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!

Everyone Has a Story

I love this blog -“Kathy’s Blog: Healing from the Loss of a Parent – Experiences, thoughts & feelings after losing a parent to cancer,” so much so that, with Kathy’s permission,  I am sharing it, and its most recent entry. It doesn’t matter what the circumstances are in losing a parent. What matters, and what is significant, is the extreme loss experienced.

Like Kathy and many others in our situation – that of losing a parent –  I started my blog as an outlet for my emotions, first, as a caregiver to my mother who went from moderate dementia to end-stage in five years, and now as a daughter trying to cope with extreme loss.

Connecting with people who understand what I am going through and who reinforce that I/we are not alone, continues to be therapeutic. You never really get over the loss. Rather, you learn to live with it. That is my challenge.

Everyone Has a Story

Everyone has a story. It’s called life and begins the moment we are born. What happens from that point on affects the we think, what we feel, and how we act or react to each situation we encounter. Moments of life, big or small, shape us, molding each of us into unique individuals.

In certain situations, there is an “expected” way for us to act – the social norm. If we act differently, do not act in the way that is expected of us, our friends or family may look at us differently or say hurtful things. But given any situation, no one acts/reacts in the exact same way. I believe if a group of adults all around the same age experienced the same exact situation, some would act in a similar way. But there would be differences in thoughts, feelings, actions, and reactions because of previous life experiences and the impact they made on each individual person.

Everyone has a story. My story has been told in bits and pieces — in the words that have come together to create over 200 posts, along with responses to comments on this blog and comments I’ve made on other blogs. This blog is my story of one of the most difficult times of my life — the death of my mom and healing from that tremendous loss. Before my mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, there were so many things that had happened in my life that affected the way I reacted to this most unexpected news and how I continued to act during her illness and after my mom died. My story is one of raw emotion, written from the heart.

My mom lived for 349 days from diagnosis until death. I learned of her diagnosis the day after she and my dad received it. For 347 days I prayed for God to save my mom, then on the 348th day I asked God to relieve my mom’s suffering and take her home. That prayer was answered 2 hours after I spoke it. I didn’t want to lose my mom, but I also didn’t want her to be in pain anymore. She had stopped eating, drinking, and speaking, and was in a lot of pain. Death was the only way to bring her peace. For 348 days I lived in constant fear that I would lose my mom. I didn’t know when it would happen, but I knew my mom was doing to die, and then she did. Living with this constant fear, watching pancreatic cancer slowly and painful strip my mom of life, and the loss that death brings changed me.

Everyone has a story, and some of my readers have shared pieces of their story with me. Through this blog I have learned that people I’ve never met in person understand what I am feeling and why I feel a certain way. For that I am grateful, since there are those who know me personally and do not understand at all. My life experiences have deeply affected the way I think, how I act, and what I feel. And it is the life experiences of others that help them understand me and relate to the words I write.