About You, and Kindness, and Me.

By January 20, 2016Nursing

You may not know this, but 2014 was one of the worst years of my life.

I lost my son in 2011.  That was the 2nd worst year of my life.  The worst year in my life wasIMG_0039 2012, which was when I figured out that my son was never, ever coming back.  I know, you don’t get that.  I am glad you don’t. Hey, this is my son.  I don’t share a lot of pictures of him. He is intensely personal to me, and at the same time I want to show him off to everyone.

Alex was brilliant, but more importantly, he was the embodiment of kindness.  His best friend is on the autism spectrum.  He lives with me now, and he is going to college. Because Alex would have wanted me to take him into our family and love him. His friend didn’t receive a whole lot of love and stability, and Alex knew it.  Because Alex did.  His very best friends were special needs kids who were in mainstream classes in his high school. He was a champion of the angry, the tormented, the bullied, and the suicidal. His lunch table was a combination of these kids, the popular kids, the musical kids, the anime kids, the gay kids, and the kids who just wanted to be in his circle. He was 100% authentic Alex. Everyone loved him.

And I will never see him again.

I took a job in 2014 with the VA, because my father in law asked me to take a job taking care of vets like him before he died in 2012.  After the minute by minute torture of the previous three years, I did not need what happened to me next.  Bullying, lateral violence, and actual physical assault. And my choice was to shut my mouth and finish my 2 year probationary period or leave the VA, contrary to what my father in law asked me to do.

I stayed in that department for a whole year, before I transferred to my current, wonderful job, with my lovely and inclusive coworkers.

However….This new Janie is not a happy person.  She fakes it a lot. She pretends.  She doesn’t cry because she cannot stop. She keeps her head down and doesn’t talk about the pain.

The Janie of post February 18, 2011 is a broken, awful husk of a human.  That Janie has panic disorder with agoraphobia, and PTSD.  That Janie is overweight, an emotional wreck, and has lost everything.

Except nursing.

And kindness.DChitwood_NoActOfKindnessIsEverWasted

I have endeavored to be as kind as my Alex.  This is the way for me to honor his memory.  I love all of you because you gave me the opportunity to do good in the world. You have gathered in Show Me Your Stethoscope to change healthcare.  The kindest and most useful thing I can think of is to advocate for every patient in America by advocating for their nurses and support staff.  

2015 was the best year in my life after 2011.  Because of you. And 2016 has just begun.

So, this is a soppy, personal blog.  Not everyone will like it.  Some of you won’t even be interested.  However, I am interested in you. I care about you.  I want to see all of your kindness shine through as we fix staffing for the vulnerable patients we care for.

So, there is another piece of me, SMYS.

I hope the read wasn’t too painful.










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Author Janie Garner

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Join the discussion 34 Comments

  • hbandrewsfamily says:

    Thank you so much for sharing, Janie. I hope you feel comfortable sharing about Alex more in the future because he sounds pretty amazing. I admire your courage and strength and you have been through so much. Thank you for all you do for SMYS and I can’t wait to see what comes of it.

  • Cathy Marrone says:

    Sorry about your son. I can’t fathom that loss. But I know all I have to keep me going is nursing. I’m passionate about having others feel worthy, appreciated, understood, wanted, and loved. We are here for reasons we don’t understand. I may never work again. I was told this in 1992. I survived meningitis post spinal fusion, had abscess, several spine surgeries, a fusion last January again. I was told I should not be alive nor walk or work again. I did. But I lost a marriage from this (partly), was told not to get pregnant. But I’m here. I really admire your spunk, courage, and fight in you! You are an inspiration to me and I’m sure many others. Thank you for sharing your personal story of your angel of a son. Thanks for looking out for his friend. Thanks for looking out for us. Now if I can get work comp. laws enforced or changed, I would feel accomplished. !y injury is a result of my holding a w/c for another nurse whose pt. was going to the floor from ICU/CCU. I was on my way to the bathroom. Pt pulled me across chair into bed with him and I herniated disc. Would not give me another position since I was “overqualified”. Worked a year their and blew out two discs doing CPR. Then more surgeries, damage, aggravation, etc. But we’re still here. ??

  • lisanem57 says:

    Not painful at all. I appreciate all you’ve done for me and all the people on this very inclusive , kind and caring site. Wish I could help you the way you’ve helped us.

  • Dawn says:

    I wish I could give you a giant hug right now…thanks for introducing me to your son. Alex sounds like he was an amazing young man smarter then his years. I am so glad you had the privilege of raising him and having him in your life.

