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Posts Tagged ‘#grief’

It’s another in a series of dark, rainy days. Gloom begets gloom. All my life, I thought I was a good writer. Not contest winning good but captivating. Someone able to hold the attention of my readers. A few months back, I read some of my earlier blog entries and my life story that I wrote at 21. It seems so mediocre to me. Not very good at all. Now I’ve lost my will to write. I don’t want to write emails, blog posts, Instagram posts, Etsy listings, grocery or to-do lists, etc. It could be because I’m grieving still for the loss of my mother. Or it could be that I’ve lost confidence in the only thing I was ever good at. The only thing I ever had confidence in to begin with. I’m not about to start day drinking although the though has crossed my mind. It gives me perspective. I always wondered at what point does someone actually start doing heroin?! A fully rational adult knows better but if life has no substance for them anymore, will they do anything to get their motivation back?! Before you start worrying that I’m on the verge of shooting up, I won’t. I can promise you that. Not just because I don’t care for needles or putting foreign substances in my body. Mostly because I already know it’s not the answer.

When Mom was alive and I was so busy taking care of her, I used her as an excuse. I couldn’t write more because I never had a block of time to sit down and write without being interrupted. I figured when she eventually passed, I would spend part of every day writing. I would either be writing a book or at least do regular blog entires. Instead I feel even less like writing. The truth is she never kept me from writing or anything else. I’m doing that all by myself.

My days are all a blur now. I no longer get up with my husband in the morning (7 am) like I always did until the first of the year. I usually get up by 8 or 8:30 am. I still walk the dogs every day except today because it is raining hard all day long with no break. I still cook meals and bake desserts. I stay caught up with the laundry. I keep my housework and hygiene routine. I pay bills on time. I still watch “Stories” on Instagram every morning and throughout the day. Snippets of other people’s full and vibrant lives. I feel almost paralyzed about sharing on social media. I’ve felt this way on and off since I first got on the internet 21 years ago. In the past month I’ve only posted a handful of pictures (mostly food). I’ve taken lots more and should be excited about sharing but feel almost afraid to share. I don’t know why but the more I need people, the more I pull away. I watch tv but only half-heartedly. TV was always such a joy to me. It was something I’d look forward to at night. Now I still watch the same shows (and some new ones) but most of the time I’m not giving it my full attention. I wouldn’t be able to tell anyone what happened in a particular episode.

I’m very short-sighted and impatient when it comes to getting over things. I like to forge ahead and get on with things. When I had the chicken pox at age 30, I was so afraid that the red marks left on my face (scars) would be there forever. I asked a coworker who had them in his 20’s if he remembered them on his face and he said yes. He said they go away over time. Of course, he was right. Everything goes away over time… A decade ago I had a medical condition I’ve never written about. Someday I will. It was so painful and kept coming back. I finally had surgery and it cured me forever. Sadly, for a few years I was petrified that it would come back. I mean, it was a daily worry that I’d have to deal with it again and forever. That was during the time I almost went on drugs for depression. I was making myself sick with fear. I couldn’t see long term. I never took the drugs and over time my anxiety about reoccurrence went away.

Now I’m back to that place again. The grief over my mom’s death has only intensified. I feel empty and alone. I feel sorry for myself. The worst thing is I’m worrying that this feeling will never end. Just through living all these years, I ought to know logically that I won’t always feel like this. However, I don’t know how long it will last. It could be weeks, months, years?! When I had Mom with me, I pushed myself to get things done every day. Extra things like listing things to sell online or just reorganizing things. Now I don’t push myself. I don’t know why. The only thing I can come up with is that “nothing matters”. It doesn’t make a difference if I do it or not. She’s still dead and I’m still here. I don’t even like posting about my grief on Instagram. People are so kind and wonderful leaving cheerful comments. But what it comes down to is there’s nothing anyone can do to help. It’s going to take time. I feel embarrassed that I’m not handling this better. I don’t like feeling vulnerable. I want to be strong and be able to just go on without being phased by the loss. April 7th will be 5 months since Mom passed away. It seems like it should be long enough to live like this. I’ve always hated “wasting time”. I know how precious life is and grieving this long feels like a waste of time. Maybe it’s one of those things that just sneaks up on you. One day, without realizing it, I’ll notice that I no longer feel this way. That I’m able to find joy again in life. Only God knows how long I need to grieve and when he thinks I’m done. In the meantime, I’m soldiering on.

