Self Care

‘Oxygen and the air pressure are always being monitored. In the event of a decompression, an oxygen mask will automatically appear in front of you. To start the flow of oxygen, pull the mask towards you. Place it firmly over your nose and mouth, secure the elastic band behind your head, and breathe normally. Although the bag does not inflate, oxygen is flowing to the mask. If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person. Keep your mask on until a uniformed crew member advises you to remove it.’

This airline safety speech was read to us at the first grief group we attended with The Compassionate Friends. Their point in reading this was to push us to remember that in order for us to take care of others, we need to take care of ourselves first.

Self Care is tough, especially when dealing with grief. The last person that I cared about after Benny died was myself. I was so concerned with how Darcy was doing and how Parker was coping. And I was devastated.

I didn’t have time to think about me. It was easier to focus on everyone else’s wants and needs so that I could ignore the impending emotions. As a mom, I was used to putting myself last. I fell into old habits.

I grew up in a house where we didn’t show much emotion. We would get into trouble for crying. I began to see tears as weakness. At first I didn’t care about crying, I didn’t care about much of anything. But as the weeks passed I started to turn internally.

I was lucky to have a lot of people looking out for me though. People checking in constantly, taking me out, calling, and sending me to therapy. It took me awhile, but I started to realize that my grief matters too.

A month after Benny’s death we started seeing a therapist. It felt so good to just get everything out to an impartial party. It felt so good for me to offload everything that I had started to hold in.

I started writing. A lot. I couldn’t keep it all inside anymore. I never intended to share this blog with anyone. I was using it as a tool to help myself. It ended up as so much more. Through sharing my blog I have met so many other amazing people. I have gleamed so much hope.

I started yoga. I had done yoga before to get in shape, but this time was different. I wasn’t interested in just getting physically fit, but I also wanted to work on healing my mind and soul. Well, as best as I could.

Joining a grief group at first was hard. I was so overwhelmed at the idea. Benny’s death had been so public. I hated the idea of people looking at me, knowing who I was. The first group I went to wasn’t for me and that’s ok. I found my tribe at a different meeting. I look forward to my time with these ladies who also know my pain. It’s easier to be amongst those that understand my heart.

Those are all big self care items that worked for me, but how about some basic ones too? Like showering, getting sleep, getting your body moving, etc. I was reading an article recently that talked about ways to help steer you in a positive direction. It was a check list for you to use if you started to feel like you were headed for the ‘upside down’ if you will. It said things like ‘did you shower today? Did you go for a walk? Did you hug someone?’ All very simple things. But I realized that when I stop doing these things is when I feel at my worst. Such simple advice. I need to carve time out for myself so that I can be there for when my husband and kids need me.

Keeping all of this stuff going is HARD! Four years later and I still often slide backwards into sloth ways every once in awhile when things get truly overwhelming. I just have to gently remind myself that I know how to fix it and get myself headed back in the right direction. I have to remember that in order to be the mom and wife that my family deserves, sometimes I have to deal with my own stuff too.

 

Growth

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A friend posted this quote to their FB wall and it’s had me thinking since. Since Benny’s death I’m not a big fan of platitudes. The last thing that you want to hear in your moment of grief is someone spouting off a canned phrase that makes them feel better and you feel even more alone.

This one got me though. It made me think. It made me wonder what, if anything have I learned in the 4 years since Benny’s death? Is this something that I even want to admit to or explore? Should I consider Benny’s death as a learning experience or is that too vulgar? God, grief is complicated.

Maybe instead of asking myself ‘what I learned from Benny’s death?’ I should ask myself ‘how have I grown/shrank in my grief?’ It’s just semantics, but I’m definitely more comfortable with these terms.

