Tag Archives: grief recovery

A Litany of sorts

It’s been 22 years since my mother died.  And this year has been particularly rocky.  This has puzzled me as I have a good job, a great boss and have been building my life up again after losing Grandpa.

An incident of no matter really happened the weekend before Thanksgiving that threw me for a loop.  A choice of my sibling felt punitive and I was devastated. So I looked at why I was reacting so.

I am now the age Mom was when her kidneys failed.  She struggled with this health issue for three years.  So I called the company EAP and had my first appointment with a grief counselor.  (I find it interesting that they’ve been able to determine that 4 sessions is all I will need, or maybe it is that they’ll only pay for 4.)

I’ve been to counselors before and had forgotten that the first appointment is a telling / re-telling of life history.  For how can we go anywhere if we don’t know where we have been.

I don’t particularly like my litany.  It goes something like this:

Dad was an alcoholic.  Mother had migraines.
Got married to an alcoholic and had 3 children.
When the relationship started to get violent, (no he never hit me but did kick the bed) I left and got a divorce. Moved in with mom.
Mom’s kidneys failed. Grandmother got cancer.
Three years later they died within months of each other.
Re-married.  That didn’t work out.  Got divorced.
Grandpa got dementia and after a couple of years overseeing his care, quit my job to take care of him full-time.
Grandpa passes away and it’s harder to get back into the work force than I expected.
And now, I’m hitting the grieving process again.

The thing about the above list is that  it only paints one or two colors of my life. Looks like I’ve done so much sacrificing or struggled to survive.  Well, that’s so untrue!  That’s just the list of why I’m at the counselor’s office.

But another list of my life looks like this:

Met my best friend when I was 10.
Started college
Had 3 children
Got a job that had college tuition reimbursement
Finished BA degree
Made quilts
Learned to play guitar
Took kids  to Disneyland
Watercolor painting
Read great books
Saw Movies, embarrass kids when I am the only one in the theater
Kids and I went to Disney World, Epcot Center and the lot
Lillie and I went to London
Gena and I went to the Dominic Republic
Bought some property, because there was a field of buffalo across the street.
Met Daughter in law and grand-daughter
Gardened
Bought a violin and learned to play
Have a whole line up of pets throughout the years
Juggled all over and now teach it to other

Both lists are true. Both are incomplete by themselves.  What my life is, is a combination of the two.  I’ve had sunshine and sorrow each step of the way.  And as I work with the counselor, I want to become more purposeful in where this life of mine is headed, be more thoughtful in my choices and leave a great legacy.

 

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Loving Everyone is Hard

Last year while missing loved ones who had passed, I was sad I had all this love to give and the people I wanted to give it to weren’t here.

So this year for Lent I decided to love everyone I came in contact with.   Should be a no-brainer.  I have all this love to give. And there are so many people in the world.  Easy, right?

Nope.  It’s only been a week since Ash Wednesday and I have discovered loving everyone isn’t as easy as I thought.

You know, the crazy drivers on the road.  Especially yesterday when there was still ice on the road.  People were zooming past me. One the way home I passed a fender bender.  The guys involved were out in the cold exchanging information.

My first thought was not compassion.  My first thought was, “that’s what you get for driving crazy”

And then I remembered my goal. I didn’t do anything awesome like stop and get them a cup of coffee.  I don’t think I even said a prayer.

I took a look at my attitude, said, ‘oops’. And gave sending them loving thoughts a try.

I also said a ‘thank you!’ when I got home safely.

I can tell this is going to be an interesting Lenten season.

 

A Glimpse of Red, Remembering the Dead

While running errands during lunch before the holidays, I caught a glimpse of a red stocking cap and a red walker at a sheltered bus stop.

My heart leaped in my throat as I thought it was Gpa! For a split second I was so excited that I was going to get to spend some time with him. I thought about pulling over. And then reality slapped me across the face. That wasn’t Gpa.  Gpa had stopped using the red walker in 2010.  If I stopped to talk to whoever this was, he would think I was crazy.

So I kept on driving and did my errands.

But as I drove by I sent anonymous all the love that had bubbled up as a result of seeing red.  I couldn’t keep all that emotion, both the excitement and the disappointment.  Too much.

The weather was cold and they were at a bus stop.  I hoped they got to where they were going safely. I hoped that they would have a blessed day. And that they had someone in their life that loved them as much as Gpa and I had had.

For even through my disappointment, it was nice to think of Gpa and feel the love I had been missing.

Next to Last Words

When my grandmother passed away.  Gpa said her tongue got to thick and they couldn’t understand the last things she said.  The last thing they did understand what she said was, “There’s Papa!”

When Gpa talked to grandmother’s sister, she said Papa was what they called their dad.

When Gpa passed away, his speech became incoherent.  I don’t know if his tongue was thick but he was only saying his vowels.

I told him, “I love you.”

And he replied “I oo oo.”

So I knew he was telling me that he loved me.

Then he said something else.  I had him repeat it a couple of times but, I had no idea what words the vowels were.

I will have to take comfort in the next to the last words these wonderful people said.  And I do.

I will also use my words today a little more carefully than I have in the past.  I want them all to matter.

The Man Behind the Camera

A picture of Gpa

Picture of the Cameraman

Now that I have finished the floors, I am tackling the corners of stuff I have piled up.  I am determined to clear out enough space for my son and his family before they arrive.

I took a little break to go through some pictures.  I want us all to have a memory party and go through all the pictures when they get here.

I have always thought we didn’t have pictures of Gpa because he was the one taking the pictures.  Look what I found!

