Tag Archives: grief

Grief 101

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It’s just over three weeks since my mom died.   A good friend asked me if it’s harder than I thought it would be, the answer is NO.  I always knew it would be hard.  But what has surprised me is the areas in which it is affecting me.

For one, self confidence.   I consider myself to be a fairly brave, very strong independent woman.  And I just realized a couple weeks ago that I’m old enough to be classified as “Senior Citizen” on Wednesdays at JoAnn’s Fabrics.  I’ve traveled up and down the East Coast, all over this country and others by myself.  I would think very little about driving an hour or two here or there to score a good find from Craigslist, or the like.  I don’t feel comfortable doing this right now.  I don’t feel confident enough to do this.  I’m really shocked at this.

I don’t feel safe in this world, since the death of my mom.   I always knew, wherever I was, went, I could call her and she would come to my rescue.  For a couple of decades we have been each others main support, both single women living on little, we helped each other.  My mom was a huge help to me in areas that I many times lack or slack in.   I cannot attribute this to anything else, believe me, I’ve tried.

In every room in my house, there are memories of my mom.   She always rolled up her shirt sleeves and jumped in when it came to cleaning, repairing, maintaining, and a couple years ago, renovating and ultimately redecorating again.  It is s hard for me to fathom that she will never again step foot into my yard, my house, nor spend hour upon hour working in my yard, her flower gardens, because they really were hers.  I haven’t worked in my flower gardens for a couple of decades, she did it all.  Now she loved doing it, and she was very good at it.   Will I take care of them?    Can I take care of them?  Will I know how after all these years?   There’s a little bit of fear here.  I am feeling fear.   Because many things that she did to help me, I had to stop doing so she graciously took over.

I find my tears come in waves, and triggered by many simple things.   I pulled out a folder of my decorative painting designs and my heart sunk.   My mother was a huge part of my success here, she made e prepping surfaces or house or dog and cat sitting.  Back in those days I had five animals for her to care for!

Another thing that is happening that I didn’t expect.  I feel like I need to know everything, because she is gone.    I identify with these feelings when I found out many moons ago I was pregnant.  OMG I need to get my act together so I can be a good parent!  Only now, I need to get my act together because my mom isn’t here to help or assist

Sleep is being affected.  I wake up every hour, only early morning hours offers good sleep.  As a result, I am plum pooped.    I was so tired the other night after finishing things up downstairs that I slept on the couch.  I didn’t have the energy to go up to my bed.   I have been on this journey called grief many times, and I know it’s a hard hard walk.   I either forgot or the loss of my mother is proving to be one hell of a challenge.

I miss my mom.   I miss her voice, her outspoken manner, and more.    I know in time it will get easier adjusting to this new life, life without my mother.   While grateful I had my mom for the first 56 years of my life, it doesn’t matter at what age you lose your mom, for me, anyway,  it’s a colossal loss.

 

 

 

 

 

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Familiarity

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My sister left for home last night.     On my arrival home from bringing her to the airport, I found tears running down my cheeks, I had felt it coming, there was nothing I could do or tell myself that would deter this, so I just let it happen.    My mother is gone.  She will never again step foot in my home, we will never work on another project together, we will never fight again, she has passed into the unknown.   I had to DO something, I had to get my hands busy because my mom wouldn’t like for me to get lost into grief again, so I pulled out a frame I had found at a thrift shoppe and filled it with pictures of family members we’ve lost, my mom and my two sisters.   I was happy with the way it turned out, even though it took a couple hours longer than it should’ve, but what else was I going to do?   I cried my eyes to sleep last night while watching Frasier.

The world seems foreign to me now.   Just like it did when we lost our kid sister.   It isn’t nearly as kind or caring, and I have one less source of unconditional love, one less person I could depend on if I needed her.   Everything in my world has changed, again.

Today I drove to Walmart for a few things today, and found myself walking aimlessly around the store.  Going from one end, to the other, back to the first.  I had my list on my phone what I needed to get, and I looked at it at least 4 times while there, and still came home with one thing I forgot to get.   What is this?  What am I feeling?  Why am I feeling like this is “Scatterday?”, I felt familiarity, and as hard as I tried to distract myself, engage myself in things like $1 a yard Waverly fabric, or yarn clearance, I just couldn’t get into it.  My creativity was on strike, and I found myself doing stupid things, unable to focus, unable to make a sound decision on sachets for my bureau.  What the hell?   Looking at things I  had no idea why, and dodging people I knew, it finally hit me.   GRIEF.    This is grief!  Of course it feels familiar.   No wonder my stomach was upset, and when i heard the screaming child in the next aisle over, I felt as if every nerve ending in my body was exposed to this, breathe, breathe, breathe.  I was talking to myself, and found myself saying, thinking “GO, GO NOW!”  Like Hannibal Lechter said to Jody Foster’s character in “Silence of the Lambs”.  Harshly, forcefully.  I went right to the self check out.

