Grief recovery, loss of child, healing after death & loss 

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Michelle Shelton 480-577-8272 m@teamshelton.com
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Phil’s phone

When Phil died, I sat on my patio and called his phone and played his voicemail over and over with a couple of glasses of wine. It was raining. He loved the rain. I recorded it and still listen to it over and over. Not like that first night though.

I used to tell him to leave me a message when he called. I didn't know why I felt so compelled to have him leave me a message. He wouldn't do it. I don't know why. He said I will just call you back if you don't answer your phone. 

I have found that I was going through my life waiting for all the big events to happen. Graduations. Weddings. College. New jobs. Babies being born.

Broken HeartIn reality, it is the little moments that create my life. Like the John Lennon song says, life is what happens when we are busy making other plans. Now hearing his voice on his voicemail is all I have. I have a few little video blurbs. Some photos and my memories. I have his shoes and a few trinkets. He was 22 and didn't have much stuff.

I am afraid if I stop talking about him and hearing his voice I will forget. Part of me wants to forget so I won't hurt anymore. Yet, if I forget it will be like he was never here.

It is such an odd process. I have buried my dad. I have buried my mom. I have buried my best friend. I have buried other friends throughout the years. I am not supposed to have to plan my child's funeral. What about the graduations and babies and new jobs? What about college?

I will do what I do and trust the process. I don't like it. I don't want to even be part of the process…yet, I think there is a higher purpose. I suppose it is to help someone else. I like to do that. I seem to have so many life experiences. I will sit down and tell you about it someday. I can relate to almost anyone I meet. Seriously. I suppose this will be another thing I can relate to that others can't.

I sure wish I could have had Phil's phone but it was burnt up in the fire. The phone company won't give me his text messages. Was he in the middle of a text? Is that why he wrecked? I guess I will never know. It doesn't really matter. As long as I taped his voice….that is what matters.

I love you Phil Henry…I love you and I hope you are somewhere wonderful….learning and growing and moving on. I love your voice. I miss you very much.

 

 
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I always Wanted to Write a Parenting Book

In 1998 I decided I wanted to be a writer. I told my husband this revelation. He said, "Um, no offense but didn't you flunk out of high school English?" To which I replied "….so I don't know the prepositions…I know them now. I don't need to be able to dissect a sentence to write. I can talk. I can write." And so I did. I began writing.

I wrote employment articles. One got picked up in a magazine. It was high color, very classy. Never mind that it was for an air conditioning company. I didn't care. I liked the way it looked. I started submitting my articles to local newspapers. I got nada. Then I decided they must not like the topic so I figured, I was a stay at home mom…I would writing about parenting. Everyone always commented on how well behaved my kids were. I wrote one article and submitted it to the local paper, The San Tan Monthly. When the paper came out, I opened it up and there was my article! I was so excited. I had the encouragement I needed. I always wanted to write a parenting book

I submitted a family photo with the next artilce. They published it. I told the editor I wanted to call my "column" (yes I just created a column for myself), I wanted to call it, Life with all these Kids

After a year or so, my articles started to be picked up by the Arizona Republic and they actually paid me $100 per article. That was the same time I went to work in real estate and I let my little writing gig go. I turned to writing websites and making money in real estate.

I always wanted to write a parenting book. Why didn't I? Well, the biggest reason was my parenting of Phil. Phil was hard for me. I didn't know how to parent him. He chose his own path. We always had this strong bond and told each other how much we loved each other but there was always this sadness between us. It was like there was this big gap between where he was as a little guy to where he had gone as a teenager. He felt it too. Like we didn't know how to get back to that place.

I will write more in detail about what I mean about this…just not today. It is too new. I cannot go there yet. I will in time. If he was here with me today, I would tell him how perfect he is just the way he is…he isn't wrong or bad. He had chosen to explore a different part of the world than I did for sure. I was attached to how his life had to look. I wanted him to go to school. I wanted him to not cuss. I wanted him to be responsible. He was learning all of this his way. I wanted it to be my way. He did and is still teaching me to let go of that. It doesn't always look the way I think it has to look.

I think I have the freedom to write that parenting book now. I now see all the parenting lessons there were for me to learn..funny how that happens sometimes. The lessons are in hindsight. I am happy Phil and I were good when he died. We were very good. The last month of his life he gave me several long and lingering hugs and said it's going to be okay mom. At the time I didn't know what he was talking about….he must have known at some level his time was limited. He had not done this before…not in the same way. It wasn't like I was crying or sad…yet, he was comforting me. Even when he moved out he said, you will be okay without me mom…it's okay. You will get along. He always had that connection with people. At a very deep level he seemed to know what was going on at a spiritual level. I don't mean to make him bigger than he was…I just always noticed how in tune to people he was. I am thankful for this valuable lesson. None of the tasky stuff matters. It is about the people. The relationships. I miss my son. I wish I could just hold him one more time.

 

 
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He didn’t die in the Fire….he died before

Please read this article at your own risk. There are details of the fire and the accident in which Phillip was killed. The first part is the actual news article that appeared in both print and online.

