Fuck art. It’s time for a rant, because really, I’m exhausted. Not for lack of sleep. For my mind tripping over my broken heart to figure this out or make meaning or whatever the hell it is my mind is trying to do while it’s continually screaming Philip is dead Philip is dead Philip is dead dead dead.

WTF? What’s today? I don’t know but it’s the Aftermath. The Christmas quiet which I used to wind down with my family, wrappings gone, bows saved, boxes still under the tree like we could open our presents all over again. My family, of which 1/4  is dead, 1/4 I’m separated from, and 1/4 is beginning to leave on her life’s adventure. And I am paralyzed because there’s nothing in me to be adventurous, there’s nothing in me that wants to go out and do anything. WTF kind of life is this? I can’t carry Philip’s death. It’s too goddamn heavy and I don’t know what to do. I miss him, I goddamn miss him. What does anyone do? What do you say to yourself, what do you do with your time when you’re suffering? I wrote a post called “What I do” about that, but there’s more. There’s food, there’s not eating, or eating and vomiting, and torturing myself that I’m going to get fat and fretting about it all the time and for shit’s sake I’m 55 and I’ve got adolescent eating problems. I am exhausted.

Somebody told me that Joseph Campbell said – big paraphrase coming here – that it’s not meaning that people are searching for, it’s the feeling of being alive. WTF? So I’m doing it wrong again? I thought I was trying to make some damn meaning out of all of this and be on my merry way to some peace, which is another idea I have the way I had an idea about forgiveness. Because I keep thinking I want peace which, in my idea, feels not like life but like tolerance of life, which is feeling very fucking empty right about now. Is that what I really want? A life that’s “tolerable?” Any wonder why I’m waiting to die? Why do people want to live, I asked my therapist? What’s with the wanting?

Why do you want Philip to live, she shot back? Which brings up a whole shitstorm of questions like, WTF is life, really; what is it when I can hear my son and read his signs and feel his nudges which would mean (there’s that word again) that life can’t possibly be about a body so it must more be about connection.

There it is. I don’t feel connected to anyone right now, not myself, not Philip, whose eyes I feel watching me even as I write this. And I don’t mean “eyes” as in those of a body but I am restricted to language to talk about what’s going on and “eyes” watching me conjures up what I’m feeling. I feel his watching, his patience. I feel him waiting for me to calm the fuck down and begin again. So, what then? Am I connected, or am I not?

Maybe when it comes to Philip, I’m never completely disconnected. There’s some thread that at the moment is stretched to breaking even though I know it won’t. But it’s not enough. There are people here, people with flesh and hair and body fluids that leak from all different places; people that take up the same space as me and to need to be paid attention to.  There’s Natalie, for starters, who I sometimes feel like I’m watching through the long end of a telescope. She’s there; she must be. But I can’t take in that I matter to her or anyone else and it’s that profound loneliness that’s dogged me since before Philip was born and is unfathomably murky now. But there is no one to hug me. There is not one person I can sink into.What’s it matter? echoes the hollowed out place my heart’s supposed to be, and where not coincidentally Philip asked me to place that diamond. Light it up, mom; see what’s really there. But I think it’s a big, fat nothing. I think it’s loss upon loss with more loss to come because what else is life anyway? Being ready for the loss. As if you could be, even when you know it’s coming. (Tersia, Lucia – are you reading this?) In “No Chance,” Lou Reed sings of not having a chance to say good-bye to his friend who died: “There are things we wish we knew and in fact we never do / But I wish I’d known that you were gonna die.”

Really? ‘Cause I don’t. I dreamt of Philip maybe three times since he died. In one dream he was telling me he needed some fencing gear, and that he needed socks. “If you did your laundry, you’d have socks,” I’d thought, much to my surprise because I knew that on Sunday, he was going to die. I was sorry to have thought that about the socks, and it was awful to tell him yes, we’d go get his fencing stuff even though I knew he’d be dead before he could use it, and there was nothing I could do about it. Just keep acting normal until it happened. So no, I don’t wish I knew he was going to die.  Something had been driving me those last months, something that made me choke on my love for him and make my twisted way into his heart to let him know how much I did.

