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Joceannora

When Your Family Is Destroyed

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After 3 years I finally called a grief counselor, the grief counselor, the only one in my area. He is very busy. He told me it would be a couple of weeks before he could try to fit me into his schedule. I told him I'd been grieving for 3 years, a couple more weeks wouldn't make much difference. He hasn't called me.

 

3 Years ago, in a matter of 10 seconds, my family was destroyed. My spouse, who I'd been living with for 10 years but not married to, and I were both working disaster duty for FEMA and deployed to different states. We talked each day and were nearing a time of rotation where we'd both be home together. He would be home a week before I, we hadn't seen each other for 3 months.

 

My adult son, who grew up with ADD and recently diagnosed with limitations on the autism spectrum (ASD) was living at home and caretaking the house for us since we were gone so very much on disaster duty. Son had recently been discharged from the Navy. Recruiters will sell anyone a dream then pound them into the dirt once they figure out their candidate has limitations.

 

First it was a call from my partner's mothers saying she heard there was trouble on our street and that she couldn't reach him (her son), would I try. He wasn't answering and neither was son. This didn't concern me as when we're done and home from deployment bags get dropped and a very long nap begins. I knew that both guys were most likely asleep. To make her happy I called the local police dept. and was told someone would call me back. This made sense to me since it's a small town and the 2 officers were no doubt busy.

 

Within half an hour there was a knock on my hotel room door. My heart sank. I opened the door to a local police officer and the dept. chaplain who told me my spouse had been shot and killed. Then he said, there's more, your son was taken into custody for killing him. I know they were there to not just inform me, but to comfort as well, but it's not my nature to show emotion to strangers. Instead, I sprang into action, an action that didn't stop for months. I was determined I would handle this maturely, I'd take care of my partner's business professionally. He deserved respect and his affairs would be handled with respect. There were many tasks and added to them were those concerning my son too.

 

After my divorce I raised my special needs son on my own, advocating him through the public school system, providing him with every new therapy and career opportunity I could find in order to raise a well adjusted, productive child. He turned out a very decent young man with a good sense of himor. He was also beginning to experience symptoms of schizophrenia without my knowledge. His attempts at independence were unsuccessful, he was living back at home till we could discover what would be next for him. And in a matter of 3 months his symptoms brought him to feeling he was God's warrior and my partner needed to die.

 

And he did die, instantly without any knowledge of what was coming. I've been grateful there was no moment of recognition at what was about to happen to him. He and I had developed a frienship that was lasting and ultimately discovered there was more to us than just friendship. We came of age at the same time, had the same beliefs and political convictions, the same sense of humor and maturity level. Where I was more skeptical he was more outgoing and easily made friends. He bragged to friends and acquaintances that he was the most content he'd ever been. He loved me and I loved him. We had plans of growing old together.

 

And that was gone in seconds. What followed was a whirlwind of things to be done, a family who hated me and my son and angry at my partner's will which left me his entire estate, the ongoing investigation with court dates and unscrupulously prying media. I felt very lucky to have a coworker and friend with me for 2 weeks to help keep track of everything that needed to be done. It was too much for me while acting as executor and grieving the loss of the two people I loved in this world.

 

Because there was so much to be done, because I grieve privately, because I had to save my mentally ill son from prison, because I had to deal with a hateful family, because it was too much all at once, because I feel as though I had post traumatic stress syndrome, I find I'm still grieving. It's all still just as raw as it was the day after it happened. It's been 3 years and my life has changed drastically and yet I still become overwhelmed with grief, I still talk quietly to my partner, think about him and miss him every day. It's all just as if it's frozen in time. I've moved forward but my grief hasn't. I mange to keep my son's illness separate from who he is, and am determined to make sure it's never about me.

 

I've been told I'm the strongest person they know. They don't know how I managed to keep going through it all. They see me as strong because that's what I want them to see. What they don't know is that I've reached that point where it's all coming home to me now. I need counseling. I hope he calls.

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HeyJude   

Wow - what a horrible thing to have happen.  It makes me mad because you would think in todays society, mental illness would be handled to much differently than it is.  Everyone (almost) still looks down their nose at it and it really keeps people from getting the help they need.

 

I am so sorry for your loss, I truly am.  To be three years out and still grieving isn't unusual though.  There are many widows who are further than three years out who will say the same thing as you, that it is just as real and raw as if it happened yesterday.  Your doing the right thing by seeking therapy.  Coming here  will help a lot too because you will see that you are not the only one who has the feelings you have.

 

I wish you peace -

 

Judy

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Thank you Judy, I appreciate your kind words. I'm going to take some leeway and talk about his mental illness. My son was diagnosed with ADD when he was 5, back in 1986. Very little was known about these unique to the individual limitations so it was challenging. Now however, they know that this very broad spectrum of unique to the individual limitations are all bundled under ASD, or limitations akin to autism.

