There’s No Escaping This Day: Four Years of Grief

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You think after so long of grieving one would become an expert but sadly it doesn’t ever work that way. There never becomes a point in the process where you say to yourself this is over, now I can move on. The shift is gradual but there’s never a defining moment, and it never goes away. Life get’s easier but you can never put yourself back together the way it was before the loved one died.

It’s been four years since my Mom died and it still feels like it just happened. Lately I’ve been catching myself wanting to call her. I have these moments of I should call Mom and tell her about this… then when it dawns on me that I can’t I get to relive the grief all over. I’m dreading the 9th, that’s the day she died. I know that day exists but my heart can suffer anymore. It about killed me.

As hard as I try there’s no way of escaping the 9th. I honestly wish I could just sleep the whole day away but that’s not reality. I’ve gotten to the stage of grief that I don’t want to be reminded of the grief. I went through a long period where that’s all I wanted to talk about but now it’s just too painful to relive it all. There was even a time where just seeing her picture caused me a great amount of pain. Thankfully that’s mostly passed.

You cope with loss the best way YOU can. There is no roadmap and everyone does it differently. There is no timetable or schedule to follow. Take as long as you need to heal. I’m at year four and it’s still really difficult for me. The first two years were the most difficult. Those were times I constantly felt like the air was escaping my world. Every day was a danger will robinson moment. I wasn’t sure I was ever going to escape it but I did and you will too.

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I sometimes get caught up in the why’s. The other night I was swimming alone and feeling so lonely. I just looked up in the clear blue sky and asked why… to both my Mom and God… No one answered back. Though if someone did I think that would really scare the living daylights out of me. The why’s are natural, they’re all part of the process. You try to bargain with the loss, you’ll even argue with it. You might even scream and yell at the person or even god. I know I’ve screamed, well not at my Mom but just in general. Though I’ve gotten angry at her. Then I realize that I’m being selfish.

If my Mom were to have survived the surgery she would have been miserable and I would never want that for her. She gave so much in her lifetime it was her time for peace. She earned it.

I still struggle with the whole process and I still don’t have a firm grasp of the afterlife. I just hope that I get to see her one day. Earlier (again while in the pool. it’s where I do all my thinking.) I had this thought that I might not ever see her again and thought to myself that would suck. A few years ago that thought would have sent me spiralling out of control. I guess I’ve come to terms with the possibility. I don’t have anything figured out with this world. I barely can control my own emotions, thoughts and behaviors let alone think about the answers to all the worldly questions. All I can do is hope. I’m not sure what that will mean, while we be friends in the next life? siblings? I don’t know… I really hope she’s my Mom again. I can’t imagine a world where she isn’t my Mom.

I look in the world and I see a lot of grieving. As you get older it unfortunately becomes part of the process. Now that Facebook has connected us all it’s much easier to find the grief. It breaks my heart, especially when I see it’s a new loss. To think that someone else is hurting just as much as I did or more, feels unbearable. I would do anything to take away their pain. Sadly loss is the type of pain that you can’t fix. It’s not a cold or a broken bone. Grief is this whole that’s been carved out of your heart and no amount of patching will cover it.

The 9th reminds me of all that. For someone with PTSD getting away from the event that caused you such pain is a very troublesome and tough task. Every door you open leads you back to that room. You constantly feel like the floor is going to collapse underneath you. You relive each moment like you’re watching a movie on the big screen. For the first year I couldn’t leave the hospital room where my Mom died. Everything reminded me of that day. Even closing my eyes didn’t give me any peace as it didn’t take me to a different place. Closing my eyes was just like opening a door back into that room.

I wish I had some great advice to give about how to overcome grief, especially PTSD but all I can do is give my perspective. Many people won’t understand you or what you’re enduring. Try not to listen to or believe them. They’re not you and they don’t live in your shoes. I’ve heard that the amount of pain/grief that you feel for the loss of a person is equal to the amount you suffer. Well I loved my Mom very deeply and I suffered more than I ever have.

I just kept opening doors. There were times I was so exhausted that I could only peek through a window. I think the key is repetition. Never give up. Go at a snail’s pace if you have to, that’s still moving forward. You know your progress, no one else does. Many times I would have to remind myself that I was no longer in that room. I had to do that the other day. It’s four years and I still am having to do that. It sucks, I won’t lie but you gotta do what you need to do to survive.

Sometimes surviving is all you can do. Surviving is much like grief. There is no roadmaps, nor are there levels of experience. It’s not like a videogame where you level up and hit your max. If only it were that easy but life isn’t. I’ve survived for the past four years. I have jumped hurdles and I’ve hide in caves. I’ve done it all. There were days so dark that I couldn’t even feel my way out of it.

