Monday, March 30, 2009

A Timeline for Grief

Why is that people somehow think that after enough time has gone by I’ll be fine? I see it in K’s eyes. I hear it in the questions he’s not asking me and underneath those he does ask. He wants to know when he’ll get his wife back. He’s asking me for reassurance that things will be ok again. I can’t give that to him and he doesn’t understand. He doesn’t understand that I will never be the same. How could I possibly be?

Do I think that I will heal? Yes. Do I think that in time, the pain will lessen? Yes. But will I ever be the same?

My world has been shattered. I’m 31 years old and I’ve lost my mother. My mother was 60. She didn’t die of a prolonged illness. She wasn’t killed in a car wreck. I didn’t get to say goodbye. I didn’t get time to prepare. I think that anytime you lose a parent, a mother, especially when you’re close, it’s hard. Really, really hard. But when you lose someone suddenly – it adds another dimension of difficulty. When someone is sick and you know that they are going to die, you do part of your grieving beforehand. When it’s sudden, you have to do it all at once. And when someone takes their own life, there are so many, many questions left unanswered. Most of the time, the question is “Why?” “Why? Why? Why?”

I know why. Even though I’m still asking that question, I do know why. She was in pain. And she thought she would never get better. She felt trapped by her pain. She felt hopeless. But it wasn’t true. She would have gotten better. She had gotten better before.

Much more than “Why?” – my question is “how?” How could she have done it? How could she have gotten so bad, so quickly? How could she have let herself think those things and not sought help? How could she have promised me that she would never try to kill herself again, and then go and do it? I asked her. I asked her! She told me – “I’ve thought about it. And emotionally, I’m in a much better place than before. I wouldn’t do that.” How can someone say those words - be so rational, so calm, so assuring one day and then kill herself a week later?

I don’t believe she was lying to me when she said it. I think she believed her promise, or at least wanted to believe it. I continue to believe that she wasn’t choosing to die. She was choosing to end her pain. She wasn’t thinking about the long-term consequences of her death, of what it would do to us, of what she would be missing out on – she was only thinking about the short-term solution of ending the pain. She was desperate and crazed and in this state, suicide made sense. To her. It doesn’t make sense to me.

Death doesn’t make sense to me. It’s too final. Too real. How could it possibly be real? How is it possible that my mom, my beautiful, wonderful mom is gone? That I’ll never see her again. Never talk to her again. She’ll never take me shopping again. Never dote on Jonah again. Never read to him again. I’ll never see her smile, hear her laugh. I can barely stand it.

How could I possibly be the same? How could I possibly be ok?

How would you be?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Grief and Fear

For a few days I thought I was better. And I guess I was, somewhat. But out of nowhere and for no particular reason, yesterday at work I just broke down. And yesterday was not a good day. Today was not so great either.

That’s what my mom used to say – “today was not a good day.” She had been struggling with chronic pain for almost 5 years and some days were better than others. Someday, I want to write more on what happened to her and my family these past 5 years, but this isn’t the post for that.

I miss her so much. The pain is palpable. It hits me sometimes like a physical blow and I might as well be forced to my knees by the impact. How could she really be gone? How is it possible that I will never see her again? Never talk to her? How could it be that my mom, my momma, is gone?

February was a bad, bad month all the way around for us. We lost our dog of 8 years, Lucy, at the beginning of the month. We had to make a very difficult decision and it was very hard. My whole family was saddened by our loss. My mom had called me sobbing the day it happened. And then, just two weeks later, she died too. And ever since I’ve been struggling with this fear – what else is going to happen? What is the next bad thing? Luckily, K reminded me that we had our “three” since our embryos also all “died.”

But both of us are struggling with this fear. This fear of death. Fear of something else bad happening. It’s understandable, of course, but it’s no way to live. I’ve always been a worrier and fought against my tendency to imagine all the worst possible scenarios. Now it seems to be an ever present anxiety – what if something happens to K? To Jonah? To my sister? My dad?

Unfortunately, the fear for my dad is well-founded. He’s not doing well. He wasn’t doing well before my mother died. In some ways, he was worse before but in other ways he’s much worse now. And my sister and I feel so responsible for him. Her, even more than me because she lives there. I’m 800 miles away and that distance has always acted as a much-needed barrier between me and my dad’s needy, demanding, and oft-times crazy behavior. No such barrier exists for my sister. And that makes me feel both relieved and guilty at the same time. An emotion I’ve felt for years in fact.

