Monday, November 13, 2023

Ride the waves. Crash. Repeat

Dear Sonzee, 

It has been 9 Mondays since I last wrote you a letter, but just 5 Mondays since I last wrote a blog. Maybe I should clarify, since I last wrote a blog out of my mind, one that I felt I needed to get out of my mind or the words would could continue to crash around all muddled. I suppose it is only fitting for the situation I find myself in. 

For weeks I have been experiencing all sorts of new "life after you" situations that didn't seem to phase me. Maybe it was less that they didn't phase me, but more that I didn't quite know how to handle them? I felt that maybe this was just part of the whole time is passing me by concept. Maybe, just maybe, this is what everyone refers to as "moving forward". Dare I say that it felt almost like hope. That alone should have told me better. Life was moving forward at lightning speed, you were coming along for the ride right along with me, I felt it. I knew it. I wrote to you so many times in my mind, but in the end, I didn't need to get the words out for anyone else, they were just there, for me, for you. I felt like that was progress, maybe it still is? was?

Your siblings have kept us beyond active in this everyday hustle and bustle of the life you left behind. I enjoy the speed because it makes time easier to handle. I have found myself talking about you to anyone who will listen, and maybe even some who wish I wouldn't. I have thought to myself how much easier the talking about you part has been during year 3+. I shared that and some other positives with Corrinne's mom recently. She too is living in a universe unlike the one she and I ever knew together. Maybe we are both avoiding the alternative reality? Maybe it is the only way to cope? Either way, it seemed celebratory.

Halloween at FBC came and went, your sister's first gymnastics season is about to be in the books, with the remnants of medals and new equipment in our house to prepare for her next one. Your oldest brother has had a few tournaments come and go, I am almost finished needlepointing Tzviki's tallis bag, and our house is experiencing cold/flu/virus "PCH restriction" season with little concern except for how it might affect the outcome of your siblings and their sporting events. An inner chuckle and nod to this "life after you" (still feels new reality) is what I offer, but really a solid 10 minutes of hysterical laughter would probably be better suited.  In the words of Cher from Clueless, "As if".  

I took pumpkins home from school a few weeks ago for your siblings to decorate, one for each of us. It took a conversation with Meena who was arguing over Noam painting two for me to realize that I brought home only 6. When I said the words, "I brought one home for each of us, I brought 6 home", I immediately realized the mistake. Except it wasn't a mistake and I wasn't even upset. I didn't know how to process any of it. The realization of what I did, the fact that it felt okay. How was I supposed to feel? I guess as I did? You wouldn't have been able to decorate the damn pumpkin anyway. I am sure whatever one you have by your house in heaven is far more glamorous. I felt it was another moment on this journey where I was moving forward. I didn't need the pumpkin as a representation of you. I didn't need to stare at a pumpkin that you couldn't and wouldn't decorate. I didn't need to have a pumpkin to somehow subconsciously attempt to make you be here, to be real. It was a step, I think? 

Has everything been a step these last two months? Was any progress made? Or, was it simply that I have gotten so good at my ability to compartmentalize and avoid that I managed to ride the waves for 9 complete weeks feeling like I was invincible? None of my avoidance or compartmentalizing makes the pain in my heart any less, it just makes it so much easier to pretend that it is the case. The insane part is that I even fooled myself this time. I really felt like things were okay. Maybe they were? Maybe they are? 

Most of the things I have come to do since you physically left me were things I did to cope with your absence. Sitting by your grave for hours, writing you letters, painting rocks, buying you keychains for states you won't ever go to, buying bears or items that are red, posting pictures, telling stories, every single related to you, it was and is just for me. I understand that. That is why it makes so much sense it is always changing.  I know deep down things were and are actually okay. It is all part of the journey. It won't make sense despite my best efforts because life after your death hardly does on its own. It's why as much as it hurts to ride the waves, crash, and repeat, it is what I will continue to do over and over again, for me to deal, with a life without you. 

Until next time baby girl. 

Love always and forever, 

The Mighty Contributor

Friday, October 20, 2023


When Sonzee first died a close friend of mine whose daughter had already died told me “Randi, you’ve got 18 months before you aren’t allowed to grieve anymore”. We joked we should write a book about our time limit and things we should advise other bereaved parents to do during that allotted time. I think we chatted about it two times and that was it.

Through all my reading of grief books and online and in person grief groups I had heard there would be or it was at least referenced, that people would expect grief to end by a certain date. For 2 years on the grief journey I thought how I had been lucky I hadn’t really experienced any of the “negative”’comments, thoughts or insinuations. There were brief glimpses of idiocy presented to me, like the day after Sonzee died when someone told me I’d get over her death because her sister in laws cousins friend had lost a son to cancer and she had moved on so I shouldn’t worry; I’d get over it. I turned that into a joke during shiva with my closest friends with either them asking me if I was over it yet or me saying we shouldn’t worry because in a few hours I would be good to go.

