Usually when we talk about homesteading we refer to the planning, the routines, and the how-tos. However, there is the other side of this way of life that we often don’t hear about. For example, financial hardships, sickness, and even worse, suffering a loss of a family member.
Recently, this other side that is not often talked about, suffering a loss, became a reality on my homestead when I lost my 26-year-old-son suddenly. This event has changed life for me and for my family both on the homestead and in everyday life.
In this very personal and somewhat emotional post, I will offer some of the ways I am trying to continue forward when suffering a loss as well as sharing some information on the grieving process as well. I hope you may never have to endure the pain of losing anyone, especially your child, but for those of you that have or will in the future, I hope to help you through this hard time.
If suffering a loss is causing feelings of suicide or deep depression please reach out to a professional.
Suffering a Loss
Death is part of life as we know it. After all, we all have our time when we will leave this earth. But when that death occurs unnaturally or suddenly the pain seems to be more than one can bear. When suffering a loss is because of losing one of your children however, there are no words to explain that pain and emotion.
We know we have to move forward, be there for the remaining family, and continue with our hopes and dreams. But when suffering a loss that is so painful as losing a child it seems impossible to move beyond the pain and emotions that flood your thinking day after day and hour after hour.
Our Story of Tragedy
On February 10th of this year, at 11:30 p.m. I got the one phone call no parent ever wants to receive. My youngest daughter called me to tell me my son was gone. I remember the sick feeling in my stomach, the knots, the headache, and the shaking of every part of my body as I hung up the phone.
I called his father, my daughters, my family and the rest is a blur. I know since I was over 900 miles away that I needed to pack and leave and that is what we did. The 15 hour car ride to Pennsylvania from Florida was quiet. No one spoke. I remember looking out the window as memories of my conversation with my son just three days prior were filled with laughter and “I love you’s”.
My son passed away next to his girlfriend and his 5-year-old daughter while watching a movie. There was nothing anyone could do. My only son, my baby boy was gone. I would never see him, kiss him, hug him or tell him I love him ever again. The pain was indescribable.
The Month Following his Passing
I decided to stay in Pennsylvania with my daughters to grieve together and I guess, try and make sense of what had happened. We did the painful process of going through his things, making arrangements for cremation and trying to support each other through it all.
Now, 6 weeks later the pain is still there as much as the day he passed. And although we were blessed with the birth of a beautiful baby girl on March 3rd, we still mourn the loss of my son. However as the days pass by, we have all tried to do things to make the days better and the pain seem easier to deal with.
Taking the Steps to Move Forward
Everyone talked about our “new normal” that we would find after my son’s passing. I am not sure if anything at all seems normal. However, I still have a farm, a family, and a fiance that all care for me and I care for them. So I choose to go forward and try to heal.
If you are suffering a loss, even if it is not your child, there are grievance counselors that you can talk to. They can be found by simply searching for “grievance counselors” on Google. I am not ready to sit with a stranger so I chose to set my own steps to recover. I hope this may help you.
Start a “Dear ??” Journal
One of the activities someone suggested to me was to start a Dear Matthew journal. In it I write daily to my son. I tell him what I did all day. I tell him I miss him and love him. I have told him I was mad a him for leaving, I have cried tears and smeared the ink on the page. I even for the first time, laughed as I wrote about a funny story that happened one day.
It is not the same as a conversation with him, but in some way it makes me feel like I am still making him a part of things and keeping him alive in my own way. I plan on designing a “Dear Matt” journal for my 3 girls so they can do the same. Journaling is a great way to get your thoughts and emotions out of your head and onto paper. Consider starting a gratitude journal also.
Make a Memorial Garden
Sometimes when we are suffering the loss of a child, or anyone for that matter, it helps to stay busy physically. Why not start a memorial garden for your loved one? My sons favorite color was red like mine so I am planting all red flowers in a separate space just for him.
I will add some bird feeders and a memorial plaque to my memorial garden too. This is a great way to honor my son and keep me busy as I weed and plant and water it. You can do this in a garden you already have too! This brings me to the next suggestion.
Make a Private Sitting Spot
While your designing and creating your memorial garden, why not add a bench or a comfy outdoor chair. If you put your memorial garden in a quiet and private place, you can take some time to sit at your bench and talk or pray each day.
You see, when you are suffering a loss like this, going to a private place and having the time alone to pray and talk or just reminisce can be very healing for you. I have a small garden table set up with a chair and I actually have written in my journal there. When I need time away it is a great place to meditate or just take a few minutes to myself.
Make a New Bucket List
My son was so young when he left us. AT 26 years old, he didn’t get to do many things I am sure he would have wanted to. However, he did smile a lot and do what he wanted even if it was spur of the moment. He rode bikes by the river in Pittsburgh and got to meet Mac Miller. He hiked with his friends. He rode a bike, and a skateboard and went to many skate parks.
The point is that he did do many things. I want to be able to say that before my time is up too. I have created a new bucket list for my life and I intend on following it! Some of the items include:
- Zip Lining
- Hiking the Appalachian Mountains
- Going to Mardi Gras
- Visiting Niagra Falls
- Seeing the Grand Canyon
- Swimming with the dolphins
- Learning to Snorkel
I may be suffering a loss, but it has livened me up! I want to live and enjoy each day! I do not want to have regrets for the things I didn’t do when it is my time. I may have given my son life but he taught me how to live.
Find and Keep Ongoing Support
If you know me at all you know I live for my children. Losing my son meant I lost a piece of who I was. However, the support from my 3 daughters is what keeps me going. We are grieving together even if I am 900 + miles away. When we need each other we call each other no matter what time of the day or night it is. It really helps when suffering a loss to have that strong support system.
One of the greatest ways I am healing is from that family support. It is great when one of them shares a video of my son they found on their phone, or a message he sent to them. The joke about how he did something when something funny happens. And then they cry because they miss him or vent because they are angry and want him home again.
Where Do I Go From Here?
From here, I go forward. One day at a time, one hour at a time. I take each day as it comes. Some days are good and I have a good day. Some days are emotional and filled with tears and emotions. Let’s face it I am suffering a loss and it will take a long time to heal.
Even though I am suffering a loss like no other, I know I must continue life’s journey. I must moved forward. I need to keep busy and occupied. I will continue to write and talk to my son. I will pray for others who may be suffering a loss. And eventually, I and you will learn this “new normal” too.
Final Thoughts on Suffering a Loss
Are you suffering a loss on your homestead or in your family home? I hope the suggestions may help you as much as they have helped me. Do you have other ways to help someone who is suffering a loss? Please mention them in the comments below. Trust me when I say the support is very beneficial to others.