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Dear Friend,

This is part of a letter to a friend in response to her mom’s suicide.

Dear Sarah,

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. 

I took your mom’s suicide hard.

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.

mom's suicide

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.

When your mom died by suicide, I was glad that she had doted on you those years before she started using again.

As my home life became marked by violence and fear, I began that the world was full of bad people. I quickly became withdrawn to protect myself.

Beth was a reminder that there were safe adults in the world.

When my stepfather and my mom first started fighting, I called your house in the middle of the night. I was so scared. I didn’t know what was happening or what to do.

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.

mom's suicide

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.

died by suicide

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.

With much love,

Sarah 

It’s So Hard To Lose A Pet

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.

pet loss

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.

Jack

Jack

Birth: 16 Apr 2004

Jack The Dog

Death: 23 Jan 2019

“My dog does this amazing thing where he just exists and makes my whole life better because of it.”

– Unknown

Chihuahua. So not a breed of dog that I would ever have thought I would ever own. I’ve always been more into the working breeds, (ie: GSD, Dobermans, Boxers, Rotties, etc.) But way back in 2004, my ex (who wasn’t an ex at the time) and I stopped at a pet store. (Ok, please don’t yell at me about buying a pet store dog. I now know all about puppy mills and stuff. I know, I know. But back then I didn’t really know, or didn’t think about it, or whatever. If I ever get another dog it will be a rescue. Please don’t yell at me.)

Honestly we were just out enjoying the day when we decided to go in and look around. It was something to do.

I said “No dogs”, but somehow we walked out with a dog, who we ended up naming Jack. This dog went across country with us a few times; he was a great traveling companion. But I always told people he wasn’t MY dog. I mean my ex was the one that talked me into getting him. And they seemed pretty attached to each other.

Fast forward to 2013.

We had moved from Florida to Minnesota in 2010 to be closer to her family after I got laid off work. Then in March of 2013, My ex and I split. I was devastated. Don’t get me wrong, there were things wrong on both sides. I take my fair share of the blame there. But when she was preparing to move out, I was informed that I got to take the dog, she was taking the cat. (Um, what? He’s not my dog, but ok.)

I was now keeping the dog.

It’s probably a good thing I got him. You see I have PTSD, it’s probably actually CPTSD but that’s just now becoming a thing. And along with PTSD, I get a side of anxiety (with panic attacks) and depression.

Woohoo….I have a trifecta of mental crap! Yay! Go team me! /end sarcasm.

But the one living being who helped me through all of the break up and mental stuff was Jack, my little chi.

He was there when no one else was.

He laid next to me when I cried.

Back when I was in therapy, I’d come home and talk to him about it. Jack was the one I celebrated with when I got my first degree black belt. He celebrated birthdays with me, and helped me when I was down.

Because no matter how much I wanted to just hide from everyone and not get out of bed, I had to get up.

Jack needed me, to go out, or to be fed, or whatever. I could not neglect him just because I was a mess.

I had to keep going because this little sweet soul needed me. Even when I felt like no one really needed me for anything, Jack did. He depended on me for food, shelter and companionship.

As much as he needed me, I ended up needing him as well. I needed someone to get excited to see me. I’d come home from work and he was so glad I was home. Jack was the one thing in my life who wanted me there.

It was he and I against the world.

I took him to parks, we went on drives together. He heard me rant about stuff and listened to all my stories. If I was anxious he came and sat in my lap so I would pet him. We were best buds.

Late last year I was beginning to suspect that something was going on with him. There was nothing I could pinpoint and say, that’s it.

So I just kept an eye on him.

He was still the same loving dog he was just slowing down a bit; he WAS 14 years old, not a young kid anymore.

So I just kept an eye on him.

Then in January of this year, he took a turn.

I’m not going into it all but I did get him to the vet. They did blood work to start because we didn’t know what was going on. This was a place to start trying to figure it out. His blood work came back all normal. She said according to his blood work he was healthy.

The vet said the next step was getting some imagining done to see if there was tumors or something else.

But we didn’t get that far. His blood work came back on a Tuesday afternoon and Jack died in my arms the next day.

It was Wednesday the 23rd of January at about 8pm.

I don’t know what happened to him.

But I do know a part of me died that day.

He might not have been a trained emotional support dog, but that’s the job he fell into, he was there for me through some dark times. I’ve cried more over the death of this dog then I have over anyone else, human or animal.