  • Myra says:

    We never know what is behind someone else’s door. Always be kinder than necessary. Thank you for sharing.

  • Jennifer says:

    I can’t imagine there is any pain greater than losing your son. He must have learned his compassion for those suffering from your own example. What a gift his friend is to give you purpose and the strength to go on, and I hope you will continue to be blessed as you lift up others while trying to hold on yourself. Thank you for sharing this intensely personal and private part of your life.

  • Marybeth says:

    Thank you so very much for sharing this intensely personal post. You continue to touch others and amaze!

  • Becky says:

    Hey Janie,

    From one momma who has lost a child, I know how you feel. The loss of a child takes an elementary part of your soul- it leave an emptiness that will forever be there. We lost a daughter this past April in a car accident. It changes you and the family unit forever. Being a member of this group helps keep me stay somewhat grounded and meet other parents who have lost children. Though I hate being a member of the ‘lost my child group’ I am blessed to be in SMYS. Hugs Janie

  • Kelly says:

    Thank you for sharing and for letting us see another glimpse of the genius behind SMYS. My heart breaks for your loss. As the mother of two sons, I cannot even begin to imagine. After having the privilege of working in many facets of nursing and loving most of them, I “accidentally” stumbled onto long term care. It was going to be a short stop on my nursing journey, a couple prn shifts here and there. And, then, I fell in love. With a group of people who needed love even worse than I did. A group of people, many of whom seldom, if ever, saw a visitor. A group of people who had given so much in their lives only to be relegated to a small room with a few personal belongings, waiting to go to their eternal home. So, every day I go and every day we make a difference. Every day THEY make a difference…..in me. Because of nursing, I am privileged to be loved and cared for by people that have been forgotten. Thank you, nursing, for giving so much to me.

  • Kelly says:

    Thank you for sharing. I can’t imagine what you have been through. Alex sounds like he was a wonderful young man. I have a child with an ASD and wish he was able to find such a friend. I’m sure you are correct that he would have wanted you to take in his best friend and I really thank you for doing that.
    This group is amazing although there is occasionally some idiots for the most part as a new nurse I have learned something new everyday from this site. I have joined the state page and intend on fighting for better patient ratios and everything else you started this page for. Thank you for starting it!

  • Pam Kuykendall says:

    Janie, I’m so sorry for your loss, and I thank you for sharing. I can’t imagine the pain you feel. The way you shared your story tells me you will get through this. The way you are fighting for change to the whole health care system shows what a strong woman you are, and I know you will find your way through this pain. I hope you will find a way to, first of all, be kind to yourself. I will be praying for you to find the strength to continue your great work. You raised a wonderful son, and his friend is very lucky to be in your heart. Many hugs and prayers <3

  • Ola Boshears says:

    Thank you for sharing Alex . I am so sorry that you have to be without him. He sounds amazing , and the work he accomplished in such a short amount of time is priceless. He sounds like one of my people. I love the outcasts, the ones with no , or little voice. I work with autistic children, some of which have been through horrific events , and I have found the greatest inspiration, and truest , most raw, innocent love for life through them. Sometimes when we are trying to heal the broken we find that they have healed us.:).

  • Jamie says:

    God bless you dear one. You are an example of how a hurt can be used to do good and help. I love the you I have come to see in your writings. You bless us.

  • Kaysea Lemley says:

    “It’s funny. The day you lose someone isn’t the worst. At least you’ve got something to do. It’s all the days they stay dead.”- The Doctor (Doctor Who)… Thank you for sharing your story. I lost 2 brothers and my husband lost his brother as well. We don’t know the pain of a parent losing a child but we do know that nothing can compare to it. Our parents belong to a group called The Compassionate Friends. It is an international organization of parents who have lost children. Your son sounds amazing. I hope that you continue to tell us about him. If not I get it and it’s ok. Sending you so many hugs.

  • Jeanne says:

    I’m interested, and I care. And I’m sorry. I know the pain of having a loved one pass (although it was my husband, not a child). I know the joy (and pain) of nursing. And I, too, love kindness. Your son sounds nothing short of amazing. Makes me want to know him. I’ve always taught my kids to be just like you describe him….to love the unlovables and undesirables of the world. It’s not easy for kids to go out on that limb. I’m also overweight and have known a lot of work drama. So hey, thanks for sharing your heart. I feel ya, sister. I truly believe Love conquers all, so I’m confident you’re doing this thing called life exactly right. Keep going forward. Xoxo

  • 6183th says:

    Dearest Janie,
    I have no words. And, then a number of things I want to tell you and then I am back to where I was….no words.
    I am so sorry for your loss, the void, the pain.
    And, I am so proud of your spirit of giving, of preserving through such pain and loss.
    I am also proud of you for the challenges you have taken to help not just your colleagues but,ultimately health care in general.

