Grief and Loss

Grief is Cruel

Spring 2016 820.JPGJune 14th was the 24th anniversary of my father’s death. I have not had a father for twice as long as I had one. Every year the anniversary gets easier, but this year it caught me off guard. Grief swallowed me as I remembered that my mom was gone now too. That I am an orphan. A thirty-four year old orphan, but the realization is still hard to grasp. Both of the people responsible for bringing me into this world are gone. My world became so small when I realized this. I am not alone; my brother became an orphan the day my mom died too. As are many others, much younger than we were, but still there is something sobering about being alone in the world.

Yes, I have others in my life. I am not alone in the sense of the meaning of the word, but my creators are gone. I missed my mom more than I had before on June 14th. I felt like a small child lost in a shopping mall, searching for safety. My heart hurt as I thought about all that was stolen from me. For the majority of my life I have been without a father, and now, for the rest of my life I am without both parents.

Realizing how young my dad was; 37 and how young my mom was; 62, I worry about my longevity. Will I die young too? Are my days numbered? So much loss and uncertainties consume my mind now. Grief is unescapable. I tried hard to not think about my loss. I tried to be happy that she has her freedom now. I tried to put my mind other places when the thoughts sneak in, but there is no hiding. Either I deal with it now or I let it consume me for the rest of my life. When I lost my gram my grief consumed me; it killed who I used to be for many years. Seven years to be exact. Ten days after the seventh anniversary I lost my mom. Grief is cruel.

Grief does not care that you already gave it all that you had. Grief does not care that you have a life to live. Grief does not care that you have kids to take care of. Grief does not care that you have a job to do. Grief just does not care. It is as ugly as you allow it to be. Grief does not have a time line. It does not have an expiration date, and it comes knocking even when you don’t feel like visiting.

I have spent most of my life grieving. Twenty-four out of thirty-four years I have had the shadow of grief follow my every move. Happy memories that I could not share with the people I love. Special events that I had an empty space in my heart and empty chairs in the audience. Silent tears escape from my soul as I watch others have the people they love while I am alone. In those moments I forget that others hurt too; that others have lost too. In those moments I think of my pain, of the agony that has taken toll on my life. And in those moments I think about how unfair life is. I get angry and sad and depression sets in. In those moments I give grief full control over my life. In those moments I forget that I have power too.

It is those moments that I have let win over the last few days. I’m getting to be an expert at this grieving thing, and yet it can still swallow me. I am not letting it win this time. I am fighting back like walking against the current. It is hard, but I am aware. I know what it is like this time. I know that I must give in to these moments to grieve fully and completely. I know that grieving is healthy. I also know that grieving is hard. I know I will get through this.

Time.

It just takes time.

Grief and Loss, Uncategorized

Happy Birthday. Happy Travels.

img_7123Today was my gram’s birthday, had she been alive she would have turned 97 today. When she turned 85 I threw her a big surprise birthday party. A lot of the people who were important to her came to celebrate the day with her. The ones that could not make it, and some of the ones that could wrote down their favorite memory of her and I put them together for her in a book. The look on her face and the joy that book brought her was worth all the work that went into it.

As we drove to the hospital the week before her death I joked with her about planning her 90th birthday party. She laughed and told me she did not want a party; I told her it was something worth celebrating and I would throw her one any way. A few days later she died. She won, kind of. We planned her burial for what would have been her 90th birthday and we celebrated anyway.

Every year since her death we celebrate her on her special day. June 5th will always be special to me and I hope to my kids. Some years we have cake, some years we buy her balloons or flowers, and some years we just go for ice cream in her honor. This year was a little different. This year we celebrated my mom’s life on my gram’s birthday. We said our goodbyes to my gram’s only daughter on her birthday this year.

Since my mom died I have felt very connected to my female ancestors. There have been things that I have noticed that make me believe that we are all very similar even generations apart. Many of the women in my family had a very special relationship with their grandmother, while the bond with their mother suffered. We all had the maternal support we needed; it just came from the generation before. I felt that celebrating my mom’s life on the birthday of the woman who gave her life was completing their circle.

The remaining few in my family are here, working on our own circles; but today we could reunite them, as well as the other mothers and grandmothers from our family circle that have already passed on. We are all connected, in an interwoven weave that makes us whole. Each piece, no matter how insignificant it may seem is critical for the survival of another. My mom may not have been able to give me all that I needed, but she made sure my gram could. The mothers and grandmothers in my family are strong women. We are a force to be reckoned with. We have our weaknesses, but oh do we have our strengths. We are family. We are survivors. Life was a struggle for all of us, but we managed. We managed and we succeeded.

My mom’s celebration of life took place this morning at Lake Willoughby. It was a place her mom took her as a child, and where she took us as kids. It was a place of joy. A place of peace. A place of wonder. A small circle of her friends and family gathered by the water we swam and splashed in. It was a place where I felt loved, and a place she had as well. Water had been an important part of her life, and she made it an important part of ours. Her mother passed on her love of water to her, and I to my children.

The flow of the water, the splash of the waves, and the strength in the current make water mystifying. Water is ever changing, never to have the same ripple twice. It is calm and serene while having massive power. A shallow river has enough force in its current to move large trees downstream. Looking at the calm water you would never know the power below. But don’t test it. Don’t push it. Water will win as it peacefully passes by. The women in my family are like water. We quietly watch the world around us and push back when we need to. You need water to survive as you need love. You will wilt away into nothingness without water, as you will without love.

