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.

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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.

Together Again

Last night I learned that T., mom’s love, passed away on Aug. 28. He was 99 and four months shy of turning 100. I was quite taken aback as to finding out one month later but totally understand. The funeral was in New Jersey, there were logistics to tend to and his daughter just couldn’t call at that time. We talked on the phone for about an hour last night reminiscing about him and how much he loved mom, me and my family. He passed peacefully in his wheelchair in front of the TV watching the Dolphins play on TV.

As a friend said, if there is an afterlife, he is with the two loves of his life. Amen to that.

The call also came at a time when my world has temporarily stopped.

To make a long story short, after complaining of headaches for several weeks (which she never gets) daughter L had an MRI of her left temporal lobe that showed a spot – 4 cm or about 1 1/2 inches. A biopsy last Monday revealed a lesion of abnormal tissue. She was also seen by an infectious disease doctor before her discharge.

I, like probably so many others, am a doctor’s nightmare as I quickly took to the internet to read up on brain lesions, microglial cells, etc. Well, our wait will shortly be over. We are meeting with the doctor tomorrow.

Until then…

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.

Remembering the past, embracing the future

It’s quite amazing the strides I have made in my grief journey. This time last year I would never have believed that I could be where I am today.

As I wrote in an earlier post, I was experiencing signs that that I was moving on from grieving. There have been other signs, like this bamboo plant of mom’s, which is not doing well. Despite caring for it, it’s dying. And every time I pass it my heart sinks a little, like I’m losing a little bit more of mom. But it’s a sign to me to continue to move on.bamboo

But on March 5 we were blessed with our beautiful and precious first grandchild, William, and mom was blessed with her first great-grandchild.baby will sleepingThese past two years have been a struggle but, life is getting better.

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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Tracking Progress

It has now been one year, five months and four days since mom passed away.

The progress one makes in the grieving process can marked in many different ways. The marker for me is that when someone brings up mom’s name or makes a reference to her, I feel more in control. I can feel the emotions coming on and I can feel a glistening in my eyes, but I’m able to control it enough that the flood gates don’t open.

This realization of my progress happened yesterday when I went to my tailor to pick up some clothes I had altered.

My tailor loved mom, and mom was very fond of him. He would always mention how sweet she was and how she always had a smile on her face.

As I picked up my clothes he said in his Asian accent, “I miss your mom. She was always smiling.” I told him I missed her too, and we continued to talk a little about her. The fact that I was able to keep it together is a major milestone for me.

However, while typing this, it doesn’t keep my eyes from welling up.