Tag: loss

Three Years.

Erin and Mom

It’s funny. I thought after three years, I’d have gotten used to living without you. Three years ago, this day started like any other – and ended up changing everything. In an instant. Life is strange. But beautiful. Even the tragic parts.

It’s been a long day without you, my friend
And I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again
We’ve come a long way from where we began
Oh, I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again
When I see you again

Why’d you have to leave so soon?
Why’d you have to go?
Why’d you have to leave me when I needed you the most?

‘Cause I don’t really know how to tell ya
Without feeling much worse
I know you’re in a better place
But it’s always gonna hurt

Carry on
Give me all the strength I need to carry on

It’s been a long day without you, my friend
And I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again
We’ve come a long way from where we began
Oh, I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again
When I see you again

How do I breathe without you?
I’m feeling so cold
I’ll be waiting right here for ya
‘Til the day you’re home

Carry on
Give me all the strength I need to carry on

So let the light guide your way
Hold every memory as you go
And every road you take will always lead you home, home

It’s been a long day without you, my friend
And I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again
We’ve come a long way from where we began
Oh, I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again
When I see you again

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I’m the ‘Windows Vista’ of People.

Ok, Mac people – bear with me – this analogy will be short.

The year was 2007. We were all happily acclimated to our Windows XP operating system when, bam! Microsoft dropped Windows Vista on us and we collectively went, “Thanks for nothing, a-holes!”

Because Windows Vista was that shitty little upgrade nobody asked for.

It was buggy and slow and didn’t seem to make anything better. But Microsoft, in its infinite wisdom, said, “Tough shit. You’ll use it and you’ll like it.” (But it only lasted a couple years before Microsoft got tired of our bitching and came out with Windows 7 – but I’m not here to give you a primer on Microsoft operating systems.)

So, what’s my point?

Well, a couple of years ago I started this blog so that I could write silly posts about stupid things that I found amusing and thought maybe other people would find amusing, too. Then, almost two years ago, my mom, my rock, my BFF, died, suddenly, for no good reason because her heart (despite being healthy and barely 67 years old) went, “That’s it – I quit.” And just stopped.

And then this blog took a wicked hairpin turn and became a place where I wrote mostly about grief. (No, that isn’t the Windows Vista upgrade I’m talking about. Stay with me.) For those of you that have been following along, these last two years have been the roller coaster of a lifetime. And I would come here and talk about terrible, heartbreaking things (but marinate them in sarcasm, hoping to get a laugh here or there). But, regardless, I sort of took you along with me as I figured out my own post-apocalyptic world.

So, here’s my point.

When you lose a close parent or someone important, the general consensus is “You really won’t start feeling like yourself for a year.” Truly. Many people who had lost a parent said the same thing. A year.

Well, the first year came and went. And true, the grief ebbed and I was gradually less of a shit-show. But I kept waiting to feel like myself again. Now I’m approaching two years. And it hit me: There is no going back to the old me because she doesn’t exist anymore.

Cue the Windows Vista metaphor. I’ve been upgraded! Those bastards! I’ve been force-fed the system upgrade I never asked for and that certainly doesn’t seem like an improvement to the prior version. This version isn’t as happy, is slightly less compassionate, has a much narrower bandwidth for bullshit, and crashes regularly around birthdays and holidays. The only possible upside is that this version is proven to be wicked resilient and excels at letting shit go (because they apparently narrowed the “Bullshit Meter” but expanded the “Fuck It Meter“).

So, since I had shared the rest of this Mr.-Toad’s-Wild-Ride-esque journey with you, I figured I would share this revelation as well. If you’ve lost your person, don’t keep waiting to feel like yourself again, because you’ll be waiting a really long time. Just start looking for positives in the system upgrade (that you didn’t want or need) and hopefully you’ll find an improvement or two that will make the You 2.0 version worthwhile.

And to those that know me who preferred the Windows XP version? We apologize for the inconvenience, but that version is no longer supported.

 

The True Meaning of “Every Day.”

I feel like “every day” is an overused expression. As in, “I could eat pizza every day.” Or “I’m pretty sure I’m gaining weight every day.” Or “he gets on my nerves every day.” We don’t really mean every day. We mean a lot of days. Enough days to be significant. But not literally “every” day.

The reason this has occurred to me is because there is one instance when it is entirely accurate but its overuse has sort of watered-down the phrase. Because when you lose one of the most important people in your world and you say that you miss them every day, you mean every. day.

My mom died 238 days ago. And I have missed her every. day.

Some days its more like several glancing blows throughout the day and you just keep moving. Other days it settles in to your bones and you wear it like a lead cloak throughout the day.

But the point is that it is every day. No days off for good behavior. Every day. Not a lot of days or enough days to be significant. Every. Fucking. Day. For 238 days and counting.

