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On Anxiety, Mourning, and Appreciating

I’ve dealt with anxiety ever since my oldest son was born. I never reached a point where I felt the need for counseling or medical intervention (both of which I am a huge advocate for when there is a need) but there have certainly been some tough moments. For a few months after the birth of our first son, I had a difficult time falling asleep because I was scared that something was going to happen to my baby or someone was going to take him. I’d wake up in a panic in the middle of the night, convinced that my baby was going to roll off our bed (both of our boys slept in the crib in the nursery from day one). My husband was smacked a time or two by my attempts to “catch” our child before he fell off the bed. It was awful. I dreaded nighttime because sleep did not bring rest.

After a while, the anxiety lessened and I got better at not thinking that the worst possible outcome was going to happen to my son (and now sons). I’ve learned what things trigger those emotions--any news articles about something bad happening to a child or parent, Facebook pages dedicated to following the journey of a child with an illness, etc.-- and that has made a huge difference in my mental state of mind as a parent. I know that my family is not exempt from sad/bad/unfortunate things happening to us but always thinking about what could possibly happen is tiring and unhealthy. My faith plays a major role in providing this comfort and peace and I remind myself that just because bad things can happen doesn’t necessarily mean that they will.

For the most part, I don’t really deal with anxiety much anymore but it did have a short visit earlier this week. One of my husband’s former students died in a car accident over the weekend. Over the last ten years, my husband has gotten to know this young man, his younger sister, and their parents well and speaks highly of the entire family. The grief from this loss is overwhelming. I met the student at his younger sister’s open house and while his mom enjoyed holding our oldest son (who was about six months old at the time), we enjoyed chatting with him about college, sports, and his faith.

My husband is understandably upset but so am I...and I wasn’t expecting that I would be. It makes sense that I would be sad for my husband’s loss (which I am) or that I would be sad that such a bright individual is gone (which I am). I just can’t grasp that he is gone, that his sister and parents were woken up in the middle of the night by phone calls that broke their hearts. The day we heard the news, I was analyzing this sadness I’m experiencing and trying to understand it, aside from the obvious fact that my husband and I are personally connected to this family and that I know my husband wouldn’t dole out such great respect for people who weren’t truly deserving. I figured it out while I was putting my youngest son to bed. I was reading him his bedtime story and singing him a song and I was crying so hard that I could barely speak. A mother lost her son that night. She will never hug him or kiss him or speak to him again. Her worst nightmare came true and there was nothing she could do to protect him.

We are continuing to process this loss and while I wish I was here to offer up some sage advice about how to navigate situations like this, it simply isn’t the case. To be honest, I still don’t exactly know what to think of all of this but I have found that my best writing comes when I write in “real time”. My main concern when I took over the FIT4MOM GR blog was that writing parenting-related blog posts would cause others to think that I find myself to be an expert at parenting. (News Alert: I’m not an expert AT ALL.) I like to think I’m contributing to the many online conversations that allow mothers to not feel alone. This student’s death, this SON’s death, is another reminder of how fragile our lives are and, as cliche as it sounds, how we never know how long we have with those we love. While I did have some hours of anxiety about my own children after hearing this sad news, I have noticed that the anxiety decreased and has been replaced by this aching desire to be fully appreciative of each moment with my boys. It has meant saying “yes” to another episode of “Paw Patrol” and two s’mores instead of one. It’s meant explaining to our oldest son why Mama and Papa are sad and allowing him to see that it is healthy to mourn. It’s meant practicing more patience, giving more grace, and doling out plenty of kisses and hugs.

I believe that is how I can best honor the family, the parents, of this young man---by recognizing that our lives are precious and fleeting and deserve to be cared for each and every day. Whether that looks like participating in lots of activities or resting at home, let’s do our best to remember to gather from each day and moment what we need at that time: rest, excitement, patience, adventure, slow, fast, contentment. Above all, let’s not forget to love and respect and appreciate one another.

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