Two Die in Firery Crash near Yuma, Arizona

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Newspaper said, two killed in a fiery crash. When the police officers came to our door…I knew it wasn't going to be good news. I could see the serious looks on their faces and I didn't want Paul to answer the door. I heard the officer ask Paul, "Are you Mr. Shelton?" He replied. "Yes." Then I heard the officer ask, "Do you have a son named Phillip Shelton?"

Oh my God. At that point I heard him say something about a bad accident on I8. I became hysterical. Is he DEAD? Did Phillip DIE? I was yelling this hysterically.

I remember running into my daughters room and saying, Oh my God, Oh my God…over and over I repeadted it while I sobbed and held my stomach. She was shouting at me…MOM WHAT? What happened? MOM? I just kept saying Phillip, Phillip, Phillip.

The rest of the day is a bit of a blur. I had left the room while the officers gave Paul the details of the accident. None of that mattered anymore. All that mattered was my baby was gone. My toddler, my little man, my teenager, my young man, the father of my granddaughter. I have these memories of the stages of his life. Phil as a baby. Phil as a toddler. Phil as an eight year old. Phil as a 12 year old. Phil as a teenager, a 19 year old, a 22 year old young man starting his family. Learning to work and support others.

Later that night I told Paul I simply wanted to go get Phil. I wanted to hold him. I wanted to unwrap him and look at his fingers and toes the way I did when he was first born. I didn't care if he was dead…I just wanted to hold him again.

I remember the look that came across his face. He said, "No Shelly, you can't do that." I didn't understand. Then he continued, "There was a fire Shelly, Phil is gone, he was burnt up in the car."

For several days I couldn't handle this information. My mind raced. I envisioned him pressed against the window yelling for someone to help him…scratching and clawing to get out of the pain of the fire. I wanted to reach into my body and rip out my heart so it would stop hurting.

It has been a couple of weeks now and we have talked to witnesses. We have talked to people who were the first responders to the accident. Phillip and Alyssa were both dead on impact. They did not die in the fire. Their bodies were badly burnt but they did not die in the fire. This gives my pained heart some peace.

I miss you Phillip. I am not sure how to get along without you. You have been such a part of my life for so long. Your boots still sit inside my back door. It sort of seems like you might come back if I leave them there. I know you will need them for work.

 

 

 
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What day is it?

What Day is it? I don't know what day it is. I do know it has been two weeks and two days since my son crashed into a tree. The stories continue to come out. There have been witnesses come forward and it brings me some peace to know my son did not get trapped in a burning car…he was dead instantly. I feel good about that. It sounds so weird to say that. To even think that seems weird. I just didn't want him to suffer if he had to die. Apparently he did as he is gone.

His baby girl misses him. She looks around and says dada and runs to the door to see if he is here to pick her up. I show her photos and videos…she seems a bit interested but it is like she knows that is not him.

What day is this again? Someone asked me the date and I had no clue what the date was. When they said it was the 17th of September, I couldn't believe I Had not only forgotten my friend Michelle Biggert's birthday but I had lost two weeks. I don't remember any time going by. It is sort of like the Matrix…..time is going really slow. I feel like I am moving in slow motion and nothing is real.

The emotions that come up are overwhelming. Yes. I said it. Overwhelming. As a coach, I have never liked that word. I don't now that I had ever felt overwhelmed until the day the police showed up at my door and told me my son was dead. Nothing mattered. Time stood still and I wanted it to either speed way forward or better yet….go back a week. I would do so many things differently. An opportunity to "should" on myself. Something I warn my clients about doing…beating myself up. Doesn't work. Still I find myself doing it. I find myself beating my husband up too..he could have done this or that differently.

I find myself lying on the floor in a fetal position many times throughout the day….just sobbing until my head hurts. I have never felt pain such as this. I wake up in the morning and it feels as if someone is sitting on my chest. When I go to bed, I think, wow, made it through another day…and then I wake up and think…shit…another day without Phil.

How can I never talk to him again? Well meaning people say, you can still talk to him. Well of course I can….I just don't know how that looks yet. I miss him. I want to hold him like when he was a little boy. Just sit with him in the chair.

I have Ava Rose. Rosie is what Phil liked to call her. He tried to get everyone to call her Rosie. He tried to get everyone to call me GiGi too. I resisted that big time. I guess he won as now I am calling myself GiGi…much to my dismay. None of that shit matters now. Only my love matters. The love of a mother for a son. I hurt really bad. I will go on and move on. I will never forget him.

What day is this?

 
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Parenting Phil

When Phillip was a small boy, he was so easy. He was an easy baby. He would do whatever I asked of him. He was helpful and he was protective of the other kids. I remember when he was five years old he made up a langauge all of his own. He named each of the kids with funny names and he could do this crazy clunking noise with his tongue like no one I know.

My heart is broken. I want to write about him and I simply cannot bring myself to do so. Everytime I start to remember his life I have a melt down. I loved this kid so much. I remember telling my husband, nothing better happen to this kid or they will have to bury me with him!

