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!

Second wave of grief?

A second wave? Really? Didn’t know I was over and done with the first.
I received a follow-up letter from my hospice bereavement counselor, basically a form letter but personalized with my name, seeing how I was doing and letting me know that about this time it’s not unusual to go through a second wave of grief and that her services are available to me. A sound, a picture, a type of food – almost anything that might remind us of our gone loved ones can trigger it.

Whether it’s a “second wave” or a continuation of my initial grieving state, I’ve cried for the past two weeks – in the car, at work, in the grocery store. It doesn’t matter where I am, it just takes over. I’m sure it probably has something to do with the fact that we had mom’s unveiling the day after Thanksgiving when all the family was in. I stressed over the wording and the look of her headstone, consulting with my brother who said whatever I decide is fine and then approved  what I sent him. It was lovely and paid mom a loving and respectful tribute – “Beloved Wife, Mother and Nana.” But of course, gazing upon it as the rabbi recited blessings, I realized I should have included “Friend,” out of respect for T. I mentioned this to my family and of course they said it was fine as is. To satisfy my second-guessing, I reasoned with myself that “Friend” is just automatically understood and mom and T were essentially “husband & wife.”

Following the service, we all headed for BBQ for lunch in honor of mom, who developed a love for it since moving to Texas five years ago.

But back to the crying. It continues. I’m tearing up as I type this. I’m in a funk. I’m hardly productive at work and have thought of leaving. I’m tired of what I’m doing and feel I need a change but not another job. I need something more meaningful. So while I’ve always had a soft spot for “seniors,” I’m thinking of maybe doing some volunteer work with them, particularly those suffering with dementia (Note to self – I should have finished my masters in gerontology oh so many years ago).

I realize it’s time for another counseling appointment and I made one with Dr. R. for next week. Some friends say with the wedding now behind me I don’t have anything occupying my time. This could be true. I need projects and that consumed me for nine months. In cleaning out my closet I found a gem – a tablecloth mom started cross-stitching eons ago, maybe when I was  in high school or college. I initially found it when we were moving mom to Texas and said I’d finish it. It went into my closet and forgot about it.

I haven’t touched it…until now. I now have a new project, one which will be a labor of love.