It’s been 13 days since my mom died.   Today is the first day I’ve been on my own without the security of siblings since we said goodbye to her.   Today was no longer about the end of my moms life, today is about the beginning of my life without my mother.

I filled the basket with sugar related items, this is how I feed my hurting heart, my aching soul.   It will only last a day or two and then I’ll get mad at myself for doing so, and hopefully, with the help of a tight wasted, uncomfortable pair of jeans, will walk away from sugar and seek water, food, nourishment.  I know there is absolutely nothing I can eat that will take away this pain, or sorrow.   But I will still do it.   Because for a few minutes I feel normal, I feel peaceful, I feel nothing.Spent some time on the phone today with my cousin and sister, also texted with my brother.  We’re all “checking in” on each other.  I’m grateful for that.   And while the list is short today, I did do one kind things for another, which always makes me feel better.  I delivered some lemon frosted shortbread cookies to a friend who is in rehab for a broken hip.  She said “I’m sure you’re in a hurry.”  I replied “No, I’m really not, I’m just not right, and I just want to get home to my cat, my beads, my brushes, my comfy clothes, safe in the confines of my humble little abode.

So now, post sugar fix, my energy level has been depleted, and I will either take a nap, or engage myself in a project like I did last night.    Whichever I do, whichever I choose, I will be kind to myself, and allow myself to feel this pain, to face this loss, this significant loss.

 

 

Rambling grief

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My siblings have graciously and generously taken care of all the necessary final arrangements.  My mother did not want a service, she was adamant about this.    So they have generously arranged for a private family dinner in which we will celebrate her life.   My brother has offered his home for family and friends to stop by afterwards if desired.   I want to share that I am overwhelmed by all the thoughts and messages, prayers being said for me and my family.

The reality that she is gone hits me sporadically and infrequently.   It’s still not real yet.  If that makes any sense.  I’ve been practicing self care, resting the past few days, working on her obituary, which I must say hasn’t come easily.  I remember an obituary of someone who I knew, and despised, and my jaw was sitting on my chest throughout the whole obituary because it was so uncharacteristically her, and I had thought about becoming an obituary writer after reading it.   Clearly, you can say anything you want, make up things, be anything you want or want them to be in an obituary!   For me, I wanted it to be an honest assessment of my mothers life.   I wanted to touch upon the things that were most meaningful and important to her.  Doing so required sorting through many memories and feelings. and spanned the last five decades of her life that I was aware of.

I look around my house and I’m reminded of how much my mom did for me.  We tackled projects together, including painted furniture that she would strip, fix, and I would paint.    She rarely sat, she was always busy.  Sometimes that used to drive me nuts.  And the things that she did that used to irk me, like leaving cleaning agents in nooks and crannies around the house, today made me smile.  My house will NEVER AGAIIN be as clean as it was then when my mom was staying here or house sitting!   Last night when I did the dishes I remember her saying to me “the warmth on your hands is healing, Donna, let it nurture your hands”.   For the record, my dishwasher also died, and I haven’t yet nurtured my hands today!  And for over a decade now, my mom took care of all my flower gardens, and yard.   Her and my friend Joe who took care of the lawn, both of whom will no longer be doing that.   I will deal with that when the snow is gone.  Perhaps I’ll get back into gardening?

My mother and I couldn’t be more opposite in some ways, and in others we were side by side, I echoed her.  I’m not sure if that’s good or bad, but I know that both of these things were obvious in our relationship.  Sometimes it’s because you are very much alike that personalities clash!

I’m not liking this particular journey of grief.   Actually, I haven’t liked any other either.  But this loss, this is vast.     I can’t even comprehend it yet.  Am I saying it is greater than my other losses?    I don’t know, I just know it’s seemingly different, in the short time since she passed.  As I go through pictures to share with my siblings, I’m also sorting through memories.   My mother would surprise me many times I was away teaching.  I’d come home and she’d have not only cleaned the house but also did extras, things that I was meaning to do just hadn’t yet found the time.   I remember the first time I traveled after my ex boyfriend and I split.  I have mentioned on numerous occasions he was an alcoholic, a binge drinker.  Well, when I started to travel teach, I was weary when I’d pull out of the driveway on a Thursday or Friday to travel to my gig.   I didn’t trust him, and was afraid that he’d get drunk and would lose one of my animals (accidentally) or burn my house down.  So when I came home the first time after we split and my mom had stayed at my house (with my 4-5 animals), I was delighted to come home to a super clean house, new scatter rugs, and other small things that really were appreciated.  Although, she was far more excited over a toilet bowl brush than i was!    Seriously!  I remember thinking how nice it was to have someone “on my side” or working with me with housework and goals.