Today’s forecast called for 90% chance of rain, heavy at times. While we gathered around the lake it merely sprinkled, off and on. There were lulls of no rain at all. The sun even peeked out of the clouds for a little while. We sprinkled some of her ashes into the water as the others sang “You Are My Sunshine.” We were her sunshine, as she was ours. Today she gave us the gift of sunshine, if only for a few moments. As we drove away the heavy rain came. I know she had something to do with that. She did not want us to be sad, she wants us to live. She wants us to be thankful for the time we had with her and to live the rest of our lives as we wait for our final descent.  She was a prisoner in her life for as long as I knew her, and many years before that. Where she is now she is free. She has joy and she has love. I know she is not gone from our lives; she is just on a different path until we meet up again.

Happy Birthday Gram.

Happy Travels Mom.

Until we meet again. Much love.

Grief and Loss, Uncategorized

Seven Years, Ten Days

Spring 2016 855.JPGMy mom died. Seven years and ten days after her mom, my gram died. This was the first year since my gram’s death that I did not fall into a deep depression. This was the first year that I was on top of my grief. And then one week after the anniversary of losing my gram my mom went into the hospital. As I was watched the doctor franticly look at her notes and then my mom, the look on her face said more than anything she could speak.

I sat against the wall in the hospital room I thought about the day. It was April 17th. We were having my gram’s service April 17th seven years before. It was 2:00pm when I connected those dots. I could not keep my tears in. I knew what was happening. I had to leave the room, because I did not want my mom to see me cry. I rushed down to the waiting room and let the tears out. I sent my brother a text to let him know what was happening. The time stamp was 2:07pm. My gram’s service was held April 17th at 2:00pm.

Why was the universe testing me? Why did this have to happen now? Why did I have to start the grieving process over? There were too many thoughts going through my head. I was not ready to lose her, not yet. I wanted to talk to her to tell her the things that I had been working on. I wanted to tell her that I hurt, but I understand now why things happened the way that they did.

On April 18th we were called in to her room to say goodbye as she was having a heart attack. She was still awake and able to speak. I told her “I forgive you Mom, I love you.” She responded in a few words and was asleep, never to speak any more words. We were called in to say goodbye to her a few more times that day, each time I told her that I loved her, once kissing her forehead.

My anticipatory grief was setting in. Days before we thought she just had the stomach bug. I had not gone to see her the last couple times because she did not want to get the kids sick. And now we were saying goodbye over and over again. Each time we said goodbye she would become stable and we were told she was improving. Part of me hoped that she would pull through and part of me knew she wouldn’t. I wanted to keep hope and faith alive but I also wanted to be prepared for what was coming next. It was like walking on a tight rope, not wanting to look down, but knowing you have to.

After two long days of waiting and hoping for the best we had to make a choice. Do we keep letting her fight, or do we let her go? We let them try everything, and she was surprising us each time. They gave her a 1% chance of surviving the first surgery, and she did. They gave her a 10% chance of surviving the night, and she did. We hoped she could fight it; that she could beat it. Medications were at their max and she was failing. She was in pain. If we let her keep fighting we would have lost her. We decided to stop all life saving measures and transition to comfort care.

Within minutes she was gone. We said our goodbyes to her as she departed her Earthly body. The four days that this took place were excruciating. A waiting game; hoping that we would get good news, but knowing we wouldn’t. I didn’t want her to suffer, but I wanted her to live. That is a hard choice to make. I felt selfish letting her linger just for us. We initially wanted it for her. We knew that if she had a choice she would want to live too. So we did everything that was offered to us. We did everything and it still was not enough. Regardless of our choice she was going to die. It was just a matter of moments. In the big picture her peace was worth more than those moments.

I don’t have regrets, only that she was most likely in a lot of pain. We did not know that until after she had been suffering. We did what we could do and we were there with her when she needed us. She went peacefully and quickly once the medications were stopped. We followed her wishes the best we could with little to no information as to what she wanted. She never wanted to die so she never talked about her wishes.

Seven years after losing my gram and drudging through the thick, painful, at times paralyzing grief I was given a reprieve to try to live without the pain and then I was given another major loss. Another loss that could have sent me down the ugly, black spiral I had just climbed up. This loss has been different. My grief has been different.

My mom and I were not close. I spent my whole life longing for her love. She gave me the love I had looked for as she clung to her life. In her final moments she gave me what she never could before. I am not sure if my pain is subdued this time because of the distance that separated us; or if because she left me at peace with our past. I am sad as I think about what never was. And I find myself thinking of things I want to tell her and forgetting that she really is gone. I don’t know the difference. I just know that it is easier. So far. I also know that grief is ever changing. I know that it is different. I know that it is tricky and I know I cannot out run it.

As my mom was still alive, fighting for her life I looked down and saw my gram’s ring on my hand, on her arm. I was brought peace knowing that she was there helping me and also there for her daughter.

My mom was 62 years old when she died; my gram was 62 years older than me. My gram was 34 when she had my mom; I was 34 when my mom died. As I sat and thought there were a lot of connections like this. It made me see that we were all connected, but more importantly that the big picture is already mapped out. Things are preplanned and we are just along for the ride. Good or bad; if it is meant to be it is going to be. Life is always going to be; until it is not. It is what you do in between the being and not being that matters most. It is time for me to be the most that I can be in my time I have left.