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Today hubby is working a double shift. My first instinct was that I’ll have no excuse not to blog when I’m home alone for that many hours. Unfortunately, my will to write has disappeared. Since Mom died, I feel lost. I can’t find my voice to write. It’s not because I don’t have anything to write. It just doesn’t feel good like it used to. Sadly, nothing feels good like it used to. I have moments of happiness but I haven’t felt genuinely happy since she passed away. Not for a lack of trying. It feels like I’m going through the motions of being happy but inside I’m hollow. I guess that’s what true grieving is. I don’t think I’ve had the honor or privilege before. Not to this degree anyway. I spent my days as a child on the verge of tears all the time. I was an overly sensitive child with copious amounts of empathy for others. I also had a natural hate of injustice. As a child, the world had too much wrong with it for my taste. It was too unfair to myself and others. It was too hard and cruel. It left me feeling bad about myself and perpetually with hurt feelings. Aside from being bullied excessivey, I felt left out and forgotten. Or more accurately, uwanted/cast aside.

As it took me decades to realize, my mother wasn’t perfect. I’m sure she didn’t know how to handle a daughter that cried so often. Hell, even though I’ve been one, I don’t think I’d know how to handle one. She wasn’t always sensitive to me and my touchiness. Yet she made me feel like she was always on my side. That no matter what, I could talk to her and share my feelings. That she’d be with me to the ends of the earth and never leave me. < SOB> I could never stand up for myself which made me feel doubly persecuted. If someone attacked me (physically or verbally), I couldn’t fight back. I hated violence and didn’t want to hurt anyone. I felt weak and like there was something wrong with me. I couldn’t fathom someone beating another person up for no reason. I knew I hadn’t done anything to this bully that beat me up every day after grade school but I couldn’t bring myself to fight back. Maybe even then I didn’t feel worthy. Most likely I didn’t know that it was a thing that people picked on others. I didn’t know anyone else who got picked on and bullied except me.

By the time I was 25 and I started working in a factory environment (large city post office), I learned to stand up for myself and not take crap from anybody. It makes me proud that I learned this as I would hate to be in my 50’s and still not advocate for myself. Now I do it for my husband, too. Anyway, as I’ve gotten older, I cry less. I felt almost like I’d outgrown it. I would cry when watching sappy movies, pet rescue commercials or occasionally out of frustration or a fight with my mate. It could be weeks or months between shedding a tear. Then I become an orphan and the waterworks get turned on again. I don’t cry every day now but all I have to do is think too hard, listen to certain song lyrics or really think of what I’ve lost and the tears flow that wrack my whole body. It’s been 2 1/2 mos. since she died. It’s worse now than it was the first 2 months. I don’t see an end in sight. I don’t see me ever NOT missing her. She was my best friend util Alzheimer’s stole her brain. Just having her presence near me was an underlying calming influence to me. Of course, things she did were upsetting while she had Alzheimers but overall, I loved every minute of having her with me. Mom being gone is a loneliness the likes of which I’ve never known. If I didn’t have my husband, all I could think about was joining her.

At first I was going to clear out all her clothes and belongings and try to get on with life. I couldn’t do it. I decided to wait. I can always do it later. I don’t want to act like she was never here. That she didn’t live here as much as I did and wasn’t a huge part of my life. I don’t want to forget her. Not that I ever could. I have been trying to live my life but feel like I’m not making any headway. I’m going through the motions of living like getting up every day and getting dressed every day. I don’t sleep well at all. I have some nights I don’t sleep at all. I have always got up when Greg gets up to go to work (at 7 am). Since the New Year and the cold, wintry, gloomy weather, I’ve been staying in bed for an hour or two after he leaves. It doesn’t matter if I get up with him or not, almost every day I’m sleepy. So sleepy that if I sit down, I will fall asleep sitting up with my phone in my hand. I have tried planning things for us to do on the weekends but it’s hard to get excited about things and then it feels like a letdown afterwards. I have 2 “plans” for what I want to do with my life in the future but am not going to share them until much further down the line. I have so much else to take care of before any of my dreams become a reality.

I’ll be writing a blog post soon on what’s been happening since last month. Much has happened, yet much is the same. In the meantime, I wanted to share some of my feelings as I navigate this maze of grief. Without a map, I will get lost but I know there’s a way through it, if I can only find it.