 

What isn't widely known is that research has discovered a genetic link between ASD and the potential to develop more severe forms of mental illness including schizophrenia. My son and I are close, always have been, but without a basis for comparison of how a common mind is supposed to work, he had no idea that reaching out was necessary to help himself and instead took caution to speak and behave very normally with me the whole while manifesting his schizophrenic symptoms.

 

Research has now found that 1 in 88 kids have some form of ASD. The Director of Autism Speaks (dot org) has testified before Congress that it's likely closer to 1 in 38.Research is no where near getting ahead of the issue as children being born with ASD grows exponentially. I feel in another 1 or 2 generations no woman will be safe from having a child with ASD. After my tragedy I couldn't help but notice the increase in individuals committing mass shooting crimes. Many die at the site of the crime. I've wondered how many of them have transitioned from ASD to mental illness.

 

My son was sentenced to 25 years to life in the state mental hospital. His symptoms have yet to become under control. I can't help but feel anxious that in the near future, prisons and mental hospitals will fill with young adults who had to go through the same thing as my son. I feel many more people will suffer the unique type of tragedy that came to my home. It's troubling and worrisome to me.

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Dear Joceannora,

 

I just want to say that even if you feel very un-strong in the face of others seeing you that way, I too think you are immensely strong... just to have survived what must have been an incredible amount of turmoil so you could continue forward for your partner's legacy and your son's life.  Even though I cannot understand that turmoil, specifically, your strength shines through in spite of what I can only imagine is a complete desire to breakdown into your own form of insanity.

 

I also think you are a beautiful example of the reality of love.  By this I mean you were put in one of the worst possible situations imaginable and your love for both of them is what has carried you through to this moment.

 

It is so understandable to want that support, to want that counselling, because you have carried yourself by yourself for so long and with such soul-wrenching anguish.  I really, really hope that what you read here or share here can give you that bit of support that you need to help you hold on, just for another little bit, until you can find someone that can support you in person.

 

I also want to say that I agree with what you've said about the worry of mental health in western society.  I have a nephew who has been in and out of jail since 16 and has a difficult time with his mental health, plus my sister who died was advocating the understanding of the change in mental health for addicts before she died.  For myself, I like to participate in places that help people find understanding rather than just medication and frustration.  For example, there are support groups and meetup groups that offer support and understanding for families learning about their mental differences and trying to find the normal within that.  A truly industrious person could apply for grants to support the dissemination of knowledge, because it is knowledge and understanding and visibility that are needed just as much as meds, and I sometimes am sad that I am not that industrious person.

 

I cannot even imagine what this has been like for you but more than anything I wish that you can understand that I wish I could be there for you, in whatever way you needed, to show you that whatever you're feeling, you are right for feeling it and you are a beautiful and strong soul for allowing yourself to exist for even one moment through this trauma and to please hug yourself and give yourself that honoring and acknowledging because you deserve to have the safety and freedom to breakdown in someone's arms who will tell you all of this and rocking you and saying everything your beat-up person inside deserves and needs to hear... You are right, you are beautiful, you are so strong, you are so right to be feeling like this, it's all awful, you're doing everything right and I'm so, so sorry...

 

<3

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HeyJude   

I am 57 1/2 yrs old.  I never recall seeing children of my time being dx'ed with any type of autism.  In fact, there were very few kids that were even classified as "retarded", a term that was used back then.  It is so weird to me...what is causing this?  Why are there so many kids now that have this illness?  I really think that everyone knows someone who has an autistic child.  It is really very scary.

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Heartlight, thank you. You've hit on exactly many of the feelings I've had during all this. I still have not heard from the counselor but I purposely made sure I'd have many things to keep me occupied after downsizing. I find that not only do I still love him, but I'm still IN love with him. For me that means I could continue to feel this way for the rest of my life and keeping busy with what I love to do is the best thing I can do for myself.

 

I don't feel one is supposed to get over something like this. It doesn't need to define me, but more temper me to learn to live with this tragedy that changed everything in my life.

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Judy, I can recall one boy during grade school who I noticed was in total despair while taking one of the yearly scholastic exams. He looked as though he was ready to cry, hand to forehead and much angst at not being to do the test. I've often wondered if he was experiencing learning limitations with absolutely no way for anyone to know why he was struggling.

 

We could speculate on what's caused this whether it's a normal genetic evolution or something worse like genetic deterioration by way of how we engineer our food and pollute our air and water. Someone who embraces conspiracy might think our government tried to make smarter people and did so via the mass inoculations performed in the sixties in our public schools.

 

I know that when young brilliant minds flooded to Silicon Valley to work in computer technology that when they began to marry and have children from their community there was a 12% higher number of kids with autism than was the national average. Is this an intelligent person's disease? We know these kids are smart and the fault is that we don't know how to reach them to teach them.

 

A person could decide any number of things that may have caused this. It's here and we so need to get ahead of it. I can't imagine what the human race will be like in 50 or 100 years. I'm 58 and feel almost grateful that I won't be here to see what comes of this.

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