Forever Just Under The Surface...

It's weird how you go on, day to day, with that undercurrent of pain just below the surface of consciousness...sometimes it's a dull ache, an irritant, other times almost unbearable. And you never know what will trigger a flare-up.

In December 1988, I was spending the holidays at my parents' home, watching tv, when the news story about the Lockerbie crash came on. If you don't remember, Flight Pan Am 103 was coming from Heathrow to JFK. Turned out terrorists planted a bomb, it blew up killing over 250 people on the plane, and several people on the ground also died when parts of the plane fell out of the sky over Lockerbie, Scotland. Horrible.

The thing that touched me the most that night was the footage of people who had been waiting for their loved ones to arrive at JFK. This was a few days before Christmas. Most tragic, was a woman whom I found out later had sent her young son to visit family in London and had been awaiting his return. The news cameras were on her as she lay prostrate with grief on the airport floor, sobbing, a teddy bear clutched in her arms. A man knelt helplessly by her side.

Watching the tv, I began to cry myself; my parents were not home, but my middle sister ran in and held me. We both cried as we remembered things from my own tragedy  four years earlier, things I guess I'd blocked out and to some extent probably always will mute, in order to survive.

The facts are, my husband Michael and our 11 month-old son, Michel, died in a freeway crash on their way to come get me from work on the evening of Dec. 14, 1984. The authorities found my father's business card on my husband, so they called him. He did the difficult stuff, identification, etc., and it fell to my mother and my middle sister to come to my office building downtown and break the news to me. The guard called me from the lobby and I came down.

My mother's face was impassive, revealing nothing, although I was slightly alarmed to see them instead of Michael. But when I looked at my sister, my stomach fell into my feet. Something truly awful had obviously happened. Thankfully, it was after hours in the office; the security guards were there, a couple of construction workers fixing a doorway, but few others. I remember only bits and pieces after that...

I was sitting on the carpet, my mother beside me, rocking me in her arms. My sister was crying quietly nearby, as was a female security guard whom I often talked to and brought coffee. My mother was murmuring something about "God's master plan," which I really didn't want to hear at that point, but I had no strength to do anything but cry. My sister told me, many years later, that I actually screamed several times, which she had never heard me do in all of our lives.

My father and brother came and I was taken to the hospital, given a sedative...the rest, going with my parents to tell HIS family, is a blur...I sat there while my mother held Michael's mother (his father was deceased); his brother and sisters hugged me and cried. I was in a fog. I let them plan the funeral, and a memorial later. With the help of Valium, I read W.H.Auden's poem "Funeral Blues" at the memorial, my best friend at my side. Michael and our baby were laid to rest in Colma, and occasionally I go to visit. I want to be cremated when the time comes, and there's a spot with them for me. 

My life since then has been relatively routine; although I had a very difficult time at first, I actually attempted suicide (and luckily for me),was saved, went into counseling; took a few months leave, then threw myself back into work, I was transferred to a different position, which meant not having to deal with co-workers' sometimes well-meaning but pitying looks and questions, and basically stopped talking about it outside of the therapist's office.

I eventually started dating again. I've even fallen in love since then, but I've never remarried, never had another child. Sometimes I wonder if I would still feel the pain as acutely if I had. I still have my parents, my siblings, my best friend, who all helped me want to live, but I wonder if I'm scarred in a way that I can't ever get past. Sometimes I'll see a young black man with a certain "look" and wonder if Michel would've looked like that. I occasionally wonder if Michael and I would still be married or if we would've become part of the national "statistic". Basically when the anniversaries come; the birthdays, our wedding anniversary, and that day in Dec, I do what everyone else does, I cope. And move forward.
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17 Responses Dec 9, 2012

