The world as seen through the eyes of an exhausted, caffiene addicted, homeschooling, atheist mama.

Posts tagged ‘grief’

It’s the Little Things

This whole grief thing sucks. No, really. It sucks incredibly bad.

When my dad died eight years ago, that hurt. It hurt more than I thought something could hurt. But this…this hurts even worse than that. Maybe it’s because I just always expected that my brother would always be around. Everyone expects to outlive their parents, but outliving your younger sibling seems wrong somehow.

There are whole days where I feel fine. I feel strong and competent even though I feel sad. I go whole days where I don’t even cry. But then, out of freaking nowhere, I start to cry. And I’ll cry and cry and cry and cry. I’ll cry until I think there are no more tears left–then I cry some more.

I try to take notice of things that make me feel better. Little things that nurture my heart or make me smile just a little bit:

Walking barefoot through the clover we planted

My big-ass dog, Harvey

Little Tippee (with two Es!) looking over the wall

Our dumb-ass cat Sofe with water all over her face

My beautiful kid laughing

My handsome hubby

My wonderful, handsome husband wearing kick-ass sunglasses

A Whole Lotta Shit

Six months ago, life was awesome. Hubby had a secure job, we had enough money to go out for dinner now and then, and we were saving for a trip to Disney World. Six months ago, we made resort reservations (we were going to stay in one of the new Pirate Rooms!), we made dining reservations (so many fun and interesting restaurants to choose from!) and we chattered excitedly about our week in paradise. For Christmas, Hubby surprised me with tickets to see Cirque du Soleil on our trip, and I cried. I had wanted to see Cirque du Soleil since I was a teenager; it was an experience I had always wanted but never quite dared to dream of.

Six months ago, our life was simple. Six months ago feels more like about a hundred years ago.

In January, Hubby lost his job suddenly. Oh crap, that was scary. But he signed up for unemployment and hit the (virtual) pavement, looking for work. Funny thing about the unemployment, though. It didn’t come through for us. At all. He was denied benefits because of an administrative screw up on his employer’s end, so he appealed. Since we never actually got the unemployment we needed and deserved, we had to make the tough decision to cancel our vacation. At least we had that money to help us through, though.

Poor BB. He was so sad and he cried so much when we told him we’d have to give up going to Disney World this year. But we told him, promised him, swore to him that we would go again. Maybe not this year, but eventually we’d make it back. He’s a great kid and a he accepted the loss of  our dream trip amazingly well. He accepted that we couldn’t go out to eat anymore, buy random books or even run to the store every couple of days like a pro. He helped me inventory our pantry and made a sign for the pantry door that says “Kitchen Shop…The Only Shop At Home!”

We were okay. We were plugging along, trying to pick up the pieces of the mess unemployment made of our lives. But the money just kept not coming and not coming. The hole under our feet kept getting bigger and bigger. We were on unstable ground and it was getting hard to find footing.

Then our cat got cancer. It came on suddenly and we had to make the terrible, awful, horrible, no good decision to put him down.

Poor BB was so sad. Saying goodbye to his Pnut was probably one of the most heartbreaking things he’d ever gone through. It hurt him so much that he said he’d gladly have traded Disney World for Pnut. Oh, my sweet boy. How do you comfort a child who has a broken  heart?

A week went by and Hubby’s new employer said they no longer needed someone out here, but if he was willing to relocate to the Dallas area, they had a position open for him there. We sat on it, not sure what to do, how to proceed. Because his current position is 100% commission, we still didn’t have money coming in, even though he was working 13 hours a day. All of our financial reserves were depleted. It was clear we couldn’t afford to stay put, but we couldn’t afford a move. Gah! So much shit all at once!

On the day we decided to tell BB we were moving, Hubby and I dropped him off at music class and we went looking for boxes. We took them home, I cried for all we had lost up to that point, I pulled my shit together, and went to pick BB up. We decided to take him out for lunch (Chick-Fil-A was a rare treat at that point after Hubby’s job loss) and then we’d tell him that we were moving.

I had been crying all day, and I wasn’t terribly hungry. My nuggets kept getting stuck in my throat; swallowing proved to be nearly impossible. But we got through the meal. We got in the car and on a whim I looked at my phone. I had just missed a call from my grandparents–they had left a voice mail.