I am afraid of grief.   I am afraid because it can be such a deep dark hole, an emptiness, a seemingly endless journey of sadness, at least it was for me when my youngest sister died, and when I learned Jim had died.  I’ve been reading articles online how to help yourself, things you can do to help move your grief along if you are feeling stuck.  I haven’t felt stuck because I haven’t yet accepted it.  But I know from experience that there will be a time that I do, and it will probably be when I get angry.  If you’ve never read any of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross work, her writing was amazing, her work with the dying was ground breaking.  Both my mother and I enjoyed her books, and my mother doing hospice work shared many things with me.   It’s time to pull back out the book written by hospice workers that I cannot seem to recall  its title, but I will.  I will probably have to buy it again, which I have done probably five times, because I always seem to pass it along to someone else who was in need of comfort, understanding, who was walking the difficult path of grief.  I want to say “Final gifts”.

I’ve kept fairly alone this week, which works for me.  Once an extrovert, I have long since moved over to the introverts side, and I heal, process alone.    At one point in my life I was afraid to be alone, as if it said something horrible about me that I wasn’t “in love”.    Those days are long gone, and while I long for loving touch, I am comfortable with my life.  I think each person has to define whether coming home to an empty house evokes loneliness or freedom!    And that can vary day by day, certainly when walking through grief.    I’ve gone from having 5 pets, two dogs and 3 cats, down to one geriatric cat who at the age of 18 years old has the whole house to herself.  She was always low man on the totem pole.   All the other animals would pick on her, but now she’s showing them!     I thought I was losing her a couple months ago, i mean, she is obviously showing signs of age, she sleeps a lot, but she had stopped eating, and had become alarmingly thin.   I’m pleased to say she is doing much better, and I love looking over at the second chair in my living room and seeing here there.  I’ve resisted offers and desires to get more animals because it’s just so expensive to have them, and I have been fortunate to have friends who helped me get their flea and tick stuff, shots, and also in putting them down when their quality of life became unacceptable to me.

I don’t know why I’m struggling so with second guessing the pain meds I kept asking for with my mom.    As close as I can come to the fear of it, is that it silenced her.  And my mother was hardly the quiet soul.     She and I had a pact when it came to my animals.   She really was good to them, and my dogs lived at her house half the time because of how much I traveled.  But I digress.   The pact was, if I was letting one of my animals live in a manner that was less than quality of life, she would tell me.  Because I never wanted them to suffer, ever.   So in recalling this, why would I question doing the same with my mom?  It isn’t as if we euthanized her, but my mother has always responded drastically to the smallest dose of most meds.  Was there more she wanted to say?  The fact that I, we had the last word with her offers little comfort from a strong woman who always seemed to have the last word.

Back to being alone, one with myself, tomorrow I am going out to get my hair done. I’m looking skunk (ish) with roots.   I tried doing this the other day, but I couldn’t sit in my own skin while I was waiting for my girlfriend to finish with her previous client.   I bowed out, leaving her a note, because I just wasn’t doing well physically or emotionally.     I hope tomorrow goes better.

Hope you had a nice day, hope you smiled today and shared with loved ones how much they mean to you.  It’s important, and in the overall scheme of life, it goes by so fast.

Love and good thoughts being sent to you .  Thanks for reading!

 

This too, shall pass

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I fell on the ice a few days ago.  I don’t think I broke any bones, I can brag about my bone density but I know better.     I’ve never really thought about falls.   I mean, I’m a klutz, and fall more than I want to admit.    The black and blues are all colorful, in various stages of color.   The one on my leg is this ugly yellow.     Then darker ones above that.  My leg looks like a spoiling banana!    I was lucky and am grateful that two hoods cushioned my head, so other than a sore neck, my noggan is fine.  Think I’m going to have an xray on my left wrist though.  It’s swollen and isn’t getting any better.    I wrapped it up in my elecrtic blanket the last few nights, which helped the aches and pains.    I went down quickly and right under my car door and car.     A friend had told me about his friend who fell hard the same day and it caused a detached retina in his eye! UGH.  We have a lot of ice this winter.   Grateful I wasn’t seriously hurt.

So today my dad, his girlfriend and I finished installing the sump pump.  And did some repairs on holes in the foundation.  I have a lot of work to do to clean up the cellar, and also my wool rugs and floors upstairs.  As careful as we were, there is no way around tracking mud.  So the floors and rugs will need to be cleaned too…but not today!  Today I’m going to spend some quality alone time, work on a few needlecraft projects I have going, and perhaps an art project.    What will be, will be!  And my ankle will be elevated and the opposite side wrist will be positioned comfortably, so that I can find some peace today, physically and emotionally.

I’ve had a lot going on the past few weeks, and taking time for myself is the key to get back to tranquility.   It’s been one thing after another.  Looking forward to it’s leaving my space and visiting someone else!    The day after the fall I broke a tooth in half.  So tomorrow I’m heading over the mountain to go to the dentist and will probably have the tooth extracted.  I’m really not looking forward to it.  Let’s see what the dentist thinks.   You know how things happen all at once?  Or seem to?  It isn’t so much the seriousness of the event(s) as it is totality of all, and frustration.  It will pass.  Seriously thinking of sage-ing my home tomorrow.  I’ve been saying suggested prayers to try and rid all the crap that’s been happening.    I do well on a one by one challenge, but when given multiples within short time period, not so much.