A sprinkle of comments here and there would occur, but always during the first 2 years at least one person would ask me how I was doing and insinuate they were wanting to know how I was “truly” doing. Truly wanting to know how was I coping with the death of one of my children. Albeit an awkward question to answer, at least it was asked.

By the start of year 3 on this grief journey that question was no longer asked by those who are not true friends. Attending events seeing people I haven’t seen since Sonzee’s death or around that time, no one asked. Maybe they didn’t care? Maybe they didn’t want to “make me think about it” (ha! We can discuss that in another post). OR maybe, it’s simply that they didn’t even think about it anymore. 

It’s been 3 years 8 months and 17 days. I was asked one time during the last 8 months how I was really doing, and it was followed up with a “but aren’t you happy she is in a better place?” A statement that has nothing to do with how the death of one of my daughters still, “even” after 3 years 8 months and 17 days feels the same if not worse than it did on day 1. 

I realize every day how much life goes on. I get it. She died, people felt badly and then resumed their lives. People mourned her loss and maybe even a few still think about her, and maybe some even wonder how I am truly doing, but don’t bother to ask. It’s not fine, but at the same time it is, because I am here to explain, she may have died. Her life may have expired, my pain has not and it won’t ever. That’s ok because grief is just how I will continue to love her. I don’t need anyone to call and ask me how I am doing, I don’t need to have to dodge the uncomfortableness of others when I might bring her up. I am just here to tell you, grief is forever, so a true check in on all your bereaved parents shouldn’t expire.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

4 weeks

Dear Sonzee, 

It has been 4 weeks since I last wrote you a letter. I am honestly a bit surprised because it feels like I missed so many more than just 4. Weeks 186, 187, and 188. Technically I could get away with writing you one during week 189 because that started just yesterday. 

These last 4 weeks have been avoided on purpose. I am entering the time of year where I'd rather not deal with your absence. Truth be told even though I don't send you the letters that write themselves in my mind, it is impossible to avoid your absence.  That is felt more and more every single day, but when I sit down to put my words onto this electronic paper, the tears fill my eyes and the weight on my chest becomes heavier. The breaths are hard to come by and it feels like someone has placed a 30-pound weight (well honestly it could even be 5lbs because we know I am not the strongest person) on my chest. The pain becomes difficult to ignore. It is the same pain that is always present, but I have mastered pushing it down and not feeling it. That is a benefit of it being 3.5 years since you physically left. 

The last 4 weeks included another CDKL5 child dying. A fact that I have tried hard to also ignore, because knowing another parent is on this journey makes me sick to my core. Me transporting back to the beginning is unavoidable when a CDKL5 death happens, so the avoidance of everything becomes two-fold.  

Today there was a meeting at work and the mom and I have followed our children's online journeys for some time now, so I said how it was nice to finally meet in person. She replied that she stalks me to read my journals, and I mentioned how I haven't written one in a while. I felt like I needed to share an excuse. I doubt she needed one. I am sure it was just for me to justify my actions aloud. It isn't an excuse per say either, it is more of facts. An excuse would be me saying that I don't have the time, or that your siblings have me busy, or work, or an endless list of reasons; because the reality is that I am making a conscious choice to not write to you. A sad reality, but the reality of life after your death, because it is easier to avoid than to confront the grief.

Over these last 4 weeks I did manage to visit your grave and clean it up while placing new rocks and items for you. I have recently come to understand that the grave really is meant for the grieving and not for the deceased. I used to go for hours when you first died to feel closer to you, and now I know that you aren't ever far from me so I dont need to go to feel your presence or to be a good mom. I know you are with me and I know that if you need me you will find a way to make that clear to me. Growth? I think yes. Painful? Yes because it means it's been that much time that has passed for me to learn another #lifeafterSonzee fact. 

Another #lifeafterSonzee fact, September begins my deeper grief depression. It signifies the start of the end of your life, or rather when I started to search for answers I would never find. It was the season I started to document all of your changes to build my case to prove something wasn't right, to attempt to prove that my gut was right and that something was going wrong inside of you. The easy thing to do would be to remind myself that it wouldn't matter if someone agreed or if I proved my gut earlier; but my body and heart wouldn't listen to my mind in any case, even if I told myself that until I was blue in the face. This is just how it is; this is just how it will be, and that is okay. This is just how it has to be.