Sweetie, this is Grandpa. You need to call us on the cell right away. We need to talk to you. We love you, Moms Eye. Bye.

Grandpa? He never calls. My grandma sometimes calls if it’s been more than a week since she’s talked to me and she’ll leave a message asking me to call right away. I always call and it’s always something like:

Oh, everything’s fine. I just haven’t heard from you and I wanted to make sure you are okay.

If it had been my grandmother calling, I would have blown it off for an hour or two. We were on the way home to tell BB that we had to move away from the only home he’s ever known. But something was niggling at me. My grandpa has dementia, or at least the beginnings of dementia, and something about him calling just had me worried. I told hubby I needed to call back. He put the car into reverse as I called. My grandpa picked up on the second ring.

Hi, Hijita. Grandma needs to talk to you, hold on…
Hello? Moms Eye? (she was crying)
Grandma, what’s wrong?
(sobbing, swallowing) Jeremy. He died, Hijita.
What?! When? What?! How?!
Yesterday, honey.  He had a seizure and died. Can you make it to Arkansas?
Uh, I uh…He’s dead? Oh god…I have to go…I can’t breathe right now. I have to go. I love you Grandma. I’ll call later. I have to go now.

Hubby glanced at me. I wasn’t crying I was just sitting there, stunned. “So who died?” he asked.

My brother. Jer. Jer died. Shit. Shit. Shit. My brother…RAAAAAAA!

Hubby drove us. I think I called my mother from the car, but I don’t remember. Maybe I didn’t. Probably I didn’t. We got a couple of minutes from home and Hubby looked into the backseat at BB. Then he looked at me and said “Let’s do this like a band-aid. BB, we have to move.”

Oh, my son’s face crumpled. I started to cry, he started to cry, Hubby pulled into the garage. I got a drink of water and we all went to the patio. I pulled BB into my lap and held him while Hubby explained that we had to leave our house and our town; that we’d have to move to another state. Like a zombie I told him about the great things there are out there: Six Flags, lakes, museums…

Fortunately, we had a play date set up, so we were able to have our talk about moving and then I could take him to his friend’s house. My intention had been to stay and hang out, but it occurred to me that there was a lot to be done, a lot to take care of for my brother. So Hubby drove and we dropped him off with friends.

I came home and I called people. I called lots of people. I made plans, I dealt with shit like a pro.

The next day, we dropped BB off with friends and Hubby and I went to Arkansas to take care of business.

And now we’re back, dealing with life, trying to figure out how to move us with no money. As of now, Hubby is going to leave this weekend, and BB and I will stay behind until the end of the month to pack and say goodbye.

I’m at the end of my rope, here. I’m so fucking sad about everything. I hate that everything has happened to us at once, I hate that any of this has happened at all. I hate that I have to be alone with BB and my grief for almost a month. I hate that I have to leave my network of friends who have become my family. I hate that my cat died. I hate that our trip to Disney World died. And I fucking hate that my brother died.  This is so wrong. It’s so  unfair. It’s so much more to deal with than I can handle.

But I will handle it. What I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is that there will come a time where we can look at each other and say: “Remember 2012? Yeah, that happened. I’m glad it’s over.”

For now, though, I’m stuck in the middle, hoping to come through to the other side pretty damned soon. For now, all I have to say is:

Fuck you, 2012! What a lousy, piece of shit, horrible year you’re turning out to be! I can’t fucking wait until your over and I never, ever, ever have to look at you again!

Promises To Myself

I will allow myself time to feel the sadness when it comes.

I will acknowledge the pain and the regret.

I will hold his memory in my heart.

I will breathe in and out. In and out.

I will allow myself to smile.

I will acknowledge that laughter in not a betrayal.

I will take time to enjoy the way the sun feels on my face.

I will make sure to eat good food and drink lots of water.

I will allow myself a break when I am overwhelmed.

I will acknowledge my fear but I won’t let it consume me.