Yesterday I shared on  my dad.  Today when he was here I took pictures of his hands, he didn’t know I was doing this.   And today I was able to thank him, them, and tell them him that I loved him and appreciated all he has and does do for me.    We had a few minutes alone in my living room, resting, and he told me he knew he was on his way out.  I asked why he felt that way, or had a dr told him?  He said his memory is getting very bad, and he’s losing strength and abilities on a daily basis.   I just listened.  He spoke of his youngest daughter, my kid sister who we lost to cancer 15 years ago now.   And also of his oldest daughter, my oldest sister who we lost to cancer six years ago.    He told me how upsetting it still is when he thinks of particularly, Darlene’s life cut so short, she was young, not as young as some, but not as old as you’d want someone to be when they learn their life is almost over .   My dad and my sister were the best of buds.   They did things together, fished, camped, they had a very special and unique bond.   It was one of the hardest things I’ve experienced in life, losing my sisters, and watching my parents lose their daughters.    I was watching “Blue Bloods” the other day and there was a scene when a woman asked Erin Reagan whether it gets easier, after losing someone close to you.   She said softly, honestly “No”.  I nodded to her reply as if she was sitting in the same room with me.    Time may teach you how to coexist with the loss, but it doesn’t take the pain away, nor do I think you ever really get over it.  You just have no choice but to trudge on, forward.    If there was one thing I could change in my or my dads life, it would be that Darlene lived a long life and that we never had to know what it was like going on without her here.  But if wishes were horses, we would all ride, yes?

So as I sit in my chair resting my lame body, watching the boob tube and working on projects, I am surrounded with pictures of those I love, and two whom I’ve lost.   Not a day goes by that I don’t think of them, or miss them.   I am always grateful for the time I had them in my life.  I’m truly a better person for having known and loved them, and been gifted with their love.  What I find amazing, really, is how the love for them continues to grow.  It’s really an amazing thing.

Hope you are finding enjoyment in peace in whatever you are doing today, and if not, hang on, “this too shall pass”, and if you’re where there is cold weather and ice…. be careful!!!!

 

 

What’s in your heart?

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The other day I ran into (almost crashed with our carts!) an old high school friend at Walmart.  I had seen just before I went to Walmart, on her fb feed that she had just lost one of her beloved furry kids.  Anyway,

I told her how sorry I was, and she was very gracious, but something she then said kind of shocked me.    “This is why I look the way I do today!”.    Wow!   Wow I thought.  To feel the need to say that to me, at 55 years of age?  We will both soon be 56.     It just struck me odd.  And perhaps its because for years now, I’ve not focused on the way I looked, nor the manner in which I dressed.  I admit, some of that had to do with depression, but when I see people I love, I don’t look them over from top to bottom.  I look into their eyes, and I’m paying attention to their words.

It saddened me, and also baffled me at the same time that she would be concerned of such.  A member of her family just died, who gives a shit how she looks?    Or have i just become too uncaring about this stuff?

She’s a beautiful woman, with the biggest blue eyes, and a gorgeous smile.  And she was in pain, I could see it written all over her face and in her eyes.  My heart hurt for her and her family.  I know how hard it is when our furry families leave us.  It’s painful as hell.    No one wants to say goodbye to such unconditional and gentle love and companionship.

So I’ve been sitting with that memory of our meeting.    And I’m not insinuating that she did anything wrong, but why did it stand out to me?   Why did that response come to mind for her, when she was sharing of her pain?

I suppose it could’ve been that I looked like crap.   Laughing.   And I didn’t have death of a pet (Thank God) to blame!    And I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t about her, it was about me.    I guess if someone is going to judge me by the way I look, for whatever reason, I guess I deep down know, they aren’t my friend!    I never once looked at her to think anything of her.  I wasn’t judging her, I was judging myself!  And with her comment, I felt like she was looking at what I looked like, not who I was, and the words I was saying to her.

How hard we are on ourselves.    This saddens me and continues to be the biggest issue I contend with on a daily basis.  I’m learning to be kinder, softer with myself, but it’s the first place that retorts back to old behavior, and I have to be vigilant with my self talk, turning it to positive.    There are some days, that’s all I accomplish.  Recycling old negative thoughts into positive ones.  With that said, the days are fewer and far between what they used to be.

What isn’t important to me is what someone drives, the diamonds or sapphires they wear, but I do look at their eyes, and I try to see what is in their heart with the limited time I’m with another.    Because THAT is how I want others to look at me!!!   But will they?   Doesn’t matter, it’s out of my control what another person thinks of me, and I’m grateful I don’t care today.    But here is where the whole process ended up for me.

What if?  What if we all felt better about ourselves, and loved and cared for ourselves.  What if we didn’t feel the need to “look” or “play” the part?     What if we stood one with our grief and said “I’m having a crappy day, I need to be gentle on myself?”

Are you one that can do that?      I dare ya!

