Monday, November 28, 2011

Grief Changes You

My dad died on a Tuesday. He died four Tuesdays ago tomorrow. I suppose Tuesday will always have an edginess to it from this point forward.

I remember participating in a grief class just before my Grandma's death six years ago. The facilitator told us that grief changes you. I heard the words. I knew what they meant. I had experienced grief. I had lost a job. I wasn't all that crazy about the job, so that loss was not a painful loss. I'd been divorced. That was extremely painful. I still feel that pain. I could see how there was some truth in that little string of words. I could see that I had felt the pains and that I had changed as a result of those pains.

When my Grandma passed away that following April, I remember waking up the next morning and feeling like she'd left without me. My heart ached. I rolled over, buried my face in the feather pillow and cried. I wanted to hold her hand. I wanted to sit with her. I wanted to make tea for her and tuck her into her chair. I felt then that grief really does change you.

I think for me, the horror of my dad's cancer hit me like a two-by-four across the kidneys when I heard the diagnosis this July. I knew my dad was dying. I knew there was nothing I could do to change that he was "leaving". Don't get me wrong, there were definitely times I would hope that he would call and tell me the cancer was gone and I could count on another twenty-five years of having my dad in my life. But then my cynical voice would whisper those cruel things like, "But Kelly! He has LUNG CANCER! It's LATE STAGE 4 lung cancer! The cancer is already in his lymph system, and his adrenal system and his bones, and his brain." Then, my heart would sink again.

Thanksgiving was the first big holiday without my dad. I dreaded Thanksgiving. I saw on so many people's Facebook pages and blogs how they were thinking of gratitude every day in November. I could barely even think let alone focus on gratitude. I tried. I tried by creating my lists of five. That was a very uncomfortable challenge. I felt like there really wasn't much for which I could express Thanksgiving.

Sometimes, I try to engage with friends who have not endured this horror. I know they mean well. But I really need them to know that this isn't something you feel sad about for a few days and then just jump back up and are ready to go forward. I felt like some of my friends think it is like when your goldfish dies, you just flush his body down the toilet, wash your hands and then go buy another goldfish! This is NOT like that at all! Another friend when I told her I wished there was something I could do or say to help her prepare for this deep ache. She told me she is not afraid of death. Grief is not a fear of death. It is loss. It is mourning. It is a time of deep, intense sorrow. It is grief. Those two concepts are completely unrelated. Grief is ugly. Grief is painful. Grief is life-changing.

My dad's life is over and my life is forever different. There is no delete key on this one. There is no second chance.

I need my friends to understand I need a lot of love and tenderness right now. In all honesty, I don't feel like I can ask for understanding because it is a space that unless you've lost a simply cannot understand.

My sister sent me a text message this weekend that read: "I have cried so many tears I think I look like a different person!" I knew what she meant. I looked in the mirror last weekend and these dark circles under my eyes almost seem to suggest a facial structure change...and not a good one, either! I wrote back and told her I felt like I had aged a lot since November 1st. I feel it in my physical self, and my psyche.

I concur! Grief does change you. I feel like everything has been rewritten. I absolutely hate that my life stories have a point of "before dad died" and a point of "after dad died".... Really! I hate that I can't still have the innocence that my friends have that you think it is so easy to "just snap out of it!" or just decide to be happy!


If only it were that easy.

On a different subject:  There was a small window when I didn't mind utilizing the art of self portraiture. That window happened when I was younger, happier and a whole lot more confident. I knew self-portraits were helpful when my kids were younger and I didn't have very many photos of myself. But then one day, I noticed how I have more wrinkles and I looked older. I suddenly felt shy again about photos of myself. I didn't want anymore photos of me.