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I’ve never dealt well with death. The same could be said of a lot of people. The only people who handle death well are the dead. I try to avoid thinking about it entirely but due to the nature of life, it does show up sooner or later. On Monday night, we received a phone call that my mom’s best friend had passed away at age 93. I called her son back on Tuesday afternoon and missed him since he was at the funeral home making arrangements. I did speak to her grandson or tried to with a huge lump in my throat. All I could think of was all the letters she’d written my mom that I’d read. She mentioned her grandsons frequently and how fond she was of them. How good they were to her and how they even lived with her for a time. I start to get emotional without a real reason. Just knowing how much they would miss her made me start to fall apart. I got off the phone as fast as I could before he had to wonder what kind of basket case I was. My mother had been friends with Bea for almost 70 years. They had met in their 20’s and the friendship had survived moves to many states, marriages, children and lasted into their 90’s. They started out as coworkers and then roommates. They had many shared experiences that got them laughing whenever they spoke on the phone or in person. They always sent each other birthday and Christmas cards, no matter what. They always wrote letters telling what was going on in their lives. They shared recipes, lots of laughter and even comics that Bea used to cut out of the paper and send with her letters. My mom is not an emotional person. She used to be a bit more but as she’s aged she’s lost the ability to wallow in sorrow. Later that day, Bea’s son Gary called back and we talked for 37 minutes before I had to get off or I’d start crying. I can’t get over what an impact one person had on both our lives. I had long wondered who would go first. If I’d be calling Bea to tell her that my mom had passed away. The reason I handled the phone calls for my mom is that even with 2 hearing aids, her hearing is so bad she can’t hear well enough to carry on a phone conversation.

 
The only time I saw my dad cry was at his mother’s funeral. I was 9 and my grandma was 93. She had lived her last few years in a nursing home but before that had lived with us. My dad was very close to his mother since he was an only child. Seeing him just sobbing during the hymn Rock of Ages shook me to my core. It was my first funeral and my first time being around any display of grief. My mother’s mother had died when I was 5 but I didn’t go to the funeral. Maybe if I’d had more experience with death it wouldn’t be so uncomfortable for me.
 
I have since been exposed to several more occasions of death but it hasn’t gotten any easier. My dad died when I was 27 and I remember wondering if it hurts worse to lose a parent when you’re young or old. When you’re young (like 27 versus 50), you’re mourning the future you lost, what you could’ve had with them. When you’re older and lose a parent, you’ve had longer to bond with them and be close with them. Therefore, you’d miss them more. I don’t know which theory is true because the only thing I’ve figured out is it hurts either way. It hurts more the closer you are with the person. If you’re in daily contact with someone, there’s a huge void left when they’re gone.
 
I’ve noticed there are basically 2 ways people handle death. Yes, I do make over-simplifications. There are the people who think no one has ever grieved like they have. Due to my husband coming from a large Catholic family, there are way too many weddings and funerals to attend. My husband was taught to go and show his respects. We’ve been together for almost 28 years so as time marches on, more of the aunts and uncles have passed away. Some I’ve barely known, others I’ve known somewhat or quite well. About 10 years ago was the first one that really hit me. It was his Aunt Rosie. She was my hubby’s double aunt. She was his mother’s sister and married to his dad’s brother. That saying that you never forget how someone makes you feel is so true. I have always felt self conscious/ ill at ease around crowds at family gatherings. Not knowing who to talk to or what to say. Rosie always made a point of coming up to me and talking to me. She would ask about my mom and we’d talk about how she liked to gamble too. We’d also talk about travel and trips. It didn’t matter what we talked about, I felt like she liked me and I genuinely liked her. She made me forget all the other people around us and feel like it wasn’t a waste that I showed up at the family function. I truly grieved for her and shed tears at her funeral service.
 
There have been other funerals I’ve attended that had a mass hysteria quality to them. Even if I wasn’t one bit sad, seeing everyone crying to the point of dry heaving starts to make me whimper and feel like sticking a knife in my gut. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it myself. At a different funeral, 2 people threw themselves on the casket. They don’t even do that in the movies!! This service was so upsetting to me on so many levels. I’m not telling people how to grieve but I have a hard time understanding how people can turn on and off their emotions like that. One minute they are hysterical, the next they are eating lunch and laughing in the church basement. I guess this is normal. I’ve often said I don’t believe in funerals. Of course, I believe they exist, just that they are unnecessary. I believe in telling people how you feel about them while they are alive. I believe in comforting people who have lost loved ones but the big pomp and circumstance is not for me. I wouldn’t even want a service, nor a cemetery plot. Giving the dead license to take up real estate forever is just crazy.
 