So if the person reading this blog and whom I met in the Dog Aisle at Walmart, my bestest from way back in our teens, You are beautiful!   Your eyes are as blue as they were in high school, and your smile as bright.    Be kind to yourself!    Give yourself permission to grieve, and don’t judge yourself (or me) on the way I look!    Love ya girl.

Walking through grief

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The past couple days have been rough, with migraines and frustrating bitchiness.   This morning I was allowing myself to get really bent out of shape over nothing, when I sat down and jumped on facebook.      I hope the migraine(s) are behind me, I think it’s related to barometric pressure, my head feels like it isn’t attached to my body.  Strange, and adding to the Bitch of the Year award!

As I surveyed my facebook feed, I read a post from a friend who is really a very lovely woman, a woman of faith, ridiculously talented, and kind to the core.     She posted about two children who touched her deeply today, and made her smile while she was gassing up her car.    It lightened up my mood, until close to the end where she spoke about telling the kids mother how much their kindness and friendliness meant to her, and today or all days, as her sister died early this morning of cancer.   Tears flowed down my face then.

I immediately sent her a message, offering condolences, and thanking her for her share.   My mind swept back to the very days my sisters succumbed to cancer.    I was broken, and I was angry at God for allowing this to happen.  And so began a war between he and me, for months on end.   I defied my morning praises, and no longer prayed at all.   How could he allow this to happen?

In time, I learned and accepted that death is a part of our life, and that fairness doesn’t really play a role here.  But my friend, who had just said goodbye to her sister, was talking about how good God is, and how much this experience helped her, and made her smile.   I cried as I reread her beautiful, lovely, words.    How amazing that she was at peace, or I should say, more peace than I had when my sisters took their last breaths.

I sat in silence, trying to compose myself, get my emotions into check, and while I would like to say the bitchiness melted away, it did not, but I was so moved by her share, and her eloquence, awestruck with her compassion and faith.     When she replied to my message she spoke words I understand too well, about not knowing how she will do this without her sister, her first best friend.    Her words lent clarity to me of how I felt, too.

I remember thinking how cruel it was that the birds still chirped, that life still went on, even though my sisters lives were over.   I remember people telling me “time will heal”.  I also remember being firmly (and probably belligerently) adamant that NO ONE would tell me how to grief, how to walk through this atrocity which had been handed down to my family.   Grief is a journey, a necessary journey that is so individualized.   There is no right or wrong way to grieve, though I hope I handled it with even a small portion of the grace that my friend did this morning.

At this time another friend texts me that she knew and was related to the pedestrian who was hit in Brattleboro yesterday and who died later from her injuries.    Many eyewitnesses have shared that she walked right out in front of the car, the driver was not at fault.  But that driver?  Is devastated.    I saw pics of him with his head in his hands, crying.  Of course he was.  What person wouldn’t be?    And then she shared that this person had also just lost two siblings to cancer.    I was relaying all this to my mom, and we shared how grief is an alternate existence, if you will.   You’re not in your right mind, your preoccupied, sad, emotional, and that may be a part of why she aimlessly walked into traffic.  How incredibly sad.

So, tonight, as I write this, I’m thinking about all that transpired this morning and how it changed and altered my piss poor thinking.   I am still working through some crap, but for the most part, I’ll be crawling into bed very grateful that my day may be frustrating, and my head may ache, but I had a fairly uneventful day given two other peoples lives that changed drastically in a moments time.

I wish you a restful nights sleep, and an uneventful (almost boring) day tomorrow.  Life can change on a dime, and it does.  We find ourselves walking through life without those we love most in the world, and I have since learned that the birds still chirping as we walk through grief is really a gift, because life does go on for some.    How easily, how naturally we take things for granted, at least I do.   And I think I’m a pretty grateful person, but obviously imperfect and still learning about life.   Aren’t we all?

 

Acknowledgement

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For those of you who have experienced the loss of someone close to you, you will understand what I am writing about.     It never goes away, at least not for me.

Fourteen years ago today my kid sister died at the young age of 38.   She had been diagnosed just ten months before with Ovarian Cancer.   I’m not sure what hurts the most.   The journey through it, where we did our best to comfort her and bring her to any treatment allowed, or the endless missing.  I think it’s the missing.

Fourteen years and I still cry when I acknowledge this.  But if I don’t, it makes its way through illness or pain, so it’s best to nod to the memory than deny it, at least for me.

At 37 she and her partner had just bought a house and had moved in just two weeks prior to the emergency surgery that was previously scheduled a week or two later.   I remember it all so well, and I’m trying hard to not go there today.  To just honor her, and tell you what a great person she was.

I can tell you that she worked very hard and knew how to play.  She had a boat, snowmobiles, a toy for every season.   She loved to fish, to play sports, and was a natural athlete.   She had an old soul, I think about this often, wondering if this played a part in her short life.  A natural observer, she was always warning me when to shut my big trap, or when I had gone past “obnoxious” she called it.   Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.  It’s one that I experience a lot when I think about her.

