Monday, March 27, 2023

164 weeks

Dear Sonzee, 

Today marked another week without you here. This last week was one of the harder ones. I usually know when a particular week will be more challenging. The weeks surrounding specific dates and memories are the ones I attempt to mentally prepare for. I anticipate how I might feel when I know I am going to be faced with them and buckle up. This last week though, I didn't anticipate it. I didn't put it all together until I was midway through it all. It wasn't until I was racking my brain, trying to analyze every little thing that was going on in my mind that it hit me while scrolling through google photos. March was never one of your better months.

Each year in March starting around the 15th for 2015 and 2016, the 20th in 2017, and the 17th in 2019 she was inpatient for at least a week. In 2018 she had two ED stayovers on March 10 and 28. My mind didn't remember on its own, but my body did. I have felt entirely blah, sad, extra depressed, extra grumpy, etc. Every negative grief emotion has been weighing on me. The cloud is just sitting on my shoulders. It makes me extra sensitive to people acting less than intelligent. It makes me take naive (stupid) comments by people who don't even know what they are saying to heart. It makes me feel guilty over things that I know deep down I shouldn't.

It is surprising that after 3 years of this journey that I wouldn't be more prepared for these times. Maybe I actually am because I was now able to recognize what was going on and give it a name? Maybe that is the moving forward of grief? Maybe this is some sort of celebratory Sonzeestone? I suppose if I am implementing the "being kinder to myself" lesson from the resilient parenting class I would tell myself that this is positive progress, no maybes. If it were someone else I would tell them how amazing it was that they identified their feelings and were able to recognize how challenging these times can be and that is okay. Their emotions are ok. Their responses to others are acceptable and it is ok. They have been through a lot.

This week someone made a comment to me that I haven't been able to really shake. I know it came from a place of them never having to bury a child. I know it came from a place of sheer ignorance and the inability to truly even consider how they might truly feel if they had a child die. (Similar to all those single men and women who will raise their kids so much better than the parent sitting at the fast food restaurant). Everyone assumes they know exactly how they would be if their child died. The things they would do so much better with their surviving children. The things they would or wouldn't do themselves. The strength they would have or the fact that they just couldn't survive so they would kill themselves (meaning those of us who don't must clearly love our children less). Everyone has an opinion. I wish people would keep it to themselves. I wish they would just take a moment and really think before they spoke about what a bereaved parent should or shouldn't do. If they have lost a child by all means I'd want to swap ideas on how best to handle situations, but if they haven't, I just want them to not talk. The comment didn't help my already wallowing feelings. In fact, it just made me feel unnecessary guilt. It made me miss you even more. 

I wish I didn't have to have you separated from my day-to-day life. I wish you were still here to have to balance out our life. I wish I didn't know all about grieving a child. I wish I didn't know everything I have learned because of your life and death. I guess I could be positive and say I am thankful for all I have learned, but I wish it didn't come with your challenging life and then death as a consolation.

Anyway baby girl. It is hard to truly grasp 164 Mondays have passed me by without a Sonzee snuggle or being able to hear your baby bear growl. It is hard to grasp you haven't seized for that length of time as well. (Thank you, Hashem!!)

Until next time my love.

Love always, 

The Mighty Contributor

Monday, March 20, 2023

Cop out?

During Sonzee's life when someone would outright state or even insinuate that their problems weren't equivalent to what our family was going through, I was always quick to stop them and let them know that it wasn't fair to compare. Everyone has their own challenges and threshold of what they can handle, and it isn't fair to assign weight to them. I always felt that comparing anything besides a comparable life was equivalent to comparing an apple with a pineapple. They share the category of fruit. Diminishing what someone else is experiencing doesn't make what challenges another person any heavier. They both are what they are to each of them. 

Being a parent of a child who died is a unique category. (Thankfully) There are fewer (but really too many) members of this group. I have found myself confused and not confident in the role of parenting after a child's loss. For the last 3 years, I have been confused as to what subcategory of life we have fallen into. Are we still a medically complex family? Are we a hockey family? Are we a typical family? Do we have the right to have accommodations made like they once were when we had a child who was medically complex and then dying? In what category do our surviving children fall? After all, children are resilient, right?! 