I did most of the grieving all on my own. I use to think that was a negative but thankfully these days I see that as a strength. I was single (still am) and had no one to turn to. I had very few people to talk to and the ones I did weren’t able to give me what I needed. So I went inward and shut myself off to the world. I thought to myself I can never be hurt like this again so to protect myself I shut everything out and I mean everything.

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I’ve always let other people reach my heart and it’s affected me deeply. My Mom dying was the final blow. I lost the one person who loved me for who I was one and even my relationship with her was flawed at times but through it all she was always there. She was the person I turned to when I felt most lost and scared. So during the most difficult time in my life I had no one to reach out to. The calls stopped and the people offering support went on to their busy lives. I mean that’s to be expected it’s apart of life. Grief pauses your world but the rest of the world keeps turning. It’s really hard to adjust to that. You just want to scream bloody murder until someone hears you but no matter how hard you try they keep moving past you.

I have always taken things too personal and I’ve never been able to figure out why. At a very early age my feelings, want and wishes were given away not by my choosing. I’ve spent a lifetime trying to overcome this and I’m not even close to figuring it out. While I still things personal there is one thing that’s changed. I finally give a fuck enough about myself that I can say hey that’s fucked up. I’ve tolerated less for too long. Finally I’m at the point in my life where I can say that. I know I deserve better. I might feel like I’m unloveable but that doesn’t make that true.

I’m getting a little off point but what I’m trying to say don’t take it personal if the people in your life can’t give you what you need. It has nothing to do with you and all to do with where they’re at. That doesn’t make the bad always it’s just a reality of life. I learned a long time ago when I started to get help for the sexual abuse and the depression that some people can’t handle other people’s pain and suffering. When I was first hospitalized for suicidal thoughts and depression I saw good friends disappear. People get uncomfortable and don’t know what to say. So they distance themselves not even realizing it.

You might not know what to say always but sometimes just saying hey that sucks can do a world of good. Everyone knows what heartbreak is like in some way or another. It’s basically rejection. Death is the ultimate rejection. While not everyone has had their heartbroken with love, most have faced rejection in their professional life or even with friends. So you might not know what it’s like to lose a parent but that doesn’t mean you have to know the answers. No one who grieves ever expects anyone to fix the problem. No solution or math equation will fix this problem.

If someone you love and care for is in pain reach out to them. Not everyone has the strength to reach out for support. I know I didn’t. With grief it’s so easy to get caught up in the fear, especially if you’ve lived your life that way. Push through your uncomfortableness. You could make a difference in that person’s life by just saying something as simple as I’m thinking about you. Empathizing doesn’t cost anything nor does it take any effort or skill. Sadly not everyone knows they have that tool in their toolbox.

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Do whatever necessary to ask for help. If you have to scream it upon the rooftop, do it! It might scare some people but if it gets you the help you need then it did the trick. Three years ago I was there in so much pain that it became unbearable. When pain gets so unmanageable with no release in sight, you become desperate for a solution. In many cases that means suicide. I don’t think I ever wanted to die I just wanted the pain to end. I think that’s a very common and dangerous misconception about anyone who goes down that road. Often times they’re seen as weak. I know when I had my breakdown there were some who judged me, especially the fact that I went so public with my help.

In April of 2013, six months after my Mom had passed, I tried to kill myself. Thankfully during my desperation I posted a suicide note on facebook which prompted a friend I met during my Mom died to call me. My dear friend talked me off the ledge and I got the help I needed. Yes it scared a lot of people and I wished I had the strength to do things differently but in the end it kept me alive. Who would want to take that away from someone over the fear of having something be so public. It’s the keeping things hidden and a secret that does more damage than good. Society needs to talk about the difficult stuff including suicide.

My depression and PTSD spiralled out of control and I was floating into outer space. I needed something to hold onto but as hard I fought I continued to spiral further out into the black abysses. I was trying to do everything alone and I was failing miserably. Everything was upside down. Therapy and medicine has helped me turn things backside up. I’ve even ventured out of the basement into a new place. Life still isn’t easy by any means and I’m still having to overcome obstacles but I see now that I have always had this strength.

I’ve always found it funny when someone says you’re stronger than you think. I think it’s funny because for me that’s never been the question of my strength. Obviously if we weren’t strong we wouldn’t have been to endure the pain but you just get tired of jumping hurdles. Even the greatest sprinters and hurdlers get tired every once in awhile. Relief is really all that’s needed. Just keep working at it. It might not be as quick as some might would like you to move but as long as you see progress that’s all that matters.

