Sunday, July 15, 2012

Strange Dilemmas

This is a posting for those of you who have suffered the loss of a loved one.  It is mostly just sharing my strange dilemmas with you.  These questions have been on my mind and heart for weeks now and I have to express them or they will not leave my mind.  Maybe some of you can even offer some advice or ideas on how to work through these questions.
First, what do I do with the question, “How many children do you have?” I start off by answering, “Four.” Then, almost always, follows the question, “Oh, what are their ages?” Well, this stumps me.  I stand there awkwardly thinking in my mind the following: Brandon died at age 11, but if he hadn’t he would have been 12.  So do I answer, “12, 10, 9 and 7?” Or do I answer, “11, 10, 9 and 7?” Maybe I might better answer “Three children and 10, 9 and 7” to the first question asked because I really don’t feel like getting into a pity party with a stranger about our recent loss.  Perhaps the most accurate answer is “Five” to include both Brandon and the boy waiting for us in Ukraine.  Somehow answering that I have 5 children makes me feel foolishly like a 6-year-old child with an imaginary friend, pretending and longing to have people that I do not in fact physically have right at the moment.  Most of the time, I answer, “Three” to avoid any further questions, but then I feel guilty like I’ve written off my 2 sons (one living in Heaven and one living in Ukraine). 

Second, what do I do with all these photos of Brandon on my walls?  I find myself, taking them down, then putting them back up, taking them down, then putting them back up.  I can’t decide if the reason I don’t like them up is seeing them all the time is a constant reminder that he is not here.  How will I ever heal if his picture greets me every single morning along with the emptiness of knowing he’s not going to be thumping down the stairs that morning? However, when I take them down, I forget what he looks like, what he sounds like and what he smells like and that scares me.  It makes me incredibly sad if I think about how much I miss him.  I resolved to take most of his pictures down at work a few weeks ago.  They were becoming a distraction.  I was unable to stop crying or thinking about him any time I looked in the direction of his pictures.  I wish I could brush off my hands and say, “There. The pictures are down, and have stayed down for 3 weeks now.  Problem Solved,” but taking the pictures down, somehow makes me feel guilty.  Another reason I like them down is because I do not want our newest son to see them all over the place.  I like my locket of Brandon.  I like his photos tucked in my wallet for a weak moment when I need to look at his little face, but I do not like them all over the place.  I’m not sure if it’s a part of my stages of grief or what.  It’s just how I feel. 

Third, what do I do with his things in his room?  In a little over a month, a new boy will be coming, and it will be his bedroom until he graduates or gets married.  He is not going to want all kinds of things with “Brandon” written all over it.  What about the clothing?  The clothing was barely worn.  Usually Brandon wore the same things all the time, which was his favorite navy warm up pants and a matching grey shirt.  Any time he wore the other clothing, it was either because I made him because I wanted to take pictures of the kids that day or I peeled the clothes off from him to wash them.   So I would say, the new boy could just wear that clothing, but all our pictures have Brandon with those particular clothes in it.  I go back and forth with the clothing decision.  Our girls all wear each other’s clothing if they can’t find something of their own that fits.  The two oldest girls are just slightly different in size.  So, should I give away Brandon’s perfectly good, quality clothing and spend money on new clothing? (My accountant mind says this is wasteful.) Or should I just make new memories with our newest son in the clothing?  One thing in his room that I was adamant about changing was the matching quilts on the twin beds in the room.  One of them was stained from what happened in Brandon’s final hours and the other one might as well be destroyed as well because the memory of what that stain looked like is forever burned in my mind.  I will likely get some different pictures to hang on the walls as well once I get a feel about the interests of our newest child.

I guess in my mind these strange dilemmas are just a part of finding a new “normal” in my life.  Change is always difficult.  I’m determined (and by God’s grace and help) not to let what happened with Brandon ruin the incredible joy we will feel with our newest child.  All our 5 of our children are such special gifts and always will be regardless of whether they live with me in this home or even on this earth.  I have and will have precious memories with each of them.  And I sure enough love them all 5 equally and so very deeply.