I will write. I’ll write for me and I’ll write for my brother. I will write so that I don’t forget–so that the things we went through together will not be lost. I will write so that my son can read about his mom when he’s older. I will write so that he can better understand my quirks and fears, so that he can know how hard I try to break the cycle I was born into. I will write not only to honor and remember my brother, but also to honor and help the living and yet-to-be-born.

I will remember.

Coping

I am sad.

The simple, everyday tasks of living overwhelm me;
Yesterday, I went to the store for vegetables and forgot why I was there.
I stood in front of the vitamins and the herbal teas
Does my son have a sore throat? Does he need tea?

Driving to a friend’s house, I missed my turn–
I knew where I was going, I just forgot how to get there.
When I turned around I missed the turn again.
And coming home was the same story.
I just kept driving, right past my street.

The sadness is making me distracted– forgetful.

It is hard to find the energy to cook meals for my family.
My legs don’t want to hold me up–
They are weak and wobbly, like I’ve run a marathon.
I want to sit on the couch–
Read.
Drink.
Write.

I want to cover my head with a blanket–
Sleep.

But my boy needs his mom.
He needs breakfast and snacks and dinner.
He needs to show me his Lego creations
He needs me to be present.

My brother is dead and I am sad.
But the living need tending–
Loving
Feeding

And as I stand at the stove, turning crepes and bacon–
Even as I forget what I’m doing–
I find comfort in the mundane tasks of life.

Picking up the Pieces

I laid my little brother to rest on Saturday; what a horrible fucking day that was. Hell, this whole week has been among the worst of my life.

It feels like it happened a lifetime ago, but at the same time, it feels like it was only moments ago. Things happened at warp speed and in slow motion at the same time. I don’t know that I’ve ever experienced that sensation before.

The trip itself was exhausting. A friend took BB and another friend took the dogs so Hubby and I could go to Arkansas alone. It was a long and boring drive, and I think I cried more tears during that drive than I’d ever cried  in my life. And I’ve cried a helluva lot of tears in my time.  I passed the time, between crying jags, making plans with the funeral home, getting cost details, and passing information on to other family members. It was somehow surreal and appropriate to make funerary arrangements in the same desert landscape that my brother and I drove through as kids. Talking to a funeral director on a cell phone with no reception in the middle of the desert is probably a situation that rarely happens, so at least I experienced something that few people have.

While we were there, I got to meet and hang out with some of my brother’s friends. It felt good to listen to stories about him and it was nice to know that he wasn’t alone; he had a network of people who loved and supported him. I’m so thankful to his friends for all they did for him while he was alive and for helping me in his death.

Now we are home and it’s time to pick up the pieces of my life and move on. In about a month we are moving out of state, so on top of the grief for my brother, I have to get us packed and ready to go. I have to help BB say goodbye to all of his friends. I have to say goodbye to mine, too. I have to go through our stuff and have a yard sale, I have to help Hubby figure out where we’re going to live, and I have to figure out how the hell I’m supposed to make friends as an atheist homeschooler in the bible belt.

There is so much to do. Too much to do to leave room for grief. Somehow I need to find a way to set it aside for now so I can focus on the tasks at hand. That’s what got me through the funeral. One task at a time, one hug after another, one foot in front of the other. Forward momentum keep me going and allowed me to keep the tears at bay. It was only in the hotel, when there wasn’t someone to comfort or a paper to sign that my grief seeped out. When it was just me and Hubby, I cried. And cried. And cried. At night, when the lights were out and I was floating in the unfamiliar darkness of the hotel room, I had vivid flashbacks of my childhood. The memories played in my head so vividly that it was like watching a movie. I laid there in the dark, crying and watching memories until I passed out from exhaustion. Then I dreamed that my brother was dead and I was planning his funeral.

My brother was almost like a son in a lot of ways. Even though we were less than two years apart, it fell to me to be his parent. When he had asthma attacks, I fixed his nebulizer treatments; when he had bad dreams, I was the one who nurtured him back to sleep. When he needed food, I figured out how to cook for him. I beat people up when they called him a sissy or hurt him. I raised him.

And now he is dead.

