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My Very Own Grief

I have come to the realization that my father’s death will be the first one where I can have my grief all to myself. I am only in control of my own feelings and my own journey. As it should be in any healthy, normal relationship. You cannot control others grief, but oh how I’ve tried.

When my mom died I was 16. She had been sick for 2 years prior, so I had slowly been becoming more independent over those 2 years. She knew that she wasn’t going to make it, so she tried her hardest to prepare me for life on my own. I think she knew that my father was in no way equipped to handle her death. I sure wasn’t, but I was just a kid.

If I’m being candid, my father failed my sister and I. He was the adult and he fell completely apart. He began drinking again, he began dating almost immediately. I was only 16, but I was able to recognize that his behaviors were not healthy. He was never around and when he was, he was drunk.

I tried my damnedest to make things easier for him. I tried to step up and help out. I put my grief on the back burner while I tried to navigate this new normal. It was extremely frustrating and exhausting. It was probably easier for me to deal with him than it was for me to deal with my own grief.

It took a lot of years for me to make my peace with this and be able to forgive my dad. It was a lot of counseling and trying to look at things from his perspective. It didn’t make it ok, it just made it a little more bearable to live with.

When Benny died, I was once again consumed by everyone else’s grief. I am Type A and always need to feel a sense of control. I was so focused on my husband and my daughter’s grief. It was easier than dealing with my own feelings. What I learned is that control is an illusion.

Being at home for a year is a long time and eventually I had to begin to allow myself to grieve. I couldn’t push this down so far and hide it behind my family’s grief this time. I had to face it head on. It took a bit, but I finally let myself give in.

So, here I am grieving my dad. Alone. There’s no alcoholic to take care of, no husband or child to worry about. Just me. And this grief feels so free and so terriffying all at once. It’s all mine. And I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it.

To be honest, it’s kind of lonely. My family hasn’t stopped and wallowed like in the past. Life is still moving along for everyone. Grief and little kids don’t mix together too well anyway. You cannot just stop when the baby has a fever, or your tween is struggling in dance. Or when your husband gets heat stroke.

I had this idea in my head because this grief was all mine that I would be able to sit with it, yell at it, scream at it, cry with it, maybe even laugh with it for a bit. As usual, life had other plans. That free feeling I felt in the beginning is more like a drowning feeling now as I try to navigate this alone. And that’s ok. I’m used to doing things alone. Sometimes I actually prefer it.

But tonight I will go to a Support Group at Hope Lives Here. I will laugh and cry and probably leave there feeling a little bit lighter. These are my people. They get it. And I absolutely hate that I have to go there, but love being there, if that makes any sense. I’ll feel a little less alone in this.

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23 Years of Grief and Growing

It’s amazing to me how you can grow up somewhere, spend your entire childhood there and feel absolutely no connection to that place. Maybe I’ve been gone for too long. Maybe the memories have faded too much. I’m not entity sure.

I’m sitting on the ferry leaving the place of my youth and I feel nothing looking at the beaches that I used to play on. Maybe I’m just getting old and have lived in Massachusetts for too long. Maybe it’s because that childhood chapter of my life closed when my father died yesterday.

I’m still pretty numb, because that’s what happens after death. Grief is so damn complicated for me in general, so this is going to take time. Our relationship wasn’t perfect, but he was my dad and now at 40 I’m an orphan. Which sounds ridiculous but no one prepares you to lose both of your parents.

When we lost Bennett we lost our hopes and dreams for the future. Losing both of my parents now I feel like I’m losing my past. I’ve always really struggled with not knowing much about myself when I was little because my mom was gone. I constantly look at my kids and wonder if they’re like me.

So I’m sitting here on the ferry, a trip that I’ve taken a million times before in my life and I’m taking a moment to breathe. I’m taking a moment to enjoy the rumble of the engine and the chatter of the people around me. I’m taking a moment to realize that this is once again out of my control.

I’m going to sit here and smile for the life that my father lived. He did whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted, unabashedly. While I didn’t always agree with his choices, he never stopped being who he was. Before he was sick, he certainly lived life to the fullest.

So this is going to be sad. And this is going to suck. But this moment, right here, right now, this moment is ok. Maybe it’s the calm before the storm. Maybe I will appreciate his death for what it was, because he didn’t suffer like my mom. Who knows what grief path I will take now. I do know that for the first time in my life I feel prepared and emotionally healthy enough to deal with this one head on.

It’s taken me 23 years to even begin to understand grief and how it affects us. And I’m still learning. This is a process that never ends, just like your love for those lost never ends. And I’m finally beginning to come to terms with that.

Sometimes

Sometimes you find yourself amongst friends where selfies don’t happen and phones are lost. Time ceases to exist. You are in the moment and you are happy.

Sometimes you laugh so hard your face hurts. You feel so connected your soul is at peace. You cry over shared pain.

Sometimes the stories are outrageous and the memories are even crazier. The ability to come together after so much time apart and just pick up where we left off is uncanny.

Sometimes doesn’t happen often for me, but it does with my ladies. Thirteen years ago we were all strangers. Now there’s nothing that we wouldn’t do for each other. We come from all walks of life and our age difference spans 30+ years.

I am a little happier and more at peace than I have been in so long. Just because I was able to spend some time with them tonight.

