So I’ve made it through September, and almost all of October, but…

It just doesn’t really get any easier, not at the base, at the foundation of it all. I still feel his absence to the absolute marrow of my bones, all the way down to the molecular structure of my DNA. I keep dreaming about him and his dad and Washington- the other night I dreamt that I was with him, close to him, touching his beautiful face and staring into those incredible deeply perceptive eyes. I woke up and picked a huge wound on my own face, which I haven’t done in years. Great. I have been keenly missing his dad lately, too. All I ever wanted was to be happy with Nick. To get along with the most amazing partner I had ever had- but to do that he would have had to completely change. Addiction is a cunning enemy of life, goddamnit. And it sure was a destructive force on my life, on our lives, all the way around. The root cause of all of the tragedy that I have endured in my life is addiction. I work hard, daily, to make peace with that fact. To accept it, to let it be. And to never let it happen again. This Lane family curse stops with me, stops with this generation. No more. Enough.

Here I am almost through October. This year has actually been pretty okay. I have been utilizing a mental wellness product that is all-natural and it has been helping me to be pretty okay, which is tremendously improved from my typical level of functioning this time of year. It helped me get through Nick’s funeral- of that, I am certain- and helped me to make the most of my time in Kitsap County. It was so incredibly healing. We called it #healingweek. And it lived up to its name in every way. I realized during my time in Washington that the geography there, the land there, the people there, the rain there, the trees there, the water there, the everything there is always going to be half of who I am. Half of who I am. I felt a mission in my life, a pull that was beyond words when I was a teenager running from everything I knew in the Midwest. And it took me straight to Nick Lane in Bremerton, Washington. What a journey it has been. There are so many things that I would have done differently, of course.

One of the things that I have learned just recently is that the people that I had hoped I could rely on for support don’t get it. When the people that you thought supported you no matter what tell you that you are not trying hard enough when your grief overwhelms you with such force that it takes your breath away it is time to find new people. So I took that truth and have been looking for my tribe. I am very hopeful that I will find it in yoga. And I am very grateful that I have the opening of a new studio to look forward to next month. November is hard because it is Oscar’s birthday, so having something to look forward to next month is key.

Something wonderful did happen to me at the end of September- while I was at Pierce’s home debate tournament- I literally felt my holiday spirit float back into my body. At the exact spot where my heart is. This is huge for my family. When I asked Viv and Pierce if they would be okay with staying home for Christmas and decorating the house together they were both very excited! I usually take the kids and run away somewhere for Christmas because it is just too hard to tolerate. Great Wolf Lodge has been key for those getaways. I am not ready for any family ornaments yet- I don’t know when I will be- so this year we are decorating with a beach theme! It is fun to look forward to the happiness it brings to Viv especially. I am certain my youngest little spitfire, Phoenix, will appreciate it, as well. He is only two.

Viv and I had a lot of fun decorating for Halloween- Halloween used to be my absolute favorite holiday with Oscar. He loved to carve pumpkins. The year that he died I had been so looking forward to sharing Halloween with him because we hadn’t carved pumpkins together for two years… he was always so good at carving pumpkins. I took pictures the last time we carved pumpkins together in Bremerton, the year before the divorce. The problem is, I don’t know where those pictures are… I am almost ready to start going through the old pictures. I have so many from when he was little, thank God. They are waiting patiently for me in the hutch where I keep all that is left of him. There will never be enough of him. Not ever.

All of these feelings and all of my experiences spill over into my professional life. How could they not when I am a nurse? Since Oscar died I have felt a need to affect change on a larger scale than I do in my current position. I have experimented with all kinds of different ideas: working in primary care (that was a no-go), having my own intuitive healing arts business (still too small), staying in surgery and working my way “up the ladder” (my current director doesn’t agree that I should advance to manager), simply staying in surgery as a staff nurse somewhere other than where I work now (surgery just doesn’t feel right anymore). Over and over again I feel like I am not fitting. I keep working over all these different scenarios in my mind about how I could stay where I am and just volunteer more, I would very much like to be more involved with the Johnson County Suicide Prevention Coalition, but I am so tired after working shifts at my current position. It is so incredibly draining. The hours are so long and I see how it affects Viv negatively. Another good reason for a different path- different hours.