So WTF? What’m I supposed to do? Nothing’s working here. I don’t want to knit or sew or read or cook or watch TV. I don’t even want to drink, which sometimes I think I do, but which I know won’t help ‘cause I’ll wake up worse. A pill, maybe. A big, fat pill – or several small ones – so I can go to sleep, which is my version of peace. It won’t make me connected to myself, but it’ll sure make me forget that I’m not.

© 2013 Denise Smyth


51 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. jmgoyder
    Dec 28, 2013 @ 19:53:54

    Your words slice into the heart of things so powerfully that I can feel your anger and bewilderment and love like an explosion and my eyes are full of tears for you my friend.


    • Denise
      Dec 28, 2013 @ 20:14:48

      So there you are – you are there and paying attention. WTF is it I want? I’m all sped up…I think I need to breathe. It’s hurting, this season; it just hit. And January he would’ve been 23, February he’ll be dead two years. I keep saying these things while life goes on and I’m out of whack here.

      I don’t know what I’m trying to say but thank God you’re listening anyway.


      • jmgoyder
        Dec 29, 2013 @ 08:30:05

        Hey Denise – I will keep listening and please know if I don’t respond or comment it is either because my stupid internet has gone wonky or I’m busy, or away, or something. I am here, we are friends now across the miles and I am committed to listening to you. You are a great support to me despite your agonizing grief and I bravo you for your honesty and generosity and for making the rest of us aware of how your experience of loss is beyond hell. I send you love – a useless gesture I guess but I really mean it – Julie

    • Denise
      Dec 29, 2013 @ 11:59:28

      No, Julie, not useless at all; what more is there? And just to say this – I always read your blog, but have just haven’t been able to concentrate enough to respond. But you make me smile, you do ;o)


  2. Joyce McCartney
    Dec 28, 2013 @ 19:55:52

    I have no words and I’m sure you’re not looking for an answer from me anyway. Just love and light


    • Denise
      Dec 28, 2013 @ 20:16:39

      Just love and light; just that you’re there and you know what I’m talking about. You’ve moved gracefully through this; I feel like a big, ugly clod. You’re a breath of clean air and when I can, I’ll breathe it deeply.

      Thank you. Just, thank you.


  3. Go Scribbles
    Dec 28, 2013 @ 20:13:59

    I can feel your confusion, frustration, anger, and your emptiness. I am really at lack of words, I don’t even know what I am supposed to say, but I do know I care. I am so sorry for your loss. Philip and your family will be in my prayers.

    “–life can’t possibly be about a body so it must more be about connection” this is one of your strongest lines, it touched me and made me boil over. I do not know how you feel, but I am here to help you any way I possibly can — just let me know.

    I am with JMGOYDER, my eyes are full of tears for you, and my heart full of ache. Remember, you’re not alone through this.


    • Denise
      Dec 28, 2013 @ 20:26:10

      I think you are a little angel sent to remind me I’m not alone. And for that I’m grateful; you have helped. Kindness is more powerful than you know.

      Thank you.


      • Go Scribbles
        Dec 28, 2013 @ 21:59:56

        To be honest, I never know what to say in situations like this. But I couldn’t go on without letting you know that I care for you and I care for the situation you’re in.

        — I might only be a insignificant 17 year old; but you calling me an angel made me feel so much more important.

        Thank you.

    • Denise
      Dec 28, 2013 @ 22:16:38

      Insignificant? I think not. At your age, I was thinking about where I could get my next drink. You reached out to someone who’s old enough to be you mom; and I’ll tell you something. When a seventeen-year-old reaches out like you did, I know I’m blessed. I didn’t say you were an angel for nothing. I mean it.

      And I thank you. You’ve done more good that you know.