When the world returned to normal after Covid, so did we. As if we didn't experience the death of a family member. Unless you know us from before, or unless one of us mentions it after, you wouldn't know. We blend into life. The kids are in extracurricular activities, we travel, we spend our summers away, Sam and I both work, we smile, we laugh, and for all intents and purposes, we act as if we have the perfect family. Sometimes, but rarely our emotions are on our sleeves. Unless people want to travel the grief journey along with us, they too can pretend that our lives are normal. They can stay far enough away from the unimaginable pain they are thankfully able to avoid and tune into the part of our life that we outwardly display. 

Among fellow bereaved mothers, I mentioned my conflict with what is grief? and what is normal? I shared with others the everyday pain, the lack of energy, the lack of motivation, the anger, the frustration, the short tempers, the feeling of being a failure as a parent, the challenges with deciphering what is teen/child typical behavior and what is related to grief. I mentioned that I was torn on if the behaviors my children are exhibiting are typical or if it is grief. Is the grief a cop-out? Is it fair to place the onus on grief? I listed all of the struggles I have felt but didn't want to be told by someone who is not in a similar situation that "of course, it is grief, of course, you're experiencing all of those emotions, you lost a child"

It was at the same moment that I was speaking my thoughts aloud that I started to process the entirety of the last 8 years. The actual significance of parenting a child who was medically complex and whom we knew we would one day bury as a child, but didn't know exactly when. I had a million flashbacks of a life that went by incredibly fast that simultaneously took 4 years 11 months and 23 days of her siblings' lives as well. I listened as a mother responded to me about how she wishes she could surround herself with my bubbliness every day because maybe it would help her feel motivated. I listened as she said she was processing everything I was saying. I listened with tears in my eyes as she said, "but Randi, a cop-out?! Honey, it is not a cop-out, it is your reality, it is your life"

For the last 2.5 hours since she said that sentence to me I have repeated it in my mind while thinking about all those times, I shrugged off the weight of all we have endured. I have thought about the words while thinking about the fact that 3 years ago our children's ages ranged from barely 2 years old to barely 10, none even old enough to sit in the front seat (and due to height, all were still in car seats or boosters). I think about how not only did we have to deal with Covid, but we also had to deal with the death of a significant family member. We buried a child and sibling who didn't go longer than a month of her life going into a hospital. A child who spent close to half of her life in-patient at a hospital. I have thought about it all on repeat. There is no comparison to anyone who has experienced a loss of any kind. There is no it is worse because of "XYZ", there is none of that. But, also, there is no coping out, and there is no cushioning the reality. The reality is that there is no denying that things are different for us and they are harder in many ways, there is just no way to sugar-coat that. There is no coping out because the struggles we have had to face as a family are not normal, they do warrant some extra attention and some extra accommodations, but most importantly, they mostly warrant giving ourselves a little more grace.      

The Mighty Contributor

163 weeks

Dear Sonzee, 

As I mentioned in my letter last week, it was Spring break for me, but not your siblings. Meena went back to school on Thursday and I spent the day shopping with bubbie after we went out for lunch. Friday morning I went with a co-worker to the Queen Creek Olive Mill and it was so fascinating to learn about the olive industry while it was also a fun place to explore. We spent a couple of hours there and then I went to check in at the hotel for the weekend in Gilbert due to Tzvi's final hockey tournament of the season. His first game was 5:10pm Friday night. 

I will recap the weekend, although I am fairly sure you played a role in the outcome of it all. Your brother isn't exactly happy with it, but I personally think it was for the best. As you know he lost the first game Friday night. Saturday during the day his team played at 1:00pm and they ended up in a tie. In the evening game they lost. Two situations occurred that could theoretically be debatable, but it is 12u hockey and not the NHL. 