I’m crying right now typing this.

I don’t even feel like I’m putting into the proper words what this dog meant to me.

I’m still not over his death and I’m not sure I ever will be. I’m still grieving seven months later.

I still talk to his ashes and tell him mamma loves him.

When I make popcorn I still put a piece or two by his ashes. He loved popcorn.

I have a couple of wonderful friends who had a book made for me, one of those Shutterfly ones.

One of my friends works in marketing (she’s a graphic designer) so she swiped the photos from my Facebook. My other friend, who is my TKD instructor, found the quotes.

So they made me a book of my Jack.

It’s probably the greatest gift I’ve been given. I have a shelf with a couple of photos of him and one of our other dog Abbie. The book is there too.

Jack’s ashes are there along with a clay heart with Jack’s paw prints. I call it my shrine.

I miss him…

every

single

day.

I fell back into my depression and my anxiety has been worse. It’s been a rough year.

But I’m slowly trying to pull myself out of it. I’ve been trying to make myself get out of the apartment more. I’ve been trying to take walks in the park near here.

It’s the one Jack and I went to the most in his last 6 months before he passed. It took me several months to even drive back into that park. I still haven’t been able to bring myself to clean the inside of the windows in my van, his nose prints are still on them.

But I’m trying to do more, to get out.

But it’s hard. So very hard.

Jack’s ashes are in a small box inside of a velvet bag with embroidery. It says, “Until we meet again at the Rainbow Bridge.”

Remember Your Purpose.

Losing a pet can be as awful as losing another family member.

Please, share your stories of your wonderful animals.

Sebastian was a foster fail. My fiancee and I took in he and his two kitten brothers after they were dumped in box outside our Humane Society. Sebastian and his brothers were tuxedo cats, their black fur so shiny and soft. Sadly we lost one of the brothers, George, early on from a terrible respiratory infection.

The other brother, Bellamy, stole my Love’s heart. Another foster fail.

But Sebastian…Sebastian was mine.

pet loss tuxedo cat

While we were supposed to be fostering them until they were adopted, we just couldn’t let them go. Our family of 4. So 4 became 6 – we’d become a foster-fail family, and we loved it.

Alex and I were outnumbered by cats but we wouldn’t have had it any other way. We got them fixed and they settled right in.

Sebastian became affectionately known as “Bash” or “Limp Noodle”. Whenever you picked him up he went limp and let you hold him however you wanted.

Sebastian wasn’t quite two years old when we first started seeing signs of lethargy. One day, that same lethargy led to a temperature check. While it was supposed to be 99.5-102.5 Fahrenheit.

It was 106.

We raced to the emergency vet only to hear the devastating news of Feline Leukemia. We were distraught. but It was a road we had been down before and understood. We lost my fiancee’s first kitty love to feline leukemia.

The emergency vet suggested that we put him down. We just weren’t there yet.

We felt he still had more time and we wanted to look into to doing something, anything that might help Sebastian. As he was also fighting a secondary infection due to the lowered immune system caused by leukemia we started my sweet foster fail on antibiotics. His regular vet suggested an immuno-reglan booster –  $26 a shot on a strict schedule. Not a problem.

We were willing to go into deep debt for this guy.

The first several shots brought on massive improvement; it was like he was a kitten again, jumping and playing around with everyone. We thought that maybe, just maybe, he could have some quality of life. Then came another secondary infection.

He spent 3 days in the hospital fighting it. Got to come home and continued his shots, but they were no longer working. He was spending his days sleeping and hiding in cabinets.

Not two weeks later, his infection came back and back he went to the hospital.

This time he stopped having any interest in food.

The Thanksgiving holiday was coming up and after three days in the hospital, the vet thought it might be getting close to time. He gave us a choice, put him down or wait through the holidays and see if his appetite returns.

We chose to wait.

I look back on that now and wonder just how selfish I was being. We just kept hoping that our pet wouldn’t die.

The following Monday there was no change. We took some final precious moments with our baby boy. He lay on us and meowed at us when we spoke to him. He was tired and he had fought all he could. He was letting us know it was okay and that he knew it was his time. He went quietly and peacefully.

tuxedo kitten before pet loss

I had been through the loss of fosters before, but never one that became a pet. He was my first foster fail.

I loved him so much; missed him so much, that I cried for three weeks almost every day.

