It took me a while to decide to share these posts. Grief and grieving seem such a private matter. Yet perhaps that is precisely what is making me cranky. Everybody experiences grief but it is expected to be a hidden part of your life. If it remains hidden we have fewer words and tools to deal and cope with something we all experience; something we may need help coping with. I found Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and all the other “theories” to be of little help. In talking with a friend, however, she reminded me to be sure to go “through” this experience, to cry when the tears come and experience the memories when they wash over you, not to set it aside planning on grieving later, which would make the process worse and harder. Friends are sometimes so brilliant, and often more so than doctors and psychologists. Thus I am sharing this short series on grief and grieving to deal with my new reality.
Life is so much about loss and I’m probably real good at feeling sorry for myself. How do you measure your time? I lost my grandfather when I was 19; his wife, my paternal grammy in 1986. My mother’s father passed in 1979; and his wife, my grandma in 2001. A second cousin, Jodi, passed away at a young age, under questionable circumstances. One of my mother’s younger brothers (she had four brothers, one older, three younger) passed away in his early forties from congenital heart disease. My favorite uncle’s ex-wife, whom I had known as my aunt, ran herself under the back end of a semi truck. So many great-aunts and -uncles, second cousins, great-grandparents whom I met once or twice and barely remember but I knew they were there and I know they are gone. Then the onslaught of the last fifteen years. Not enough time to recover in between. My father’s brother and sister; then in 1998, a favorite cousin younger than me; 1999 a favorite uncle; 2000, my mother-in law; 2000, 16-year-old family dog; 2001, my blessed father; 2001, my grandma; 2002, another 14-year-old family dog; 2004, my father-in-law; 2006, another favorite uncle; 2008, my brother-in-law’s sister, in my family these last 35 years and she was younger than me; 2010, my pet bird, a blue headed conure parrot my family had for 19 years; 2013, my mother who has known me longer than anybody.
I knew it was going to be hard. I maybe didn’t know it was going to be this hard, but I have some things I feel bad about. I just need to put some things down while I’m grieving them and get them out. My mom passed yesterday, Wednesday, June 26, 2013. I didn’t call her yesterday. I hadn’t called her all week or the week before. I had not returned a couple of her calls thinking, I’ll call her tomorrow. Such sorrow in tomorrow as tomorrow never comes. I didn’t call her when she sent me a note and a couple comics she found funny. I AM SCREAMING OUT LOUD FOR GUILT AND REGRET.
My three siblings talked to her on the day she passed from this world to the next. I was probably my mother’s biggest disappointment of her four children, the problem child. I am the oldest. She had all four of us in less than five years, and raised us in a tiny World War II tract home with two bedrooms and one bath on a suburban 50′ by 100′ lot. I was the child who could not conform, who thought for myself, who stubbornly had to do things my way, who wouldn’t or couldn’t listen, who was naive about money and people, too trusting and too sensitive to hurts, the child who whines because I don’t have something or some shit happened or whose adventures don’t turn out quite right.
She gave me good advice, stuff she’d been through and learned from. I was mostly never able to do as she said though I would often try. Somehow my efforts never matched hers or turned out as they “should” have. When I struck out on my own I did not take the pathway she would have liked for me: college or work, then an apartment, a nice young man, marriage and a home of my own. Instead I traveled with a group of “friends” who ended up taking advantage of the true nature she instilled in me, that of a hard-working, ethical, critically thinking person, and abandoning me in another state far from my mother’s home. I took a series of ill-fated apartments with girlfriends and boyfriends. I chose men she didn’t care for and I married my husband after 17 years of co-habitation; the pregnancy came first. I didn’t go to college until I was 38, after my son was born. A totally different path.
One of the best bits of wisdom she shared was one day when we were talking about prayer and she asked what I pray for. Neither one of us are particularly religious people as in using any specific organized religious doctrine or dogma but I believe we are both spiritual people, and intuitive or tuned into certain connections with other people. So I gave her the list and she asked why I didn’t pray for myself. All my prayers were for other people. I thought that’s what prayers were about because there are so many other people out there who have less than I do, and I believe the vibration created by prayer is helpful and positive. She suggested I include myself in my prayers because I was worthy of being cared for also. From that day on I have included requests for blessings for myself as well as others. A few years later my sister gave me The Book of Jabez; Breaking Through to the Blessed Life by Bruce Wilkinson. Jabez is blessed by God because he asks for it. Simple. What’s not simple is sometimes it is hard to recognize your blessings and the abundances in our lives. The book and its premise is also not that simple and I recommend an excellent analysis discoursing Jabez and how he is the symbol he is by Dr William E. Arp.
I am half the woman my mother was. One quarter, maybe. An infinitesimally small woman next to her. She never made me feel as if she were better than me but she wanted better for me, and for me to be better than her. Not too much to ask, and I so wanted to give it but I often failed and right up to her death continued to do so.
Don’t tell me not to beat myself up here; this is the part where I do exactly that. We all have our regrets. My failures in her eyes did not one iota change her vast, ineffable, and unquantifiable LOVE for me. I’ll never regret her love, her encouragement, her wisdom, her ability to give so much to so many people except to feel that I will never hold a candle to her accomplishments.
Now I can’t sleep for crying, tears escape when eyes are closed. My sinuses are blinding me with the pressure of constant tears, the physical pain in my head excruciating. I try to lie down to sleep and send my brain to the pre-sleep soothing routine I use and I cannot even get there for the tears and the howling in my brain. I cannot read as my eyes and brain are impaired so I sit on the couch in front to the TV and inane TV shows (because I couldn’t enjoy or concentrate on a movie), volume down low because I can’t stand the noise, until I sleep and wake with twisted painful neck, crawling to bed only to not go back to sleep for crying again. My eyes and face are so swollen I look like the local wetland frogs, eyes bulging no whites just red rims so puffed up, cheeks bloated, skin blotchy and pasty white, nose raw from wiping tear induced snot off my skin. I avoid mirrors more than ever.
Taking care of other people right now? Out of the question. If my family wants food they will have to fix it for themselves, fortunately they are adults. They can fix for me or not as they please, I don’t care. And then there’s the hard part of taking care of myself during this time. It all feels rather selfish and pointless. I have issues with eating at the best of times, now more problematic than ever with a tear clogged throat too swollen to swallow. Haven’t slept well for the last 14 years, might as well be crying. I will try to maintain my little exercise schedule, which she always encouraged me to do so I usually think about her anyway, now to see how that goes while crying and thinking about her. Talking? Not sure I can even go there, can’t even breathe from the sinus congestion. And then there’s the stress of being needed at work and knowing I’m an absolute a pile of rotting tears and snot over the loss of my mother and doubt I would even be civil. I could bite the head off the first and every unkind or rude person so I’m likely not safe to present myself in public.
I hear her voice saying buck up. You knew this was going to happen, it’s a part of life and inevitable. Keep your chin up and know I love you. She was always so pragmatic. That may be one of the differences in our generations; her generation had been through so much hardship they had to deal with whatever came their way and many times it never stopped coming at them.
I used to tell Mom I wished we were telepathic so she could just listen to me talking to her in my head all day. She liked the thought and laughed, but I’m sure she wondered why I didn’t take the time or make the time to call more often. Don’t ask me why. I was probably embarrassed to be a disappointment or to be so needy, not self-sufficient. I’m don’t think I’m willing to pay for psychoanalysis to understand why I did or how to deal, because now she’s gone it just is. There is no making it right or changing it now.