One would think that after fourteen years you wouldn’t on occasion say to yourself “I have to call her, and tell her this!”    It happens less each passing year, but it still happens.

She was my dads bud.  I mean that with every part of my being.  She loved hockey, she loved fishing and shared these things with our dad.   We all share memories of this with her.   It was rather comical last year when my father admitted one day “Okay, Darlene was my favorite”.   The three of us laughed until tears came out of our eyes.  “What?”  “I’m sorry” he said.   “Um dad, we have known this FOREVER!”    I think he really believed it would shock us.   NOT.   I was sitting beside her on her couch the day she learned she was not going to recovery from this, and she called dad to tell him.  “I’m sorry, dad, I’m so sorry”.

So it was on this day that my, our lives changed.  For years I described things as “happened before she died, or happened after she died”.   I didn’t mean to.  It was just a game changer.    My life changed.  I changed.

I remember asking my cousin Marie, who came down to sit with me just hours after I learned she had died “How am I supposed to stop loving her?”   “You never will, Donna” she said.   How did she know?    It was through my sisters death and living life without her that I learned, love doesn’t stop just because someone you love died.   Nor does life stop, as cruel and vulgar as it seems at the time.   “How can the birds still sing?  How can people laugh, how can anything go on when my life has just come to a screaching halt?”   But it does.  But I have learned something beautiful within all the sadness and that is that love doesn’t ever stop, for me it continued and miraculously grew and still does, all these years later.

So on this day, I acknowledge that hope changes.   At first you pray for a cure, you pray for treatment to work, and then when that stops working, you pray for strength and a new doctor, another treatment, and more.   That is until you realize the suffering is going on too long, and you start to pray for God to be merciful with her, with them.  Please, take her soon.   Yes, hope changes.

I miss you every day.  There hasn’t been a day in fourteen years you’ve been gone that I don’t think of you.  You are part of me, you always will be.    I can still close my eyes and see your face, the little tiny mole above your eyebrow, and see that beautiful smile that radiated wherever it was shown.

Time does teach us how to coexist with such loss, but it doesn’t heal the broken heart.  I think because even when you pray for an end to the pain, and there is relief when that happens, the missing?  It never stops.

 

(end note:  I wrote this and posted it on 4/8 but for some reason it’s showing the 9th which I find interesting, because I actually found out about it just minutes after midnight on the 9th)

 

 

Not Yesterday’s tears

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It’s been a long time since I’ve written.   I’ve been holding things within, things that I don’t want tarnished by another person’s view, or comments.   I have had what some would call “wild” experiences, but they bring me tremendous comfort.   I am not ready to share them, and I may never be.    But I have so much gratitude for these signs, times.

I’ve had an eventful year so far, two days in San Juan, Puerto Rico, followed by a 7 day cruise with my best girlfriend.  It was amazing.   We visited St Croix, the place where someone very special to me took his last breath.   It was comforting to see such a beautiful place, I could easily visualize him there, and happy, and that is a gift, a true gift when someone dies too young.   It brought me peace.  We also visited St. Kitts (swam with dolphins), Barbados, Dominica (tubed down a river in a rain forest) and St. Maartan.

I returned home to my house in repair, and new windows.   I’ve been asked on numerous occasions if I hit the lottery, if I had a sugar daddy, or a new boyfriend who was footing the bills.  My answer is all the same.  No!    I have been blessed with good people in my life, good friends, family who look out for me.   For some reason, this year I scored, and big… I am again, very grateful.

The past few days have offered no restful sleep, and high pain levels.   I am tired, beyond tired.  I know I’m not alone here.    I’m reminded of a quote a friend told me many years ago “Fatigue makes cowards out of all of us”.   I wouldn’t quite describe myself as cowardly, but my body is clearly not cooperating with my desires or plans.  I don’t like it.  Today, after a couple of weeks with high pain levels, I want to raise the white flag and surrender.   I want to give up.    Today I called my dad, and during our conversation I unexpectedly starting to weep.

A couple of weeks ago I had a similar experience.  It was a sleepless night, I was scrolling through facebook and read a post that shared hundreds of ugly, vile comments on homosexuality.   At first I was in shock.   Then I got angry, and I wanted to respond, but I recalled a post by a friend who experienced something similar, and it helped me.  To my credit, I knew I was tired and could never hold a candle against people with such harsh views.  Instead, I cried.   The tears just flowed down my cheeks until the sheet I had tucked myself into needed to be replaced.    I am not gay.  My late sister called me “pathetically straight”.    I thought of her, and all my dear family and friends who are gay, and cried for them.  I cannot imagine being judged so harshly because of who I am.  I then cried for those I didn’t know who were being judged so harshly, so cruelly

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve also been witness to a friends “religious friends” judging her and her actions.    This instills so much anger in me.  Really?   When did God put you in charge of another person’s life?  Religious beliefs?  Spirituality?    I am not slamming ANY religion, but I am so dismayed by people who claim to be so holy, and yet they only portray to me and to many others, that this is NOT what I want in my life!  I have religious people in my life who treat me with respect, allow me the space for my own beliefs, and who are and will be there for me without judgement.  One cousin I am close to, who helps me more than he will ever know.  Who will, when asked, share his views and beliefs, and interpretation of the bible, but does not judge me or others.   Do I know which of these two examples is “right?”  No, but I sure the heck know which person I would like to hear more about his God from!  The paragraph is not about religion, but the lack of love, respect for others.   We are living in some pretty hard times, and frankly, I’ve run into some pretty cold people.