I read a blog somewhere...for the life of me, I can't remember which one...but I have seen a few different blogkeepers out there who suggest harnessing the power of self-portraiture. I think I have seen projects called 52 Fridays. I decided that Tuesday would be my self-portraiture day. I named my project 52 Tuesdays. I don't know if there is really anything to be gained from a project like this. Maybe there is? For now, I see a sad, 41-year-old woman who is trying to adjust to her new normal. Hopefully, that sad woman will re-emerge soon with a smile on her face. She will be changed, but I hope she will smile again. Hopefully, in the span of 52 Tuesdays, I will see that change.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


It might be time for another short list of five things for which I feel grateful:

computers and gadgets with which to "Geek out"
holiday music
sweet, little snow flurries that set my heart a-flutter!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

In this moment, I am grateful for:

Music - and the power it possess to allow us to be, do, feel everything we need to be, do or feel in the moment.

The smell - of dinner cooking. Hubby is cooking ribs for dinner. I can hardly wait.

41 years - with my dad.

Internet - friends and communities

Photoshop - and being able to create art without getting out from under the covers of my bed messy clean-up, either!

Purring - orange kitties

Down Comforters - Just nothing like 'em!

candles - their warm glow and aromas...are so soothing

quiet moments - to allow for restful periods for my frazzled brain.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Will I Ever Recover From This?

I thought that I was going to be okay. But I wasn't.

I helped with the printing of the programs. Helping felt good. It was sad, but feeling useful was good for me.

Yesterday was my dad's memorial service in South Carolina. There were a lot of eleven's yesterday that will forever remain significant to me. The memorial service started at the beginning of the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the year 2011. I wanted to go, but our financial situation is not favorable for lots of travel. I decided that I would travel later to the Inurnment. That way, my kids could join us, too.

I counted down the hours to the service; then counted down the minutes. I was a scatterbrained mess. Focusing on any task was next to impossible. I just couldn't do it. I tried shopping for a few things, but I ended up putting the items back on the shelves and walking out of the store without spending a penny. I   cried so many tears. This makes me worry about the final piece...the burial. I hope I can keep it together.

I listened to Avril Lavigne's Slipped Away about ten times. I spent a significant amount of time watching Muppets snippets on YouTube. (My dad LOVED The Muppet Show and Fraggle Rock!) I listened to "The Point" by Harry Nilsson twice. I cried. I sobbed. I miss my dad. I think I had three mini panic attacks throughout the day. My throat felt tight! The room started to spin! I couldn't breathe! I could feel my heart pounding in my chest. I close my eyes tight and and the tears came easily. Crying was the only thing that helped relieve the heartache....and it didn't really even take the hurt away.

I have been showered with a lot of love. That has been wonderful. I have had so many of my friends whom I have never met in person reach out in such loving support. It truly makes up for the cold shoulder others have given since I received the diagnosis in July. Cancer isn't contagious!  Why did some of my friends desert me in my hour of need? I couldn't believe some of the insensitivity I witnessed! I know that each human being precesses death and grief differently. I am so thankful for the friends who have stood by me asking for Skype sessions even though my eyelids are purple and blistered from the copious amounts of salty tears that have washed over them and been wiped away. And the friends who have offered me such loving advice for coping with this pain. And for the encouragement to use this experience to grow. I am not able to accept it as that just yet. Maybe soon?

My guess is that this is only the beginning...I can see that this grief journey is going to be a long one. For now, I need to feel it. I need to cry. I need to move through this at my own pace. My mom tells me this painful sting never goes away. Never?!?! This is the most excruciating thing I have ever endured. The grief I felt with my divorce was painful. The grief I felt from the death of my grandmother was painful. This grief is beyond comprehension. I wonder if I will ever recover!

I could feel it. In July, when my dad got the diagnosis, I could feel that everything was being completely rewritten. My stories, my identity, my history, my future....EVERYTHING! This experience has truly been life changing. I don't like it! I don't want to accept it.

I don't have a choice!

Grief hurts.

Now, I face a year of firsts! First Thanksgiving (without Dad), First Christmas (without Dad).

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Violent Thunder

It's quiet.
It's dark.
I feel alone
...and deeply sad.
The words: "He's gone." boom through my heart and head violent thunder.
I feel those rumblings all throughout my body...this is excruciating.