My parents, mostly my dad, were not at all happy when K and I made the decision to buy a house in Colorado and not move back to Arkansas to be near them. My sister and brother-in-law moved there in 2003 and the expectation had been that K and I would follow. And it wasn’t just their expectation – I really think that I thought so too. But then we made the decision to stay here. And it was absolutely the right decision for us. For our family. But it was not received well. My dad did not speak to me for over three months after that. My mom also wished that we lived closer but she would never jeopardize our relationship over that, and as time went on, she began to understand, and support, more and more our decision to stay here. We did not decide to stay here because we didn’t want to be close to my family. Although over that last several years, we have felt very relieved by the distance (particularly from my dad) and I have realized that the reason I have been able to maintain a good relationship with my father is because we don’t live there. I just don’t think I can live near him.

But I could have lived near my mom. She was easy to be around. We loved having her as a house-guest. And while I don’t regret our decision to live here and be far away from our families, I’m also a little envious of my sister and all the time she got to spend with our mother that I missed. How much more she got to see her these past 5 ½ years than me. And of course, I can’t help asking the question – “If I’d lived here, could I have saved her?”

I know that I couldn’t. My sister is asking herself the same question and I know that there is nothing more that she could have done. That either of us could have done. And yet, I still find myself wondering and questioning. If only I had been there. If only I had called on Saturday.

If only. If only…. If only...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

My mom

is dead.

These are the words that keep echoing through my head (didn't want to put that as the subject because it's too morbid).

"Mom died. Mom died. She's dead. She's dead. She's dead"

Over and over again. I have to keep reminding myself and each time it's a shock.

"She's dead. She's dead. She's dead."

"She killed herself." "My mom killed herself."

My mom walked to her computer one morning, wrote out a note, and then went to the garage and shot herself.

I can't believe it's really true. I cannot reconcile this truth with the truth of my mother and who she was. So generous. So giving. Such a great mother and grandmother.

I'm very, very angry. And sad. And guilty. And in denial. I can't believe that I will never see her again. Never talk to her again. Never get to tell her about Jonah. Watch her see Jonah, hold Jonah, read to Jonah.

My mom, who was the most unselfish person I knew, did the most selfish thing.

And while I know, or think I know, that in some ways it wasn't really her - it's still hard. She was sick. Dealing with chronic pain for 5 years that carried with it severe depression and anxiety. The pain had gotten worse in the past month - exacerbated by a sudden case of shingles. I know that she was acting to end the pain. That she felt she could no longer live with it anymore. I want to understand that. I'm trying to understand that. But it's very hard. Because regardless of the reasons. Regardless of whether she was or wasn't "really" herself at the time. She is gone. Forever. And that means she left me.

And I can't understand how she could leave me.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Jonah's First Steps

I don't have the energy for a real post so instead, I'm posting an email I just sent to some of my friends and family:

Jonah took his first steps without holding on to anything today! (Or at least we think we so - we explicitly told his nanny not to tell us if he walked for her when we weren't there!).

First, he walked just for me this morning. I didn't really try again until K got home and he walked between us several times. He was laughing the whole time and then we were laughing and he got to laughing so hard he couldn't balance anymore!

Very cute. We'll try to catch it on video soon.

I'm including so many of you on this email (that doesn't even include a picture!) because I really, really want to call my mom right now. Since I can't tell her I decided to tell as many other people as I could. So thank you for indulging me.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Overwhelmed

I am overwhelmed by the comments and support from this wonderful community - thank you. There is a lot that I'm going to need to say in the upcoming days, weeks and months I expect. But I can't now. What I do want to post, though, is the eulogy that I wrote for my mom. I have no idea how I was able to read this at her funeral - but I did. And I'm so glad that I was able to do that.

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To my mother, my friend, my role-model.

Mom,

Words cannot express the love I have for you. My greatest hope as a mother, is to be as good of a mother as you were. Through your fine example do I know how to be a mother. How to be a woman.

I miss everything about you. How you would listen to me for hours. Always attentive, always asking questions. Shy as I was when I was a little girl – to you, I would talk non-stop. All those trips back and forth to Ft. Smith when you would drive me to gymnastics. And I would talk the whole way. I would tell you, practically page by page, about whatever book I was reading. And if you weren’t really listening, I never knew! Because you were so attentive and patient and interested.

I don’t know how to write this. I don’t know how I could possibly say how much I love you, admire you, respect you, like you. You recently told me that you thought about and missed your mother every day for the last 17 years. I thought I understood it at the time. But I didn’t. Now I do. A day won’t go by that I will not think of you. And miss you. And wish that I could talk to you. And a day won’t go by when I’m not thankful for you. For all that you have given me. For your love. Your generosity. Your heart. For making me the person that I am and for inspiring me every day to be better.

I know that your family was the most important thing in the world to you. I know that you wish you could be here. But since you cannot be, my promise to you is this – I will carry you with me always. I will do my best to be the mother to my children that you were to me. I will strive to be the loving, generous, dependable friend that you have always been.

You are in my heart. And so, in truth, you will never die – you will be with me always. Thank you. For everything.

Mom with Jonah - December 2007