During the 1pm game while our boys had 3 boys playing against 5, one of the boys made a shot and it was called "no goal", however, it looked like it clearly went in and that it was scooped out. Had that been counted, they would have won that game and then had a chance to make it into the final championship today. But, then during the evening game, the other team made a shot, it didn't look like it crossed the line, the goalie had the puck and they called it a goal. Nurse Paige came and Tzvi's streak continues to score a goal whenever she comes to a game. I love that she is still part of our family. It makes me smile knowing that I kept my promise in my funeral letter to you that I would keep in touch with everyone you were close with. The game sadly ended in a 2-3 loss for us, with that team securing their spot in the final championship game and us in the consolation game.

To say our boys were devastated would be an understatement, but from some of our parent perspective, we felt it would be better to end the season on a potential win than to go out on a most probable loss. Fast forward to today, when our boys beat the team in our final game of the season to end on a high note. (Minus your brother who was upset he didn't play his best and was still upset they weren't in the finals). In the end, the team that won the finals was the underdog (as the rest of the teams in our bracket were compared to the #1 seed going into the tournament). I am not quite sure our team could have pulled off that win and then we would have had a loss to end our season. 

I personally feel you played a part in this arrangement, as the way it worked out had to be orchestrated in the manner it did for the teams to play in the games they did. I thank you and appreciate all that you did. Your brother asked if you could have the other team win, why couldn't you have his team win? It just wasn't what was meant to be. They came so far as a team and I am excited to see where the next year will take him. 

This has been one of my favorite seasons on a team. No drama from kids or parents. Just an entire season of fun, despite the losses. I am sad it is over, but excited for a few weeks of hockey not being the priority of the home. He has a little less than 2 months until tryouts, so I have a little less than 2 months to get my cortisol levels and ability to cope with the chaos of hockey tryouts in order.  He has his team party and awards ceremony coming up and both are on a Sunday so we are looking forward to that.

Next season will be his last season of no-checking, his second year of peewee hockey. It will be Meena's first competitive gymnastics season and our first divide-and-conquer sporting season. The official VV summer countdown has dropped below 100 and I am beyond excited to be back in NY for a couple of months. It is insane that we are more than halfway through March. I hope you have a great week ahead. I love and miss you, baby girl!

Love always. 

Until next time, 

The Mighty Contributor

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

162 weeks and 2 days

Dear Sonzee, 

The last time I was able to sit down and write to you was 10 days ago. I swear the days go by quicker every day or the days are just getting shorter. Being that we are getting closer to Spring, I am going to go with the time is just moving at the speed of light. 

Last week I got a text from a co-worker who does early intervention, it was a picture of your street sign!

I then decided to drive down Bethany Home Road to get the other sign and also try and grab another view of this one. 

I need to schedule another cleanup for the end of March or early April. 

I finished my 4th week of the resilient parenting program that is paired with ASU and Hospice of the Valley. I am working on doing 1:1 times with each of your siblings, we have a family game night once a week, and I have to do mindful breathing, and comfort activities for myself. The idea is to set the foundation to be able to not only work on my coping with grief but so that the kids can work on theirs. So far week 2 of the 1:1 times has been successful. We have done family game night 2 weeks in a row and that has been great as well. Your siblings are enjoying all the above. (Or appear to be at least). I have to also "catch them doing good" and comment on those things as well. This week's new addition is active listening. I am really hoping this class changes the dynamic at home, and so far it appears to be doing so. 

Aba moved his stuff out of the warehouse so he could rent his space to another company, meaning so much stuff was brought to the house. I reorganized the garage and we now have a perfect shoe location so the shoes don't enter the house! Jackpot! In addition, I finally put up the purell holders, it makes me smile thinking of you!

This week is my spring break (not your siblings). I have spent 2 days with Meena because she has been sick, but I have gotten a lot of things accomplished at home thankfully despite that. I have sent off a lot of clothing to be made into blankets. I finally even sent off my college shirts! I am doing Tzvi's first hockey jerseys from the last few years of travel and Laeya's baby clothing. I sent your items off last week. I am very excited to finally be getting these made! They are all long overdue. 

Laeya finally got the cast on her wrist! It will be 3 weeks in this and then a removable cast. All in all, it will be close to 8 weeks or so of some form of splint/cast when she is done with this endeavor. She went big this time!