Sometimes you just have to admit when life sucks and sometimes it really does. The key is not to get caught up in that. I have and it’s not easy to dig yourself out of that hole. After all I’ve endured I’m still here. There’s great strength in that, knowing something didn’t kill you. No matter how long you rest just get back up. That’s what matters. Keep weathering the storm. The scars don’t weigh you down they become apart of your armor. Think of it like rain gear to help you battle future storms. The change in my life has brought new hurdles for me to jump and my scars are helping me get through it. I’m determined to build a happy life for myself built on a solid foundation this time. A home that is my own and no others. A place that I can do or say whatever I want and no one can say a word to me.

Independence and stability are often times taken for granted. For someone with a mental illness they become a lifeline. I’m done with the bottom always falling out from under me. I’m tired of suffering. I’m tired of hurting. So I will keep on fighting until I get what I deserve and can live my life the way I want… and the way Mama always wanted for me.

I hope I can make her proud and honor her legacy, while creating one of my own. So if you’re dealing with grief hang in there. Sometimes you’ve just have to hold on and ride out the storm. I can do this and so can you!

I Love you Mama. Huggs

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Throwing a Tantrum

I just want to throw a tantrum… a full blown childhood meltdown. I get so pissed that my Mom died that all I see is red. I’d scream bloody murder if I thought it would do any good but I know it won’t bring her back. That’s the sucky thing about death, it’s permanent and it’s something I won’t ever get use to.

Just when I’ve simmered down something reminds me our mortality and I feel all those feelings all over again. I want to scream until my throat is hoarse. Something has to lessen the anger as it’s eating me alive.

I’d run but have nowhere to go. I feel like I’m wasting time. Stuck in a moment. Can’t move forward, can’t move past. Barely present. Floating in outer space. A mime without an audience. I go through all the emotions.

I’ve been through enough. I’m done suffering. God didn’t give me this artistic ability to not use it. I know NYC didn’t happen for no reason. I’m tired of waiting…

 

When Somebody Loved Me

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When somebody loved me,

Everything was beautiful

Every hour we spent together lives within my heart

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And when I was sad,

She was there to dry my tears

And when I was happy,

So was she

When she loved me

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Through the summer and the fall

We had each other, that was all

Just she and I together,

Like it was meant to be

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And when I was lonely,

She was there to comfort me

And I knew that she loved me

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So the years went by

I stayed the same

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She began to drift away

I felt alone

Still I wait for the day

When she’ll say I will always love you

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Lonely and forgotten,

I’d never thought she’d go away

Wishing she would smile at me and hold me just like she used to do

Like she loved me

When she loved me

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When somebody loved me

Everything was beautiful

Every hour we spent together lives within my heart

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Upcoming 1yr Anniversary of My Mom’s Death

I just realized today that it’s been almost a year since we drove down to Nashville for my Mom’s surgery to remove her carcinoid tumor. Since my birthday (July 3rd) I have been in this depressive fog and I had no clue as to what was causing it, until today.

I didn’t realize that the one year anniversary was fast approaching. It’s really unfathomable that it’s already been a year since my Mom died??? It feels like she just died. Where has the time gone? Have I been sleeping all this time???

Your mind can trick you into believing that a person hasn’t really died. It’s easy to put things out of your mind by telling yourself it can’t be true. They are just on vacation but as time goes by it forces you to face the reality that they are dead. My birthday was a slap in my face because it forced me to come to terms with my Mom’s death. There was no way for me to come up with a reasonable explanation for my Mom not being with me on my birthday.

As more time goes by the truth sinks deeper and I realize she’s not coming back.

This year has been hell. I’m learning to cope with living in this life without my Mother. It’s the toughest lesson I will ever learn. My Mom was the closest person in my life and one of the few bright spots. She was my biggest champion and was there for me during a time when I had no one. It’s been difficult because I can’t reach out to her for comfort like before. She was my best friend, we were very much like Dorothy and Sophia from The Golden Girls. I had envisioned us growing old together like Dorothy and Sophia but that wasn’t in the cards.

I feel very alone.

My life hasn’t unfolded like I had envisioned and I am learning to adjust to it the best I can. As painful as this year has been I wouldn’t want want the alternative for my Mom to be here in pain and if she would have survived she would have been miserable. There is comfort in knowing that she is no longer in any pain and in a better place.

I always wanted the best for her and now she has it. She also wanted the best for me and I am working on building a life I deserve… it just takes time.

My Mom was the strongest person I have ever known. She had a heart of gold. Her family was very important to her. I miss her so very deeply… and I hope I get to see her again.

Love you Mama, thanks for giving me life and your love. Huggs

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Death Becomes Us All

As much as we try to hide from it, death is inevitable. When you are younger it is easier to hide from it, especially if you haven’t ever had to face the death of a loved one. As you become older you are forced to face it when people you know start to die. Though regardless the number of deaths that have hit home it never makes it any easier to deal with.

