4 Years…

Dillon’s Big Hugs ❤️

I had an acquaintance ask me the other day how long it’s been since Dillon’s passing. When I said “4 years”, their jaw dropped. “Oh my God, I thought it was like 2 years!?!? 

Yep… it’s been 4 years and I am in utter disbelief that I have lasted this long. After Dillon was killed, I didn’t know how I was going to last the next 4 minutes, let alone 4 years. 

I’ve been thinking back on what I’ve been doing for the last 4 years……

Year one I spent in shock and denial. Most of my time I tried to “fix” what had gone wrong, I could certainly make an adjustment somehow that would right the ship. I would wake up from my nightmare, and Dillon would appear as if nothing had ever happened. When that didn’t work, I spent most of my time learning how to cope with the reality that he was never coming home. I spent hours in a court room listening to the gruesome details of my son’s passing, which also led to me spending hours in therapy to learn how to cope with the all the details. Then there was time spent just learning how to “live” again. When someone is injured in an accident leaving them maimed or paralyzed, there is a physical change that can be seen. There is emotional and physical work to do to relearn how to take care of yourself. The same happens with a mentally traumatic experience. There is no physical injury that can be seen, but there was still a lot of work to do just to figure out how to be back in my own skin. I had to learn how to be out in public, I had to learn how to go to the grocery store without bursting into tears in Aisle 3, I had to learn how to be with my own family and friends, many which didn’t know how to support me, although I’m not sure I would have know how to support them if the tables were turned. I had to learn how to go to social gatherings without blurting out, “my son was killed by a drunk driver” when someone would ask “How many children do you have?” I had to learn to go back to work, although truth be told, I rarely go into the office to this day. We own 3 body shops (collision repair) and I can’t see the wrecked vehicles…it gives me overwhelming anxiety. I wonder if someone was injured, or worse, killed. I wonder about the lives that have been affected and the pain that was caused. I avoid the shops at all cost, but I do work from home. I do the bookkeeping among other things, but I still had to learn how to have a phone conversation with others and not scream at them when they were rude to me, “Do you know what I’ve been through? Do you have any idea that your pathetic stress over an unpaid invoice is downright disturbing!”… can’t exactly say that to a vendor. So I had to learn how to be “human” again…at least a human in this society.

Year two was sometimes more difficult than year one. There was continued court proceedings with graphic details and finally a verdict 15 months after Dillon had been killed. We had a momentary celebration at the conviction, then I was hit with the stark reality that no matter what, Dillon wasn’t coming home. The time spent preparing and putting on my armor to face the man that killed my son was now gone. I no longer had a focus and I had to deal with my grief. In year two, I realized that “life goes on”, that people forget, and there is an expectation that the “grief period” is over. Most people stopped talking about Dillon and there was a general feeling of “she’s all better”…. But nothing could be further from the truth. 

In year two I learned how to put on “the mask”, straighten my crown, and pretend to be “ok”. I learned that it was easier to avoid certain situations like parties and events because I couldn’t possibly be myself without making others feel uncomfortable. I learned to shut people out. I learned that being alone with my thoughts was overwhelming and that I was capable of going to some very dark places. I understood depression, which I had never felt at this level, and I understood why people take their own lives… the pain can become stronger than the will to live. Had I not had a deep connection to my son Kyle, a supportive husband, and my sister-moms, I’m not sure I would have survived. The sister-moms could understand what I felt and were able to hear me… truly hear me. I could say the most fucked up things to, and never feel judged. These women were in the midst of surviving their own unimaginable losses, yet showed up to carry me on my weakest days. My sister-moms are one of my “gifts of grief”, although we all wish we never met. 

Year three I became good at distractions and compartmentalizing. Grief is not comfortable. In fact, grief is very painful. Grief relentlessly grabs hold of your entire mind, body, and soul. The only break I get from grief is through distractions. Keeping myself busy with work, family, and pets….Willow, Sasha, and Tiggy. These distractions helps to numb the overwhelming pain of grief. Covid-19 also happened during year 3. I will be honest and say that staying home during the lockdowns was actually a blessing in disguise. I had become good at isolating and now I had a reason. I missed seeing my family, but in some ways it brought us a closer connection and taught me just who and what was important in my life. Remove all the social graces and you get very clear on what is actually important. 

This fourth year has brought many changes. I sold my home, bought a new one, started to travel again, and have been making plans for retirement. It has been a struggle for me to think past a day, just because it’s too painful to think of another day without Dillon. I’ve been thinking about how I could possibly live another 40-50 years… that thought has been so overwhelming. I don’t know how I’ve even lasted 4 years and now to think about living another 40 is a little scary. 40 more years of carrying the pain of grief sounds like torture to me. So it’s time to figure out how to let go, or at least soften the pain. Because I can honestly say that I can’t live like this for 40 more years. I have also been consumed by anger this year. Angry at the world and it’s lack of compassion. But I’m ready to make some changes and let that go.

In year 5 I’m hoping to find some inner peace, embrace love, and give more compassionately. When I think of Dillon I want to remember his laugh, his hugs, his stubbornness, and his bigger than life energy when he walked into the room. I want to fill my heart with these memories and not with the pain of his passing. I’m tired of being reactive and angry. I really do believe that most people are doing the best they know how. If I want to feel more joy, love, and connection in my life, then it has to start with me. I’m going to explore different mediums of self care. Meditation, hypnotherapy, sound therapy, possibly do some psychedelic drugs… IDK, what do I have to lose?? I’m open to doing whatever will bring me some peace, something that’s been lacking these past 4 years. I don’t know where this road is taking me, but I have figured out that I’m not in control of the destination. The only thing to do at this point is embrace this journey, hold on for the twists and turns, and try to soften my broken and bruised heart. Being bitter and hateful will not bring me peace and it most definitely won’t bring me closer to Dillon or closer to peace with myself.

Dillon, I miss you more than you will ever know!! I’m trying my best to heal my broken heart, my broken mind, and my broken soul. I can’t believe I’ve survived these 4 years without you, but I do know that you will be waiting for me when it’s my turn to leave this place. Know that I love you so very much and am doing my best to learn how to live again. I want to honor your memory with thoughts of happy times, remembering what it feels like to hold you in my arms, and remembering the smell of your hair. I was always that weird mom that would smell your head, even as an adult, and fill my nose with that “dirty hair” smell that is so authentically you. I still have your hats and if I sniff deeply enough, your essence is still there….I treasure that smell. And your laugh… your deep, soulful laugh that could be heard from the next room. I miss you so much, yet know that you are alway near. I love you will all my heart and soul. – Mom