When a baby dies, we are fragmented. Shattered, we must pick up the pieces and put them back together as we pay tribute to our children, our tables forever missing one, our families incomplete, our treasures in heaven, our babies alive only in our hearts.
It is through our stories that they live forever. These children were here and they mattered. They were loved.
They are loved.
I saw your pajamas last night.
No, they weren’t the exact ones, of course. I returned yours to the store, along with your bassinet and baby blankets.
These were the same though, your pattern. The ones I picked out to match your nursery. Bright teal, with lime green, hot pink, and bright purple flowers. And panda bears. Lots of pandas.
Is it wrong of me then, that I do crave to hold another baby in my arms?
I’ve given myself time, and I continue to mourn you. But I still have so much love to give. And Ian wants a baby. I want to give him this gift, to share this part of our future together. A part of me still feels I’m forsaking you to do so.
So tell me, my sweet Bella, what am I to do?
How long am I to go on missing the sound of your heartbeat, the feel of your somersaults?
How long before it’s “acceptable” for me to want another child?
I have had 10 miscarriages – just saying that is hard for me
For so long I have tried to sweep it under the rug – once my number became larger then three I became numb to it all. I’m not really an emotional person, but this topic always brings up memories as if it all happened yesterday.
I have been through 10 miscarriages in 6 years.
I am 28 years old – I have been pregnant 13 times – and have 3 living children.
I can be a very private person, but I think miscarriage and infertility have enough secrecy surrounding it that I do not want to perpetuate it. The more it is talked about – the more women and families can feel supported and listened to and important – not embarrassed and ashamed like I am struggling to not feel. I am opening up the door to talk about it – so here is my long story:
My first two miscarriages were kind of a blur to me. We were not trying to get pregnant and basically found out we were expecting the same time we realized we were miscarrying. I had always heard that having one miscarriage was ‘normal’ and so I honestly didn’t put too much thought into it. They were still very painful and devastating to me but I thought once we were actively trying everything would be OK – that no one would have more then 2.
My husband and I decided to start trying for a family and we actively began trying to conceive using basal body temping as a guide. We became pregnant again in November 2004 after the first month of trying. I was about 6 weeks pregnant just around Christmas when I miscarried (#3). This time it hit me – hard. I mean I have never heard of someone who has had 3 miscarriages ever – let alone in a row.
Basal Body Temperature Chart using Fertility Friend
I began feverishly doing my research.
With my basal body charts I had noticed that my luteal phase was under 10 days (according to research the shortest it should be for a successful pregnancy) so I began to take vitamins B6 and B12 to lengthen it. I went to the doctor and his thought was that my progesterone was low and that is why I was not able to hold on to the pregnancy past 6 weeks. So a new plan evolved. I would stay on the vitamins and go on a progesterone supplement the moment I found out I was pregnant. This made the basal body temping so important – I needed to know the exact date.
We began another month of trying to conceive (TTC). Thermometer in hand and a plan in mind we became pregnant again in June and I was on the progesterone medication. The plan was to stay on until 12 weeks pregnant and then to slowly wean myself off. When 12 weeks came along we lowered the dose of progesterone but I began to bleed so we quickly went back onto the medication. The baby was doing fine and the new plan was to wean off at 20 weeks. 20 weeks came and I was successfully weaned off with no further complications. I had my first full term baby (Big P) in December 2005 – a healthy boy.
Big P – 8lbs 1oz
My husband and I had always wanted to have our kids close in age, so we starting TTC again relatively quickly. I began the basal body temping again and got pregnant pretty quickly. When I got the positive I went to the doctor to get a prescription for the progesterone and started taking it again. I miscarried #4 shortly after 7 weeks. My doctor and I both thought it was because the progesterone was not started soon enough so I was given a prescription for the next time to begin the day I had a positive test. I got pregnant again and started the progesterone but miscarried #5 at 6 weeks 5 days and I was starting to lose hope. I went back on the vitamins and we began TTC again. Thinking back it probably would have been better to give myself a few months to heal physically and emotionally but I was determined and had the okay from my doctor.