I remember my first experience with death when my grandfather passed away in 1986. I was ten years old. I can remember his funeral very clearly. I can also remember watching everyone cry and wonder what it all meant. It was almost like I was watching a movie. I wasn’t particularly close with my grandfather and really didn’t understand what death meant at that early age.

It wasn’t until I was twenty that I experienced someone else dying. This time it was my Aunt Karen who had cancer. While we didn’t really get a chance to see each other that often, she was someone whenever I saw her I was happy. I can remember she had bright red hair and we always were able to joke with each other. It was also my first time dealing with Cancer. It didn’t take me very long to realize how horrible of a disease it was.

The last time I saw my Aunt alive was about a month before she passed away. It was very important for me to visit her before she passed. I knew I had to see her one last time. I wasn’t prepared to see her in the shape she was. Her skin was yellow and her stomach was severely bloated, even her hair had faded to a dull red. I could see that her life was being slowly drained out of her by the Cancer and chemotherapy. I remember bringing her white daisies. I was told regardless where the vase was put in her room, the blooms would grow towards her.

When it came time to say my goodbye at her showing it was extremely difficult to face her. I can remember my Mom having to walk with me up to her casket. I was so afraid. When I walked up to her sleeping so peaceful I envisioned her waking up. I am not sure if it was a hallucination or some spiritual connection but I really saw her getting up. All I know is that it severely spooked me.

Later that year her husband, my uncle, passed away… He also had cancer.

All these deaths were expected, as they were sick. It wasn’t like it was any easier but it at least prepared you for the idea. The next death I encountered was my Aunt Fran in 1999. I was in my early twenties by then. I can remember that day very clearly. My Mom and I were out shopping for Halloween decorations for our family party coming up. Our family tradition was to have a big Halloween party every year with a haunt as part of the festivities.

As we pulled up my father met us at the door and said that something had happened with my Aunt and that they rushed her to the hospital by ambulance. I don’t remember what happened next other than that my Aunt had passed away of an aneurism. There was nothing that they could have done, it was quick and sudden, and she was gone.

This was the first time I really felt a high level of grief and of course shock because it was so unexpected and sudden. This was the first time I realized how fragile life was and how there was no guarantee for tomorrow. It also hit close to home because if someone close to me could die, so could my own mother. At the time I couldn’t imagine what my cousin was going through losing her mother at such a young age, she was only 50. Of course now I know…

My Mom and Aunt were close so it was particularly hard on her. It was tough to see her in deep pain. I was pretty close to my Aunt and I can remember every time she called our house she was always giving me a hard time. After she died it dawned on me that she would never give me a hard time again, and that made me extremely sad.

My Aunt Fran was the first person close to me that had died and I felt the harsh sting of grief. After her death we didn’t have another Halloween party for many years. Her death changed the family and it was never the same.

Five years would go by without any more deaths. As I grew older I realized it was only a matter of time before another death would take another loved one away. The next death was my Grandfather from my father’s side. We weren’t as close to his side of the family as we were with Mom’s family. I can remember feeling a sense of loss of getting to chance to get to know him better and never getting a chance to do so. He was also really the only grandfather that I was somewhat close to. My other grandfather passed away so young, that I really don’t have too many memories of him. Plus he was very sick the last couple years of his life.

So I also grieved over the loss of my last grandfather. He was the closest to a positive father figure for me. I have fond memories of him and my grandmother taking me up to their cottage on Lake Manistee in Kalkaska. Every time I would see him he was always so warm and jolly. I couldn’t help but smile whenever I saw him.

The next death really brought into question my own mortality when my Cousin BJ passed away at the age of 23 in 2006. At the time I was living in Florida. Again I can remember that day very clearly. My Mom called me to tell me the news. When she said his name beeg (that was his nickname), I thought she said Paige. Which set me in a state of panic because she is my niece and was only four years old at the time. I will say that after that moment, how I looked at death completely changed.

I can remember feeling so helpless being so far away from my family and wanting to just be with them. It felt like I was a million miles away. I wasn’t able to get a flight back home until the next day. Living so far away you lost the luxury of rushing back home in an emergency.

This was the first time someone around my age had died. BJ was someone I grew up with and while as adults we weren’t very close, it was a tough loss to deal with. He was someone I shared a decent amount of time with between birthday parties, family vacations, holidays and various occasions. It was extremely sad and tragic how young he was. It was also tragic that he was just starting to get his life back together.

After his death I became to fear death more to the point where I would panic when my loved ones were sleeping. I can remember countless times checking to see that my Mom was still breathing or panicking when she was sleeping thinking she had died. My biggest fear in life was losing my Mom. I honestly felt like we were invisible. I can remember thinking that God wouldn’t take my Mom early because she was a good person and so were my sister and I. Boy was I wrong…

A few years ago I started to force myself to prepare for the loss of my Mom. I can remember out of the blue starting to think about it. Now I realize something or someone was preparing me for that dreaded, awful day. While I began to prepare mentally I still thought my Mom would live to an old age.