Physically losing those we love is never an easy thing to deal with. It is a process that will last for the rest of our lives. The more we bond with one another, the more we connect, the more we attach ourselves, the stronger our emotions become. And once that connection is physically severed, we are left to mourn. We mourn without any clear blueprint to help guide us away from the indescriable pain and deep misery we feel. Some are able to find strength. Others, unfortunately, aren't so lucky. Then there are those of us who are in the middle. We find the strength necessary to help us cope and begin to move on. But at the same time, we still struggle with the overwhelming loss we've experienced. Reading your story here, Mon Ami, moved me so much, I had to log off, go outside and walk around for a long while. During that time, tears rolled down my face. I had great diffculty trying to maintain my composure. I apologize for taking so long to leave a comment here. When my grandmother passed away back in 2011, at that point in time, my depression had already ravaged me to a point of where the possiblity of me passing away was becoming more and more of sad reality. My grandmother's passing was the culmination of a long travled road of bitter sadness for me. It was yet another crippling blow that took me a tremendous amount of time to recover from. I was already in the hospital after experiencing the debilitating effects of my depression. And to find out about my grandmothers passing while still in the the last straw. I'm not exactly sure when I felt the metaphorical fire, but once I felt it, I knew I had to capitalize on it. It burned inside of me so ferociously, that I had no choice but to pick myself up to begin the climb out of the dark awful hole I had been suffering in for so long. There were moments when I slipped and stumbled. There were moments when I fell back down. There were moments where I intensely doubted myself. But I never gave up. I kept picking myself back up. I climbed, I climbed, and climbed until I reached the top! But I didn't celebrate. I didn't jump up and down out of joy. I just stood there. I stood there in total silence while internally acknowledging what I had just accomplished. I achieved a VERY profound emotional victory. I'm fueled by the fire now. I can feel it flowing throughout my entire body. I feel it in my viens. I am stronger and more powerful now than I have ever been in my life. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, will ever knock me down again. The scars from the past still remain. But they no longer define who I am. They no longer dictate my life. They no longer determine my future. The lesson I learned is that it's ok to mourn. It's ok to feel the sadness. It's ok to never forget those who've had such a profound impact on your life. But there comes a time when you have to be strong and continue on living your life. Our loved ones who have physically departed from this world, would want us to be strong and live our lives to the fullest. We must continue living on for them. But most importantly, we must continue on living for ourselves. Mon Ami, live on for your beloved son, live on for your beloved husband. They love you. In addition to living their lives, they lived for you. Nowadays, I spend less time focusing on those who have wronged me in the past. Most days, there isn't a single thought in my mind about them. As for thinking about my deceased loved ones, I think of my grandmother all the time, I think of my grandfathers, I think of the cousins I lost, I think of the good friends I lost. I think of the good times I had with them and I smile. I wish they were all still here...but I know they'll never return. The more I accept that, the more at peace I am. I believe our feelings and our thoughts continue to live on long after we shed our mortal coils. I don't know if there's a life after death. But if there is, our loved ones are there. And I wouldn't be surprised if they to are experiencing the same emotions we're feeling. In life, we're all on a journey that is unique to who we are as individuals. Everyone's journey is different. We make the most of what we have while trying not to put so much focus on things that aren't relevant. While living, we all should continue to make the most of what we have while focusing on things that are relevant. Don't forget what you experienced on the path that has led you to where you are currently in your life. Learn from it, evolve, and grow while continuing on that path. Feel the fire. And let it burn! :-) Je t'aime, mon cher ami. (((BIG warm hugs)))

*hugs you & holds you tight*

That made my whole body tingle with sadness...

I believe that people are spiritually connected eternally...

When I was 19... my mom and brother were traveling to watch me at a race. They were late and a group of officials surrounded me with the news... I will never forget that blackness... but they were alive. Mom almost died that night !

Yah... I was very lucky...but I had to travel to the hospital which took over a day... and I didn't know. It was just horrific not knowing...

reading your story is very emotional. I am very sorry for this reality happening to your family...

I really believe that souls never die... One day you will be reunited somehow : ) This belief is something that formed in me after years of narcolepsy and epilepsy... There is so much more thank we know.... my episodes were like a small glimpse into a bigger reality.

This was extremely heartbreaking just to read! I can only imagine your grief, and thank you for sharing your experience with all of us, if nothing more than to remind us how lucky we are to count our blessings! My prayer for you is for continued strength and life. Happy holidays and {{{{hugs}}}}

I should also have said sorry for your loss - because truly I am!

It's almost incomprehensible. I can only imagine moments where anything sane must have seemed offensive, and all the shallow concerns around you like a crime against what had happened. There's a depth only rarely glimpsed that belongs to people like you.


so sorry, tears for you

my first daughter died, age 3 days

Sorry for your loss, I too have lost many from my life... You're a survivor though. Always Be Strong and Honor the passing into heaven for such beauty lost could only go there... You carry the flaming torch let it burn ever so brightly 'cross the night's sky every night's sky... May your strength ever stay so strong! ... Amen...

From my life some have died, some have left... I see them all as if still here, memories make them live on in our hearts, in our minds, in our lives... For there's no other way it can be... Never backward, always forward time can be a villan always marching on..

How my heart breaks...

There is no pattern or reason to life's cruelty: there is no balancing up, no re-measurement, no final reconciliation. We take the hit and, if we can, we move on. Ultimately, if all goes well, we accept that what has happened to us in the past is an integral part of what we are today. Your story is inspiring - it shows that it is possible to bear the unbearable.