      • Go Scribbles
        Dec 28, 2013 @ 22:25:56

        You’re making me cry.

        I should print your comment out and show it off to the neighborhood, “look here, look all!” and maybe when I run for president, I could show the country! Maybe when I take over the world, I could show the world.

        (I don’t mean to make light of what you said, by the way, It touched me deep in my non-existing, yet-existing heart, I just hope I could make you smile, you deserve it.)

        And oh yeah, I totally would be in that phase of looking for a drink; except my parents spy on me with super small gadgets attached to my clothes that they think I know nothing about! They have little elf spies that can stick to walls and take pictures every 92.3 seconds of what I am doing. Even the president is in on it, he makes sure I do all the right things and remain a good citizen.

        I have no idea where I was going with that.

        I probably should get some sleep. It’s been a long day. Ahaha.

    • Denise
      Dec 28, 2013 @ 22:32:45

      I prefer to think of them as little angel-fairies who are watching over you when you sleep. But take care – fairies can be quite mean. Angels will always love and guide you.

      Sweet dreams, sweet girl.


  4. tric
    Dec 28, 2013 @ 20:36:38

    I have just returned from my friends house. 12 of us all gathered together to get her through tonight. What is tonight? It is the night before we have a mass for her 13year olds months mind mass. It was a lovely night of friendship and a heartbreaking night where on numerous occasions my eyes met hers and we nodded as we acknowledged the pain.
    Losing a child is beyond anything I can say, as it was not my child. All I can say is that my buddy at the moment is putting so much into ensuring this tragedy does not define her or her family and that it never leads to further tragedy.
    I will do my best to help her achieve both.
    My heart goes out to you. My friend is so sad as she sees my family of six and mourns that she is to the outside world, now a family of five, not six.
    i do hope this year you begin to find peace.
    I have no faith but I challenged a lovely priest recently. I asked him “What do you think? How do you answer this tragedy?”. He turned to me and said “I have no answers tric, But I firmly believe there has to be something better than this, and that is what I believe”.
    I don’t know if I agree, but my friend found that answer comforting.
    Thinking of you tonight and hoping you find peace. xx


  5. Denise
    Dec 28, 2013 @ 20:40:58

    Thank you, Tric. I hold conflicting thoughts, beliefs, emotions; this is not simple. I don’t think death is the end – Philip is clearly teaching me that. But I still want him here and days like this lean toward the tantrum of having to go on without him the way I want him to be. It’s the holidays, it’s his birthday next month, then the month he died…I needed to rant, and now I need to breathe.


  6. behindthemaskofabuse
    Dec 28, 2013 @ 21:34:22

    Sitting with you sending hugs xo


  7. Susan
    Dec 28, 2013 @ 21:42:06

    “Can it be that in a world so full and busy, a loss of one creature makes a void so wide and deep that nothing but the width and depth of eternity can fill it up. ” Charles Dikens


  8. grahamforeverinmyheart
    Dec 28, 2013 @ 21:47:25

    There are at least two of us at loose ends….circling around…trying to make sense, yet nothing makes sense with our sons gone….trying to find something to calm the restlessness, fill the aching void, the recurring realization that the story is over for our boys and there will be no dreams coming true….
    I don’t have any answers, I, too, am in a perpetual state of distress. I wish I could be sure there was something more after we die, but then I have never seen any signs of anything – from my father, mother, or son. That must be a little comfort to you. Just know, though you feel alone, some of us feel connected to you and think about you often.


    • Denise
      Dec 28, 2013 @ 22:22:09

      Did you read the comment above, the quote from Dickens that Susan posted? Does that not say it all? And your, “Circling around.” Yes, exactly. Because they keep not being here and we keep wanting. I’m continually shocked that Philip’s not here. I know I’m blessed to be in such close touch with him. He is trying to teach me what death isn’t, he’s trying to help me grieve honestly. But I’m sick and sinking now. I’m grateful for all he does for me, but he’s not here in the flesh where I can hug him and laugh with him and text him at 1:00 in the morning. I’d give everything up to have him here – as would you.