You know how they say that people usually die in threes? Well I believe that to be very true. I am not quite sure why but I have experienced it on numerous occasions. The last few years was a domino death effect.

By now you have probably come to the conclusion that Cancer runs in my family. A little over two years ago my Aunt Thelma was diagnosed with a brain tumor and about six months later she died. While we weren’t particularly close, as she lived in Kentucky, she was again someone I was very fond of. I was always happy whenever they would make a trip up. I wasn’t able to see her before she passed and that was tough to deal with. I regret not being able to say goodbye and see her one last time.

This was another occasion I experienced the grief of the children of a parent, pure desperation and grief… you could see it in their eyes.

During the funeral service the preacher talked about not being saved and never getting to see Thelma again or something like that. This completely triggered me and sent me into another state of panic, so much that I couldn’t drive home to Michigan. Being gay in a Southern Baptist family didn’t make me very popular. At an early age, my father brainwashed into me that I was going to hell for being gay. I grew up in the church and it was all fire and brimstone.

As an adult to cope with spiritual abuse I had two choices, live in fear for the rest of my life or put away my spirituality. I took the lessor of the two evils and buried my spirituality deep within me. I got to a point in my life where hearing the terms God or Jesus would give me panic attacks. So I tried to stay far away from anything related to religion, even my Mom’s side of the family.

Being there that day unearthed my fears of never seeing my loved ones again. While I no longer believed completely that was the truth there was still a part of me that held on to that untruth. So much that I still struggle with it. I connected God to pain, misery, judgment and damnation. I saw God as this angry Judge, Jury and Executioner.

Recently it dawned on me why I have struggled to get my creativity back and that’s due to me hiding my spirituality. For me, I can’t have one without the other. It has been a slow and daunting battle to get connected back to my inner spirituality. I know that it is there but I struggle reaching for it.

The next death was something I honestly didn’t think was ever going to happen because my grandmother (mom’s side. All her grandchildren called her Mom Mom.) was in her early 90’s. She was tough as steel and I thought she would out live us all. About two years ago she was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer. They removed the volleyball sized tumor but her body couldn’t take it and six months later she died.

Losing her was particularity tough for me for many different reasons. The first one that growing up we were close. She lived down the street from us and we saw her quite often. She didn’t drive so my Mom would usually be the one to drive her where ever she needed. Her and my Mom were very close. Losing her broke my Mom’s heart.

While I felt close to Mom-Mom growing up, that faded with adulthood. I held a grudge with how she treated me after I came out about being molested by the cousin she raised. She was someone who made it clear who were her favorites and who weren’t. After that it was clear that I was not her favorite.

When my parents split up my Mom and I had no place to go. So my grandmother let us stay with her but I was only allowed to stay for two months. Even though I had a job and was working on getting my own place, I had to go. She didn’t care that I had no place to go.

My hurt was too big for me to be around her, so I hide from her. Even when I found out that she had Cancer I didn’t come around that often. I emotionally couldn’t handle the pain. Part of it had to do with the fact that I avoided situations where I might possibly see my Cousin. Coming out about the abuse and being gay made me the black sheep of the family. Talking about the abuse was something our family didn’t do, they just swept it under the rug like it never happened. If you would only life up that rug you would see the countless skeletons that were buried deep underneath.

While I couldn’t be there for her during her illness, I was able to be there for her at the end… When it became apparent that she wouldn’t live longer than a few days I rushed to be with her. I put all my hard feelings aside and faced the chance of seeing some people I didn’t want to. At the time it was the toughest thing I had overcame, not only for having faced my fears but to see the process of someone dying. It was horrible to see a woman so full of life and spit fire, lay there motionless and pale… almost like a ghost… The only thing she could do was whimper. I knew that she wouldn’t make it til the morning. I honestly didn’t want to leave that night but due to the pressure of others I did… That night I couldn’t sleep… I had this vision of walking my grandmother into the light, where loved ones were waiting for her. I later found out that it was around the time she passed away. Soon after my Mom called me to tell me she had died. I rushed over to her house. Again I could feel the fog of grief and desperation.

Everyone was too grief stricken, so I went into action calling the funeral home and other family members who hadn’t heard the news. I even called the cousin who had bothered me, that was not an easy feat. When the funeral director came to pick up my grandmother it was important I stay inside, when everyone else couldn’t handle it emotionally. I didn’t want strangers handling her body without me watching. It was important that they took good care of her.