In July 2006 we got pregnant again and everything was going smoothly. I was on the progesterone and we had an ultrasound that showed the heartbeat and the baby was growing. I was on bed rest again for the first 20 weeks and was weaned off the progesterone at 20 weeks. Everything was going smoothly. At 8 months pregnant I awoke with vertigo – fell and cracked my wrist. I was taken to the hospital and without going into too much detail I was diagnosed with possible stroke and they ran a large amount of tests and I was hospitalized.
In one of those tests they discovered I had a blood disorder called Factor V Leiden. Everything was going relatively smoothly with the pregnancy. I was having some weight issues – having only gained 10lbs and was 8 months pregnant they were checking to see if the baby was growing -which she was. I was being induced just over 2 weeks early because of the vertigo and possible stroke. Our healthy baby girl (Princess R) was born in February 2007.
Princess R – 7lbs 14oz
This is where the story starts to get a bit crazy. I had 2 more miscarriages (#6 & 7) due to failed birth control. We were not trying to have an other baby yet – however these losses were still quite painful.
In May 2007 I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease and was on a strict gluten free diet. We had wondered if that was an underlying cause contributing to the miscarriages and we’re hopeful that was the answer. I still had the constant vertigo that started in January 2007 and was seeing a neurologist for possible causes. During one of our meetings she mentioned Factor V Leiden again. That was the first time I had heard of it since back when I was pregnant with Princess R. The neurologist thought that could be the cause of my possible stroke when I was pregnant. I was sent to other specialists for that.
My husband and I were ready to expand our family again. I went off birth control in the beginning December 2007 and we began TTC again. I became pregnant the first month but lost miscarriage # 8 at just over 5 weeks. We didn’t take any breaks between that loss and trying to conceive again and we became pregnant again the next cycle at the beginning of January.
I was back on the progesterone and everything was seemingly going okay – baby was perfect. We had made it past 8 weeks of pregnancy and thought everything was going to go smoothly. We had told extended family and friends and had begun taking daily photos of my growing belly – our kids were excited.
Big P and Princess R telling the family about the growing baby
A phone call came to me a few weeks later that shattered me. The baby (Triton) that had made it to 13 weeks was “no longer viable” and he had passed away (miscarriage # 9). I was confused – I had done everything ‘right’ – I was on the progesterone, was on bed rest – everything. I was scheduled for a D&C because I did not want to deliver at home.
The OB who was going to be doing the surgery turned out to be a lifesaver to me. Another miracle that Triton brought into my life. My OB had read over my chart, talked to me for a long time about my history and pegged that I had been diagnosed with Factor V Leiden, a blood disorder that predisposes me to making blood clots.
The surgery was scheduled for April 24, 2008 and I was able to get the answer I needed. When the pathology came back it showed blood clots caught in the umbilical cord cutting off the supply to Triton. He had given me the answer and we had a new plan and a concrete diagnoses for all my losses – Factor V Leiden.
Recovering from surgery, my husband and I were not trying to conceive yet. I did become pregnant (seriously it’s like he just has to look at me to get me pregnant) the next month but miscarried again (#10) likely because I was not healed up completely from the surgery. We were both ready to start the process of adding to our family and met up with my OB again.
The new plan – because Factor V Leiden predisposes me to throwing blood clots normally and any pregnant woman’s risk of blood clots increase anyway – my chances were pretty high. This is the reason for my miscarriages, my possible stroke at 8 months pregnant – but luckily there was something we could do. I was still going to be on the progesterone for 20 weeks because I did have an issue with low progesterone – it was just not the whole story.
I continued with the basal body temping and this time added low dose aspirin (it’s a blood thinner). Once I got that positive pregnancy test – I went on the progesterone and was put on another medication called Fragmin. This medication is a needle that I inject into my lower abdomen – it is a blood thinner that is safe to take while pregnant. This medication was designed to thin my blood enough to stop me from making clots and putting me and baby at risk for miscarriage or still birth.
I injected myself with this needle every day – I was covered in bruises but everything was working. It became second nature to me. Since it is not safe to go into labor while on blood thinners I was placed on bed rest at 36 weeks because I had begun to dilate. The plan was to induce me again just over 2 weeks early – I had to be off the blood thinner to deliver but could not go over 12 hours without the medication or I would risk another stroke. So, the safest thing to do was a planned early induction.