Four years seems like a long time to evaluate. It’s longer than my son’s lifetime. I could spend days going back and reading all of my posts to look at where I was then relative to where I am now. But let’s be real here, I have a baby that doesn’t sleep, a toddler pushing the limits, a 9 year old on school vacation and a mountain of moving boxes to still unpack. So off the top of my head…

Embracing My Crazy

I’m not really sure that admitting that you take on too many things while knowing fully well that you shouldn’t is growth here. This last year has been beyond anything imaginable. My God there have been so many moments when I just wanted to quit. I wanted to get in my car and start driving and leave everything behind. I have never had so many days (months) in a row where things just kept piling up.

Overwhelming does not even begin to describe what has been going on. Some of it was our doing, other things were out of our control. This is the first time since we lost Benny that I have had to dig so deep to try and hold it all together. This is not to compare this year to 2013 or the accident. This was a whole different type of stress coming at me from every direction. It was time to embrace it or lose my mind trying.

Now I don’t know if I can even pinpoint coping mechanisms here. A lot of it was changing my mind set to just accept that this was how things were and to go with it. I had to stop trying to fight the circumstances and try to figure out how to make them work instead. Obviosuly much easier than accepting the loss of my child. It still sucked.

Saying No

Saying no came first. Telling people I just couldn’t continue to be a part of things was hard for me. Taking a break from some of the fundraising and charity work was absolutely heartbreaking. I’m a people pleaser and I hate to think that I’m letting someone down or that I’m not doing my part to give back. I just keep reminding myself that just because I said no today, doesn’t mean that I can’t say yes tomorrow. It doesn’t have to be an end, just a hiatus.

Asking For Help

There’s nothing more that I hate more than asking for help. I am fiercely independent and to me asking for help is a sign of weakness. It’s me it’s admitting that I cannot do it all on my own. It literally kills me.

After Benny died it was so easy. I didn’t have to ask for help, it was just offered (thank goodness because of my afforementioned issues with help). There are times that I miss that. Especially with the craziness of last year.

Sometimes you just have to suck it up though. Find those people that you know that you can depend on, and hope they still take your calls when you ask them for help moving. For the fourth time. In less than a year.

Knowing when to seek help for yourself and your family is also a big deal. Grief never ends. It’s shifts and it changes, but it never fully disappears. You may be feeling great and then the world comes crashing down. Sometimes it’s more than you can handle on your own and you need help from a professional. Knowing when to call them back and check in is key. We are working through that with Darcy right now. Growing up grieving is tricky.

Apologizing

If I’m being brutally honest here, the only thing I hate more than asking for help is apologizing. Then I would be admitting I did something wrong, which no one wants to do.

I have my father’s temper and my mother’s remorse, a tough genetic cocktail. It’s exhausting being in my head. But I’ve found it’s easier for me to live with myself if I let people know that I’m sorry for my actions.

I could write a whole blog about the many ways that I’ve shrank since Benny’s death. I wanted to keep tonight’s positive though. Another ponder for another day.

Change Needs to Happen

I cannot sleep. I have spent nights poring over the Florida school shooting stories.  I am not okay.

I dropped Darcy off at school on February 15th and thought to myself, ‘what if this is it? What if someone decides today that they want to enter her school and shoot a bunch of innocent children and educators?’

I’ve had these thoughts before.  Mostly when Darcy was in kindergarten and her classroom was on the first floor of the school.  I remember thinking to myself that it was a good thing that she was in the second classroom in that hallway, farther away from the front door.  I guess in my mind it gave her more time to escape.  She entered kindergarten less than a year after Sandy Hook. An exit strategy shouldn’t be what you think about for your kindergarteners classroom.

Then Benny died and this anxiety grew.  At the time we were clinging to Darcy as our port in the storm, what if something happened to her as well?  Last week brought that all flooding back.  I am terriffied. I am sad. I am sick.

Seventeen more families feel our pain. They have lost a part of their hearts in such a senseless manner. I know what they are going through and I am so sorry for their pain. I am sorry for what lies ahead. I am sorry for how this will shape the rest of their lives. A loss like this irrevocably changes you.

I am scared to send my daughter to school. I get it that this is terrorism at it’s finest and that I shouldn’t be scared. But I am. I’ve already held one of my children and had to say goodbye for the last time. I sat in the hospital and stroked his hair, smelled his sweet smell, kissed his head and handed his lifeless body over.