Again I experienced children grieving over the loss of their mother, now this time it was my own mother grieving over the loss of her own mother. I was amazed at her strength dealing with the pain. My grandmother was someone of great support for my Mom. They were very close and I wasn’t sure how she would handle her death. I don’t think she did either but I was able to see her inner strength come to shine. It was quite remarkable. I was reminded how strong of a lady my mother was.

Around the same time my grandmother passed, a dear old friend of mine passed away from Cancer. We had lost touch the last few years but he was someone I was always fond of. We became friends during a time in my life where I was in turmoil over the sexual abuse. His and his partners friendship meant the world to me. He was an old soul, very spiritual. He was also an amazing painter, painting these very spiritual life like pieces of art.

Every Christmas he would send me a home made Christmas  card. Even after I moved away he kept sending them. He had a very gentle, loving spirit. Whenever I was around him I could feel the warmth of his inner glow. I can remember the first time I met Stephan very clearly. He was a vegetarian and I told him I would try to eat his food. As much as I didn’t like vegetarian food it was important for me to try it, which was a huge feat for me as I am not really someone who tries new things…

He made me soy meatballs with vegetables. I ate the whole plate and politely turned down seconds. 🙂 From then on we became good friends. When I learned that he wasn’t doing very well, I was deeply saddened. I couldn’t imagine God taking away such a gentle spirit. This was the first time I had a friend who I was once close to pass away. I regret not being able to see him one last time or not being able to make it to his funeral.

By now death had become a familiar part of my life, though it never made it any easier. Especially for what would happen next. Around the time my grandmother passed away I started getting these thoughts of my own mother passing away. They would usually come to me out of the blue and were always quick thoughts. I forced myself to think about the idea, as scary as that was to prepare myself. Something told me it was something I need to do… I never thought that almost two years later my worst nightmare would come true.

I was in the middle of a nap before work when my sister woke me in a panic. She told me that Mom had been coughing up blood and we needed to take her to the emergency room. Obviously I wasn’t going into work. I can remember calling my boss and telling him that my Mom was coughing up blood and he was like we are really busy, do you think you could come in later? I am like HELL no, well I didn’t say that but I surely didn’t go in. I wanted to tell say something like are you crazy?

I will never look at an ER ever again the same. So much so that the last time I had to go to the emergency room I was horribly triggered by the privacy curtains. I was alone in the ER room and instantly I was transported to that scary day.

I wasn’t sure if my Mom would ever stop coughing up blood. I remember telling convincing myself that it was strawberry sauce, as I was very squeamish when it came to blood. I knew that it wasn’t normal for someone to cough up blood and I was obviously concerned. I just wanted the blood to stop and would have done anything to make it stop. I don’t think I had ever been so scared than I was that night. My mind raced to understand what was happening. If there was a normal amount of blood to cough up, this was abnormal. I felt so helpless.

That day our lives forever changed and things would never be the same…

After countless tests, scans and blood work the C word was mentioned. Especially after they compared a chest xray to one that was completed eight years ago that both showed an abnormality to her lower right lung. When it was confirmed that my Mom had Cancer my heart dropped to the ground. At the time we knew nothing about Carcinoid. I had never even heard of the term. When you think of Cancer the first thing you think of is misery and death. I forced to think about the death of my beautiful mother. It was a day I wasn’t prepared for.

She was diagnosed with Cancer in April of 2012 and by September of that year she was dead. Never in my scariest dream did I think this was to be so early. Granted my Mom wasn’t in the greatest health, as she would frequently get bronchitis and pneumonia but nothing would make us believe that this would happen.

Two years prior to her death, I started to get these premonitions of my Mom’s death. Losing her was my ultimate fear of all. Having those premonitions was very alarming but something told me to face them. Granted I had no clue that it would happen so soon. I now realize someone was trying to prepare me for her death. I honestly don’t know if I would be here today without having mentally prepared ahead of time.

When we drove our Mother down to Nashville, TN to have the tumor removed it never dawned on me that she could die. I am a major worry wart but even during her surgery I wasn’t freaking out. I was calm. Her surgery was a major success. Her doctor was able to remove the tumor and found that Cancer hadn’t spread to her lymph nodes like previously they had thought.

She was on the road to recovery. About a week after her surgery my Mom’s vitals started to deteriorate. They struggled to find a balance with her pain medicine that wouldn’t make her loopy but still managed the pain. She went from being out of it, to lethargic. She started to go into afib which they said was normal for a chest surgery. Her oxygen levels started to decrease as well. Something wasn’t right but my sister and I seemed to be the only ones to notice. By the fourth day of all of this, I noticed a strong odor and questioned the nurse about it… In which she said “oh, I didn’t notice it. She must have soiled herself.” She said that she would give her a bath, which three hours later she still hadn’t so my sister started to clean our Mom herself. That is when she noticed a brownish liquid coming out of her wound.