In February 2009 our third full term baby (Baby E) was born perfect and healthy. I was put back on the Fragmin blood thinners and had to continue giving myself the injections for 8 weeks postpartum.
Baby E – 7lbs 13oz
Now, if you are still with me – thank you. It is hard to condense this story into a few paragraphs. I don’t really have a ‘moral’ or ‘message’ to this story except this is my story. It has been a very difficult and extremely painful journey.
It has taken me a long time (and I am still working on it) to accept what has happened and to begin to digest it all.
We were married for 17 years, 6 months, and 2 days.
Up until day 6,217, when he told me he wanted a divorce, I thought we were the happiest married couple ever. I said those exact words to my best friend when she tearfully called me to tell me she was considering leaving her husband. I told her that she deserved to be happy.
So, when my dear husband told me the same thing shortly after, I knew he didn’t deserve anything less.
Up until the last day of our marriage (day number 6,394), I thought the divorce wouldn’t actually happen. I couldn’t process the concept that WE – my husband and I – were not going to be married.
. I do that sometimes when I have trouble recollecting events – I pare the story down to basic facts and repeat it until it sinks in. In this case, it made me realize what a shocking and kind of hilarious story it is.
This version is a little more than the nutshell – context is important – but it’s still hard to believe. Plus, some parts were left out for too long and it’s important that I’m honest about them.
So, right – back story.
I met him on my first day of junior college and we became inseparable. A year and half later, he enlisted in the Army while I was moving to continue my education. I couldn’t stand to be apart from him, so I broke up with him.
Kids are stupid.
He showed up out of the blue, all crazy and romantic, two weeks later. I agreed to get back together with him. Two weeks later, we got engaged over the phone. We planned a wedding for eight months later – that April.
Happy, happy day! Huge family event. It stayed a huge family event for more than 17 years. We had three kids, one failed business, somewhere around a dozen moves – including one cross-country and back.
This is where I leave out one part.
Well, where I used to leave out one part. After child number three, our beloved baby girl, things went south.
Meaning, The South wouldn’t rise again. He started having trouble getting it up.
Then, it didn’t come up at all.
I thought we were strong. We were best friends. I really thought we’d be together forever. I even had his name tattooed on my ankle in a big flaming heart. (It’s covered up now. No worries.)
If we talked about our intimacy issues, he just told me I didn’t do something enough. I didn’t initiate enough. I wasn’t there for HIM enough. I wasn’t enough. We tried Viagra; it didn’t work. We had sex a total of four times during the last seven years of our marriage. I gave up.
I’ll skip ahead to tell you how this turned out.
Between leaving me and marrying her, he visited a doctor. For her.
It turns out that years of untreated diabetes shredded certain blood vessels. He had liquid Viagra injected into his penis (OUCH!) and it still didn’t work. He’ll never have another erection without surgery. I have no idea if he got it or if he intends to.
But bottom line there is, it wasn’t – and never was – my fault. I never told ANYONE about his situation downstairs until I had to.
That brings us to Year 16; two months shy of our 17th anniversary.
In February, he found his high school girlfriend on Facebook. She requested him as a friend. He was perplexed and flustered; he asked me a million questions.
Should he add her?
Was she still mad at him for breaking up with her?
Could they be friends?
I was calm. “Honey,” I said. “Oh honey. We’ve been married almost 17 years. We have three kids. We live two states away. She’s married. It’ll be fine. Be friends.”
See how funny this story is already?
The emails, texts, and phone calls started immediately. At one point, I asked him to stop texting her. Emails were fine, stay friends on Facebook – just don’t text.
But I wasn’t built to be the text police.
So, you want to text? Fine. I trust you.
April was our 17th anniversary. We talked about having more anniversaries, staying married. I pushed for a quick answer; he said he wanted to stay together.
In May, there came a day he couldn’t stop pacing. Over and over I asked what was wrong. He couldn’t give me a clear answer.
I kept at it until he said the words, “I want a divorce.”
We both cried.
He moved out of the bedroom to the couch downstairs.
I cried. I howled. I screamed. At one particularly low moment, I was on my knees, sobbing, before him on the floor, while that stupid Sugarland song, “Stay,” was on the television.
He told me to stop; Just get up.