The unreal has become real. This doesn't happen to my kids. Our family is normal…we don't have people die from accidents! It just doesn't happen! This is what I used to think. I had the usual worries like most moms I suppose. I would always give the warnings of "wear your seatbelt" and "drive the speed limit".

When the police came to the door to tell us, I was slow to answer. I knew it would be a turning point. I already knew before we answered the door. Oh God, how can this be real? This can't be real, can it? Is it possible? My Phillip was burned up in a wreck and now his remains fit in a small box about the size of a flour bag? How does this work? His beautiful face, laugh and perfect head….his wonderful sense of humor…all gone from a simple error while driving.

This sucks. I hate it. I resist it and it persists. Nothing will ever be the same. I will never be the same.

 

 

 
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The last time I saw Phil

I remember the last time I saw and held Phil. It has been two weeks today since I last saw Phillip. He had just rented a new apartment and Paul, Josephine and I went over to see it. He had Ava Rose with him and Paul and I sang and danced with her. I have a video to post on it…unfortunately Phillip wasn't in the video….only Paul, Ava and I. I can hear his voice though.

When we left I gave him a hug and told him I loved him…we went out the door and I told Paul I needed to go back and give Phil a hug and tell him how much I love him. Paul looked at me like I had two heads and said, you already did that Shelly. I said I need to do it again. He said it's fine, Phil is fine. So I didn't go back. If I could share anything with you it is to follow that voice in your head that tells you things like this. Remember, there is often more than one voice in your head. I am talking about the one that is a nagging little voice that tells you what to do when it doesn't really make sense. I wish I had gone back, it still wouldn't be enough. It still wouldn't make me feel any better….it is the other voices way of beating me up. I will not listen to that voice…..the one who wants me to feel bad. This is my ego…the ego wants me to feel pain.

Phillip knew how much I loved him. A couple of days before he died he said, I love Ava so much. I said now you know how much dad and I love you. He said, yes, I do.

Miss him. I always will.

 
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The Cremation on 911

The Cremation on 911

It seemed appropriate that September 11 was the day my son was cremated. I don't know why…it just did. He was born on the 4th of July, died on Labor Day Weekend and it just seemed like his life was always revolving around some sort of important date.

I never knew anything about cremation. In Nebraska we always had a family plot. When I go home, I always visit the cemetary and I knew nearly everyone in it. It is sort of a bitter sweet visit. It is nostalgic and usually I am shocked at some of the names I see as I had no idea they had passed.

With Phillip he told me he wanted to be cremated a couple of weeks before his death. I actually brought the subject up for whatever reason. I said, I don't want to be put in a box…he said, me either! Just cremate me mom. I told him he had to outlive me and he would be the one taking care of me.

I always knew. I knew for many years Phil would not be with us long. It is that nagging feeling I had. I never wanted to believe it and I always just wrote it off to a mothers intense love and worry for her first born.

We all met at the crematoriam, they walked us through the mortuary and out the back into another building. We signed a waiver for something, not sure what. Then we went into the room and there was a box taped together. The box my son was being stored in. A large cardboard, coffin if you will. There was a big machine with the door closed and they explained they would fire it up and then open it and he would go in. My husband said we could all say out goodbyes and then go out before they put my baby into the fire. He had already been burnt…I don't know if I could handle any more fire on him.

We left and went to breakfast and then went to another place and bought his urn. It was with a sense of sadness I got through the day. When I got home we popped a movie in and I was fast asleep in nearly five minutes. I slept most of the afternoon.

It was a long day. Tomorrow will be near the end. We will pick up Phillip's billfold (what is left of it) and we will pick up his ashes. The urn is on order and we will have it in a week.

My grief is immeanse today. I had some distractions and I was greatful. Everywhere I look I see Phil. I hear his voice. I smell his smell. God, I miss him.

 

 
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Day 7 without Phil

Today was rough. I had several melt downs. I was angry and sad and sad and then angry. I lashed out at my husband. I did things that were not rational. I rebelled against my husband. I popped a beer at 8:30 in the morning…then when my husband questioned me, I said, "Who makes these rules that you can't drink a beer in the morning?"

I was angry at Phil today and then I woud feel guilt for being angry. WTF? This is like some sort of torture.

All the personal growth I have down and I know that to think is to create. If I stop thinking about the accident. If I stop thinking about Phil being in a fire…if I stop thinking about him never coming home….I won't generate these emotions. I don't want to stop thinking about him. I want to remember him, hold on to him. What if I forget? I cannot remember his voice sometimes….it has only been seven days…what happens when it is seven years?

I miss him. I love you Phil.

So many friends stopped by yesterday. Both of my brothers were here and their wives. My dear friend, Gary Elkins from California stopped by. I am so thankful for my large circle of friends who are here to support me.

 

 
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Day six

It has been six days since the loss of my son. Each day brings a new emotion. Up and down. Today was almost as bad as the day I found out. Getting the funeral planned and taking care of Phil's body is my priority. I haven't slept much and the sleep I have gotten has been fitful.

Get through it. Breathe in….breathe out.

 
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