Recovering from grief…or do we?

I’ve been away from posting for a long time. I take this as a positive sign of my recovery from grieving. But, do we ever fully recover?

Sure, I know grief is personal and subjective and everyone handles it differently; there is no right or wrong way. Everyone has their own timetable and needs to find their new normal.

But now and then those triggers pop up. Just when you think you have things under control – BOOM! – you see or read something that sets you back. This has happened to me a couple of times post-recovery. I try to avoid articles on dementia and Alzheimer’s because an uneasiness comes over me but at the same time, they draw me in; they’re so compelling. So, I’ll scan over them. Some are upsetting to me because I find myself second-guessing my care, reflecting on “should I have done this or that”, “why was I impatient at times….she couldn’t help it”, and the like.

Such an article, and a beautiful one, written by Dan Gasby set off that trigger recently. He is the husband and care partner to supermodel, restaurateur, magazine publisher, celebrity chef, and nationally known lifestyle expert  B. Smith, who has younger-onset Alzheimer’s,

The loss of my mother is still relatively new. In February it will be four years. I was depressed for the first 2 1/2 of those years during which I had a daughter and a son get married and welcomed two beautiful grandsons into our family; I now have a third due in a couple of months. Most days are good. When I think of my mother now I think of happy and fun times. I’m not bogged down by those deepest feelings of loss. That is a sign of recovery. I believe I have found my new normal.

Still, a day doesn’t go by that I don’t think of her or miss her.

Three years and coping

It seems a little surreal and hard to believe that today marks three years since mom’s been gone; seems just like yesterday and an eternity at the same time. I received sweet texts this morning from my daughter-in-law and friend, and phone calls from my daughters. I’ll visit mom later today and go to minyan tonight even though I went last week for her yahrzeit, the anniversary of the day of death in the Jewish calendar.

I went back into my email correspondence with Ted, trying to find something. I often referred to Ted as “T.” in my writing, and came across L’s exquisite eulogy that so embodied the essence of mom.

During the heavy grieving period we all cope differently. For me, it was wearing mom’s clothes and using her nail polish on my toes so when I looked down at my feet it was like looking at hers. And today, I’m wearing one of her sweaters and a pair of sandals that I bought with her.

A day doesn’t go by that I don’t think of mom or tell her how much I love her. As Ted so poignantly and elegantly told me as only he could, “nothing dies that is remembered.”

In that case, mom is very much alive in me … and always will be.

Stumbling and Recovery

Something very strange happened to me last month. Or maybe it’s not so strange. For all the positive steps moving forward in grieving the loss of a loved one, you can stumble. And that happened to me last month.

I still get the shakes when I see the word “Alzheimer’s” in a heading or within text. Still, I read a review of “Still Alice” in The New York Times last month. But it was the readers’ comments that hit me hard.

As I read some of them, I started crying. They brought me back to my care-giving experiences. Not only did I share many of the readers’ experiences but it caused me, again, to question my care: Did I do everything I could? I knew mom had dementia but did my denial of Alzheimer’s hamper my care-giving? Should I have quit my job to be with her all the time? I still see her big smile and eyes light up when I would stop by for breakfast on my way to work. Could I or should I have done things differently? My friends and brother will give an emphatic “No!”

I think care-givers always have these doubts, especially after losing their loved one. But these comments hit such a nerve in me and set a trigger off so much so that I contacted my local Alzheimer’s Association to look into a support group. And as I’m on the phone with the rep, I just started bawling. My emotions were just so raw – something not experienced for a long time as I was doing so well.

Well, after calling the group’s facilitator and finding out she was no longer there, I guess I got over “it” because I chose not to follow through and lost interest. I’m still thinking of contacting them to find a group. In the grieving process one thing I have found, at least for me, is the need to talk. I’m sure it’s the same for most.

PS I have not yet seen the film … but I will.