He didn’t want to talk. He didn’t want counseling. He was just done. Wanted his Facebook girlfriend.
At that point, he said she was still married; they were just friends. She “helped” him through this rough time.
In June, he took trips to meet her, the first in the city where we had our honeymoon because it was “more convenient.”
In July, I saw he’d been tagged in photos from a high school friend. We were still friends on Facebook. (I told you this story was funny.)
These photos were for his birthday party, to which I wasn’t invited, but there they were, arms around each other. Someone commented what a cute couple they were.
About that time, SURPRISE, I started dating. I’ll admit, I wasn’t just dating; I was down to fuck. After only having sex four times in seven years, I wanted some.
And I got some.
Never anywhere near my house – no one came over. He was still sleeping downstairs on the couch. He moved out in August.
At one point before our divorce, after he followed me to a park and took pictures of me partially naked and in an obviously sexual embrace with another man, he said, “You’ve got your get out of jail free card.”
At the time, I didn’t feel like our marriage had been a jail.
Of course, now I see that it was – we were both unhappy for a long time. Now, I’m thankful he gave me the card. When his business failed, we had to start over again and I didn’t see him the same way.
I lost respect for him, loving him a little less each day thereafter. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for him.
Our divorce was final in October.
At Thanksgiving, which our divorce decree states is always his holiday with the children, he took his girlfriend, her kid and our kids to his family’s holiday feast and announced their engagement.
They got married in January on the beach with our children in attendance. I made arrangements for him to take them out of state for the event. I bought clothes for them to wear. I spent hours convincing our eldest, then 16, to go with them. I thought I was helping our kids through the transition by accepting the situation and being positive about their relationship.
They’re still together. I don’t say negative things about them, not around the kids. Of course, I hate them.
If I could explode people with my brain, they’d be first on the list. Clearly.
Sometimes I look around this house we shared – our last home together – and it’s hard for me to think that he’s not here, that he’ll never set foot in this house again. That loss has left a scar on my heart. A sensitive one.
I’m still shocked. I don’t know that I’ll ever get completely over it. I’m taking a break from it right now, but I have happily dated A LOT.
Four guys I’ve dated have left me for their high school girlfriends. I started asking men if they were still in touch with their high school squeezes because if they were, they’d soon find those bitches irresistible.
I laugh about it – to hide my pain.
I’m broken, yeah. I’m working on doing better, on being better.
Like a whole bunch of people in the Chicago area in late July of 2017, when Mike Malinowski completed suicide, I was crushed.
On the outside, if his social media activity was our only peek inside his life, the guy looked like he was living the dream: expensive cocktails and smiling ladies and fun looking vacations and hip hop shows and live music and a stable full of friends.
However it looked on the inside, I don’t and won’t know, but it was obviously a shitshow that none of us were invited in to witness.
I was 37 at the time of Mike’s death by suicide, and what’s weird about the whole thing, is that it’s almost like I don’t remember who I was before he died.
That morning, I remember, was eerily gorgeous. It was a Saturday or a Sunday, I had nowhere to be, but I woke up early anyway. It must have been close to 5am, which sucks because I NEVER get to sleep in and here I was waking up when I didn’t have to. I did what most people do, I grabbed my phone and headed to the bathroom to start my morning.
Within the first five seconds of opening social media while on the toilet I knew something was off. I had like four facebook messages, and no one ever wants to wake up to that shit in the first place, but these were from people I hadn’t talked to in a decade or more. Like everyone else would, I ignored the fb messenger notifications and started scrolling.
There it was. Mike’s final post. He had typed, just a half hour earlier, maybe 40 miles from the toilet I now sat upon, that he wasn’t a pussy and that he couldn’t take it anymore and that he loved his friends. But he was out.
That was it.
Of course at this time of the morning there were only maybe a dozen reactions, and I did what I bet everyone else did, I went into fb messenger and typed out “what did you do?” and sent it to him.
No response. Ever. Still.
I checked those messages I had tried to ignore. Every single fucking one said “what just happened?” or “is this fucking real?”.
My friend, hell one of my favorite pint sized musicians, had completed suicide and left his note as a post that I would morbidly stalk every few months just to remind myself that it actually happened.