      Know that I think of you, too.


  9. Maria
    Dec 28, 2013 @ 23:14:31

    I’ll hug you. You can sink into me. Know matter what I will always love you.


  10. jmgoyder
    Dec 29, 2013 @ 08:39:15

    I know I have already commented but as I sit in my little office at home and hear my nearly 20-year-old son talk to his buddy as they chat, I keep thinking of your Philip.


  11. dragonpack
    Dec 29, 2013 @ 11:24:37

    Oh yes. Once again, you speak my language.

    In every single dream I’ve had of Qory since he died… he dies again. Every one of them. And I know… that he was dead, and he’s going to die again. It’s like I keep getting opportunities to do something different, to correct mistakes, even though the outcome will not change. WTF is the point.

    I’m told it will continue this way – that he’ll continue dying again and again in my dreams – until I decide that he’s at peace now. Then he will be ok and at peace in my dreams. Now there’s something to shoot for. *smirk*

    I knew something was dreadfully wrong that day. I knew he was not ok. I knew he was on his way back out to use yet again. I handled it all wrong. I tried to manipulate him into worrying about me so he could be ok. It was pathetic really, but it was the best I had to offer. After all, the last several relapses had come close to killing him… and I had already spoken the words. “If you keep this up, it is going to kill you.” Those words haunt me now. Sometimes i hate being right.

    I knew he was missing before anyone else did. Nobody believed me. Knowing was a nightmare, because there was nothing that I could do. Nothing. I tried everything I could think of… even sent his friends out looking for him.

    I knew when he died. I felt it. I felt the life leave my son, and there was nothing that I could do.

    I wish I hadn’t known he was going to die. Knowing, and being unable to prevent it, was and is a tremendous trauma for me that I will likely continue to be haunted by as long as I walk this earth.

    And people who haven’t been there simply cannot understand the disconnectedness from them and this life. And people who haven’t been there simply cannot understand wanting to die.

    Once again, as always, I’m so glad you get this out of you. Writing, sleep (except for when my son dies again in my dreams, and running are the only things that hold comfort for me. Hugs to you my friend I’ve never met.


  12. Denise
    Dec 29, 2013 @ 12:09:01

    You know, a year before Philip died (I wrote about this, ‘scuse me if I’m repeating myself), he let me know he tried LSD, and I asked him to please not use drugs, they’re dangerous. Then I made a joke: “Great. I’m your mom, you tell me these things, I can’t do anything about it, and when they find you dead of an overdose, they’ll blame me.” We laughed. It seemed inconceivable.

    And weird as this sounds, when I think about that, I still smile, because Philip and I had that kind of sense of humor between us.

    You’re wrestling with the nightmare of knowing, and being unable to do anything. Your “knowing” when no one else did is a testament to your bond with Qory. But you’re powerless, I’m powerless, we all are, when it comes to having things the way we want them to be. The only thing we can do is deal with the way we look at what’s happened. I’m not doing very good with that at the moment. Nor am I judging myself for it. I desperately want Philip here, like you desperately want Qory. Round and round we go….

    Peace and hugs, friend.


    • dragonpack
      Dec 29, 2013 @ 12:15:06

      Ah, yes… there’s a huge struggle for me… not judging myself for my struggles. Qory never liked it when I beat up on myself… somehow I’m sure he still doesn’t. Yet, I do it. Blah. Figuring out how to walk this journey with grace and dignity is my goal. In the meantime, well, it is what it is and I struggle. I feel a blog entry coming on today. Hugs. ❤


  13. Denise
    Dec 29, 2013 @ 13:07:06

    Right back to you. I’ll be on the look out for it…


  14. Becki Duckworth
    Dec 29, 2013 @ 13:57:34

    WTF can I or anyone say that could be of comfort? There probably is nothing. I understand confusion, complete confusion and wanting to know why carry on. Why should we/I continue to exist when existing is so painful. My children are alive but they wish me dead and a huge part of me is. What is most difficult for me is not having control of my feelings. I can go from zero to a hundred on the feelings scale within seconds. It sucks and I can’t stop it. What I do know its better when we cross over.