The tree tells me this is when he worked in Washington D.C. about the time I was 6 or 7. My sister remembers him putting us in front of trees or bushes so it seems apropos that he too is in front of foliage.  I wonder if he has been placed to look into the sun.  I don’t think so as he has so many shadows on his face.

That’s the part I hated looking into the sun and being told not to squint!

Looking at this picture makes me wonder if it is Gma taking the picture.  Or is it someone who happened to walk by?  I think now, looking back, the person behind the camera is as vital as the subject.

I know that is especially true when Gpa was the cameraman.

On Writing a Zombie Movie

After Gpa passed away, it felt like the world had ended. I was living in a post-apocalyptic era. Only I knew it.

My purpose was gone. Stripped away. The big question of ‘what next’ loomed over my head.

The local screenwriters group had a contest and I had an idea. So I sat down and wrote. On the one hand it was very strange to spend hours each day writing about a zombie who becomes a vegetarian and yet on the other hand, the process was very cathartic.

I felt like a zombie.

I have continued to treat life as a dangerous place. Approaching activities and people with a great deal of mistrust.

This then becomes a type of self-fulfilling prophecy. People and activities become unsafe.

Um. I don’t want to live like that anymore. What if I approached activities and people as if life were a safe place, full of light and wonder. That they too would share the same twinkle in the eye with me that Gpa did.

Sure people make mistakes but what if I approached the mis-steps and misunderstandings as if we are all doing the best we can?

What if I took the hurt, pain, and loss that I’ve been carrying around and took it to a place I could leave it and start looking forward to all my interactions with everyone I meet today as if I were hanging out with Gpa?

I could stop being a zombie.

Anniversary on Saying Goodbye

Today is the second anniversary of Gpa’s death. I’m not sure how I feel about celebrating it.  But Lillie found this picture and it made me smile.  I miss Gpa very much.

Gpa's birthday

Looks like Gpa’s 101 birthday party

We forget, deny, denounce the part death plays in the life cycle of all living things.

If part of remembering what happened this day, also reminds me of Gpa and our relationship, then, it’s OK with me.

 

The Rock and I

When Gpa got diagnosed with dementia, a co-worker told me about some pastoral counseling near by.

I started meeting with the counselor every other week.  It helped tremendously.

Once after I had shared a bit, she remarked, it was like God had told me to push against a huge boulder and I was getting upset because I wasn’t moving the boulder.

Oh.

Maybe he just wants me to build up my muscles.

Oh.

That helped.  Though I didn’t like pushing against the boulder.  Watching Gpa diminish was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

In the last 2 months I’ve lost 2 people I care for and I’ve been thinking about that boulder.

There is nothing I can do to prevent death, it’s a part of life.  There is nothing I can do to change what has happened.

However, I don’t think God told me to push on the rock.  The rock just happens to be a part of my path. It is what it is.  I’m going to stop pushing against the rock and just stand next to it awhile.

I’ll let it be what it is and I’ll be what I am.

The Clunky, Chunky, Stumbling Art of Grace

Life is messy, full of mistakes, reversals, mis-communications and major mis-steps.

And then what?

Sit forever mired in the mud?

If you want to, you can.  But there’s a way out.

It’s called GRACE. Even if the one you hurt can’t/won’t forgive you, the Universe will.

In fact the Universe longs for and seeks reconciliation, restoration and healing. It does take some action on your part.

Get up off the floor.

Dust yourself off.

Pick the ball back up

And try again.

If you have hurt your loved one, (or another party) to the point they have turned against you, you have to let them go and trust the Creator will take good care of them.

To do this takes discernment, risk as well as trial and error.

And then you get to do it all over again.

All a part of being human.

I’m Not The Only One

Thursday, I stopped at a craft store to purchase new brushes. I have an idea for a new series I want to create.

I hated that I didn’t have a coupon. I have a flip phone so the new way of having a coupon doesn’t work for me.

A clerk saw me right as I got in the line. She asked how I was. I told her I wished I had a coupon. She said to follow her, she would help me.

She went to an empty register and put on a pair of white gloves. Struggling to get the second one on, she shared that she wears the gloves so she doesn’t tear up her hands on the register.

That sounded odd to me. How rough is the register? I assumed that all the clerks at the store do this.

But this is not so. Her nerves cause her to pick at her nails. When she is stressed, she turns it upon herself. Down to the quick.

She shut the drawer before pulling out my change. We had to wait for a manager. So we chatted some more.

Her ex who is no longer here, would slap her hands when he caught her picking.

When she asked him what he was doing, for it hurt, he replied, “you aren’t picking at your hands anymore.”
I could tell she missed him. Even if he was an ex, the way she lit up told me more than the words ever would. Now that she had to deal with her nerves on her own, she understood the love in his solution.

We are soul sisters who have had a loss after a split. I wanted to encourage her. Tell her she had found a good solution for taking care of her self. Even if it seems odd to other people. Tell her I understood how much she loved and missed her ex. I know it’s hard to get up each day and move and breath and interact in a way that others expect you to. In a world where your loved one is not.

That there will be people who don’t understand what you are going through because the end of their life came after a fight that didn’t get resolved.

That on one hand I am so sorry that she is going through the same thing. It is crushing. On the other hand, I am so relieved that I am not alone. Shared sadness diminishes.

I hated that we were in a craft store and the time we had together was coming to an end. All I could do was look her full on in the eyes and love her as I said, “I’m sorry.”

I hope that she received all I wanted to convey with those two words. I hope her day was less lonely because we met. I know mine was.