I have spent the last 4 years clawing my way out of PTSD and anxiety and trying my hardest to help my daughter and my husband do the same. This is the future that these families face. This is the future that these surviving children who were in that school face. You cannot witness a trauma like that and go on living your life. It alters you in ways you can never imagine.

I am furious. Disgustingly furious that this happened, that this continues to happen. That more parents have to live through the loss of a child. And still nothing changes.

I am repulsed that we ask our educators to work under these conditions. There are over 30 children in my daughter’s class this year.  Thirty.  How can a teacher and an aid be expected to hide 30 kids?  Why should they be?

This is not a political issue to me, but rather a moral issue. Until you have stood where I have stood, until you have walked in my shoes, please do not lecture me on politics. I am coming from a place of loss and I feel very strongly that what took place in Florida, Sandy Hook, Columbine, what is taking place in this country, is something that can be prevented.

I want to be able to send my child to school and not be scared that it will be the last time that I see her.  I don’t want to be this mother that is constantly on the edge of her seat, filled with anxiety and dread that she will lose another child.

I have signed up with Everytown and  Mom’s Demand Action.  I need to be able to put this energy into something.

I am sick for Florida.  I am tired of the excuses. We should not live in a country where we send our children to school to die. Change needs to happen.

 

‘This Is Grief’

That’s what ‘This is Us’ should be titled.  Or maybe ‘This is Loss’ or simply ‘This Sucks’. I don’t think they’d get people tuning in week after week with those titles though.

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(Spoiler Alert!!!)

This show grabbed my attention from the beginning because the first episode deals with child loss.  For a TV drama they did an amazing job of capturing how that feels.  I was super impressed with how the topic wasn’t glossed over (except in Rebecca’s case, I keep hoping desperately that they circle back to her grief a little more) and they really show how the central father figure that we all love deals with it.

Part of why you fall in love with Jack is because he’s flawed.  He has a drinking problem, and after trying to hide it over the years he finally deals with it.  He stops trying to run away and confronts it.  It’s powerful to watch.

He’s clearly someone who loves his family.  He goes back into a burning house because of his daughter’s dog.  I’m an animal person, but leave the damn dog!!

He’s witty and smart.  He loves his life more than himself.  He’s an amazing father.  He’s motivated.  He sacrifices his dreams for his family, yet he’s still a dreamer.  And he still dies.

And in a simple stupid accident.  There’s no plane crash, no explosion, no dramatic scene of him getting shot in a random bank robbery.  Jack dies because of a faulty home appliance and because he and his wife forget to change out the batteries in the smoke detector.  Well, he dies as a secondary result of the smoke inhalation, but nonetheless.

Completely freak accident.  No way of ever imagining it could have ever happened.  But it did and the man that viewers have fallen in love with is gone.

I have read so many commenters blaming the neighbor George for giving the Pearson’s the crockpot that started the fire.  If you pay attention, he gives them the crock pot nearly 18 years before the fire happens because Rebecca is pregnant.

We always need someone to blame.  We always need a reason to justify when someone dies.  Why is that?  This show has really made me think long and hard about the human rationalization of death.  I’m not sure that I can even begin to understand or explain it.

Most likely it’s a coping mechanism.  The show beautifully portrayed how each member of the family dealt with Jack’s death some 20 years later.  It showed how differently each character grieved.  How no way was wrong, but how each person needed to do their own thing to get through the day.  It was very relatable.

Hats off to this show.  They have taken a topic that is so real and is something that EVERYONE will deal with in their lifetime and brought it into focus.  I feel like I am tuning in week after week and watching pieces of my life unfold.  It sucks.  Parker keeps asking me why I’m watching it, it’s just too close to home (like when Rebecca had to tell the kids that Jack had died, my God that one brought me back).  It’s cathartic though.  Maybe I’m dealing with it like Kate.  Maybe it’s just easier seeing someone else go through the many things that I already have.

 

'How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.'