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.

Remembering Mom

I’m returning to this post two weeks after I started it.

The week of July 4 was a sad week.  Mom would have turned 90 on July 4.  She almost made it.

To celebrate her, I went to the cemetery, and then honored mom with her favorite pastime — shopping — something I really haven’t done in about seven months save for a stop in a store here  and there and the mandatory wedding shopping. I still haven’t been able to venture into one of her favorite stores.

Mom said on many occasions that “we’re living just too long.” Of course, that attitude also depends on your quality of life of which mom had a darn good one up until the spring of last year when symptoms of her dementia started getting worse. Still, she looked wonderful, was still blonde (thank you, Lan!) and certainly didn’t look her  89 years.

But the past 18 months to two years leading up to her passing this past February (the “D” word is still hard for me), she had too many visits to the hospital followed by lengthy rehab stays, which kind of broke her spirit a little.

But I don’t want to dwell on the sadness; it will always be there to a certain extent. I want to celebrate mom for the beautiful and wonderful person she was.

And will always be for me.

Mom, on her 89th birthday, July 4, 2011.

Taking emotional inventory

I attended my first grief support group session last night. I think it’s going to be a good thing.

Although it was just two of us, we both had a lot to unload and cry about. It was about a seven tissue session for me.

Diagram of a Grief knot

Diagram of a Grief knot (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The other person suddenly lost her mother in October while caring for her husband who died Feb. 29 in hospice. She probably hasn’t even had time to grieve for her mother.

I grieve for mine everyday — at my desk at work, in the car, lying in bed, while shopping for a dress for my daughter’s wedding. It doesn’t matter where I am. Thoughts and images of my mother just pop up. I know she would feel absolutely awful knowing what the effect of her death has had on me. She would never want me to be so unhappy.

But I am.

I don’t seem to care about anything that I had an interest in before. I have an attitude of indifference. It’s hard for me to make decisions.

The grief counselor assured me that this is normal. The average recovery time for a significant loss is one to two years. And, it’s possible to grieve actively for up to five years without becoming pathological.

Our first exercise is to identify from a list grief symptoms we are currently experiencing. Mine are:

  • Changes in appetite
  • Loss of logical thought
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Difficulty focusing on details
  • Stuck in “if only” thinking
  • Think about your loved one or the loss by constantly going over the same thoughts repeatedly
  • Feelings of loneliness
  • Cry unexpectedly and at times over seemingly insignificant issues
  • Loss of interest in things you used to enjoy doing
  • Desire to talk frequently of your loss
  • Feelings of guilt over things done or said or things not done or said

We were told there are four activities for grief: Think, Talk, Write and Cry.

Our first assignment is to start a diary or journal from a list of suggested topics. I haven’t decided my topic yet.

The grieving process

This past Tuesday evening I had my first grief counseling session with a counselor from hospice. I did a lot of talking and crying, so much so that I could barely breathe from swollen sinuses. So did the 90-minute session help?

Grieving old man

Image via Wikipediahospice.

I guess so. It certainly didn’t hurt. What I already knew about myself  — guilt I’m feeling, second-guessing of things I did or didn’t do — was just reinforced. In short, as a quasi-perfectionist, I’m being just too hard on myself. I know this is something that I need to work out and over time I hope to.

 

 

“Nothing dies that is remembered…”

Those are the words that mom’s beloved T. emailed to me in a note.

I’ve emailed T. twice since mom’s death (still hard to write that) to see how he was. I told him I wasn’t ready to talk yet [for fear of breaking down]. While returning to the office from lunch one day last week, I felt like I was in a good place and could handle a conversation with him. I was half-right.

T. was so happy to hear from me and it felt good and reassuring to hear his voice.. We naturally spoke of mom and how each of us was getting along. I told him M. was coming with to minyan with me to say kaddish and he was happy about that. We talked a little about D.’s upcoming wedding. My voice broke a little. And when the call was close to an end, T. let me know that I can call him anytime and I reciprocated the same.

And in that email T. continued: “One foot in front of the other, and we move along. There’s no other choice. Most important: Mom would want it that way. I love you, T.”

And I love you, too.

Grieving and Timetables

There is no set timetable for grieving the loss of a loved one. Some are able to compartmentalize better than others and able to “move on” at a quicker pace.

I’m not sure where I fit. Hard to believe yesterday marked two weeks since mom’s funeral. I definitely feel a voided space out there. I look at her picture and it is still hard to wrap my brain around it.

I spoke with Dr. K a couple of days ago to try to get a grasp about what just happened.

Mom was definitely in a free-fall decline for a good two months probably longer. There was definitely something going on cognitively and physically. I read the notes I kept and the notes recorded by her aides/companions. But I didn’t think it would end in death, at least not as fast as it did. The point is, dementing disorders shorten life.

Mom’s blood pressure issues accelerated the problem. And in the midst of all this, she was not eating as well and didn’t have much in reserves. Put it all together, these patients lose their drive to survive, says Dr. K; they have no sense of purpose of reason to be.

This is really hard for me to swallow and to accept but I did see a voided look in mom’s eyes and changes in her body language. And of course I’m now second-guessing – could I have been more proactive in addressing  these new behaviors? Did I become complacent to her condition? And yes, coming back to her fall in September – was that the start of her decline? But I did. I called Dr. K, I spoke to her twice during the week that mom went into the hospital and mom even saw her earlier that week.

Still, I can’t help but think I could’ve done more.

Picking up the pieces

After an entire month I’m back in the office. This is probably some of the best medicine for me – to work – and try to get my mind off of things. But it’s hard, especially when 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. roll around. Those were the times I usually called mom. And when I left work.

The fact that she’s gone is still a hard concept for me to grasp. I continue to mentally and visually go back to her time in hospice, trying to visualize her in bed, me there by her side just watching her.

Simple and plain, I miss her. I look at photos I have of mom around the house. I’m wearing some of her sweaters and tops. I stare down at my toes polished in her color and imagine I’m looking down at her feet. I try to hear her voice in my head.

Everyone processes death of a loved one differently and grieves differently. My way of processing this is to keep mom close by – be it wearing her jewelry, clothes, using her make-up brushes and using her nail polish color.

I haven’t had the courage to call her beloved T. yet. I’ve emailed him and have told him I just can’t talk yet. I’m sure he feels the same. He once wrote to mom that when the time comes, he hopes that he goes first because he just couldn’t imagine a day without her.

Neither can I and there is a huge hole in my heart.