Tzvi has his state finals this weekend in Gilbert. Please stop by if your schedule allows it! We are hoping to cause an upset and win first, we shall see how it goes!

Love you, baby girl!

Until next time.

Love always, 


The Mighty Contributor

Sunday, March 5, 2023

3 years 1 month and 1 day 12 hours and 1 minute

Dear Sonzee, 

Friday was officially 3 years and 1 month that you left. It was also the day after our school community learned of a horrible house fire that at that time took the lives of the father and two children. Over Shabbos the remaining two siblings also died. 

It took me a second to process what I heard when I spoke to aba Thursday afternoon. I then saw an email from the school with the same information. Naturally I panicked thinking of your siblings. The amount of child loss they have experienced in their short lives is nauseating. The amount of sadness and loss in general makes me so sad for them. Auntie A and I didn't experience the type of loss they have had by their age; it isn't fair. 

I tried to intervene the news being told to them the way the school was planning, but I wasn't quick enough to school and each of your siblings handled it the way I anticipated they would. My biggest concern is always your older siblings because they don't react in an extroverted way. Instead, Tzvi will make comments here and there and just avoid any conversation about it. Laeya will bottle it up inside and slowly at night, always late, she will begin to share insight into her mind. Meena on the other hand was crying the minute she got out of school and ran into my arms. She spent the rest of the day an absolute mess. Her lack of ability to cope with all of the big emotions made my ability to cope with managing my emotions and trying to handle hers worse than zero. 

I sent an email to the head of school. I don't place any blame in how the information was given. I don't envy the position he found himself in, but I do feel (selfishly) that due to our family's specific circumstances surrounding child/sibling loss, I should have been able to intercept your siblings to discuss it with them and be there when the news was delivered. 

The one child who attended the school currently they all knew and spoke with a handful of times, and one of the brothers was in Meena's class during his younger years (she shared some stories over shabbat dinner with us). The challenge with this situation is that while most of the other families are horrified over what happened and can't wrap their heads around losing one child much less four (and their father), our family has lived the loss of one. It hits our family differently. It opens up hidden compartments in each of us that we have either openly or secretly been working on over the last 3 years and 1 month (and 2 days) since you left us. 

For me, my initial thought was relief. How thankful I was that this father didn't have to live with the loss of any of his children (and it would have been all). My heart doesn't want to experience that ever. My brain knows how horrific that would be, there is no need for me to have to imagine. It would be 4 times worse than what I experience every single day without you here, there wouldn't be a point to continuing life. I appreciate Hashem sparing this father that type of pain. I have spent the last few days processing everything. I found myself back in the stages of numbness. It is just horrible, despite the beauty of them all being together in Gan Eden. 

Tomorrow is their funeral. I debated going and was then told/warned that I even showed up I would be escorted out. (Sometimes I am thankful for the friends I have). There is guilt looming over me, but I also know that I am incapable of attending a child's funeral and not being sent back to day one in my grief. Three years, 1 month, and 1 day ago I sat in a surreal world not even comprehending it was you being buried. I spent the next year numb and in this weird denial position. (It was more of knowing you were dead but with an inability of blending that knowledge into everyday life). Those moments have (thankfully?) become less. Three years, 1 month, and 1 day ago I started a new life. One that would never include you again. I am afraid (although it feels so selfish) that I would be sent back to that time. I can't go back there. I can barely be where I am at now. There are other selfish reasons I cannot bring myself to go. As usual, with grief, your father and I are different, and he will be attending. He thinks it will be good for him. (Whatever that means). Meena also wants to go. Laeya hasn't decided yet. Whoever wants to go can and who doesn't won't and that is ok. 

I miss you a lot little bear! I'd ask for you to come and visit, but lately I feel like you've been blessing us with your presence in the form of water and I don't know if a flood of any sort is really necessary this week. So, maybe we can compromise, and you can meet me in my dreams? I would love that! (Plus, to this day it has never happened for me, and I am envious you went to aba).

Until next time baby girl!

Love always, 

The Mighty Contributor