Time (and Life!) Marches On

I’ve probaby heard the question a half-dozen times in the past three weeks as doctors or nurses were checking my mom’s mental function during her hospital stay:  What year is it?

And every single time-even though I know full well that it is 2017-the answer makes me suck in my breath.  Because, really, how has the world kept turning since Dominic left us?

How, how, how can it be nearly three and a half years since I talked to him, hugged him, heard his voice?

But it is.  

And the further we get from that point in time when the world as I knew it came crashing down, the harder it is for people around me to remember that I continue to carry this load.

I’ve gotten stronger.  I’ve developed ways to work around the grief most days and in most situations.

Still, I find daily tasks more challenging than before.  Sadness sneaks up on me and tears leak from my eyes.  Anxiety stalks my heart and sometimes catches it.

I get tired-so, so tired-because there is just no reserve.

I wish I could press the “pause” button and give myself a little break.

But time (and life!) marches on.  

 

To My Fellow Grievers-Love Brave

I was unprepared for the many traveling companions grief brought with it.  I knew to expect sadness and despairbut what about anxiety and guilt?

I had no idea how large a space guilt would soon occupy in my thoughts and heart-guilt over what I did or didn’t do when Dominic was still with us, guilt over what I do or don’t do now.

I can do nothing to change what happened in years past.  

There is no magic time machine that will allow me to go back and linger long over his jokes or cling harder when he hugged me.

But I can choose to approach today in a way that frees me of foolish guilt and unnecessary regrets.

I can’t do everything but I can do something.

I can love big and brave and refuse to waste the days I have with the people that mean the most to me.

do what you can with what you have where you are

[#unblessed] If You Don’t Laugh, You’ll Cry

So my regular followers know by now my mom was lifeflighted over a week ago from her VERY rural home to the nearest large hospital due to a heart attack and complications from preexisting heart/lung disease.  (If you didn’t, you do now 🙂 )

I’ve been here with her since Thursday morning-taking night shift at the hospital so my dad can go home to the farm, get some rest and do what needs to be done.

You’d think a body might catch a break when some giant life-altering event like this happens.  But NOOOOOOO!

when i asked if life could get worse was rhetorical

In the week plus a day since Mama has been hospitalized we have had (not really, but sorta) funny one [#unblessed] moment after another.

Last Friday morning, following my dad to the hospital, he did the same sliding “stop” at a stop sign turning right onto an access road that he’s done every time he goes this way for 20 years.  But this time-you guessed it!– a very enthusiastic and attentive LEO saw him and pulled his old red farm truck over.

Following behind, I’ll just be honest, more than one salty word slipped out as I anticipated the worst possible outcome in case fatigue and stress prompted Papa to tell the officer what’s what.  Thankfully, it didn’t come to that and after running the plates and license the cop let him go.  [#unblessed]

Sunday I came to the farm by myself for the first time and left Papa at the hospital.  He had remembered to give me a house key and I had carefully put it in my purse.

Perfect.

Got inside-no problem.

I needed to add clothes to a load in the washer and stepped out on the porch to toss them in.  Being the well-trained daughter I am, I shut the house door behind me.  Locked myself out of the house.  

No phone.  

No shoes.

No car keys.

NOTHING.

locked out of house

Everyone down this way was in church.

So I did the only thing I could do.  I put on an old pair of Papa’s boat shoes (after checking for spiders) and hoofed it the two miles to my uncle’s house so he could give me the spare key.  At midday.  In the Florida sun.  No one stopped to ask if I needed a ride.  [#unblessed]

Tuesday I thought I was being very innovative in getting my critical daily medicine prescriptions filled at the local pharmacy HERE since I didn’t bring a sufficient supply from home.  Called CVS and it was a breeze except for one hiccup. A single script was out of refills so I had to call my doctor and ask for an emergency 14 day supply to be sent. Nurse took the message, said she’d get it done.  That was at 11:15.  I head to the pharmacy about 3:00 to pick everything up.  Two are ready but the one from the doctor isn’t.

Thinking that there had been a snafu-they might have called it in without thinking to my pharmacy back home-I telephone the office only to be told that the doctor was going to do it this time, but that because he wanted me to do a follow-up appointment (which I had cancelled but forgot to reschedule), he was basically doing it under duress.  (Even though this is a “don’t you dare stop it suddenly” medicine and I told the nurse my mom was lifeflighted to the hospital with a heart attack).

