Sunday, July 26, 2009

One Hundred and One Days


One hundred and one days ago I learned of my Army Veteran son’s untimely death.

One hundred and one days ago my bride, daughter and loving family had our hearts ripped out and our lives turned upside down. One hundred days have passed and I think we are slowly entering into the final stage of grief, which is Acceptance. I sure hope so. The last stage was a bummer.

One hundred and one days ago we entered the darkest days of our lives.

One hundred and one days ago I learned that my bride, daughter, our loving family and yes, even me are loved so much more deeply than I could have ever imagined. There has truly been a silver lining in the darkest of clouds. It hasn’t all been bad believe me. Our friends have suffered also, but spread their wings of love to comfort us in our time of profound desperation.

One hundred and one days ago my aging Dad, whom I had never seen shed a tear, looked at me, and with eyes over-flowing muttered, “Nick is the first one of us to go” and he is correct – but who could have predicted it, or even prevented his demise. I will not torment myself with conjecture.

Many hundreds of thousands of war veterans live out their lives in silence with untreated depression, taking each day as a challenge to make sense of their lives. Some are even successful in turning it around – some aren’t. I think back on comments my Iraqi Freedom decorated son made leading up to this fateful night and realize a lot of signs were there to be read and I mostly missed them.

The fourth and worst stage is Depression and it has horrors of its own. We are slowly rising above it, each of us at our own pace. My son Nick once looked at me and said point blank “I have trouble with depression”. Another time he said in a monotone “Dad, you don’t know what’s like to be in combat” and then he fell silent. Mostly he was silent and ninety per cent of what we learned about our son’s war-life came from the stories of his friends and fellow soldiers after his funeral.

One of the standout characteristics of depression, I now know well, is the inability to carry on as before. Sufferers row in circles and many times they don’t even care. Untreated, as in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can be and many times is fatal.

In my own case, it has been impossible to resume my life pre-funeral. Forgive my ignorance please, but up to this point, I personally had never lost someone close to me, let alone my own child.

I have always been self-sufficient as an adult, never imposing my needs and desires extravagantly on friends, or even my own wife. I attempt to make daily progressions, both physically and mentally, studying constantly to improve myself. I work very hard at what I do. I am also my own worst critic.

One hundred and one days ago I drifted into the doldrums of progression and today I felt a slight breeze. Up until now I was fighting a downhill slide occasionally casting a last-ditch anchor to arrest my descent, but I believe I have now bottomed out. In fact I bottomed out about 2 weeks ago and that’s how I know it’s time to put on my sweats, tennis shoes and make like Rocky training to fight Apollo.

I haven’t slipped deeper in the last two weeks and that’s a good thing. I have a feeling there are more good things in my immediate future. I’m ready. It’s all up from here on out and I feel like climbing.

Folks, I have a piece of advise for you and yours concerning depression from the loss of a loved one. If you are suffering from it, understand this is normal, but not permanent. Then realize it can and does get better, but it takes determination and most of all - time. Time is the great healer. One hundred and one days so far.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bert, you are a very good writer and the road to recovery is through your writing and helping others that are facing the same situation. I personally have struggled with depression and my very first time was when my girl friend now wife's sister drowned in the pool while I was there. I took this very hard since if I was not there Linda would have been paying attention to her. I was junior in college and struggled my senior year with many demons and was given valium by my Doctor to calm me down. It lead me down a very troubled road and after 5 years I went to another doctor to get me off of it.

I still struggle with depression and it came back briefly at my father's death. I was quite happy that I did not have to make the final vote on my Dad's death even though I was there and did not vote to keep him alive. He has yet to come visit me as he has with my sister and mother via there dreams.

Life is a very tough road and I always enjoyed coming to work when you were on Shift since you always greeted me with a smile and a positive attitude. This little act of kindness will solve most of the worlds problems if each of us would just practice it.

Thanks and have a great day.

Anonymous said...

good piece Bert- You probably are helping many out there that think they are alone in their suffering.....Debi

Anonymous said...