The sorrow, the regret, the depth of the anguish I’m feeling is unimaginable. It’s like I’m stuck in a black hole. I can’t think. I can’t breathe. I can’t move.  How do I keep going when I can’t breathe? How do I move forward when I can’t think clearly? My words don’t even come out right when I’m talking.  The book I’m reading doesn’t make sense. I can’t find meaning in the symbols on the page. And when I do find the meaning, I can’t hold it in my head long enough to understand the context. I go back and re-read a paragraph and I think: I didn’t read this…I don’t remember reading this…

How do you pick up the pieces when they are shattered into dust? How do you keep putting one foot in front of the other when you can’t even pick up  your leg? How do you do this?

Death Without Heaven

Sometimes I can understand why people hold on to religion. In times of crisis and grief, the notion that there’s something bigger than us, something with a plan, something that cares and directs us down the path we’re supposed to go, can help you put one foot in front of the other.

As a parent, it’s my job to help my son make sense of the world and deal with his grief. Religion would sure be handy for that. It would have been so easy to hold him yesterday and tell him “I know you’re sad about Pnut, but he’s in heaven now. He’s happy now. He’s chasing shadows and rolling in grass and drinking from a little stream. His earthly body is gone, but he’s not.”

But I don’t believe that, so my challenge as a parent who happens to be an atheist is to find a way to help him cope without spoon feeding him bits of stories that I don’t believe. It’s hard. How do you comfort your kid when you need comfort yourself? I don’t claim to have all the answers, or even some of the answers. I just know what Hubby and I did, and I believe it was good and healthy for BB.

We allowed him to feel his emotions, talked about good things, we let him hold Pnut, before the vet came, after the first shot when he just fell asleep, and after the second shot that stopped his heart. After the vet left, we all held our wonderful cat and we reminisced. We cried as a family and we allowed the other pets to sniff his body.  We reminded  BB that as painful as it is to see him lying there like that, his body was just a body. Pnut wasn’t in there and he couldn’t feel love or pain anymore. We talked about his body rejoining the earth and we talked about holding him in hearts and memories.

And an amazing thing happened. BB stopped crying, pulled out some paper and colored pencils, and drew a picture of Pnut lying on the blanket where he died. He worked at the dining room table for a long time, and we told him he could have all the time  he needed. Once in a while he’d come over and look at the shape of his tail or legs, once he came over and opened Pnut’s eyes to try to find just the right shade. BB found his own way to deal with his grief: scientific inquiry and artistic expression. It was so inspiring to see, and I felt humbled and small next the wise soul of my ten-year old.

It turns out he didn’t need God, heaven and platitudes. All he needed was the freedom to feel his emotions and to find his own way to handle them.

Pnut: My favorite cat. This is my gift to you. I love you with all my heart.

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Goodbye, Old Friend

Pnut and a baby Sofe

Meet Pnut. He’s the oldest of our pets. What can I say about him? He’s 16 and he’s seen a lot of change in his life. Good old stable Pnut with the milk mustache and the ability to see shadows has been as much a part of our family as BB has.

Two weeks ago, he was diagnosed with cancer. He’s had a good life and the pain of chemo would likely be too much for him to bear. So, since he’s 16, we decided that we’d let nature take its course. We brought him home, fed him some salmon and told him he could go any time  he was ready.

In the two weeks since his diagnosis, he’s lost an unbearable amount of weight and the tumor in his back hip is growing out of control. His leg has become paralyzed and he can barely get around. He’s in pain. But he’s had a good life, and  he doesn’t want to let go of it.

So we had to make a second impossible decision in two weeks: we are going to euthanize our cat. We found a vet who will come to our home and she’ll be here in about an hour.  One hour. Sixty minutes. How does one deal with that? How do you look at your cat and know he’s going to die in an hour and just be okay with it? It’s impossibly painful. He’s not just a cat. He’s a valuable and loved member of our family, and now he’s on death row. It’s enough to make me want to drink. A lot.

My heart is broken. My husband, who has had him since he was just weeks old, is crushed. And BB is at a complete loss as to how to say goodbye. He can’t even think about it without crying. And as a parent, that’s just another thing that makes this so hard. I can deal with my grief, but helping my son deal with his is more painful than I could have expected.

What else is there to say except:

Dear Pnut, we love you and we are so, so sorry. You will be missed by all of us. Thank you for all you have brought to our family.

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