Over the last 4 weeks I have been asked if I am still sad over your death. I have been asked if I am not happy knowing that you are peace. Yes, to it all. I am and will forever be sad over your death, and the only solace is that you are at peace, but it won't change the fact that children aren't supposed to die before their parents, healthy or not. That isn't how life is supposed to work. I will give g-d an out on the whole CDKL5 diagnosis and special needs, but I can't accept the whole death part. That part is pretty much unforgiveable, despite the whole G-d has a plan I don't know concept. There is no plan involving your death that I will ever be understanding of, even if in the end it makes any sort of sense

The last 4 weeks had one of your siblings ask who was going to make your bedroom when Mashiach (Mesiah) comes, one of your siblings tell me that a bridge was built and gotten over in regard to your death (and then eventually corrected to admit that wasn't the case), and a sibling ask to read their Sonzee and Me book to sleep at night. I won't say which siblings or if they were all different, but everyone is on their own #lifeafterSonzee journey, and I just get to be there to support them without my feelings interfering. I don't know what it is like to lose a sibling, and I make that very clear to them. I also tell them whatever they feel is ok and right. 

The last 4 weeks have had me spend more time at FBC. I tend to keep you a secret while I work. Not because of another reason besides that it isn't necessary to share. However, there are times when I feel it helps a parent or a nurse understand that I have the best intentions of any possible person when it comes to assisting with communication because I have been a parent and caregiver to a child with significant needs who also sent their child to school with a 1:1 nurse. It sometimes serves a significant purpose to share about your life and death. Thank you for everything you taught me and continued to teach me.

Anyway Babygirl. I know this doesn't make up for the last 4 weeks, but I hope you can forgive me for being in the place I am in terms of grieving your loss. I miss you beyond words. My heart wishes beyond words you'd come visit me in my dreams. 

Until next time.

Love always, 

The Mighty Contributor

Monday, August 21, 2023

185 weeks

Dear Sonzee, 

We are back in Phoenix after our typical summer in New York. Summer hasn't been the same since you left.  This summer I worked virtually for a significant part of it, and it was only while I was driving back home that it dawned on me that it was my subconscious attempt to avoid you not being there physically with me. With Noam at camp all day and your siblings at sleepaway, it would have been just you and I taking on some crazy adventures...I don't really care to do anything without you there, not when that was our escape (Or attempt at one at least).

I drove 3 days straight with 2 nights in hotels to get home in record time. It was exhausting, but I just wanted to be home. The worst part about summer is the drive home. Noam and I dropped your sisters in Memphis to stay at friends for 5 days. They flew home yesterday, for the first time on flights by themselves. Laeya was old enough to not need to be an unaccompanied minor, and because Meena was between 8-12, she could go with Laeya. It worked out beautifully. I set them up with my Starbucks app and airline app and they were good to go.

Saturday night Aba and I went to a murder mystery dinner party. It was such a great time with great people. We were celebrating 2 friends' birthdays and it was great fun. I won the "Merry Maid" award (because I was a suspect as a maid). I also happened to win "dead last" in the guess for the murderer. The best part was how confident I was in that guess. My biggest fears of the night were having a character that required an accent and losing....both happened, and I handled it by laughing. (It didn't hurt that I had some yummy sangria).

I went to work Friday and got a lot done, but there never seems to be enough hours in the day when it comes to getting work completed. At least it was productive and it's always nice to be in the office with everyone. Thank you for bringing FBC into my life.

Anyway little girl, I love you!  Have fun and be safe.

Until next time.

Love always, 

The Mighty Contributor

Monday, August 14, 2023

184 weeks

Dear Sonzee, 

This week was our last week in NY. It started with Meena and Noam being in camp, with Tzvi hanging out at home, and ended with Laeya and aba coming back from their 2-week trip to Israel and France. I have been working a lot supervising via TEAMS and working on ieps that are upcoming. The weirdest thing is how NY won't start school until a month after Phoenix has. It's really surreal to watch kids go to day camp, while you are working on a computer while kids are attending school.

The days were feeling crazy while I worked and aba was away with Laeya. I joke, but it must be nice to be able to just travel for 2 weeks while the other parent is holding down the fort and working. Your siblings and I did have a good time, but Tzvi has pretty much lost his privileges of being able to stay home after camp. He will be in sleep-away camp or day camp, but not lounge around "camp".

Work has been keeping me busy and it feels challenging to keep up with everything, but it is working out. I am so thankful that I am allowed to work in this manner, so I will do what I can to make it work, but it isn't easy.  Sometimes I wish I was physically in the building to work on an AAC device or to see the kiddos in person, and not via a computer.

I went for the first time in years to the Emunah fundraising event that Ms. Malka always co-chairs. I ended up buying way to much as usual, and this is why I should not attend in the future. 

Anyway baby girl.

I love and miss you!

Until next time.

Love always, 

The Mighty Contributor