Bert, I read your article this morning about the 101st anniversary of your son’s passing. No words that I can say will take away the pain that you and your family are going through, but just be reassured that I still pray for you and think about you all often.

Humans were not created for war. We were created to love. All people do not love. They want to do harm. That’s where war comes in. I guess it’s a necessary but terrible part of life. I don’t see how anyone who goes through a war can come out of it without being affected in some way. It would probably help people to talk about it, but usually, they don’t want to relive those experiences by bringing them up again. It’s just terrible that some of those folks who survive those conflicts are unable to survive when they return.

Again, I pray for you and your family often. I am thankful that the Lord is helping you through it. Like you said, it just takes time. Man, it sure creeps by, though, doesn’t it?

Have a good one, Brother.



"Dandy" Don Cunningham

Anonymous said...

One Hundred and One days...2424 hrs, 14,5440min, 8,726400 sec., and a lifetime of joy, pain, sorrow, laughter. But most of all memories...my friend, your tears and pain will some day be diminished by the power of love and understanding...101 days ago, your hearts shattered, but with time the pieces have slowly come together again, never like ... Read Morebefore, but somehow, crisper, cleaner than before. Your son, your beautiful child will forever be remembered in love and joy...And every tear shed will be the glue that will bind that new image of him and you...My heart, thoughts and prayers are ever with you and him. You have touched my spirit with your ever present joy and inner light, this I am sure you passed on to your son....Stay strong my friend for your family, daughter and your wife, but most especially for yourself...I was once given some words upon the loss of my own child, "God", he said, "will never burden you with more than what your shoulders can carry."

Anonymous said...

And your shoulders my friend are broad and can carry much, especially because they are supported by the Lord and your family, friends who will always be there for you...

Anonymous said...

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I'm thinking of you and your family.......May God Bless you

Anonymous said...

Bert, our hearts and prayers are with you and your family daily. And the hardest struggle is the recognition of the struggle,,,,and the climb back. If you ever need a boost - EVERYONE is just a shout away....

Anonymous said...

Bert, I just want you to know I love ya dude. It' s hard to open up and tell people your inner feelings. I respect that in large amounts. You really are an awesome person.

WG Fitts said...

Hi Bert, Nick is never forgotten by his brother and sister warriors..101 means to keep Nick always in your heart and mind from your first light to the last...
Nick was a Icon of a warrior who like others brought war home with him...His family was his stars and he like many warriors never would show his problems to his family he loved...civilian life offered challenges since most never served in a hell hole and many could care less about our military soldiers or what they have done. Freedom is not Free but many civilians think it is a earned benefit of being a American. Blood, Sweat and Tears is not known by those who are spoiled by Freedom and like many Vets Nick seen he didn't fit in civilian world..no one cared about the world of hard knocks that a soldiers go through in war zones and some really do not care to include employers..The realism of the truth of things hit when you see how people talk about a war and then you see our so called leaders down grade our troops..War is Hell and it is something no one is really trained to cope with after they come home, a home where family is but the surrounding have changed and your friends cannot relate to the Hell you have been through..Your new true frineds are in the military who helped you when times were tough to carry on..God Bless Nick for being a Honorable soldier and son to you all and to our community. His memory will live on and your story will help others to watch their warriors that return from Hell...

Love Ya Man..always there
For God and Country Always
Old Army Veteran 2nd Infantry/ 4/7 Air Cav./2nd Armor Div.
Warren Fitts
Baytown TX.
VFW/VVA Honor Guard, Member of Patriot Guard

Anonymous said...

Bert I'm glad your doing ok and it was great to hear from you! How is the old Catalyst building holding up? I think about that place every now and then. All that can be said "alot of memories"...Some good and some bad, but definitely worth the ride. Most of all I met alot of interesting people. Especially you! I always enjoyed listening to your stories and enjoyed your good sprit every morning. "Good morning fellow men and women...It's a BEAUTIFUL DAY" as I recall. Well some of us moved on unfortunately or fortunately. Still miss the place sometimes, but am glad to be at Shell. So now the climb!!!!! Are you headed to the Rocky Mountains or the Hills in the AWESOME Texas hill country. Where ever you go be sure to bring plenty of water...lol. I know you always enjoyed hiking! Jay

Anonymous said...