Mike’s fucking gone, he peace’d out just after he said goodbye to everyone, on FACEBOOK no less, and here I was thinking I needed to be more like Mike, more in tune with what’s right in my life, more aware of how awesome the shit and the people around me are.
At 37, with the most beautiful woman in the world as my wife, and with three incredible, healthy, energetic children all still asleep in my house, I was fucking devastated.
Like, punched in the stomach, dragged through the streets, every ounce of everything inside of me depleted, just, devastated.
I remember returning to bed and sort of sniffling a bit and my wife turns to me and says “what’s going on?” as she’s still half asleep.
“Remember Mic One?” I say through ragged breaths.
“The littlest rapper?” she jokes, because it’s true. We fucked with Mike so hard, everyone did, because we loved the hell out of him.
My wife knew Mike, the rapper, because he was the sole reason why we postponed our first wedding anniversary trip waaaaaay back in 2005, all because he offered my band The Cankles an opening slot at one of his shows. His shows were epic sold out parties, every time, and his support to any artist on the come up in Chicago was huge, if even only on the inside. Mic One shows were where any musician in the indie hip hop scene wanted to be. My wife knew Mike as the guy who said shit no one else would even dream of saying on the social medias, he was the guy your wife rolled her eyes at. Always.
“Yea.” I responded. “He’s dead. Suicide. He posted about it on facebook about a half hour ago.”
Julie went up on one elbow, seeing my face as it dove for her chest, she didn’t say anything.
I spent the better part of a half hour just sobbing. Not just because he was gone, but because I felt like his taking his own life was sort of a kick to my own stability. If Mike couldn’t handle this shitstorm, how the fuck was I going to?
The rest of that day and the week to follow all went by in a sort of blur. I was communicating with friends I hadn’t seen or spoken to outside of social media in over a decade. Everyone was fucking hurting.
How did we not see this? Why didn’t someone say something? Why didn’t he ask for help? Now what?
I was a pile of absolute shit.
I should tell you, because it matters in this here story, that I’m an “elected official”, an alderman, in a small city in the Chicago suburbs called Yorkville. There’s 19,000 people, it’s rural-ish, but with way more suburban folk who wanted less people and bigger yards, it has all the comforts of a larger suburb closer to the city, without a lot of the noise.
Anyhow, my mayor at the time, Gary Golinski, got word of what had happened and, because he’s fucking awesome, he called me to check on me. I told him I was a pile of shit and I didn’t know how I was going to bounce back from this sort of blow. He listened to every mumbled word I said one night and asked me, “Well, what are you going to do about it?” to which I responded, “I don’t think there’s much I can do, he’s dead.”.
And then he said something I’ll never forget. “Well, you gotta do something. I’ll wait.” and then there he sat, on the other end of the line, just sitting patiently. He wasn’t offering me much, but he was present.
Over the next half hour, as I sort of talked to myself with Mayor Golinski listening, I sort of went over my options.
I could do nothing, which is what I had been doing for the last week, basically ignoring everything in my life.
I could say something at a meeting some day soon, but those are just words. I needed something a bit more public and uncomfortable.
Together we decided that I needed to make this a turning point in my life, and make a public and official testament that suicide is an issue, that there are resources available to those who need help, and that just saying hi or simply being present for someone can help turn their day around. Oddly enough, that last part was a direct result of Mayor Golinski just being there on the phone with me as I worked through my shit.
That night I drafted what would become the National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month Proclamation. And with the direct support of my city, the United City of Yorkville, we were going to proclaim, with Mayor Golinski as my bullhorn, since I still couldn’t talk without crying, that September was Suicide Prevention Month, that suicide was an issue, that mental health resources were available, and that a little slice of humanity can go a long way when someone is having a tough time.
We adopted that proclamation in late August 2017. The night of that meeting I went home and emailed every elected official I knew and asked them to do the same. I was hurting, but I was fucking fired up. I’m sick of people not knowing they matter, sure, but I’m also sick of that fact that whenever I say the word “suicide” people look at me like I just screamed the word “MASTURBATION” in a catholic school.
Denial about a subject doesn’t make the subject any less real, talking about it seems like the best way to make something taboo less terrifying.
Sure, I was terrified of having to talk about suicide, but I knew that if I didn’t, someone else I love might consider it their only option and then actually follow through and I’d lose someone else.