Finally they took notice. By the morning the xray showed that her lungs were filled full of infection and she would need to have another surgery to clean out her lungs. During the second surgery I was obviously more concerned but I still had confidence that she would make it through it.

Thankfully she made it through the second surgery but reality hit us all when the Doctor came out to tell us how serious her condition was. He stated that she wouldn’t have made it through the weekend without surgery. Of all the news prior, this hit me the hardest. This made me realize that Mom was not invincible and could die.

This time she was hooked up to a respirator and was sedated. Even though I was more concerned I didn’t doubt that she would recover.

Through the cultures they found they discovered that sometime that first week my Mom aspirated and became sepsis. The rest of her right lung was very damaged, and they found gangrenous tissue as well. Plus her left lung was now sick as well. They struggled to find the right setting on the respirator that my Mom tolerated. She didn’t seem to like that tube down her throat even when she was sedated. When they tried to turn off all the sedation, she went into a panic and her whole body began to convulse. Her legs and arms went crazy. My sister and I had to hold them down. It was a very scary moment for us.

They talked about putting in a tracheotomy, as they felt that my Mom would handle that better but the day they were to put it in she began to deteriorate again. She began to run a high temperature and her oxygen levels began to drop.

The next twenty one days was a constant roller coaster ride for my sister and I, as we watch our beautiful mother deteriorate as she so peacefully slept. During it all we never gave up hope, even when many doubted her stamina. Many of the Doctors told us there was little hope for recovery but that didn’t stand in our way of believing in the strongest woman we had ever known. We knew she would overcome it and in the end she did.

The day before her death, I awoke to a room full of doctors, nurses and staff surrounding her bed. It was like I was in the middle of a dream but yet I was awake. My Mother’s healthy lung had collapsed and they had to do an emergency procedure to install a chest tube. They were successful with the procedure and she started to improving slowly. Even then I still didn’t give up hope.

The next morning I again awoke to a room full of staff, this time her potassium had dropped to dangerous levels. I was told if they couldn’t get her levels to the normal range she would not make it. They advised me that they would put her on dialysis. I won’t lie I have never been more scared in my life. I prayed and prayed that she would make it.

Two hours into the dialysis, her potassium levels had increased but her other vitals had not and I was informed that she would not survive. I sat by her side and never gave up on her. Once the dialysis was done, she slowly began to drift away. Her heart rate slowed… lower and lower… I can remember this deep feeling of desperation and feeling out of control. I grabbed ahold of her and wept, as her heart began to give out. Five minutes seemed like an eternity and I just wanted relief. I went from disbelief to acceptance and told her it was okay for her to go home. They pulled her breathing tube out and not a gasp escaped from her lungs. Her body had gave out and it was time for her to return home. Finally her heart gave out it’s last beat and she had passed on.

I’ve never felt more alone than at that moment, as I stared at her worn out lifeless body covered in bruises and filled full of tubes. I finally realized how sick her and worn out her body was. She gave her all and fought fearlessly for twenty one days.

I had envisioned us living a life like Sophia and Dorothy from The Golden Girls. She was my everything but life had other plans. I know now that if she would have survived she wouldn’t have been the same lady as before and her quality of life was very important to her. As much as I miss her, I would not want her to suffer any more. She suffered enough on this earth. She is free from it all, including the Cancer.

Mama was always afraid of death. That was one of her struggles with having the surgery but she faced it like a warrior and didn’t let fear conquer her. I know that she went to heaven at peace.

It has only been recently that I have been able to use the terms death, die, etc. when it comes to my Mom. My mind knows she is gone but my heart still struggles to grasp it. The last nine months have been the hardest of my life and there have been times I wasn’t sure I would survive. There were even times I felt so desperate that I contemplated taking my own life.

This whole experience has also made me face my own mortality, including others close to me. When your Mother dies, anything is possible and you realize that nobody is invisible. The unknown becomes the scariest boogie man ever. I still struggle not knowing what I believe in when it comes to the afterlife. Now that I was forced to face death I have so many things that I think about, like what it is like to cross over? At times I struggle to grab hold of my own spirituality that I fear never seeing my Mother again.

I struggle with the concept that one minute a person is healthy and then the next they are not. Recently someone else I knew was diagnosed with Cancer in January and by May she had passed away. This experience has showed me how fragile life is and that there are no guarantees. I have struggled to get back on my feet and I feel like I am wasting valuable time. At times the grief is so crippling.

Any advice for those who also fear of losing a parent, is to force yourself to think about the day when they die and value the time you have with them. As hard as that may be, it will help you face that dreaded day.