Oh, and by the way, don’t give me that dirty look for posting something sad on a Monday. It’s Monday. It was going to suck anyway.

Dear Mom.

[Ok – consider yourself warned – this is going to be a sad one. If you aren’t up for it today – move along.]

You died six months ago today. And my whole world changed forever. It’s strange how surreal it still feels when I consider you’re really gone, even six months later. I’ve replayed that day in my head a thousand times and it never ceases to feel like science fiction.

And we’re muddling through the best we can. I wonder if you realize how much everyone relied on you. You were the sun we orbited. You were my sun.

with Mom and DadI never realized how much joy I got from sharing things with you. Things really got their meaning when I told you about them. Now, something exciting or interesting will happen…and it sort of dies on the vine. I think about telling you – and can’t – and I think about telling someone else…and nine times out of ten, I decide it’s not worth it. And I let it go. Even awesome things have been lackluster since I can’t share my excitement with you.

I got a book deal. Everyone assures me you know. Something I’d dreamed of most of my life…happened! And I cried all day. Because your absence was unbearable. You’re the only person who has read every book I’ve ever written. You gave honest, valuable feedback and I relied on your opinion so much. What do I do now? You are truly irreplaceable.

You said you were amazed by my drive…by my fearless pursuit of my dreams. Well, your fearless daughter has developed a new fear. I’m so afraid of ever needing someone again the way I needed you, because losing that person…is a killer. I can hear you telling me that isn’t the answer…that our lives are worth living because of the people in them. And I know that’s true. But I really feel like over the last six months I’ve been testing the theory of whether or not you can die of a broken heart. Because sometimes…oftentimes…it’s devastating.

But you knew this all too well. And I didn’t understand. You can’t understand until it happens to you. But I understand now. I understand that underlying fissure of sadness you had most of my life – that you got from the loss of your father who you adored and your mother who was your best friend. Who were both gone by the time you were 38.

And I’m not unique. I realize that. People have lost their most important people, just as young, younger, under all kinds of tragic circumstances. And people survive it. And I will, too. Just like you did.

I may not know precisely what I believe, but I believe that you are at peace. That death is only sad for those left behind. I believe that you are with your parents, who you spent decades missing. I believe that, even if you can see us, our sorrow is not making you sad because you now have that wisdom that assures that we’ll be together again in what will seem like the blink of an eye.

All the goals I had – being a published author – being an attorney. My goal these days is to be able to say “I miss my mom so much” without crying. It’ll have to be a long-term goal.

Apparently the only thing bigger than your presence in my life was the hole left in it when you died.

People tell me to focus on the good memories, the happy times. But that’s not what we were. We were the constant sharing of every thought and every feeling. Every day. Sure, there were good times – but I don’t miss being able to take a vacation with you. I miss the 20-minute talk on my way to work. And the 20-minutMome talk on my way home. And the phone call I would have made to you when I found out  about my book deal. (The very FIRST phone call I would have made.) And the phone call I would have made to you when I found out about the suicide of a friend from high school. And when I won that motion in court. And when that dog got into my yard and attacked my dogs. And hearing your input on the sequel to my book that I’m working on. And hearing what you thought of the season finale of The Blacklist. Or you showing me how well your apple trees were growing in your yard. How will focusing on the good memories ever be a replacement for the million things you and I would have told each other about in the last six months? Or the next 20 years?

But I’ll make it through, obviously. I get my toughness from you. And I hope my own fissure of sadness isn’t too big. And I hope that I dream of you. And that after I heal some more, I hope I’ll believe people when they say “she’ll always be with you.” And I hope that I make you proud.

I miss you so much.

 

 

The Secrets You Keep.

But I suck at keeping secrets – well, my secrets, anyway – so here’s a few that my grievy little heart has been bottling up. And because I’m not special, odds are, if you know someone who is grieving, these are their secrets, too.

  • You’re not okay. But you do a pretty good impression of it. And it’s exhausting.
  • There are different kinds of grief. I’ve had the normal kind…lost people I loved and missed terribly. Now I realize there is a different category when you lose the person that was your foundation and this type burns you up and remakes you from the ashes and you suspect you’ll never be the same. (Plus, some of the most honest shit you say sounds super melodramatic.)
  • You feel isolated. You feel like you don’t see the people in your life much. Logic tells you that life is busy – nothing more. But grief tells you that it’s too much work to be around you. So you do your best to be cheerful when you’re with people, but this only makes the isolation worse because now even when you’re with people, you feel like they don’t really see you.
  • The people that assume you’re actually still a mess are the only ones you can really connect with. And that friend that tells you “it doesn’t matter if you cry every time we’re together – you’ll always be worth it” said the one thing you needed to hear more than anything.
  • Life looks different. The good things aren’t as good and the bad things are worse.
  • After four months, you still live in the theater. And the movie hasn’t stopped playing yet. It’s the background noise of your life.
  • You still cry all the effing time. And you’re sick to death of it.
  • That good spell you had gave you a false sense of security that you were coming out the other side. But now you realize that this is actually the most messed up tango ever and you don’t take a step forward without taking a step back.
  • You miss your old self. You want to be that upbeat and optimistic again. But you aren’t driving this train and apparently you don’t get to decide when you get off.
  • And you keep these secrets because nobody likes a whiner.