This afternoon I dug into my bureau that holds my most prized possessions.   Love letters, favorite toys of my aussie’s, pictures, emails, cards.   One of the items is packed neatly into a box with Bugs Bunny characters on the outside.  I opened it, and there was my sisters cap and gown, and the paperwork that we were handed when we went to see her graduate with a Criminal  Justice degree.   I pulled out the cap, the tassles that signified the year, and her graduating with honors.    I have had this neatly tucked away (and I have taken it out many times before) for almost 13 years.   She died April 8, 2003 at the age of 38.   Something fell out of her cap.  It was a pair of her sunglasses.   I wrapped everything back up, and then found an email from my older sister who gave us updates on how Darlene was doing.  This was 6 days before she died.   In the email she wrote “She seemed to have some unfinished business with Donna.  We had a hard time understanding her.  But it was a simple as ‘Tell Donna I love her and will miss her’.   I don’t think Darlene was able to say those things when Donna was here and it troubled her.”     Talk about tears.  I fell to my knees, sobbing.   Where was this email for the past 13 years?   Why had I not seen nor remembered it?    But you know what?    It was just what I needed, today, on this difficult day.  It was like having been penned and sent from heaven, itself.

And one last thing I’d like to share.  It was written in a card from the beautiful soul who I mentioned earlier who died in St. Croix.   “Dear Donna,  Being away from you has made my feelings for you and about us even stronger and clearer than before.  I know today that I want to spend the rest of my life with you.  I love you, Jim”    I love you too.

I am not living in yesterday’s pain, or dwelling on my past.   Today it helped to revisit these momentous beautiful times and people who were once very prominent in my life (understatement).  It has helped to remind me that in spite of all the pain and shit that happens, love never dies.  Even when someone has crossed over, love can continue to grow.  And that perhaps, I may experience this amazing journey of love again, with someone new.   And as I looked at the MANY pictures of my sister, there were only a handful without her smiling.   She lived life well.  She worked hard, played hard.   She was just an awesome person.  I miss her everyday of my life, and to think ill of her because her sexuality, well hey… guess what?   If you do?  It’s on you.   I’m so glad I didn’t miss a moment with her.  She taught me so much and one thing she taught me by example?   Live your life, be true to yourself, and pay no mind to those who judge you!  It was a nice “visit” down memory lane.   It helped me gain new perspective (now through my sisters sun glasses), and those who have brought me dismay of late, have no more power.  I am reminded of all good.  I am reminded of why sometimes it’s so hard to carry on, because life was indeed much easier with the presence of those who are no longer with me, but just to be back there mentally, gives me the strength and desire to fight on.  Today it was nice to revisit the warmth of yesterday.

Go have yourself a great day.  Sending you all love and light,

Donna (pronounced, DonNUH)

 

 

 

Is there alcohol in heaven?

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Today has been a hard day.  No particular anniversary, minimal physical pain with the exception of that place that resides in my chest and harbors my heart.

My sleep schedule has been largely disrupted, but that’s okay, I am getting A LOT of work done.   What happens, however, is a crash and burn.    But it’s the best sleep next to anesthesia!  I am one who loves being knocked out.  LOVE it!   When my time comes to die, I hope to be wide awake, waiting for that light.

As I slept hard, and what feels comatose, my dreams consisted of people and places in my past.  People who have passed.   Normally I wake up, can shake off the initial pain (remembering… realizing…  reality) and be grateful that I saw their face, eyes, smile, heard their voice once more.  But not today.  Today I am lingering in a world that no longer exists.  My head knows this, my heart doesn’t want to hear it.

A friend, consoling me said “It doesn’t matter how long it’s been”.    I thanked her for that.   No, it doesn’t.    Last night’s dream still has me walking on shaky ground, many hours later.  I know I can’t go back, if I could, I would’ve by now.  Someone I need to walk through this day, embrace what is, be grateful for what WAS and is, and let it go.   But that’s much easier said than done, at least today it is.

I wonder, is there alcohol in heaven?    Hiss at me for suggesting such.  But when you’ve loved and lost someone who is or was an addict, there is some peace in knowing, their fight, their plight with their demons has passed.

We drove past a church where a service was being held for a young man who died of an overdose.    My heart hurt for his family and friends.   “His mother said there is some peace in knowing, it’s behind him”.  I nodded, thinking about what I said above.   Yeah, I said to myself, and I pray that it will carry her through the hard days ahead.