  15. Denise
    Dec 29, 2013 @ 19:39:27

    Hey Becki. It’s astounding that you’ve had that experience. Does it comfort you at all? You’ve so much to deal with. I’m thinking of you, wishing you some peace and sending much love.


  16. Lucia Maya
    Dec 29, 2013 @ 23:59:22

    Dear Denise,
    I always read your posts…I’m always here with you, whether you write or not. You are in my heart, and Philip too.

    I do think it’s “easier” in many ways having had the time to say goodbye to our loved ones before they go, as I did with Elizabeth. It seems it would have been unimaginably harder to have been surprised…and I do think I was as ready as I could have been, but that doesn’t mean I miss her any less.

    I wonder when I’m “doing well” why this is – is it my capacity for denial (not that she’s dead, but what that really means)? Or is it more a choice – that when the stories of loss begin playing, (movies of Elizabeth in my head, of how we’ll never go to have coffee again, etc..) that I make a conscious choice to not play that movie.

    But I have a sense that you don’t have that choice, and all I can offer is that you don’t judge yourself for feeling however you feel. There is NO way you are supposed to feel, nothing you should be doing, nothing you are doing wrong… Philip is with you and loving you, supporting you, and even if you are feeling shitty, he (and I) love you and know that you are being you, and doing the best you can.



    • Denise
      Dec 30, 2013 @ 19:18:05

      How wonderful to wake up and find you here.

      The way you went through Elizabeth’s death is – unfortunately – extraordinary. I say “unfortunately” because when people are dying, THAT’S how it should be; not hidden behind a sterile hospital door. If my death is oncoming, I want to be home with my daughter and loved ones and my feather pillows. I can see the comfort you get out of what you shared with Elizabeth. If you’re with someone whose dying, you have time to make the peace with them that maybe you couldn’t when they were alive. But if someone goes suddenly – if you’ve left things unsaid, if there was strain and anger; how much harder is that? I am blessed that I was – in hindsight – being prepared for Philip’s death so that when he went, there was a clear channel between us. That’s why I feel him all around me. We were close when he was alive and that doesn’t change.

      I don’t think you’re in denial. I think you’re doing the work I was doing before Philip died, which is why he said, “Mom, you gotta go deeper” when I found out he died. But I’m feeling overwhelmed and like I don’t have a choice, all there is is this useless me carrying a load I can’t handle. What’s it gonna take for me to like myself? I’m so very tired, Lucia.


  17. afichereader
    Dec 30, 2013 @ 16:29:28

    WTF? Absolutely. I’m more heartened that you’re asking WTF than that you’re saying, F*ck it. See how strong you are? Ask it. Keep asking it. Demand it. You are, indeed, watching the disintegration of what you had, 1/4 here, another 1/4 there. WTF is this? Who knows? We don’t know. But here we are. We’re here. You’re here.


  18. Denise
    Dec 30, 2013 @ 19:03:33

    And you’re here to kick my ass to remind me that I am.


  19. New John
    Dec 31, 2013 @ 08:38:45

    That was intense, Denise. It touched me.

    I’m just a guy on the net who can’t really offer more than words on a screen. I wish you well and peace, as ephemeral as they may be, to offer some pause in the grind.


  20. Denise
    Dec 31, 2013 @ 10:06:20

    Much appreciated John. The kindness of strangers is a power of its own.

    Peace to you, too.