All the fight was out of me.  I “yes ma’amed” my way through that phone call and said “thank you so much”.  The nurse waited until the minute before their office closed to fax the script just because she could.  [#unblessed]

They are trying to move the fluid off my mom’s heart and lungs with aggressive IV diuretics.  She had one round Tuesday but by Wednesday morning her potassium was so low we had to bring that back up before the next round.  Well, the next round started at 6:30 Wednesday night.  (For those of you who don’t know about these things, IV diuretics mean trips to the bathroom about every 20-30 minutes.)  Yep!  All night long, me and Mama made that three foot trek from the bed to the potty-unhooking oxygen, unplugging the IV pole (it won’t hold a battery charge) and carefully moving her fragile self twice an hour until about 3:30 in the morning.  Apparently cardiologists figure that if they are on 24 hour call, patients should be too.  [#unblessed]

of course i sleep its exhausting keeping you up all night

Heading home Thursday morning after little sleep on Wednesday night, I see blue lights behind me.  I check my speed.  Within the limit.  I’m talking on the cell but not texting. I have no idea why I’m being pulled over.

License and registration.  He tells me that the tag I have on my truck comes back to the Toyota Camry we own.

Now, you have to understand our family has many vehicles and they issued new tags this year.  I didn’t pay close enough attention when taking them outside to put them on and got them mixed up. But “switching” tags is a serious offense.  And then, OF COURSE, I had not put the new insurance card in the glove compartment-it was floating in my purse.  (Thankfully I found it.)  For about 10 minutes my heart was racing although I had already decided that if I got off with a ticket I’d pay it without blinking an eye.  He did let me go but I’m convinced he thought I was a crazy woman who should have known better  [#unblessed]

heres another ticket for giving me imaginary id.png

Today, I tried to get my injectable RA medicine shipped to the same pharmacy since my shot is due tomorrow.  Went through the whole routine of getting the shipment set up and find out the earliest they can get it here is NEXT Thursday.  When I probably won’t be here at all.  [#unblessed]

I’m sitting here in my parents’ home, typing and taking a break.  Because my oldest son may be here tomorrow.  See, the largest, strongest and potentially deadliest hurricane is headed either for his home on the east side of Florida or for us here in the western panhandle-but we are further inland.  My truck is stocked with bottled water and other supplies “just in case”.  We don’t know if Mama will be released before Irma gets here or not but we’ll be OK. Who would have thought?  It figures.  [#unblessed]

Each incident adds stress to the system but none are really all that traumatic.

Because when you’ve buried a child, nothing short of death really rocks your world very much.

And I’ve learned to laugh (once the adrenaline wears off)-because if I don’t, I’ll just cry.

always find a reason to laugh

 

Anxiety is Awful!

I’ve written before about anxiety and child loss here.  No matter the cause of death, the FACT of a child’s death seems to create the perfect conditions for a parent’s body and mind to experience anxiety, dis-ease, fear and often a sense of impending doom.

My world was rocked to its foundation the moment I heard the words, “He was killed in a motorcycle accident”.  

The worst thing I could imagine had come true.  

There was no protection from it happening again, no guarantee that THIS unbearable pain would be the ONLY unbearable pain I would have to carry.

I think my body chemistry was instantly transformed that morning to include rapid heartbeats, shallow breathing and a horrible creepy tension that climbs my spine and clenches its claws tightly at the base of my skull.

Before Dominic left us for Heaven I was not an anxious person.

No matter what happened, I generally took it in stride, looked for a solution and moved forward armed with an arsenal of choices to meet the problem head on.

Now, I can be pushed into a corner by an ordinary phone call that lasts too long.  I can feel trapped if a price fails to ring up properly and I have to wait to have it corrected by a head cashier.  I can become positively frantic when I reach in  my purse and can’t find my keys even though I know for a fact I put them there and if I look a bit harder I’ll find them.

Traffic makes my heart go pitter-patter.  The doorbell sends me flying to make sure it’s the UPS man and not another police officer to tell me heartbreaking news.

If I try to multi-task (which I rarely do) I am soon overwhelmed and have to sit down to catch my breath.

I only shop in stores where I’m familiar with the aisles and where products I need are shelved.

I check and re-check directions if I have to go to an unfamiliar address and leave with double the time needed to get there in case I get lost.  Making on-the-fly course corrections doesn’t happen.

I pull off and have to figure out where I am.

And heaven forbid the phone rings past midnight -I wake with a start and even a wrong number means I won’t sleep for the rest of the night.

This is not “worry”.  It’s not “borrowing trouble from tomorrow”.  It is not an indication that my faith is weak or I’m “caving in” to my feelings.

It’s an uncontrollable physiological response to various stimuli.

So please, please don’t judge me or other bereaved parents for making choices about where we go, when we go and how much we go-most of the time we are anticipating an anxious response and trying to beat it.  

We are doing the best we can.  

Honest.

courage doesn't always roar male liion

Feeling Our Way in the Dark

Often this journey through the Valley of the Shadow of Death is dark and lonely.  

man in woods with glowing light

I am frightened of what may lay in wait-tragedy has visited once, it could come again.

