Back in the early 1990’s, I attended UND for nursing. I remember learning about the different stages of grief.  My nursing classmates and I used the acronym- DABDA (Denial- Anger- Bargaining- Depression- Acceptance). Grief has many emotions and faces. I share with our children these different stages. A person can bounce between the stages- they do not necessarily feel just one stage.

I think it was the 2nd day after finding Travis that I hit ANGER. I was in denial and bargaining on the first day. I continue to be in all three stages. I still listen for the garage door to raise, hear his pickup drive in and wait for the door to slam and hear “Hello- Im home”.

ANGER- I don’t like how I feel. The feeling that I could pounce on someone, the short temper, the anger towards God, Travis, the search rescue. I texted the sheriff a few days ago, asking if they searched the area where Travis was found. I am haunted daily and have dreams at night that he hung on. I dream and visualize that he lay in the wet cattails- unable to speak- waiting for my to find him. I didn’t- I couldn’t- we didn’t find him in time. It terrifies me wondering if he lived through Friday night- in the dark and cold, all alone, no one to hold him- no one to love him. It terrifies me that he lay there all day Saturday and he was alone again- all Saturday night.

I texted the sheriff asking why the helicopter or search dogs couldn’t find him. He had orange on! He was wearing his orange hunting cap. How could someone NOT see him!!

The sheriff was kind in his words. He asked about how the children and I were holding up. He also shared that Travis orange hat was underneath his body. Travis was covered in mud and deep in the cattails. He blended in with the surroundings. After my brother- in- law (Yes- a family member found him- not a stranger- but Travis good friend) found Travis- the law enforcement had to do their “procedure or protocol”. The helicopter was flying above. The sheriff said the helicopter had difficulty seeing the enforcement and ambulance crew below. Travis truly was a needle in the haystack.

I see the grief that our children are experiencing. Our eldest, Sydney has always been mature and motherly. She has been also writing a blog and hoping to help others with their grief or difficulties in life. Even as a young child- she has helped others and has been a person of influence. I worry what this is doing to her. Samantha- our middle child is soooo like her father. She doesn’t like to talk about her feelings. She holds everything in and “moves on”. She is trying to be so strong. I continue to try hold her and hug her and she refuses. Jacob- our youngest. My heart breaks- he looks so sad and lost. He also doesn’t want to share his feelings- but will ask questions, “Who will take me to school, will we struggle financially, will you marry some random man”.

I am angry that my children are having to experience the utmost sadness and grief- yet have to go on in life with school, activities, and soon to be holidays. No child should have to lose their parent at such a young age.

A few years ago, Sydney and I redecorated our dining room while Travis, Samantha and Jacob were hunting- we designed this large chalk board which has displayed seasonal greetings throughout the year. Prior to Travis death- I had the board erased and waiting for Sydney to write her Thanksgiving greeting.

A few days after finding Travis- I asked the kids to write a little something to their father. I haven’t decided if we will erase these messages or if we will continue to change our “letters to Travis” every season.

Grief has many emotions. Everyone grieves differently- I see this in our children, family and friends. I see that in Samantha’s message to her father. Her “spot” has been empty until yesterday. I continue to pray that our children and loved ones are able to allow the grief.

First greeting

Today- I am preparing for our 1st thanksgiving without Travis. I am making the grocery list by myself. I will not have him here to talk to when I can’t find the fresh sage or thyme in town. He will not give me the advice on browning the turkey or making his famous gravy or carving the turkey. we are forced to make new memories- without our Travis. I continue to weep and cry while I hold Travis urn.

Travis urn
Travis urn with my last Valentine gift to him. His baby shoes- our “thank-you”, the cross in his casket are all near.

Today the sheriff texted me stating we would be able to have Travis belongings. Thank goodness for my brothers whom live in the county where Travis died. They have been so supportive – transporting the ATV from the sheriff department to a local ATV shop for insurance investigation. Today- my oldest brother, Louis picked up all the belongings. He was in tears when he brought them to our home. I know it was hard for him. He said there were “so many bags”. The law enforcement bagged each item individually. My parents also arrived to our home the same time Louis brought the items. I know they came for support. I wanted to wait until our children were with me – so we could view the items together.

I did look at the bag which held travis orange hat. It was covered in mud. No longer a bright orange- but darkened. Travis money clip (Jacob has been waiting for it)- was in his right side pocket. The dollar bills and once shiney silver clip were also dirty and had dried mud. My heart was heavy. Why? Why did this have to happen? How did this happen? Why didn’t Travis survive? How did he die?

Yesterday- my father-in-law backed Travis ATV trailer to the house (So we wouldn’t receive another ticket). I had tears when I saw Paul remove the trailer from the pickup. I had tears knowing Travis was the last one to hook the trailer to the pickup- he was the one whom last touched the hitch and trailer. Paul parked the pickup on the street- I didn’t have the strength to have it parked in the garage.

I continue to receive sympathy cards in the mail. I don’t want to open them. Our children are signing all the “thank you” cards which we will address at a later time. We should be addressing Christmas cards- not sympathy thank you’s! The anger grows.


thank you

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