I wished there was a bravery pill that would give you strength when you need it. When grief overtakes you and you want to appear strong, you’d take it. Many don’t need this since they are able to give a eulogy for someone they loved. I know I could write one but there’s no way I could get through reading it. I would break down so many times until I just folded up completely. I’ve never felt capable of crying in front of other people. It is way too vulnerable of a thing for me. I try to hold it in and wipe away tears but I don’t let it all out in front of others. It is a howling pain that I couldn’t inflict on another person’s ears.
 
Some people seem so matter of fact when someone passes away. They understand it’s a phase of life and have made peace with it almost instantly when it happens. This is probably the “right” way to be. At one of the family funerals a few years ago, I wasn’t exactly sad except for seeing so many others in pain. Then I looked up ahead of us a couple rows and saw my husband’s Aunt Anne. She is my favorite relative I gained by marriage. She is everything good in the world. Calling her a Saint is really not doing her justice. She is so much more than that. She’s got a great sense of humor, in addition to being a caregiver, mother, grandmother, gardener, cook, etc. She also has more faith than anyone I’ve ever met. She practices what she believes and ministers to prisoners and anyone in need. She is generous and always ready with a hug. She loves everybody and reminds me of Emma Snyder from As The World Turns. She makes everyone feel welcome and loved. All I had to do was think about how glad I was that it wasn’t her funeral we were at and I started crying. It was ridiculous. I talked to hubby later and he said he had been thinking the same thing. When she goes, even though we know she’ll be in Heaven for sure, we will both be a mess.
 
Maybe the only people ever truly comfortable with death are morticians and medical examiners. They have to see it and be around it enough that they become almost immune to it. Also seeing so many deceased strangers is quite different from a deceased loved one.
 
3 years ago my best friend passed away. It was unexpected but aside from missing her, I had no regrets. I had spoken to her a few days before when she was in the hospital and I’d told her I loved her. I have always done that with people. I sign my letters “Love” if that’s how I feel. I’m sure it puts some people off. They don’t put love unless it’s to their mate. I think there are many types of love and one is friendship. Love and friendship don’t always last but when it does, we have to consider ourselves blessed.
 
In closing, I want to include a few of my favorite quotes about death:
Death is a distant rumor to the young.–Andrew A. Rooney
Death does not wait to see if things are done or not done.–Kularnava
Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.–Norman Cousins
 
Have you had a lot of experience with death? Do you feel you handled it well under the circumstances? I’m curious to hear others’ thoughts on this topic.
 

 

 

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I just got done saying in my last post that I didn’t want this blog to be a place of heavy pain, serious subjects, etc and then I proceed to address suicide. Gah! I’m not going to throw statistics at you but most of us have had our lives impacted directly or indirectly by someone who chose to end their own life. I have spent a lot of time thinking about suicide. These are my feelings and observations, you may not agree with them. I’m not an expert nor do I pretend to be one. If anything I say offends or hurts anyone reading this, it’s entirely unintentional. I never thought I’d have to preface a post with that but I write from my heart and try to be careful with my words but still seem to make a select few unhappy.

 
Monday Jan. 28th marks the 6 year anniversary of my nephew committing suicide. Steve was 41 when he made his final dramatic exit from the world. Steve was 3 years younger than me. Due to our strange family dynamic, I became an aunt at birth. I was never called “Aunt” by any of my 11 nieces or nephews since I fell more easily into the cousin or playmate category. I only saw my half-sister Dianne’s brood at holidays and a few other times a year due to the fact that they lived a couple hours away in Minnesota. We would bundle up and make the 2 hour drive to their farm or more likely they would come to our little house in Eau Claire, WI. My mom would fix a big meal and I’d always have to sit at the kids’ table in the kitchen while the adults ate in the DR. Steve and his twin brother were my constant playmates when we were together. It was always like no time had passed since we’d seen each other and we talked incessantly, played countless board games, Barbies, school, house, dinosaurs, spacemen or played outside. They made the holidays tolerable for me. We basically grew up together. I remember Steve asking me when I was 11 and he was 8, “Why do you wear a bra?”. I had just got my first bra and was self-conscious about it. I didn’t know how to answer. I knew I could’ve explained the whole reason to him but instead I said, “Ask your mother.” For some reason I also remember him asking me “Why are you so fat?” and I think I answered the same way. It hurt my feelings but he was very outspoken and less shy than his brother. When I started collecting Wacky Packages, the twins wanted to collect them too.
 