PSS Gratefully and thankfully my daugher is fine. Her brain lesion is gone, and one month after her second MRI in December, she went on to run the Houston Marathon and a PR – 4:20:07! https://iloveluci2.wordpress.com/2014/09/29/together-again/

Remembrances, Namesakes and New Beginnings

This past July 4th marked what would have been mom’s 92nd birthday. I was always so confident that she would live to her 90s, even while her condition deteriorated. I know. I was not being realistic but I was hopeful.

This holiday has become quite bittersweet for me. But I’m now able to remember all the wonderful birthdays of hers that we celebrated – watching the fireworks on the banks of the Trinity, my brother flying down and surprising her, celebrating her 89th birthday – her last – with our  future son – and daughter-in-law.

And now, we’ve been blessed once again with that one thing that mom so wanted to be present for –  her great-grandchildren. Four months after our first beautiful grandson entered our lives, comes another, and named after mom.

So welcome sweet, sweet little “L.” Welcome to the world and to our family, and know that you are named after a wonderful, fun and loving woman, and are so loved just like she was.

LEC

Baby steps, but another milestone

I hit another milestone today – I shopped in one of mom’s favorite stores for the first time in more than two years. And, it didn’t feel strange. I felt like it was almost a celebration of mom because she always enjoyed shopping there.

I continue at that crossroad where when I think of mom I no longer think of loss and gloom as I did in the past. I continue to be able to think of her with smiles, chuckles and reminders of the fun times we had, even when she might not have been having a great day.

I do miss her of course. Every day. And so sorry she can’t hold, kiss, coo or smother her first great-grandchild with her love. Mom, no need to worry. I’m doing that for both of us.

Two years gone by

It’s hard to believe today marks the 2nd anniversary that mom left us.

I’ve gotten texts and emails from friends and family checking in on me and I must say I am doing OK. Really. And actually feeling a little guilty about it. For those of us grieving I think once we are able to accept our new normal, there’s a little bit of guilt that about not being more mournful of our loss. I know I am conflicted with this feeling. And I know this is not unusual. But what this tells me is that I am recovering – recovering from close to two years of intense grief.

As I wrote in my last post, the fact that I haven’t felt the need to visit my blog as often tells me I am on the road to recovery. That I am learning how to live my life without mom being humanly and physically here. But she is with me in so many other ways – the clothes of hers that I wear, photographs of her, her furniture, the scent of her bath lotion. And each of those is a warm reminder of her.

I spoke with my remarkable T. last night and at 99, how remarkable he is. His continuous love for mom is beyond words. And as I always do after I speak with him, I teared up.

Yes, I survived my daughter’s wedding seven months after losing mom, and survived my son’s, too, a year later. And now as the great-grandchild that mom so passionately wanted is only weeks away, I will survive that miracle of life without mom, too, but will miss her all that more more, just the same. I love you mom, today and forever.mom flowers

A Sign?

I have been absent for a couple of months. I think I’m taking this as a sign of healing — that I don’t feel the need to pound out my feelings on the keyboard as much.  Don’t get me wrong … I still grieve for mom. I still miss her every day and she is in my thoughts EVERY day. But I think I’m slowly learning how to live without her.

Since losing her, my family has gone through wonderful life cycle events – the marriages of my daughter and son, and now the pending births of their first child, my first grandchildren and mom’s great-grandchildren.

This past Monday my husband and I celebrated my birthday with friends, one of whom shares the same birthday. The restaurant chosen was the same one we celebrated mom’s 89th birthday. My heart sank a little. If I was given a choice I would have vetoed it. There are still places I can not go into because of mom. After arriving we were shown to our table. Of course it turned out to be the same one used for mom’s birthday. I was hesitant as we approached the table. As I settled into my seat and looked around, I took the restaurant choice and the table as a sign — a sign that it’s time to move forward.

The second anniversary of mom’s passing is a month away. I feel I have made great strides in the past six months, although peppered with some small setbacks, which I expect will re-occur from time to time. I am trying to do my best to remember mom, not with thoughts of sorrow, but with thoughts of all the wonderful things about her and the wonderful times spent together. I continue to be a work in progress.

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