  • Shana says:

    I don’t know the pain of losing a child. My parents lost two on the same day. I don’t know how they made it through. Hugs to you!!!!!!!

  • Liz says:

    This is the first blog I have read. I usually pass it by when i get off of work because I am tired, but for some reason I felt like I should read this. I truly hope that you continue to find peace and solace in the world around you and that you might find joy again.

  • Beth Stone says:

    My heart aches for you Janie. The loss of a child is beyond my comprehension. I lost my husband, the love of my life in 2015 and this group, along with my friends and family has been a blessing. I will hold you up in my prayers.

  • Mary says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you for opening yourself up to all of us. Sadly I know far to many people who have lost a child. What you have done to honor your son is inspiring.

  • Heidi says:

    I am always interested in what Janie has to say. You are my definition of “superhero”. What an amazing and beautiful person you are to share this with us. I feel so honored to be a part of SMYS. I cannot begin to grasp the pain of losing one of my children, I’m unsure I could recover. Thank you for sharing Alex with us and for giving us this group. I know he was amazing, not only because of the things you said about him, but because he is your son. I can’t wait to see all of the great things to come. Bless you

  • Kasey.VL says:

    Kindness…Doesn’t cost a thing. Sprinkle that shit everywhere!
    Please take comfort in knowing that as alone as you may feel at times in this crappy club of mommies of lost babies, this club we never asked to be a part of, you are never alone. ❤️

  • Tonya says:

    There are no words…
    I can’t imagine the depth of the pain from your loss.
    I am feeling like I am mourning the loss of a child that is still living. Drugs have taken my beautiful daughter and turned her into someone I don’t know. She was always my happy child…my fun child. Now she has frequent suicidal impulses, has gone to and completed rehab, but is facing prison on drug charges.
    By no means do I want to downplay your loss. I am just saying my biggest fear is that I am participating in a long goodbye.

  • Paula says:

    This makes me sad but I’m glad you are healing are becoming happier. I worked with you when you lost Alex and I remember the happy, energetic person you were. I always wondered what happened to you afterwards until you started the site. Thank you for all you do for SMYS and bringing so many people together. Btw…how many pairs of Danskos do you own now. Lol.

  • Shannon Goodwater says:

    My Heart aches for you and your loss. You should be proud of the young man you raised and lost so early. Alex obviously had an positive impact on others in the short time he had. I believe in the goals of SMYS, I am looking forward to see the good things that will come from this opportunity given to us. Everyone has a story some share and others do not, kindness should be given to all because we never truly know what is beyond what we see with our eyes. Thanks for all that you do.

  • Lois Palmer says:

    Sweet Friend,
    What courage it took for you to be so vulnerable with this post. I know many can relate to various aspects of your story. Please know that you are always in my thoughts and prayers. I hope we will get a chance to talk again soon.

  • Kim says:

    I too worked for the VA it was one of the worst work experiences of my life, but it taught me more about myself and the the strength of my character. It pushed me to the point where I considered leaving nursing completely. I LOVED taking care of the Vets but the work environment was less than desirable.
    Thank you for sharing, for opening up and being so raw and venerable.

  • Janie, thank you for sharing. Alex’s soul shines through in your words.

  • Cathy Oja says:

    Great big hugs Janie!

  • Linda says:

    My niece sent this to me today because she said your son reminded her of my son, Sean. She was absolutely right. Sean was a wonderful young man who would always go out of his way to love the unlovely. He was taken from us way too early – and the pain never goes away…God bless you as you continue to honor your son’s memory. He would be proud of you.

  • anngudenrath says:

    Ohhhh Janie-am holding you in my heart-your boy is still doing good….by spurring you and all of us to live better, kinder, more sincere and honest lives. GOD Bless you Janie.

  • Ana says:

    Thank you for sharing with us! There is no other way to live than by being kind and always giving your all! I’m sorry about your son. I have not lost a child but lost my younger brother to suicide in 2013. He drank Drano and survived for 5 weeks, the WORST in my life!
    I work now with children like your son’s friends and they are “” all my kids”. Love everyone of of them no matter what their story or dissability is. You are amazing!!!

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