I was fucking done sitting still.
I haven’t sat still since.
In 2018, I got permission to conduct official outreach on behalf of the United City of Yorkville a bit earlier, and I ended up sending out about 3,000 emails on my own and got 234 cities, and 20 counties, in 40 different states to official talk about suicide by adopting the NSPAMP.
That same year, I reached out to a group in Chicago called Hope For the Day, a proactive mental health and suicide prevention non-profit, and immediately fell into step with their approach and knew I had found a home for the fire lit under my ass.
While working parallel in my own little suburban bubble, HFTD saw something in my communication style, and rather than them just high fiving me for continuing to talk about suicide from my position as an alderman and a dad, they nudged me to consider being more physically involved in the proclamation project than just a guy sending emails.
In 2019, along with Hope For the Day, I’ve still sent out 1,000 or so emails, but my numbers are only in the 70s as of this writing, but I don’t care, because we’ve already visited and presented in front of a handful of city councils in the state of Illinois. We’ve directly interacted with those impacted by suicide, and we’ve demonstrated to those who have NOT been impacted by suicide, how devastating the loss of one human from suicide can be.
In 2017 and 2018, I was still unable to attend many of the readings and adoptions of the proclamation, because it was still hard to talk about.
In 2019, it’s not any easier to talk about, but fuck everything else, I’m not done trying to make sure that Mike Malinowski didn’t die in vain and that I can’t do what I can do impress upon humanity how important we all are.
We’re in this shit together whether we like it or not, so I’ll be around if you wanna fucking talk about some shit. I also like tacos.
Oh, and I just got hired by Hope For the Day on August 15th, 2019, as their new Public Policy Director to directly communicate with people on all sides of government, to not only ensure the money we spend as a country on mental health and suicide prevention is well spent, but to make sure we all realize it’s human to hurt and our job is to talk about what sucks so that it doesn’t end up hurting someone or losing one more person to suicide.
So, yea, I cuss when I talk about pain and suicide and hurting and shit, but it’s ok not to be ok, and I’ll grow up someday (I’M LYING).
TALK ABOUT SUICIDE.
BUT TALK ABOUT THE SHIT THAT SUCKS.
It’s been a long time since you’ve asked me to comment on the book you wrote about your mom’s suicide. I think you are amazing to write about it and I’m glad that you did. I don’t enjoy bringing that chapter of life to mind, given the chaos of those years, but I’ve thought about it often. Especially when I think about what it means to be a mother and uncovering fresh layers of fucked up that we both learned from our mothers.
I know it’s not fair of me to judge them now — but it’s hard not to.
Talking about my relationship with your mom is hard for me because I admired her very much — I was flabbergasted by the way that she slipped back into drugs and addiction.
I was shocked that she abandoned you like that. I was just shocked.
I couldn’t believe your mom would die by suicide.
I still can’t.
I remember the first time I met your mom, I was playing in the front yard while she moved in across the street. She introduced herself from over the fence and told me that she had a daughter just my age, with my name: “I have a Sarah too.”
By the time you came to visit for the summer she had already arranged that we would be playmates. She even arranged a phone call between us before your visit.
When you showed up at my front door, I knew we would be lifelong friends.
My mom worked a lot and my dad was physically or mentally absent most of the time, so your home was like a second home to me.
During these years, your house felt like a Norman Rockwell to me, though now I see that it was far from it.
My mom remarried a man who was addicted to heroin, while at your house, your mom packed lunches, set up the tent in the backyard for us to “camp,” and made goody bags filled with candy. She took us to the zoo, the mall, and the flea market. She prescreened movies, took us for mint chocolate chip ice cream cones, and insisted that you wore a bike helmet. I remember going with her to an NA picnic in the park and how proud she was of her sober chips. We’d to admire the shiny metal coins she earned for racking up months and years of sobriety.
I envied the amount of time and attention that your mom spent with you when she was sober As a kid, I saw your mom as kind, fair, the type who would take the time to listen.
It was very late and your mom answered the phone and insisted that I tell her what was happening. My stepfather hadn’t started hitting my mom yet, but the yelling was really over the top. She gave me a speech about how adults sometimes argue and it can be scary for children to hear and explained that my mom and step dad would never want to do anything to scare me. She told me to go downstairs and tell them that they were scaring me and I couldn’t sleep. They told me to go back up to my room.