To grieve, to mourn is not anti God.  It is not a horrible thing to do, and while it is hard, for me, apparently today, it is necessary.   For those who have on occasion suggested differently or in a bit of kinder, less harshful words than “Move on”, I bid you, how the hell does one do that?

Last night I visited the past.   A past that ended tragically, but one that was also filled with immense love, memories, and some of the best times of my life.   Today I’m trying to get back to acceptance, beyond the pain of loss that revisits on occasion.   I know I will find my way, but right now?   Right now my heart hurts.  I am longing for acceptance, and soon.  I know why I’m feeling this way, I know that I have to face one of my own demons…. fear.  Fear of being hurt again.     But will I?

Missy Higgins “Scar”

Sensitivity, mental illness AND being right brained

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I read a LOT of self help books.     My mother said to me one day last year “I think it’s great that you want to improve upon yourself, but Donna, what about fun?    Well, I read art books, that counts for fun.  And I read articles online, a lot about cancer, guess that isn’t too fun…    But this comment of hers “came back” in my head this past week.

Thinking about sensitivity.   I have always been very sensitive.   Cry easily (ask my siblings, growing up with me, my parents didn’t know what to do with me and my emotions, so to eliminate stress for all, they would omit sharing things with me!   Now, this works, to an extent, but not all that great after that.   I found myself in my 30s and 40s before I started to really learn how to sit with stuff, how to deal with things that otherwise “hurt”.    Hey, they did their best, no blame there, just thinking about what it would be like to NOT be so sensitive?

I remember sitting in a 12 step meeting, an addict was struggling.  He shared how his newly found sobriety was good, but it was also overwhelming.  He realized booze helped numb him from his “oversensitivity” (also labeled that as a child).    He was an artist, and part of who he was was this beautiful sensitive soul, and he didn’t want to lose that.  But he was going bat shit trying to figure out how to cope with life on a daily basis without a numbing agent.    I sat there, shaking my head with understanding.  I thought EVERYONE cried at the end of Casper?!?   And a whole lot of other things.

Where is the balance?   I don’t know.   The older I get, the easier it becomes to screen or throw stuff out that I just don’t want to cope with.  I’m not talking about responsibilities, but others drama and things that frankly, bring me discomfort or discontent.   I have heard, numerous times, that most mental illness (including addiction) comes with an undiagnosed dual diagnosis.   I think about this, and I have many many friends who have been treated for one, and who still struggle.   It was like being diagnosed with ADHD just two years ago at 51.  Holy crap!    Medication made my life SO MUCH BETTER.  I was the first to judge another if they put their children on ADD or ADHD meds.  Now?  I encourage.  If this gives their child an opportunity to function better (and it will if they are truly ADD/ADHD), their life will be improved upon so much.  Mine has.

Most people my age are only diagnosed because their children were, first.     The things that I once thought were “normal” and that everyone shared, and now I realize, a big part of my self esteem and confidence being lower than it should.   Because I felt stupid, or lazy, sometimes crazy.   I have always known I’ve been wired different from others, but I always attached a negative connotation (just listed above) to it.   The truth is, I’m not stupid, nor lazy, nor crazy.   I’m not!  I struggle with mental illness and this isn’t fun.   But I’m not insane.

Most important thing for me to do has been and will be to learn how to cope….     I believe I have good self awareness, and I strive, I really do, to be a good person, do the right thing, one day at a time.    I’m not special in my struggles, I’m far from alone.   But you know what is worse?     It HAS to be having an undiagnosed, untreated mental illness.  And the stigma that is attached and has been to mental illness sadly keeps many lives struggling, with little quality.

I recently went off five medications after I was discharged from my outpatient therapy because I had missed too much time.  Another blog.   I weaned myself off, and started to pay attention to my body.   I believe I was overmedicated.   Now, I am starting to “feel” again, and my hands do not shake anywhere near what they did, which is part of why I stopped painting, teaching.   I’m doing well.   I’m focusing on the physical problems that need attention, and keeping a close check on my depression with close friends, through blogging, and a lot of prayer.

I want a quality life.   I want to feel peace, happiness.   I want to feel grief without losing myself to it, or several years of my life.   This means I have to learn to coping skills, and I have and am.     I need to accept that part of being me is being sensitive and to accept myself for who I am, and may very well always be.    I remind myself that God doesn’t make junk, and that I was designed to be perfectly imperfect.   We all were.

Today I’ve had a nice day, a peaceful day, a productive day.    I’m very grateful for this.   I’ll deal with tomorrow when it gets here.     Just want to say one more thing.  If you have never been diagnosed or treated for mental illness, educate yourself.  Read articles, peoples blogs, etc.   Only a very small percentage are really insane.  Most of us struggling with learning disabilities and mental illness are just trying to find our way out of the chaos that can ruminate in our heads.    I share on my experiences to help others know, they are far from alone.  I know it helps me to know this, too.

Happy Mental Health!