It’s late August and I’m crying as I type this.

Pain can lessen, but it never fully goes away. Not when the loss is so intertwined in your heart.

Recently our Humane Society shut down. We’ve affiliated ourselves with another rescue and have continued to foster cats. We end finding a lot on our own through people who reach out via Facebook saying there’s a kitten here or a litter there. We’ve also started working with a group of people who TNR ( trap/neuter/release) feral cats.

Our city here in Arkansas has a horrible cat overpopulation problem.

One night after doing “surveillance” on an area we are hoping to trap some adult cats to TNR we noticed a tiny little kitten head poking out from behind a bush. We stopped and spoke to the kitten who became very chatty with us. He was not a feral, he was entirely too friendly. Someone had dumped this poor baby.

Alex opened a can of wet food and approached him. He was apprehensive at first but eventually she was able to pick him right up.

Alex came back to the car with him and was nearly in tears. “Look at him,” she said.

It nearly took my breath away.

This four month old baby looked exactly like Sebastian.

He’s been with us for three days now. He’s a goofy thing. And I swear walking through our apartment and running into him I think it’s Sebastian. I don’t know that we will keep Cooper but I will be forever grateful to him, for reminding me of my sweet boy and that I serve a purpose here.

Tuxedo kitty pet loss

Save and fight for those who have no voice. Love the forgotten and uncared for.

Losing Riley

Having a beloved pet die can be as challenging as the loss of a person. We at The Band want to share your stories of your animals with us.

This is Riley’s Story:

I still remember the day we picked Riley out of what seemed like a million golden retriever puppies.

See, our border collie mix, Bozley had been put to sleep not long before, so my best friend’s husband worked it out so that we could get we could get a male unpapered goldie from his dad who bred them.

It was like something out of a movie. My mom and I walked into this tiny trailer with dozens of dogs.  They opened the back door so we could pick our puppy and it was stampede.

You could literally feel the floor vibrating under the weight of the puppies’ paws.

Life with Riley couldn’t have been better.  He did have his faults of course, he did chew a dent in the wall when he was teething, he got a hold of a loose piece of wallpaper and pulled a chunk of that off the wall. He never got crate trained. But, that dog could smile. He’d smile at everybody.  A genuine puppy smile, lips lifted and everything.

golden retriever

 

He never met a baby, toddler, or child that he didn’t like or who didn’t like him.

The night my sister-in-law went in labor, Riley got really sick.

He just slumped over.

We rushed him to the emergency vet where they told us that he most likely had a tumor in his stomach. Surgery would be performed the next morning.

The next morning came and we were still waiting for Brayden Michael to be born when I got a call from the vet.  Riley, sadly, didn’t make it through the night. He was only 9 years old. Telling my dad that our beloved dog Riley was dead is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Our grief over Riley’s death was tempered by the fact that not long after that devastating phone call, my nephew was born.

Sometimes, I still sit on my bed sobbing over that dog and his untimely death.

In fact, writing this at work, I have small tears rolling down my cheeks.

He was a once in a lifetime dog.

RIP Riley Marcus.

See you on the other side.

 

My Daughter Was Perfect: She Was Not Defective

You are invited to add your child’s name in our wall of remembrance for those babies who’ve been taken from us too soon.

In remembrance of the older children that have been taken too soon, we invite you to share your child with us here.

A few days after my daughter died of an undetected congenital heart and birth defect, someone who had held her and spent some time around her told me, “I knew something wasn’t right with her. I knew something was wrong.”

The phrase has stuck with me.

My daughter was perfect.

I don’t like the word defect much. All of these children born with what we call “defects” are just perfect; they aren’t defective. She had a beautiful heart even though it had a deadly congenital defect in it that lead to her loss.They are the imperfectly stitched handbag sold at a discount. They are much more than their sickness or defect.

I used to think that birth defects only happened to babies of moms that were sick or did something, like smoke crack while pregnant, or to a family with a genetic history of congenital heart birth defects. Smoking crack was never my thing, and my family has no history of birth defects -especially congenital heart defects – so losing a baby to a heart defect wasn’t even on my radar. None of the babies in my family were in the NICU or really sick, and definitely none of these babies had ever died.

My daughter’s heart problems weren’t my fault. She might have been a sick baby, but it was something that happened at random.

Her heart didn’t work properly, but she was not defective.

congenital heart loss