The Journal

I’ve been watching Firefly Lane on Netflix. It’s emotional and complex and quite honestly pretty brilliant. My sister read the books and just recently warned me it could be triggering. If you’re watching it now or plan to, I’ll let you know you should close this window so you won’t spoil anything! Because, I had to. I had to know how it ends. Because I wasn’t sure if I could watch it.

If you’ve never watched the show, it jumps all around through time. We watch a friendship form and go through 30 years of change and heartache. But the story is not told in the linear fashion but rather through four or five different spots on the timeline. In part one of season 2 they keep showing a car accident. So I assumed that that’s what my sister was warning me about. And while the car accident was pretty terrible, I’m glad I was prepared to deal with how the season ended.

I absolutely love both of the actresses in the series which is why I started watching it in the first place. I have loved Sarah Chalk since I watched her in Scrubs. Katherine Heigl was my favorite from when I used to be able to watch Gray’s Anatomy. Before the accident.

My new post-grief life includes googling the ends of things. My husband absolutely hates it and says I spoil everything. I think I just prepare myself in case there is going to be something triggering and what I am watching or reading. And when my sister texts me and warns me that I might want to know what’s coming, I take heed.

So now I’m sitting here with a bunch of balled up tissues because I know that my favorite character is going to die. From breast cancer. They reveal at the end of part one that she is diagnosed with stage 3. So I needed to know what is coming, even though they’re not going to finish the series until June of 2023! And now I’m a puffy faced mess.

Amongst the remainder of my father’s stuff that my sister picked up when my stepmother died, was a journal. It was my Mom’s journal. My stepmother had mentioned it and had been uncomfortable about giving it to me. I honestly didn’t press the issue because our relationship was tenuous at best at times. And I kind of forgot about it. It sounds terrible to say that out loud, but I did. I have been living surrounded by my deceased parents stuff for years. It was hard to fathom there was something I hadn’t seen or touched that was my Mom’s.

So I started reading it. This journal is the Indiana Jones equivalent to the Ark of the Covenant for grievers! My Mom passed away 26 years ago and now all of a sudden I had access to her thoughts. The first few pages were blank, the first entry is from when she found the lump in her breast. Then there’s a whole bunch of more blank pages and then she starts to talk about everything as she’s going through it. I only got a few entries in before I needed to take some time off. Because it was a lot.

I don’t know what I was expecting to find. It kind of feels like an invasion of privacy, but at the same time she’s documenting her road through breast cancer in 1996. Which is crazy for me to think about because everything that is written there is a term that I understand from all of my years of walking for Komen. It’s also very crazy to think back to her journey being the beginning of stem cell use. I have so much gratitude for how far we have come, technologically speaking. But we’re certainly not done yet.

When I read those first few entries, it sounded very similar to my blog. Our writing styles are so alike. I smiled at that. It felt really good at first. It made me feel really close to her, which is something I haven’t felt in 26 years. But I only got a few entries in before I had to put it back down. Because now I’m sad. And I’m missing her all over again. This woman that is so like me is missing from my life. And has been for the better part of it. It is heartbreaking.

I watched this scene on Firefly Lane of this 40 something year old woman getting diagnosed with breast cancer and I lost it. Because in that moment, I understood her fear and anxiety. Because I read it in my Mom’s journal. And in 5 years I will be the age she was when she was diagnosed, so it really isn’t that far fetched for me.

I miss my Mom daily. Even this far out, I am so very sad for every single thing that we have missed out on. I will read more of the journal when I am ready. I so very much want to know every little detail while simultaneously wishing I wasn’t opening up this Pandora’s box right now. But such is grief.

Dia Del Muerto

I first learned of ‘Dia del Muertos’ or ‘Day of the Dead’ from the show Jane the Virgin. Which consequently, if you haven’t watched it, it’s probably one of the best shows I have seen to portray grief. It’s also super funny and has some incredible female characters.

In any case, without giving anything away, there is a scene where they show the Day of the Dead. They portray the character dealing with grief during the first year, then the second year, then the third year, etc. She starts out sobbing and by year 4 she is able to tell funny stories and actually laugh again at those memories. They hurt much less as time has passed.

I love this idea of spending a few days to remember those that are gone. We mourn at a funeral, but what do we do to allow ourselves to grieve over time? The biggest concerns that we as grievers have is that our loved ones are going to be forgotten. I think the idea of being able to set aside some time every single year to tell funny stories, and remember those that we have lost would help all of our hearts.