12-Week Lessons.

Today marks 12 weeks. I thought, perhaps, my next post would not be about my mom. Well, I am happy to say that this post, much like my life, is not all about losing my mom.

So here’s what I’ve learned in the last 12 weeks:

  1. I like lists. They require little cohesion and no organization at all.
  2. There is a very fine, at times imperceptible, line between “grieving” and “crazy.”
  3. You don’t really get it – not really – until it’s you.
  4. I’m stronger than I thought. I lost the one person I talked to more, shared more, listened to more, relied on more, leaned on more than any other person in the world. And I’m okay. Despite my previous concerns, I wasn’t swallowed by the hole she left in the world.
  5. I like cemeteries. You can cry all you want and no one looks at you twice. Cause you’re in a cemetery.
  6. Death is arbitrary. My mom wasn’t even two weeks past her 67th birthday, she had low blood pressure, low cholesterol, ate healthy, didn’t smoke, rarely drank, got all her mammograms, colonoscopies, physicals, etc., stayed active, and took her vitamins. And she was literally gone in a matter of seconds. Be healthy so that you can feel good while you’re here – but all the healthy living in the world isn’t going to grant you longevity if it isn’t in the cards.
  7. The dead apparently do not haunt by request. No matter how much you wish for a visit.
  8. Apparently I don’t need to share every thought that ever pops into my head with someone. I used to have someone I told everything to. Now, I probably share 50% of those thoughts. Which, I guess, means I have a lot of insignificant thoughts. Or just no one that finds significance in them.
  9. Even on dark days, wine makes me happy.
  10. Getting my eye makeup tattooed on a year and a half ago was a sound investment.

This Is Your Brain. This Is Your Brain on Grief. Any Questions?

So this was my brain a couple months ago:

Everything is Awesome

And this is my brain now:

batman-graveyard

Dark, lonely, altogether less awesome. Except for Batman. Why is Batman there? Why wouldn’t he be? Okay, I think you’re missing the point – try to stay focused.

Interestingly, the broad array of emotions my normal brain had are gone. Now, I seem to have two settings at a time. For the last couple of weeks, my options were sad or strange, with really no other arrows in my quiver, as they say. Sad involves much crying and varying levels of hysteria. Strange was impulse driven and unpredictable. I think we should have champagne and Taco Bell for dinner tonight. How many chickens do you think I’m allowed to keep in our suburban backyard? I can’t decide on a movie…I’m torn between Sleepless in Seattle and The Exorcist. What’s wrong with me putting whiskey in a wine glass?

You get the point. You can guess which Steve preferred – and not just because he loves Taco Bell.

This week is different. I’m only crying every few days now, but I’m somehow sadder with my settings now being between anxious and depressed. (We should probably all take a moment to pity my wonderful husband for what he is enduring. Okay. Moment’s over. Moving on.) So in between moments where I feel like I’m verging on a panic attack and the ones where I don’t want to get out of bed, I’m lonely.

In all of my angsty self-reflection, I’ve put my finger on this loneliness. My mom and I talked about the details, the facets, the little things. We would put together that 5,000 piece puzzle to get the big picture – which is what I shared with my husband and my friends…the big picture. But my mom, alone, knew exactly what it was composed of – each thought, each worry, every hope and fear. I have supportive people in my life, but never anyone that cared about all the little things. Sure, partly it was because moms have to listen to your crap – it’s in the job description. But part of it was just who she was. Because she cared about your details like they were her own. So what the hell do I do with all these puzzle pieces now?

And there is no loneliness quite the loneliness you feel when you’re surrounded by people.

In other news, I was a little worried all this doom and gloom would make people stop following my blog. I have this to report: you all are a very dark and twisty bunch. But you’re my dark and twisty bunch. ❤

This Post Is Not About My Mom.

That’s a total lie and, frankly, the title should have been a dead giveaway so if you fell for it, you really have no one to blame but yourself.

So while staring at the ceiling this morning at about 1 a.m., I thought of an analogy for the workings of my brain these days. On a side note, I’m not sure why I feel the need to keep coming up with analogies…it’s not as though people are baffled by my situation and are only able to comprehend through my clever analogies. That being said, you know you love them.

Okay, here it is. Prepare for enlightenment.

It’s like I’m in a movie theater. And there is a movie playing all the time, day and night, on a loop. And we’re talking IMAX screen and Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. And the movie is about losing her. And missing her. And about how I feel like half a person most of the time now. And about how I don’t know how to regrow the part of me that was her. Ouch, that got sad fast. You get the point. Moving on.