I know Jesus is my Shepherd and I never doubt His companionship.  But if I’m honest, as much as I lean into that truth, it’s oh, so helpful to have a living, breathing human being walk with me.

So when a friend reaches out and takes my trembling hand it calls courage to my heart.

When we huddle together in the dark places, waiting out the storm of grief or doubt, it gives me strength to carry on.

Never, never underestimate the power of presence.

For now we see in a glass darkly, but then face to face, and now we know in part, but then we shall know fully just as we have been fully known

I Corinthians 13:12

So until then, what?
We feel our way in the dark.
Until we find each other.
We huddle together in the storm.
Wet and shivering, but together.
And maybe in the end it will be our huddling in the storm that gives us more comfort than our understanding of the storm.”

~Ken Gire, The Weathering Grace of God

 

me too sharing the path

Stuck or Unstuck in Grief? Who Gets to Decide?

“Stuck in grief”-it’s a theme of blog posts, psychology papers and magazine articles.  The author usually lists either a variety of “symptoms” or relates anecdotes of people who do truly odd things after a loved one dies.  “Complicated grief” is a legitimate psychiatric diagnosis.

But who gets to decide?  

What objective criteria can be applied to every situation, every person, every death to determine whether someone is truly stuck in grief?  How do you take into account the circumstances of a death, the relationship of the bereaved to the deceased, trauma surrounding the event or any of a dozen other things that influence how long and how deeply one grieves a loss?

Obviously there are certain signs that someone needs professional help, medication or intervention.  If a person is abusing drugs or alcohol, acting out in ways that harm or threaten harm to themselves or others, or is experiencing depression or uncontrollable anxiety then please, please, PLEASE get them to a doctor who can diagnose and treat them.

But for the rest of us, “normal” grief covers a wide variety of behaviors, feelings, attitudes and timelines:

Posting photos or videos of our missing child is normal.  It’s the last visual link we have to someone we can no longer see.

Mentioning my son in conversation is normal.  I mention my other children and his life is still intertwined with ours.

Crying-even years or decades after the loss-is NORMAL  Grief waves can hit with tsunami force from out of nowhere and slam me to the ground. The only thing I can do then is let them wash over and around me until they pass.

Keeping space for my son in my home, at my table, in my heart and on holidays is normal.  Some parents do this with a special candle, photo or ritual. Some do it with a stuffed animal or other item that represents their child. Some do it with words or deeds of kindness done in honor of the missing one.  No one has sat in Dominic’s space at my table in these three years.  It’s my silent witness to his ongoing influence and irreplaceable presence in our family circle.

Keeping a room exactly as it was is normal.  Boxing everything up is also normal.  Every heart is different and every heart has to decide what helps it heal.

Sleeplessness is normal.  Some parents never return to pre-loss sleep patterns.  I wake every morning at about the time the deputy came to our door.  Every now and then, if I am extremely tired, I may fall back asleep for an hour or two.  Sleeping the day away is normal, too.  Sleep may be a welcome relief to a weary heart and some parents find that when they can, they sleep a lot.  (Note:  if this continues for days or weeks, please check with your doctor about the possibility of depression.)

Anxiety is, sadly, VERY normal.  The worst has actually happened and that makes the possibility that it could happen again oh, so real.  Anxiety may well spread to things that seem to have no relationship to loss.  It’s also normal to have a “devil may care” attitude. The worst has actually happened, so what could be worse?  Might as well live life to the full.

Withdrawal is normal.  So is over-scheduling and staying busy.  Both are ways someone may try to deal with heartbreak.

You don’t have to be “stuck” in grief to still feel the pain and have it continue to affect your life.

I am and have been highly functional since the morning the deputy arrived with the news of my son’s fatal motorcycle accident.

But I am a very different “me” than I was before that doorbell rang.

Some things I can’t do anymore. Some things I do differently and some things are brand new and I have only done them since he left us.

Labels are rarely helpful when applied to people.

Every person is unique, every relationship unique and every situation unique.

And every grief journey will be unique as well.

roller coaster 2 better image

 

 

 

Repost: Dealing With Anxious Thoughts

As a follow up to the repost a couple days ago:  Why is Anxiety Part of Child Loss?, I wanted to share this entry.

Here are some practical ways to deal with anxious thoughts, take them captive or redirect my focus so that they don’t rule my heart.

Please feel free to add any helpful tips in the comments section below.  We learn best from those that share our journey.  You may have the very words that will encourage another parent’s broken heart!

I no longer have to imagine the worst thing that could happen in the life of a mother-I know exactly how it feels. 

And if I allow my heart to ponder that too often or too long, it consumes me.

So I am learning to take those anxious thoughts captive, learning to make them live in only a small corner of my mind instead of taking it over completely.

It takes effort and discipline, but it’s possible.  

I don’t have to live the rest of my days a quivering mess-

Read the rest here:  Dealing With Anxious Thoughts