Wow....So sorry that happened...that is like my worst nightmare and in-spite of it you seem positive and strong person !

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<p>May God Bless Their Spirits,bijoux. You honor them with your life. I've lost a loved one in this way as well. I like to imagine that by coping and not giving into despair, that is how we honor them. Somehow, somebody, somewhere is taking note of the powerful influence knowing them have had on us because their good force drives us "forward", as you say. My brother would be so angry if I wallowed in a pathological grief that was like a disease. I did for a while but I had to come out of it because there is no doubt....He would so not approve! He has left behind a family who loved him and are better off for doing so. We strive to conduct ourselves well every day in the name of his spirit because he deserves the best. Bijoux, you do your family proud and it is noted, I know it.</P><br />
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((((( huge hugs for BB )))))

Bijoux, reading your story was an experience in itself.... Today, I am grateful to EP for letting me read about such heroism. Heroism has nothing to do with waving a big sword or converting people to your religion - it is about not letting the events in your life overwhelm you. And you are a heroic woman.... I do not have a strong enough adjective to describe your strength. I cannot imagine anything worse than losing your family in whom you must certainly have invested so much time, and from whom you had such hopes. I only wish I have a fraction of your will, when I am faced with tough times. I'm sure I would crumble like a dry twig... Please do not think me impudent for saying so - I wish you had another husband and more children. You obviously have much love to share. Its a pity you don't have a family of your own.

I'm sobbing so hard right now, I can hardly see my screen.. :-)
I gather from your story that you have had a good career. It made me wonder how many people I might have (really) met in my life, who must have endured such loss, and must have been so undemonstratively heroic. I wonder if I have been ever been unthinkingly mean or rude to such people (I am usually not rude).... If so, I couldn't be sorrier.

You put it so simply...

I'm so very sorry to learn of what you went through. Of course, something happens to everyone, but what you experienced is, I know, the very worst thing that any human being can endure. I went to the Mark Twain House in Hartford, CT when I lived in Mass. years ago, and of course they made you sit through a short biographical thing before you could go on the tour. It turned out that Mark Twain had had several daughters, whom he dearly loved, and of course to them he was God. One of his daughters died of meningitis when she was only 24, and he wrote later, "It is a marvel of our nature that a human being can receive a blow like that and continue breathing." He and his wife never returned to the house in Hartford, which is where their daughter Susy died.

Like everyone in the country at the moment, I am beyond horrified at the senseless nightmare that has occurred in Connecticut, and deeply humbled to be reminded of just how quickly all that I love could be taken, and I could be utterly destroyed. I had to tell my 5 and 9 year old boys about it tonight, knowing that they would both hear about it at school tomorrow. The best I could come up with to tell them was to always be kind and inclusive to oddball kids who were weird and couldn't fit in, and to try to set an example for their peers to do the same, because cruelty, teasing, and isolation to such kids could result in them exploding one day, and taking a rifle to a school.

I have not, God forbid, ever experienced the loss of a child, but I have seen my mother do so, and as she described it to me just recently, she lives right at "the edge of a deep pit," and has to struggle daily to keep from sliding into it. But I have lost my sister, my father, all my grandparents of course, 2 close friends, and several others. Also, through estrangement rather than death, I have also lost my sister's 2 daughters, and thus their children, which equates to 5 cousins that my children will never know. And of course you know of my divorce, which was nearly as devastating as any of the losses I've just listed - - but as you say, you cope, and you move forward. There's nowhere else to go, except the pit, and I'm not going there. I wish you great peace.

I can’t even imagine that kind of pain. I knew of your tragic loss but not the details. This puts it in a new perspective for me. Thanks for sharing. You will remain in my thoughts.

Bijoux, I am so sorry for your tragic loss. I'm glad you had your family and friends to help you through it. Even though you still feel the hurt, you did survive. You had a great career, you have many friends, and you remained a wonderful person. You are a big help to many on this site, and I, for one, am thankful for you.


I'm sure this was difficult, and probably important, to write. I'm sad for your loss. Events like this change one's life path. But then, I hardly need to write this to you. Thanks for sharing... it provides an insight into the online person - you - that I often see online, at all hours! I hope that writing this somehow frees you to look beyond the internet and find some personal connections outside of the screen time. It's clear that you feel deeply, think deeply, and that you care about this world. This holiday, think about what might come next, what your next chapter might bring.

Just a note from an anonymous person that cares. And, of course, free advice is worth exactly what you pay for it. Food for thought though.