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.
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