We do this in my family on Benny’s birthday. And it’s become a beautiful tradition for my family. And all of my kids now know their brother, even though two of them have never met him. But I don’t know that we spend a lot of time talking about my mom and dad who have died. My kids really don’t know their grandparents and that’s very sad.

The Day of the Dead traditions include creating an altar for the deceased, eating their favorite foods, creating decorative skulls, visiting their graves and decorating with marigolds. Ironically, it’s also a day to celebrate the living with gifts of candy or poems dedicated to friends and family. This honestly sounds like something I can get behind! What a beautiful way to love and appreciate all those around you, both living and dead.

So I’m going to try it. We’ll see how it goes. This year Dia del Muertos is observed on November 1st through the 2nd. I’m intrigued to add another tool to my grief toolbox and see if it sticks.

Taking Care

I was among friends over the weekend, and there is a woman that I consider one of the most grief evolved people I have ever met. I am in awe of her ability to speak honestly and openly and be completely vulnerable. The only time that I feel like I am able to do that is through writing. So here we are.

She said something that resonated with me. And made me think about stuff I apparently had buried pretty deeply because I haven’t thought about it in a long time. I started to think back to when my mom died.

Now, we’re talking nearly 27 years ago. I’ve lived longer on this earth without my mother than I did with her. Being a mom myself, that realization makes me very sad.

Some 27 years ago I was 16. My mom had been diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 14, roughly a week or two before I started high school. She was sick and in and out of the hospital, my freshman and sophomore years. My dad was an alcoholic disaster. He struggled to keep it together when things were good. My mother’s diagnosis and impending death pushed him completely off the wagon for good.

I remember when my mom first got sick that my sister and I had to start doing our own laundry. My mom had written out on index cards how to sort and wash everything and taped it to the cabinets above the washer. There’s so much more that I wished she’d left instructions for. Like how to live without your mom.

I will never forget the phone call in the early morning hours of May 25th. And my sister crying. I’ll never forget that feeling, like the Earth shifted on its axis. We knew it was coming, but it doesn’t make it any easier. I remember the last time we visited her and she was barely conscious. I knew in that moment that time was up. What I don’t understand is why we weren’t there. Why did we leave? Why weren’t we there with her when she died? Was it my father’s choice? I hate that she was alone. Why didn’t I ask if we should be there? Why didn’t anyone else? I will regret this forever.

I wish she had left instructions on how to deal with my father. After she died things got bad. He was never around and when he was, he was drunk. And either mean or depressed. I had to learn how to take care of myself. No one cared about my grades or where I was or what I was up to. My father’s grief was so bad that the rest of us ceased to exist to him. He died on May 25th with my mom. And as the only other person in our house, I was left to pick up the pieces. And it was terrible. But I didn’t know what else to do. Or how to fix it. So I just grinned and beared it. I was fine. Everything was fine.

I wish she left instructions about how to handle my grief. Because we didn’t talk about stuff back then. It was just expected that my mom died and I had to move on. And parent my alcoholic father. And create these awful trauma patterns that I would spend the rest of my adult life trying to break. And it’s really hard to unlearn that you can actually depend on people. That you can actually ask for help. Or that you can actually say no. Or that your worth isn’t just tied to caring for/doing things for everyone else.

And I miss my mom. Because no one has come close to taking care of me like she did. There are so many times when I cried out for her. When I was in labor with Darcy, pretty much anytime I’m sick, and the ambulance ride after Benny and I were hit by my car. Because I needed her to make it better. And 26 years with her being gone, I still do.

Missing My Mama

This weekend is SO hard for me. I’ve lost my mom and my son. Add to that the snow, a pandemic, some murder hornets and by golly this is shaping up to be an explosion of anxiety and emotion!

What a weird year to be alive. It’s truly hard to try to stay present too with everything going on. Things seem to change from moment to moment, facts are no longer facts until they are again and the entire world is feeling the weight of the chaos happening right now. I keep saying it’s a lot because well, it is.

And you know what always makes everything better? Mom. I cannot tell you the number of times I have said in my head over the years, ‘I want my Mom.’ Anytime something big, awful or happy happens, it’s my first thought. It plays in my head on a loop.

Even though I’m forty, there is still nothing I would want more than to speak with my mom. To have had her there for all of the important and the tough times. Twenty four years later and little has happened to change that.