Many nights of fighting followed with growing intensity and I tried to call you but ended up talking to Beth.
Beth eventually called my mom and told her that she was concerned about me – I was in big trouble. I was forbidden to speak about “private family business.” It worked: I didn’t speak of the violence again until after his death.
The violence escalated and my stepfather began beating my mom and my brother when he was angry. We moved on several occasions to get away from him.
The emotional abuse from my stepfather became our new normal and we began spending school nights on random people’s sofas, hiding our car down the street.
I spent as much time as possible at friend’s houses and took up babysitting to get out of the house on weekends.
Beth was the only person who knew what was happening; I’d assumed that she would be the person to help me out of that situation. I’m no longer sure she understood how bad things had gotten. She provided me a safe place to go whenever I needed one and a reminder that there are kind people in the world. She told me that I should become one of them. She affirmed that there were a lot of fucked-up things in the world and they would probably never make sense.
Honestly, I don’t know how I would have turned out without Beth as a moral reference point during those years.
Beth became addicted to codeine cough syrup and her behavior changed: she didn’t take us on outings she slept all day everyday. One occasion when she woke up, I remember her running down the hallway singing “boo boop be boo.” This is when I learned that there was something wrong. I was pretty sure that people with bronchitis didn’t do that kind of thing normally.
I knew things were coming unhinged for you, but was too young to appreciate the full weight of what was happening.
I lived in Beth’s house twice, once for a short time when I ran away after my stepfather died and for the school term after that.
By the time I officially lived with Beth she was pretty far gone in her addiction. She slept or was gone most of the time.
It seemed that you were on your own, too.
I still cared what Beth thought of me. She seemed one of the few people who didn’t see me as a lost cause and so I didn’t see myself that way when I was around her.
On Fridays, Beth would take us to the grocery store. She taught us how to grocery shop and some very basic cooking skills.
Things went sour when my mom suspected Beth was using the money she gave her for things other than my upkeep. You and Beth were at odds more often than not. I decided it was best to move back home. Home was a sort of hell, but it was my own hell and I knew how to navigate it.
I didn’t see much of Beth after that.
I’d spend weekends at her apartment while she agreed to leave us totally unattended. The last time I saw her, she’d picked me up from my house to bring me back to your house for the weekend. I remember her being warm and chatting with me for the ride, though I can’t remember what about.
I remember her smiling and I remember that she mentioned that you were unhappy with her these days.
The next time I saw her she was in a coma.
Atrophied hands, hair cut short, dead to the world.
No warm smile, no more sun-kissed freckles, no more frizzy bun atop her head.
She was gone to the world and she couldn’t recover. That’s the last I saw her.
I couldn’t talk about her death with you. It didn’t seem like you wanted to and then you were gone I knew that she let you down and ultimately abandoned you with her suicide. You have every right to be angry with her; hell I was angry on your behalf.
I was just shocked and sad. I think I felt abandoned too.
The next few years were hard for us; the one person I saw as a safe adult had succumbed to drugs and took her own life. It didn’t add up.
Suicide was cruel and yet I remembered her as such a kind person.
There was nothing I could say that would lessen the pain for you so I said nothing.
You remind me of her because you look so much like her now. If you want to talk about what happened, I’d let you start.
What is there to say now, after all of these years?
That was fucked up. There is some fucked up bad shit in the world and it will never make sense, but there is some wonderful stuff too. I think that, despite it all, we both turned out to be people who contribute more to the good than to the uglyl.
I hold you close in my heart, my sister and my dear friend.
Losing a pet can be as hard as losing a loved one. Grief can sneak up on you.
This is his pet loss story:
My pet loss story that was that hardest on me was my the loss of the family dog I had growing up. He was 14 or 15 and started to get bad health, so we decided have him put down instead of being in pain and having to endure any more suffering.
I ended up having to take him to the vet alone, because both my parents and sister were working.
It was the hardest thing I had to deal with at the time: the pain of pet loss never does go away and losing a pet is like a family member passing away.
I sat there with him in the vet room and held him crying my eyes out because I had never had to do that to an animal before.