And I am still finishing school- it is almost over!!! December is my graduation date. I keep thinking maybe when I am done with school it will be different. And it will, but it won’t change how tired I am after a shift running the board in my OR. So I have started applying for positions in public health-related environments as they come up. Basically, if it looks interesting to me and it is something I have never done before as a nurse because it is on a macro-level instead of a micro-level I am applying. It is scary to think about leaving the specialty area that I wanted so much to be apart of for so long when I first started as a registered nurse fourteen years ago. Scary for a variety of reasons. Not the least of which is money. I am finally making more now than I did on the west coast- it took several years to get here. But just how important is money? Very. Sure. But so is affecting change to a system that is broken. And I can’t do that from the boardrunner position in surgery. I really want to work with healthcare issues on a larger scale- so perhaps at Cerner working on developing solutions for population health electronic medical records or working for the Johnson County Government to coordinate and manage emergency preparedness or how about as a middle school nurse?

My point is these are all things I think about, that I experience, that I face on a daily that I never would have if Oscar hadn’t died. I was happy at KU in the Main OR working as a circulator. It was all I ever wanted. The life I was building was going so well, I had finally gotten custody of all three of my Lane kids and everything was finally going to be okay. We were all going to be happy because we were finally going to be together. And it was going to be everything we ever wanted, our family life was because I had gotten clean and was doing the work to heal and be healthy. To be the best mom I could be. But then Oscar died and my world disintegrated. Our world disintegrated. Here we are four years later and it only sort of looks “normal” again. Because I am sort of okay and can decorate for the holidays again. I miss him. More than I have ever missed anything in my life. And it hurts. More than words could ever describe. And it always will. Period.

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Halloween, Signs from the Other Side and an Exciting New Study, “Machine learning of neural representations of suicide and emotion concepts identifies suicidal youth”

Holidays really suck when you are a bereaved mother.  My ability to “buy in” and fully participate with the general public, let alone my own family, is differing levels of non-existent.

The year that Oscar died I was unable to carve pumpkins.  Halloween was our favorite holiday.  I remember when Oscar was really little how we would plan his costumes for weeks.  He was Spiderman, Frodo from the Lord of the Rings, he was Link from Zelda. Each costume with it’s own special story.  The last year he dressed up for Halloween he created the character “Sir Edward of Hoppington”, he was almost 13 at the time.

This year, the second year into life without Oscar, and the third Halloween since he died, I tried so hard to do little things for myself starting at the end of August to make this fall season less terrible.  I bought pumpkin spice soap and pumpkin spice lotion because aromatherapy is very helpful for me.  I didn’t pre-judge what I was going to feel.  I started with a new therapist.  I pushed myself to get out into the garden by planting a memorial garden with my family on Oscar’s deathday.  And even though last year I was able to buy pumpkins and carve them with my other children this year I could not even look at pumpkins.  No.  I pushed myself past them every time I was at the store.  Even now I feel the little swirl of grief inside my chest as I think about pumpkins.  Such is grief.  Of course, I apologized abundantly to my daughter, who is 9.  She understands, or she says she does.  “It is just too hard,” I tell her.  And she nods her head yes and rubs my arm and gives me her sweet little hugs.  She replies with, “It’s okay mama.”  Oh the life of a bereaved mother.

Oscar sends me little messages from the other side on a regular basis and yesterday morning, Halloween morning, he sent me a new study.  I woke up to find an alert on my twitter feed about a new study that was just published in Nature Human Behaviour. (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41562-017-0234-y?platform=hootsuite) I took a glance at the article, “Machine learning of neural representations of suicide and emotion concepts identifies suicidal youth” and I immediately felt a rush of curiosity.  I could not wait to read more.  This study is so incredibly exciting because it uses functional MRI to actually look at and identify definitively the brains of youth with suicidal ideation!!!  Of course we need to recreate results using larger study groups, and do all the good things we do in science to prove things over and over in order to declare truth, but oh my goodness, what a huge leap forward!!  They even had a brief story covering this new study on NPR yesterday morning!

I started reading the study in full this morning, All Saints Day.  As I was taking it in the tears rolling down my cheeks, I felt not like a little glimmer of hope, but like a full ray of sunshiney, warm, bright hope was parting the clouds for all of us suicide loss survivors. Hope that with a test like this to determine suicidality biologically, instead of relying on self-report, that we can save more lives.  If only Oscar had been able to sit for an fMRI so we could know exactly his risk for suicide… he was such a brilliant mind, he knew how to play the system.  It was impossible to tell if he was teenage angsty or truly suicidal. With this, we would have known beyond a shadow of a doubt and we could have treated him differently, more aggressively, for his suicidality.  I am excited to see this diagnostic tool be studied more.  Deepest gratitude to the clinicians behind this ground breaking study who recognized the need for a biological indicator to identify suicidal youth.