I’m going to share something I wrote 4 years ago because it still rings true. Happy Mother’s Day to all of the Motherless Daughters. I see you. I know what you want this Mother’s Day.

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/what-ive-learned-in-the-20-years-since-my-mothers-death_b_9856944

Class of 2033

I was invited to a Facebook group tonight for when my son enters Kindergarten this Fall. My head nearly exploded when I read that he would be graduating high school in 2033. As in, 13 years from now. As in, I will be 53 years old. Even better, I now know that I will be 55 when my youngest graduates.

And to some, that probably isn’t even that old. It isn’t in the grand scheme of things, it’s just not what I planned for me. It’s just that little reminder how off kilter things went.

We had Darcy when we were 28 and Benny at 32. I wanted to be a younger mom. Not because it was this great life plan, but because my mom had me when she was 33. And she died when she was 49. I wanted my kids when I was younger because I wanted them to have as much time as possible with us. I was so constantly concerned about something happening to one of us.

How disgustingly ironic my life became those 7 years ago. I was so worried about something happening to us because I never thought that anything could ever happen to one of my children. None of us do until it happens.

So here I am again, in a bitter twist of fate freaking out at how old we will be come graduation time in 13 years. So much can happen between now and then. So much can change. And it freaks me out. My mother wasn’t at my graduation. Or my wedding. She wasn’t there when her grandbabies were born.

I know that I’m very lucky to have my rainbows. I just need a moment to catch my breath and scream at the Universe. This anger has caught me by surprise because it’s been a long time since I’ve felt this way over everything. The need for control is rearing it’s ugly head again and I just need to shake my fists a bit to release this energy building up inside.

#thisischildloss

2020

I’m not sure anyone actually enjoys getting older. Tomorrow marks the beginning of another decade and on January 24th I will be entering my 40th year. I was born in 1980, so my birthday always coincides with the year. Each new decade, I am a decade older.

I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been dreading this until recently. How the hell am I that old?? It doesn’t seem possible. I look in the mirror confused by the same eyes that have looked back at me since I was a young girl. Sometimes it feels weird to be in my body. And then I look back at pictures and memories and I’m floored by how much I have done. And how much time has passed.

I always dreaded getting older. My mom died young at 49. The thought of losing everything scared me. Then my son died at 18 months and the term of dying young seemed relative. None of it makes sense.

About a year ago a fellow loss mama shared with me that she loves getting older. And I didn’t know what to say. I hadn’t ever thought of that attitude as an option. But now as I look back on the last decade, not only am I happy to be getting older, because of every day is a gift, I cannot wait until midnight.

Everything is numbers for me. And these last 10 years have SUCKED. I continue to feel like my 30’s weren’t so great, ok, they were awful. I am convinced that if I go into my 40’s with an open heart and mind, I may have a fighting chance.

No, there are no promises this decade won’t suck too. That’s ok. It just feels like I grew up. A lot. And maybe I can be better prepared for my 40’s to suck because I’m not only taking the sorrow with me, but the growth as well. And that’s something.

So Happy New Year. In this moment, I welcome my 40’s. We’ll see how I feel about it in 24 days.

I had forgotten

Tonight I went out with the girls to see the movie Bad Moms.  Absolutely hilarious, loved the message it sent.  I loved every moment of that movie and how it portrays how hard we moms have it.

At the end of the film, the cast was talking with their moms, sharing stories from their childhoods.  It was cute and funny and I found myself thinking, how would this work if one of the girls had lost their mom?  I watched the banter between mother and daughter and smiled.

Then one of the mom’s started tearing up and saying that she was so proud of her daughter as a mother.  She said that she was a great mom.  Such a simple, beautiful statement.  It nearly broke me in two as I realized that I will never hear those words from my own mom.

It’s been over twenty years and I am still shocked at how hard this hit me.  It was like a punch to the gut, realizing there was still more that I have missed.  I have been walking around for so long with this gaping wound on my heart and it was like someone sticking their finger in it.  Nothing has affected me as much as this has in so long.

It reminded me that no matter how normal I think I am, all it takes is a little trigger to remind me of all that I’ve lost.  It’s not as if I’ve ever forgotten my son or my mother, quite the opposite actually.  We talk about them all of the time in my house.  It’s more that I realized again how much was missing from my life.

I’ve cried buckets of tears over me not having a mom, over my children not having a grandma.  There are a million times that I wanted her here to fix things, like moms do, especially when my son died.  But I never once thought about how much I needed to hear from her that I’m doing a good job.  It never even occurred to me until tonight.