Lost

Lost Boys

The first time I heard this song I loved it.  Then I listened to the lyrics.  Perfect description of what it felt like when I met that first bereaved mom at the hospital in our nurse, or when we did yoga for the first time with the other bereaved mom, or met with our support group of bereaved moms, or connected with other bereaved moms online.  I was lost, but all of you helped me to believe again.  This community of broken hearts is my family.


He sprinkled me in pixie dust and told me to believe, believe in him and believe in me.  Together we will fly away in a cloud of green, to your beautiful destiny.  As we soared above the town that never loved me, I realized I finally had a family.

 

The Struggle

Parker told me the other day that he’s struggling.  He’s scared that something will happen to Fletcher.

Given what we’ve been through, I feel like this is pretty normal.  Fletch looks so much like Benny and he’s only 7 months shy of Benny’s age when he passed.  He’s getting around now, he’s more interactive and playful.  We’re heading into the toddler stage.

I told Parker that I think this is going to get worse before it gets better.  Maybe once he’s 18 months we can sigh with relief.  Maybe not.  I don’t know what to expect.

We panicked in the morning when he slept through the night.  Both of us having awful thoughts that something terrible had happened.  I didn’t say anything until Parker brought it up.  I’ve been terriffied since Fletch was born that something would happen.  I remember feeling this way when Darcy was born too.  Difference is now I know it’s not necessarily irrational.

I can’t ever imagine going through that again and surviving it.  I’m not quite sure how we did the first time.  It’s one thing to be scared of something happening and a whole other to know what it actually feels like.  I’m not immune.  There are no promises.

As much as Fletch makes me crazy, I am so deeply in love.  That’s scary, to allow myself to become that attached again.  To hope that I get to keep him.  To bring hope and joy back into our lives.  But that’s what keeps us going, is that hope.CAM01907

 

Stupid Things I’ve Said

I am probably one of the least PC people out there.  Often what is in my head comes out of my mouth and then I feel guilty later.  It’s a blessing and a curse.

I’ve said some really dumb things.  When I look back at things that seemed innocuous before, they are terrible through this new lense that I view my life.  Please don’t judge, because I didn’t know.  Please also realize, I’m not looking for people to try to walk on eggshells around me.  That would defeat the purpose.  It takes a lot to offend me and honestly, it’s just words.  Sticks and stones and all that.

This list is for me.  It’s my realization that words and phrases have a deeper meaning and that even my vocabulary has changed in grief.

‘Everything happens for a reason’ or ‘it was meant to be.’  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if someone can tell me the reason that Benny had to die, I’m all ears.  It’s something we say.  I’ve said it plenty of times in my life.  It’s harder from this side of things to not hate that phrase.

‘Second child syndrome-we didn’t kill the first!’  Said in refernce to the paci that drops and you dust off and pop back into the baby’s mouth.  Massive face palm on this one.  Hate my past self-ALOT.  The cavalier way that I could joke about the existance of one of my children.  This was because I lived in the bubble of ‘it will never happen to me.’

‘I deserve…’ fill in the blank.  I could go on and on with this one (which I already have), so I’ll spare you.  Here’s what I’ve learned, life doesn’t owe you anything, good or bad.  Period.  The children and teachers in Newtown didn’t deserve to die any more than you deserve a promotion at work.  I’d like to think that you get back what you put out there, but even that one’s a stretch for me.  What did I put out there for Benny to die?

‘Everything will be ok.’  I learned this one was a big no no when my niece was born premature at 26 weeks.  In my reading of what to do, everything said not to use this term.  It really made me think, why do we say this?  I don’t have a crystal ball, I don’t know if it’s all going to work out.  I shouldn’t be making promises I can’t keep.

‘What doesn’t kill me will only make me stronger’ or ‘Life won’t give you what you can’t handle.’  I don’t even know where to begin with this one.  I could have died just like my son.  Sorry to be graphic, but it’s true.  Maybe I’m taking this one a little too literally.  Maybe I don’t want to be stronger.  Maybe I don’t want to handle it.  Maybe I just wish none of it ever happened.

‘Time heals all wounds.’  False.  Time can make grief bearable, but it never truly goes away.  There will never be a day where I won’t miss my son or my mom.  Time almost makes it worse, because it takes me farther away from when they were in my life.  It fades my memories.  It takes away as much as it gives.

‘Only the good die young.’  This one has made me crazy ever since my mom died.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Billy Joel and grew up on Long Island.  My beef is not with the song.  How did I ever utter these words?  What do they even mean?

‘Life isn’t fair.’  Ok, so I use this one with my daughter still.  I don’t know why though!  She doesn’t need a reminder.  She lost her brother when she was four.  I need to let this one go.

‘They are in a better place.’  I get a double face palm for this one.  How on Earth did I ever say this?  I’d like to think they are, but in all honesty, I don’t know for sure.  How does this statement help someone that is suffering a loss?  They would much rather still have that person alive and in their lives.

I’m sure there are more, but this is my list.  I’m sure I’ll screw up and use them because some of them are so deeply ingrained in my vocabulary.  I’m human.  They’re all pretty harmless anyway until you’ve been where I’ve been.  I’m trying to learn from this new perspective that I have.

Please realize this is for me.  I’m not looking for a safe space to keep out all of the mean words.  I’m looking to change my vocabulary to match my thinking. I’m also looking to point out that I’ve said some really stupid things.

So many people have been really paranoid about offending me or hurting me with what they say.  Here’s the thing, there’s nothing you can say or do to make it better, just like there’s nothing that you can say or do to make it worse.  It is what it is (this platitude I refuse to give up).