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...

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