One of the lines in the movie is that parenting is so hard because you don’t know if you’ve done a good job until the kids are grown up and then it’s too late.  My mom never got to see what strong, independent daughters she raised.  She never got to see me as a mom.

I forgot how awful this feels.  I can’t believe that something so simple can turn me into a puddle so quickly.  So much of my life lately has been centered around the kids and I think that I sometimes forget that I need to take a break to check in with myself and see where I’m at.  And when I don’t, tonight happens.

I know it will never end, but when it hasn’t happened in awhile, it takes me a moment to catch my breath.  I wish that I could tell her what a good job she did.  I wish that I could tell her that I had a really happy childhood because of her.  I mostly just wish I could hug her and feel just for that one moment that everything would be ok again.

Mother’s Day History

So I did some googling tonight as to the history of Mother’s Day because I was curious how it all started.

A woman by the name of Anna Jarvis held a memorial ceremony in May of 1908 three years after her mother’s death.  She wanted to celebrate her mother’s life and all that she had done for her children.  She was honoring her late mother.

Anna’s mother Ann Reeves Jarvis had had thirteen children over the course of her life.  Seven of her children had died before Anna was born.  Seven.  She was a bereaved mother.

Because of a lot of hard work on Anna’s part, the US recognized Mother’s Day as an official holiday in 1914.

For those of you missing your moms today, this holiday was started for you.  For those of you missing your children today, this holiday was also started for you.  It was grief that brought forth this effort to create a day just for Mom’s.

So when you think of Mother’s Day, don’t just associate it about being for those that are here.  It began for those that are not.  Happy Mother’s Day!

2 Years ‘AA’

So I need to write one more entry for CYG to close it out, but in order to do so, I need to look back at where I was last year relative to this year.  Suffice it to say, it’s going to be awhile.

I’m curious how different things look through the lense of 2 years out opposed to 1 year out.  Yes, there are obvious things have changed, such as Fletch, but it’s supposed to be about where I’m at in my ‘grief journey.’  I don’t know that I like that term because ‘journey’ implies that there is an end.  There is no end to this.

I cannot believe that I’m writing about this 2 years out.  It all seems so foreign to me now.  It’s like that awful thing that happened to someone else-but it actually happened to me.  How is that even possible?  2 years out and I still cannot wrap my head around losing Benny and I was there!  I guess not too much has changed in that department.

He would be 3 1/2 now.  I can’t believe that.  He would be in preschool.  Maybe he would play soccer or do gymnastics.  Maybe he and Darcy would fight like siblings do.  A lot of ‘maybe’s’ and ‘would’s’ here.  More like ‘should.’

I miss him every day.  I watch Fletch, who is so like his brother, and wonder what kind of mischief they might get into together.  They have the same flirty smile and deep dimples.  I watch Fletch play with Darcy and I’m so filled with happiness and sorrow all at once.  There’s someone missing from their game, there always will be.

I’m not surprised at how much I miss him, but rather how much I miss my mom.  I feel like every time something big happens, I miss her more.  I missed her at graduation, both high school and college; I missed her at my wedding, but most of all I missed her when I first had kids.

My grandmother was right down the street from us growing up.  She came over after school and did our laundry, ironed and always had fresh baked cookies and butter cake.  My mom’s family is close and I have so many amazing memories growing up with that family during holidays.  I miss that.  I want that for my kids.

I think what made me miss her most this year was the absence of our remaining parents.  Not one of them acknowledged November 8th.  No phone call, no email, no text.  It probably wouldn’t bother me so much if at least one of them remembered.  The worst thing for a grieving parent is the belief that their child is being forgotten.  Well, thanks for that.

I know that if my mom was here, she would have been there.  She would have been there so much over the last 2 years.  She would have been an amazing support, she would have been a parent.  It kills me.  It’s grief compounded.

2 years out sucks too.  All of it still feels so unfair.  I mourn for Benny, I mourn for my mom, I mourn that Fletch will never meet his older brother.  I’m assuming it will just get harder too, because he’s our after.  He doesn’t know what he’s missing.  Kind of like Darcy with my Mom.  She doesn’t know what she’s missing.  It breaks my heart for both of them.

I wish that I could say that it gets easier.  It’s like parenting I suppose, it doesn’t get easier, the grief just changes.  What used to set you off a year ago is ok and another trigger has taken it’s place.  You start to lose another part of that person.  It sucks.

 

 

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