  21. tersiaburger
    Jan 03, 2014 @ 18:35:15

    MY dear friend. I am so sad for us. All my WordPress bereaved parents commenting above on a post that articulated our feelings. Life sucks. I HATED Christmas and will NEVER be home again. I hope that 2014 will bring a measure of healing for all of us. Some laughter. At least we are all a little closer to being reunited with our children. Hugs


    • Denise
      Jan 04, 2014 @ 06:50:53

      I was thinking that today; I was home because of the snow and spent most of the day on the couch reading and watching TV and thinking I’m that much closer to Philip, thinking I should stop thinking like that because I have a daughter who’s here and needs me. Philip’s birthday is in two weeks, right on the heels of the holidays and if I have to spend the next few weeks on the couch, that’s what I’ll do. I feel defeated and I don’t know what to do. Missing Philip just feels bigger than anything.



  22. candidkay
    Jan 03, 2014 @ 22:20:03

    I rarely do this but . . . I’m a journalist and years ago I had to cover a new book on the sixth sense. Google Mary Jo McCabe. She’s the real thing and specializes in new grief. I’m so sorry for your loss . . .


  23. candidkay
    Jan 03, 2014 @ 22:21:31

    I rarely do this, but . . . . I’m a journalist and years ago, I was asked to cover a new book on the sixth sense. Google Mary Jo McCabe. She’s the real thing and specailizes in new grief. I’m so sorry for your loss.


  24. Unconfirmed Bachelorette
    Jan 04, 2014 @ 11:36:11

    Jesus. What a magnificent rant. It’s like I had all these boulders lying around with nuggets of truth–nuggets of what I’ve been feeling–inside. And your words just smashed them open, and now all the nuggets are sitting there. Staring at me. Begging me to look at them and not sweep them under the dust of the smashed rocks they’d been nestling inside of.


  25. Denise
    Jan 04, 2014 @ 17:20:28

    I seem to remember you doing some eloquent ranting yourself, so I’m taking this as one huge compliment.

    Thank you.


  26. nataliehemmerich
    Jan 05, 2014 @ 10:37:28

    Say what you need to say. Keep writing. ((((((HUGS)))))))

    I’m sorry if I sent this to you/you’ve read this before but it’s an article by Steven Kalas. Unfortunately, the original link to the article no longer works so I’m going to link you to a blog reprint:


  27. Denise
    Jan 05, 2014 @ 12:20:19

    First off, thank you for saying that because I’m hesitant to post what I’ve been working on…but it’s where I’m at. I guess I’m somewhat embarrassed.

    And you didn’t send that link to me – I just checked, and I’m going to read it now.

    Oh. Did I say thank you? ;o)


    • nataliehemmerich
      Jan 06, 2014 @ 19:53:30

      You’re so welcome. This blog is about you… I know it’s about Phillip and his honor but you’re the vessel… Sending you love from my heart.


      • Denise
        Jan 06, 2014 @ 22:15:41

        It was the post about suicide that I was embarrassed to post – it was your “keep writing” that gave me the kick in the butt to post it. And you’re right; ultimately, the blog is about me. It’s how I figure out how to live without Philip.

        And I’m taking that love and wrapping it around me. Back to you, too.

  28. proverbs27one
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 13:54:56

    I have a son. My only child. My little lamb. He’s 13 right now. Man, I am going to tell him I love him everyday. In reality, I understand that were all just passing through…all of us. So, I need to remember that daily. I almost died in a rollover accident a year before i even had my son. I love reading your posts. Praying you get to experience some peace before you exit this existence. I know that I am just a fellow pilgrim with you, I don’t have words to take your pain. Wish I did.


    • Denise
      Jan 09, 2014 @ 14:17:15

      You’re right – we are all passing through, and it’s not for any of us to say when someone should die. But it sure hurts like hell. And you know what – there wasn’t a thing wrong or anything left unsaid between me and Philip. You’ve no idea how grateful I am, because when he died it just hit me how much worse it would’ve been had anything been sitting between us, anything that needed to be worked out. “Don’t go to bed angry” is serious stuff.

      Thank you for your kind words – it’s connecting with people that gets me through.


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