In the end, we are all terminal. It is a wake up call to value even the littlest specks of life because eventually death becomes us all…

Feeling Sad Tonight

So the grief over my Mama dying catches me out the blue still. I will be doing fine and then it hits me like a ton of bricks. My brain is still trying to grasp that she is dead. I still don’t like using the word die, as that seems so final but I am also trying to not use gone either because I am trying to shift my thinking to this idea that she is still with me. 

I still struggle with the spiritual aspect of death, not knowing what happens next. I still have a lot of cobwebs stuck in my filters from the spiritual abuse from my father, so it has left many things very foggy. 

You can avoid facing your grief but physically you don’t have a choice to face the loss. You can justify weeks of not seeing the person but after about a month your mind starts to adjust and accept the things your heart won’t. I still catch myself wanting to call her or wishing she would come over. The grief gets very difficult when I think about my nieces and nephew, and how they must feel. 

The heart wants for things that are not available, like having her here still. My mind knows the difference. My feelings can really convince me of some weird things, like in the future could she come back if they come up with cloning, etc. Kind of like the episode in The Golden Girls where Rose talks about freezing her head. Even if was possible it wouldn’t be the same, nor would I want that.

I miss her voice, I miss her laugh. I wish I could remember how she sounded. 

At times the grief feels like torture, too much to bear. Then at times it is at a dull roar. I was watching a movie yesterday and this little girl was upset because she couldn’t remember how her mother sounded either. She was devastated by this, as I am. Her father said that was the mind’s way of protecting her, so that her heart wouldn’t keep breaking. I really thought at that and it made a lot of sense to me. A natural disconnect has to happen in order for the mind, body and soul to heal. So maybe my mind is trying to protect me. 

I also must remind myself when my feelings are really raw and feel unbearable, that they won’t kill me and they will soon pass. I also must remind myself that she is no longer in pain. Image

Getting Back On Track

So today I came to the conclusion that I need to look at my recovery and depression as I do with my dieting journey, that a set back isn’t final… it is just a step back… or as my friend calls it doing the cha-cha. As long as I keep moving forward that is what’s important. Each step back is an opportunity for me to grow.

The last month my train got off track and now I am working on getting my cars back on that healthy recovery track. Sometimes you get stuck and you need a push to get you back to where you need to go. That is where I was, stuck majorly.

I have learned that everything is connected from my depression to my eating habits to how I socialize with others. When one of those areas starts to falter, all the others will soon follow. Looking back my diet habits were a warning sign. Taking care of myself has been a up hill battle and as I continue to hike up that mountain, I have to expect an occasional fall. The key is to get back up and continue up that mountain.

So back on track I go. I am in the process of getting back to therapy. I have an appointment with the Michigan Rehabilitation Center which will help me get back into the workforce. I even got signed up with the state insurance. I am on a new anti-depressant. I am still on my diet (I still dislike that word) and plan to work on incorporating phsyical activities again aka Just Dance!

I also hope to become more social. When Mama died, I gave up on everything including having fun. I miss having friends to hang out with. I thrive having a group of friends.

The key with me is that I haven’t been thriving. I have been a wilted flower that has been pulled up out of the earth. As frightening as it may be I need to plant my roots back into this earth, that will be the only way I can be happy. Hiding in my cave just snowballs my depression to the point where I just want to die. Mama wouldn’t want that life for me.

This is the first time being away from my family for this long. I won’t lie it has been very difficult being away from them. After Mama died, I attached myself to them and held on for dear life. So much that I wouldn’t let go. Losing them has been my biggest fear of all, especially after Mama passed away. When your Mom dies anything is possible. You go into this intense state of panic. I think in a way I believe if I stay around all the time I can prevent bad stuff from happening but I know that isn’t the case. I couldn’t stop what happened to Mama and that made me feel completely helpless. I had to stand back and watch as my beautiful Mama faded away. Watch as she was surrounded my doctors, nurses, etc. I just wanted to scream and make her better but I couldn’t. I felt so alone and scared.

I think part of what caused this week’s depression episode was my mind and body coming to terms with her death. Even saying the words die, death, etc have been hard for me to verbalize. This is the first time I have really typed out those words. To accept her death was just too painful and real… but as time goes by it has a natural way of making you accept it, regardless how hard you fight it. By not seeing or hearing from her for a period of time it has made me come to terms with it.

It is still hard for me to believe that she has died but I am working on getting my life together again, that is what Mama wants. She always wanted the best for me.

So as tough as this will be I am going to do it for her and me. I deserve it. I also must remember as tough as it will be, it won’t be any harder than the experience of Mama being in the hospital and ultimately dying from complications of her surgery.

As my beautiful four year old niece says, Mama is always in my heart… and right beside me…