s death and I had already experienced shock/disbelief, denial, anger, bargaining, and guilt.

I didn’t follow the stages of grief in order and it has been documented by several professionals that the list wasn’t really meant to go in any particular sequence.  Trevor died 3 years and 7 months ago (this Thursday.)  I no longer feel the shock of his death, but occasionally still experience the disbelief…disbelief that it happened, disbelief that he is not living on this earth, even disbelief that I will not see him living in his earthly body ever again.

Denial left me long ago.  After getting through the day we laid him in the ground and the first sight of the headstone, there’s no denying he is not here.  Both of those times were extremely painful.

I have been angry off and on over the course of all the time that has passed.  My anger has shifted to different people, including myself.  First I was angry at God.  When my dad gave me the book, “Why?” by Adam Hamilton, I came to terms with what I really already knew deep in my heart.  This was not God’s choice for Trevor.  We have free will on this earth.  God has pulled me up out of a deep dark hole many times since Trevor’s death and I hope I am always able to keep recognizing that.  Without God, I know that I would not be alive and typing this today.  I became angry with Trevor.  I know that sounds terrible, but it is honest.  I was angry that he didn’t talk to me.  We had two conversations over the phone that day and had texted back and forth.  There were no indications of any kind of trouble.  I was able to let go of the anger with Trevor when I recognized that whatever he struggled with that day, he thought it was too much to bear.  Teenagers have so many pressures to deal with, as well as all of the changes that are taking place in their bodies.  For whatever reason, on that day, Trevor lost control and in a split second made a decision that I will never understand.  My last anger (and I still struggle with it) is at other people.  This is really hard to admit, but it is true.  I have been angry at others for not being as much in Trevor’s life as they could’ve been.  I have been angry at people for claiming to be so close to him, when I know they weren’t.  I don’t like having these feelings and I have tried to let go of them.  I’ve read books on forgiveness, wrote numerous pages in an attempt to rid my heart of this additional ache, prayed for God to show me how to let it go, but I haven’t been able to.  That anger still exists.  Part of it is hurt, but bottom line is that I am angry.

My bargaining was with God and occurred on the way to the hospital that night.  If He could just save my son, I would do anything.  I promised to be a better person, to try harder, to do more for my church, whatever…ANYTHING to, please, let my son live.

I still struggle with guilt.  How can a mom, a good mom, not know that her child was struggling this much?  Why didn’t I stay home with Trevor that day?  What if I would have called to check on him at 3:15?  I could have prevented it.

Although I still struggle with the guilt and the anger, I do not believe I have ever experienced depression.  What I have experienced is the death of a child.  I have never considered myself depressed.  I know the cause of my pain.  I am able to get up out of bed each day and to function quite well.  That is not to say that I don’t have moments that I feel like I am crumbling, but those moments are less frequent and last less time the more time that passes.

I am not sure that I have experienced acceptance, but I do have hope.  I know that Trevor has died, but is accepting it really part of the process?  I don’t ever want to accept it.  I know it to be true, but find it difficult to accept.  He died, yes, but it is wrong.  A mother should never have to bury a child and that (for me) cannot be accepted.  Hope, now that’s a different story.  I have hope for my future, hope for my marriage, hope for my daughters and all of the laughs, living, and love that I will witness and experience with them, and I have hope that sharing Trevor’s story/my story will help others that are struggling.

Grief is an animal all it’s own.  There is not a right way to get through it.  It is ugly, raging, and consuming at times.  Getting to know others that have been through it has helped me.  Sharing with all of you has helped me.  My faith in God has helped me.  Most of all, my love for Trevor and the value of his life helps me every day to want to do better.  I want to be a better mom, a better wife, a better human being.  The stages of grief are all over the map for me.  I recognize that I will grieve all of my life.  There is no way to “get over” Trevor’s death.  I am just making my way through this life without him by the grace of God, with the love of friends and family, and by reading, writing, and talking.  Trevor’s light shines within me every day and I hope it never burns out.


2 responses to “I’m Not Normal

  1. Marty says:

    Dana you give me new insights on suicide every time I read one of your posts. I always have been quite judgmental on the subject, thinking it was the most selfish thing a person could do. Thank you for opening my eyes to a different view.
    I did not know your son, but am getting to know him though you. Thank you for sharing him with all of us. God Bless.

  2. Debby says:

    Dana I am always amazed when I read your writings of help for others in the reflections of your own life. Even though I have never experienced anything as devastating, you encourage me to be a person who reaches out past myself in spite of adversity. Thanks for your words and for your friendship. Know that I pray for you often~
    Debby Katzman

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