  1. I can see myself with the same dilemmas if I were in your place. As for me, my answer about my number of children would depend on how I felt at the time. If I felt led, I would include Brandon. The other times I would say 3 and we are adopting a fourth. Many times you won't want to go into the whole story, but there may be times you feel led to.
    As for his pictures, I would leave up at least one, and make a scapbook or photo album with the others so anyoone could look at them when they wanted.
    As for his clothes, if it were me, I would pack away his favorite outfits and use the others.
    Well, that would be my "plan." I would probably struggle just as you are.
    I have lost both parents, my step dad, and two brothers. I have a pillow that was my mothers that I sleep with every night. I use her favorite perfume and sometimes spray some on the pillow. Sometime it makes me cry, and other times makes me feel her sweet presence. I often see men that for a split second, I think is one of my brothers. There is also a woman at my church that I sit behind that does her hair like my mom. All of these reminders are bitter sweet. They hurt at times and bring a smile at other times. Its been 7 years since my mom and one of my brothers passed away and it still feels that way.
    I guess what I'm saying is, what you are going through is normal. It will get easier, but the bitter sweet of it all will always be there. Its O.K. to have those feelings. Try not to feel guilty when you don't mention him or have to put away his pictures. You know when you can handle it and when you can't.

    Debra Whiting

  2. You mentioned advice, so here’s mine. How many children do you have? Your answer in just a few weeks will be: “Five.” How old are they? “My girls are 10, 9, and 7. Our recently-adopted son is 10 (or whatever—I forgot). Their brother lives in heaven, and he would be 12 if he were here.”

    I know you don’t want to talk about Brandon sometimes because you don’t want to get into the painful parts—especially with people you don’t know well—but practice makes perfect. That sounds like a crass way to put it, but learning how to speak of him, not casually, but simply, is important. Besides, any other answer is dishonest.

    Leave the pictures up. How will you ever heal if his picture doesn’t greet you every single morning, reminding you of the love and sweet memories you have? It won’t really lessen the pain to put them away anyway. It will just hurt AND make you feel guilty and disconnected. I don’t know what you mean by “all over the place.” If it’s literal, then, yes, you should probably take down some of them, so your house doesn’t look like a shrine. If you were just writing metaphorically, then leave every one of them up until you need to take down a few to make room for more pictures of your other kids as they grow up and change.

    The picture in your wallet isn’t for “weak” moments. I don’t know if you were just speaking metaphorically again, but if you were being literal, those are not weak moments.

    Clothing? Let your new son wear the ones Brandon didn’t like or wear much. I don’t know how to say this quite right, but it’s so tempting to feel like you have to make everything Brandon touched into something special in your mind, or maybe you aren’t honoring his memory. Being practical about the things that aren’t that important, such as clothing he didn’t wear much, helps you find balance. You aren’t buying new furniture, are you? Save those navy warm-up pants and gray shirt for a memento, and don’t give that outfit away. That one is Brandon’s. That one is special. Cross Brandon’s name off of some of the “generic” toys, and give them to your new son. Save some that are specific to Brandon as mementos and save them with the warm-up outfit. Give away the rest—but take your time deciding. It’s okay to have a box of stuff you don’t know what to do with in your garage for a while.


  3. I would tell people you have five children ranging the ages from 7-11. That would then make no reason to respond. If they ask sexes tell them three girls and two boys.

  4. I can see all of your dilemmas and it would put a question in my mind too.

  5. I would only share what God leads you to share. It could be an opportunity to witness. I would say to leave a few pictures out, but not so many to make an emphasis in your home. This is one of the biggest steps of faith you can go through. I will pray that God leads you in only the way he can.

  6. This blog really ministered to me and I wanted to tell you about it and hope that you can find it encouraging. The way you described specific struggles was like painting a clear picture. By God's grace, your heart can simultaneously grieve over one son and grow for another. The gospel is just so amazingly pictured in this. I remember Pastor Sean mentioning how the Father grieved when Jesus was crucified. Your blog made me think, wow, not only did the Father grieve, but He also simultaneously rejoiced as the thief next to Jesus became adopted. Your dilemmas maybe are not so strange.

  7. My brother died in an accident 17 years ago and it is only now that I can look at the photos without overwhelming heartache. Remembering too is helpful and I believe that those who are alive would chose to be seen and remembered if they died. But it cannot be ïn your face for the first few years.

  8. I think they are all natural questions with no right awnser. I too lost my little brother some years back and depending on the day I talk freely like he is walking the earth and times when I disclose he is in heaven... ;-)