Me and The Twins. Steve trying to be as tall as me.

Me and The Twins. Steve trying to be as tall as me.

When I received the news that Steve had committed suicide, I went into shock. It was all I could think of. It was surreal. I thought back to all the times we’d shared as children and there was no way to predict that he would be the one to do this. There is no way to make sense of suicide. There is no way to look at someone and know that they’re thinking of this. We can’t see  how fragile someone is or what burden they are carrying around. From what I heard from his mother and brother, he’d been battling depression and had been dealing with incredibly challenging situations. I hadn’t seen Steve since my father’s funeral many years before. I have to believe he knew how much he meant to me and how I treasured the fun times we shared when younger.
 

Steve's 2nd grade school picture.

Steve’s 2nd grade school picture.

Suicide is not just for the lonely. Many people who make that fateful choice  have spouses, and children. They have good paying jobs, are well respected in their communities. They’re not failures, except maybe in their own eyes. I couldn’t fathom why Steve did this. He had more to live for than I do. He had a big, close family with a twin brother. He had 2 children and a wife. He had a fantastic job that paid well. He was good looking and funny. I have a husband but none of those other things. If he does that with that much going for him, what hope is there for me? His twin is an IT genius and put together a beautiful video montage of pictures of him throughout his life along with music. One of the songs played while the pictures flashed was “Smile though your heart is breaking”. Another was “The Valley Song” by Jars of Clay. Scott played it at the funeral and sent me a copy. I watched it over and over and over. I cried every time it started and by the end I was sobbing. It really broke my heart. He always looked so happy. Like he was having a good time and he had the world by the tail. I was griefstricken more than is normal. I was depressed thinking of a world that existed that he was not a part of. He had such a sensitive soul that could not thrive in a world this harsh. How did I finally stop crying? I quit watching the video. I still think of him but haven’t been able to get out the photo albums with the childhood photos of us to look at. Until now. I am going to include a few in this post.
 
Suicide is a moment of weakness. The God I choose to believe in does not call it a sin. He is understanding and will know what was in the person’s heart and if they were a good person. God doesn’t want people to be worrying about a deceased loved one going to hell. Suicide is simply a waste of potential and what’s left of a life unlived.
 
You can live to be 100 and only exist. Never making your mark on society or accomplishing anything major. You can live to a ripe old age and never put your heart out there. So just because someone commits suicide doesn’t mean they didn’t make a difference in our lives or the lives of others. They may have done more in their short(er) lives than someone living much longer. Not to make sweeping generalizations but those who kill themselves are often more sensitive than others and frequently smarter. The fact that they can’t see a solution to their problem, an end to their pain is a mistake. We make mistakes everyday. Some are bigger than others. Some can’t be undone. Suicide reinforces that the person was human and fallible. Maybe in our eyes they were Superhuman. Someone we loved, looked up to and admired. Forgive them for leaving us. Remember how they touched our lives. Remember how hearing the news of their tragic passing by their own hand impacted you. So that you can help others know there is nothing that can’t be solved together. No problem is too big if you have others to lean on.
 
I’m not trying to justify the irrationality of suicide. It doesn’t make you a hero to take your own life. It’s debatable if it makes you a coward. I haven’t touched on the anger and blame the survivors can experience or the tangible and non tangible mess the departing person leaves for the living to clean up. I feel like each of us are born a blank slate or an empty book. We are given the chance to fill our book with whatever is of our own choosing. Since we are given free will, we are also given the opportunity to end our story at any time. The fact that we choose to no longer get up every morning and see what the day has to offer is a choice. It’s probably not always a well informed choice, the decision can be tainted by physical or emotional pain, drugs or alcohol, horrific consequences of other poor choices we’ve made. The saddest thing about suicide is the story is over prematurely. None of us will ever know the true ending, what would have played out if leaving this world by their own devices wasn’t chosen.

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