It’s a radical concept to some–I listen to my children. They are individuals with their own ideas, opinions, feelings, experiences, and perceptions. When one of them tells me he’s scared, I listen. When he says he couldn’t breathe and his stomach hurt at school, I recognize that he’s describing a panic attack. When he can’t sleep and begs me not to go, I hear him. I respect my children and believe them when they tell me their feelings. If they can’t count on me to trust and protect them now, how will they trust me with their hearts in the future?
Squishy is grieving, and he has severe separation anxiety. He’s now scared people will leave him. This extends to everything–pets, TV shows, and objects. When one of his mittens fell out in the car and he didn’t have it for recess, he wouldn’t use any others and ran away from his teacher. He ended up surrounded and secluded, and then had a panic attack. His brother died suddenly last year, but no hugs while he’s upset. No understanding that his mitten missing translated as everything being out of place and nothing would ever be right again. This is grief. I’ve been told they can’t help him with anxiety at school. Almost every day I pick up my baby boy with a face puffy from tears, and exhausted with worry about the next day at school. He. Is. 7. Years. Old. And so, we pulled him from school… for the second and last time.
I pulled him the first time in the fall for similar reasons, and because he was being physically restrained and secluded almost every day. I homeschooled/unschooled him for two months, and a lot of healing happened in those two months. He opened up about Tuna for the first time, and he relaxed a lot. He started to like learning. I thought that was a good amount of time for him to breathe and heal, so with high hopes for success, I sent him back to school starting with half days at the doctor’s suggestion.
My hopes were wrong. He was miserable. He hates school. Our family is hurting, and anything that adds to our pain (that we have the power to change) is now unwelcome in our lives.
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When you lose a child to suicide, the person that was you becomes a shattered mirror, smashed to tiny shards, skidded and scattered– stuck underneath in the small dark places–impossible to sweep up. There are pieces of me that are lost forever. They’re lodged in floorboards and bare feet. They’re in a landfill with rinds and wrappers. They’re dust.
And there are just a very few pieces that I found and kept. I’ve tried to repair them–to put them back together–but they don’t fit now, so they just lay there, broken. Now, I’m searching for pieces that will fit where the gone-forever ones should be. When I look into them now, I see shifting fragments of the self I used to know. Where I’ll find the pieces to repair them, and what they’ll even look like, is a mystery.
But, there is one piece I keep apart from the others. It shows me the same piece of me each time I look. I’m protecting this one–giving it it’s own space. Every time I check to see if I’m still there, this piece shows me my boys.
When I only have fragments of myself left, and my two living boys are whole and alive, I will do ANYTHING to make sure that piece is protected. When I entrust anyone to hold that piece, and there’s even a slight chance that it could break, I’m taking it back. That means that if my boys tell me they don’t feel safe, the most important thing in the universe is to make sure they do. PERIOD.
When we still had Tuna with us, there was a lot more worry about the “shoulds”. I like to think that we’ve always been this way–fiercely protective of our children’s mental and emotional safety (We definitely ignored the “shoulds” more than most people I know)– but they did hold us back from the right decision more than once. Now, the things we thought mattered are meaningless.
Now, there are zero “shoulds” for us. There is no room here for anything or anyone that tries to impose on our fragile family well-being with a “should”, or a “have to”, or a “keep up”. If it’s a radical concept to anyone that we listen to our children’s voices, and that their mental and emotional health come first; I hope they may learn to unconditionally follow their hearts and guts. There is no time on Earth for anything else.
May no one judge the grieving in their process, only love and support them in every way, and forever. As trauma survivors we’re doing our best. We have no room for struggle. Zero room for trouble, unless someone threatens the well-being of that one whole, beautiful, fragile piece of me. Then, I will bring that piece back to peace and safety before you can say “should”.