Movie

So, I live here now. In the theater. And when I’m having a conversation, or cooking, or watching TV, or reading, or driving, the movie never stops playing. And the wonderful people in my life talk to me about trivial things and make me laugh and I am distracted. As much as anyone would be…if they were in a theater with an IMAX screen and Dolby surround playing a movie that was a cross between Beaches, Steel Magnolias, Saving Private Ryan and the end of The Green Mile. But I love these distractions and do my best to tune out the movie. But the point, I guess, is that it’s always playing and I never actually leave the theater.

Eventually, I hope to get to the point where I don’t live here, but simply visit on holidays…and birthdays…and milestones.

But right now? The movie never stops. And I never leave the theater.

The More True-to-Life Stages of Grief.

Don’t worry. It gets sarcastic.

When I was 14, my mom lost her mother. My mom’s mom was her BFF, was only 63, and inexplicably died of a heart attack without a single warning sign. (I know! Right?) We were all close and I was sad to lose my grandma, but it paled in comparison to watching my mother suffer through such a debilitating loss. And then she proceeded to miss her mom every day for nearly 29 years. Until history effing repeated itself and started this whole messed up cycle again. What kind of bullshit is that? I would like to think that, had my mom had a choice in the matter, she would have adamantly rejected any scenario that would put me through what she went through. Yet here we are. And I’m kinda pissed.

What stage of grief is “anger” again? I’m guessing it falls somewhere between the “WTF?” stage and the “Well, that was a bunch of bullshit” stage. (Note: I have not properly researched the traditional stages of grief but I’m pretty sure mine could catch on.)

Anyway. I’ve also had darling and well-intentioned friends and family tell me that something good comes out of everything, no matter how bad. But my family was already close, I already appreciated every day and didn’t take people for granted (thanks to the aforementioned Grandma) and I was friggin’ strong enough already. Not sure I’ll ever see a silver lining to this shitty little cloud. We’ll call this the “Don’t give me any of that ‘personal growth’ crap” stage.

In other news, I think I’m training Steve not to use the word “need” with me because when he makes the mistake of asking me if “I need anything,” I inevitably answer “yeah, I *need* my mom.” And this leads to the “I should probably try to stop making the people around me uncomfortable” stage. I’m not to this stage yet.

I am, however, simultaneously in the “It’s 10 a.m. on a Saturday and that is clearly late enough for wine” stage and the “I swear to God, if I don’t stop crying, I’m going to sew my tear ducts closed” stage.

And this. This definitely has to be one of the stages. burrito of sadnessBecause Mexican food is always good.

The Two-Week Mark.

Not to turn my snarky, sarcastic blog into a sad place, but I’m not particularly funny lately. Unless I’m making some inappropriate joke at an inappropriate moment to make the sad people around me laugh.

The two-week mark is strange. Because when your 67-year-old, healthy, sassy mother’s heart suddenly stops beating for no good reason, people around you are still in shock as well. They can’t imagine what you’re going through. But the two-week mark is also the time when you’re expected to get back to the routine. Back to work. Back to normal. Well – the new normal.

So, I have this to report: I’m trying. I’m working. I’m hanging out with my friends. I’m taking the dogs for walks to the lake with my dad. I’m watching The Big Bang Theory reruns while making dinner and wasting time playing Candy Crush on my phone. And I have the uncontrolled fits of crying down to once a day. Usually.

The problem is that as the shock wore off, reality set in. And reality kinda sucks. My mom has left this void that is like a hole I keep tripping on. A dozen times a day. Every time I think of something I should tell her. Or something I need to ask her. Or something I want to gripe about. Or a decision I have to make. Or advice I need. Or if anything goods happens. Or anything bad. Or anything at all.

December 23rd, the day we were burying my mom, my parents’ sweet little dog died. (Cue the Depeche Mode, right? I don’t want to start any blasphemous rumors, but I think that God’s got a sick sense of humor?) Anyway, their older dog that followed my mom everywhere? Still alive. The younger one? Died, inexplicably, that morning. My father was devastated. But in his state, it was more like icing on a cupcake (because heartbreak when you’re already heartbroken and tears when you were crying anyway…seem to get washed away in the flood). So after the tragic morning at the cemetery, we all went over to my dad’s that afternoon to bury the dog in the backyard. And I made inappropriate jokes. And people laughed.

And then we went through all the motions of celebrating Christmas Eve and Christmas Day like good little soldiers. Cause that’s what you do.

So, I’ll undoubtedly keep tripping on the void like an uncoordinated, three-legged dog. But, as I said to my dad Saturday, on our way back from picking out my mom’s grave stone, it only hurts this much because we had it so good. And that sure makes it hard to complain.

Erin and Mom