Bert- I don't think y'all will ever be without your broken heart either, but I think it will heal over with special memories, but always be tender to the touch. I have Pam's pic beside my computer at work & greet her each morning as if she's here, and in a way she still is...They are a part of us forever, as hopefully we will remain a part of others whose lives we've touched.....Debi

Susan (Forever Friends) said...

Bert, beautiful words beautifully stated. I think your writing is wonderful therapy for you as well as effective medicine for those who read your words. I cannot even attempt to comprehend the grief of losing a child, but my heart and prayers go out to you and Sandra. Sandra's skydiving was wonderful therapy for her. How I admire you both as you struggle to get through this and continue to lead productive lives. Both of you contribute so much to others'--we need you both healthy and whole and so appreciate your courage and wisdom to work through the grief.

Anonymous said...

Bert, we can all sympathize but few can empathize. I can feel your pain, but I can’t really know what it’s like to loose a son. But God can not only feel your pain, he chose to experience your pain. When Jesus cried out on the cross …“Father, why have you forsaken me”, God could have changed the situation and brought his son from the cross, but love, (God’s love) kept him nailed there. My only prayer is that God gives you another hour, another day, another step to heal. We all look at you, and your family, and thank God for your victorious walk, all be it through tears. We continue to lift you and your family in prayer continuously.

Anonymous said...

I think this was a great documentation about love, loss, and grief.

Personally, I have felt all, and it seems like they will never go away. nightmares, daily reminders of what should have been, and slip-ups where I want to call and BS with my dad (who died much too young, just over a year ago). Thinking of things I could have done to prevent what happened; things I feel I should have done.

It's noble of you to shed light to people going through these times that you can get through it, and though things will never be the same that you can live a normal life again.

It's also noble that you've chosen to tell about depression, and to make sure that if you see the signals to do something about it. Your loss, your experience, may just have saved another's life.

Charlotte Nicotre said...

Bert~ I am sure you remember me and my family. We 1st came to Grace Tabernacle in 1998. Since that day, even tho I am not an active member, they are my family and I know we are loved there. When I lost my only beautiful daughter Hollie Noel unexpected, as it always is, Bro & Sister Grant travelled 4 hrs to pay their respect. My life has forever changes and unlike you I lost my faith and am gradually working to get it bacl. I am not at the acceptance stage and it was 2 yrs in April. I lost my beautiful Noel and a grand daughter Aubrey Noel I never got to meet. I was told of your families lost and I cried for you and still think about you but as a parent who has lost a child, there are no words to say to help, or atleast there has not been for me. One of the one things people said to me is, she is in a better place. I didn't want her there, I want her here with me. I am thankful you and your family are surviving together, 98% families do not make it and I am in that 98% and going thru a seperation. I am not sure if you have ever heard or been told of the group Compassionate Friends, its for parents & sibling that have lost love ones. The best one I have found is in Katy and altho I have not made many because again it would be me accepting, they stay apart of you thru email, mail, and you can share your stort along with hearing so many others who are out there just trying to make it thru each second of the day. If you are not already aware of this group, please fell to contact me @ cgnicotre@aim.com and I would love to send the link. My heart goes out to you and your family and thank god you have such a wonderful church to help see you thru. I do feel your pain and altho you have never been aware, I have prayed for you so many time and it really hit Nicholas, my son (Gibbons) very hard. Please know your pain is our pain and all the parents who have lost a child. My mom always told me before she died, a mother should never bury her child 1st and little did I understand till now. You have your family and I go thru my pain alone. You story was a great tribut to your son, one he so well deserve. Think of you & yours always. Charlotte Gibbons Nicotre

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