A Swift Kick

It’s been a long time since my last post. I started this blog with the hopes of using my writing as an outlet for everything I was feeling after losing my parents. After bottling up my feelings for 6+ years over the loss of my dad, I was determined to do things differently when I lost my mom in February. My husband and I left our lives in Utah and moved to California to be closer to my family. He left a job he loved and I did the same, not knowing how much my classes and my students had become a part of me. We moved into an adorable and ridiculously small cottage in the Central Valley and essentially started over. The first few weeks were wonderful. I felt like I was myself for the first time in a long time. I was excited to be closer to my family and I felt like I was getting to know my husband all over again. I was working out and spending my time helping others get healthy. I was allowing myself to be open and really FEEL the losses for the first time. I was willing to talk about it and write about it and was working through it.

I think I had this fantasy that if I did those things, I would be stronger and I would be able to work through it. So, I was going through the process of revisiting my past in hopes of some closure. I went back to my hometown. I visited my grandparents at the cemetery, drove past my old school, and even sat in front of my childhood home for awhile. It was…weird. I felt emotionless. As I drove out town, I thought that maybe I didn’t feel much because I was okay. I had moved on. The next week was the 7 year anniversary of my dad’s death. I decided to drive to the city and visit his grave, for the first time since the service.

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I really prepared for it. I looked at pictures of us the night before, something I NEVER do. I made a play list of all of his favorite songs to listen to on the way to visit him. These songs were on my “Do not listen to” list since he left. I bought flowers and brought a blanket, thinking I’d spend some time talking to him. I was ready.

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And then something happened. On my way to visit him, I crossed the Bay Bridge. I was listening to “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” and there was this moment where I looked over and saw the ocean. My mom wanted her ashes to be spread over that very ocean so that whenever we saw it, we’d think of her. I’d seen the ocean many times since we did just that, and I’d come to a place of peace with it. But at that moment, something hit me. I wanted to pretend like I was going to spend the day with my dad and that I was okay that it was a cemetery and not actually him. I wanted to feel my mom’s presence as I drove over that bridge and take it as a sign that she was with me. But I didn’t. Something clicked and everything changed inside me.

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Both of my parents are dead. Gone forever. They both suffered horrific deaths and I was the one who had to decide to let them both die. That’s just the reality. I wasn’t at peace. I was on my way to sit on a piece of grass where my big, strong dad’s ashes were buried. And I was looking over at this massive body of water where my sweet mom’s ashes had been poured into. And there was no peace in any of it. Just an overwhelming sense of fury.

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And after that, things were different. I’m not proud of it, but I fell into this ever-sinking hole of complete sadness. At first, I couldn’t shut my mind off. Images of my incredibly sick and weak parents flooded my mind, especially at night. I couldn’t turn it off. I quickly got to a point where I felt nothing. It was like my body was going through the motions of everyday life but my head and my heart were gone. I shut down. I went from crying all day to doing nothing at all. I would sit on the couch and then all of a sudden it would be 4 hours later. Like my mind would just shut off. I think it had to because I couldn’t handle it anymore. I honestly could no longer deal with the pain. I completely stopped everything. I didn’t care about how I looked or felt so I stopped working out and eating well. I tried writing but everything I wrote was so angry and I didn’t want to believe that that was how I felt. I stopped talking, to Cody and to my friends. I stopped caring. I couldn’t understand the purpose in anything. I allowed myself to just disappear.

Then one day, about 6 weeks ago, my husband came home from work and we had a conversation. I won’t share the details of it, but basically I realized that HE wasn’t happy. My sweet, patient, selfless husband who had given everything up for me wasn’t happy. And that rocked me back into reality. He is my entire world and the thought of him being anything but completely happy made me more sad than anything else I was feeling.

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And that was a swift kick in my ass. So, I snapped out of it. I was still feeling all of the things I had been feeling but I made a decision to move forward. To quit being selfish. To get my life back.

I recently read this article that my brother sent to me, “The Day I’ll Stop Grieving” (everyone who has ever lost someone or who knows someone who has should read it) and I realized that grief isn’t a process that I have to work through. There isn’t this other side to get to. And as much as I want to overcome these horrible tragedies, that’s simply not possible.

…I’ve realized that Grief doesn’t just visit you for a horrible, yet temporary holiday. It moves in, puts down roots—and it never leaves. Yes as time passes, eventually the tidal waves subside for longer periods, but they inevitably come crashing in again without notice, when you are least prepared. With no warning they devastate the landscape of your heart all over again, leaving you bruised and breathless and needing to rebuild once more… You are forced to face your inability to do anything but feel it all and fall apart. It’s incredibly difficult in those quiet moments, when you realize so long after the loss that you’re still not the same person you used to be; that this chronic soul injury just won’t heal up. This is tough medicine to take, but more difficult still, is coming to feel quite sure that you’ll never be that person again. It’s humbling to know you’ve been internally altered: Death has interrupted your plans, served your relationships, and rewritten the script for you…I’ve walked enough of this road to realize that it is my road now. This is not just a momentary detour, it’s the permanent state of affairs. I will have many good days and many moments of gratitude and times of welcome respite, but I’m never getting over this loss… The day I’ll stop grieving –is the day I’ll stop breathing.”

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I’m not back to myself yet and I don’t know when I will be. Probably never. But the “fake it ‘til ya make it” process seems to be working wonders. So yes, I’m incredibly sad. And no, I don’t know how I’ll get through it. But I know I will. I know it is easy for people to tell me what I’m going through is normal and to see a therapist or turn to God. And I appreciate the concern, I do. But I need to decide what is right for me.

So here is the silver lining. I love my husband and my big brother so much and while I’m horrified at the thought of going through the rest of my life without my parents, I know that I have so many wonderful experiences ahead of me. So, I keep going. I allow myself to feel everything I don’t want to. To be sad but to live through it. Mostly, I’m thinking about the relationships that truly matter to me and that I’ve sort of let go of and I’m trying to rebuild them. I’m forming lasting friendships and I’m getting back to who I am. I’m reading more. I’m working out again. I’m starting to pray a bit. So that’s it. It isn’t much and it isn’t pretty. But it’s okay. It’s life. This thing we call grief isn’t definable. You can’t break it down into 5 stages and you can’t control it. You just have to figure out how to live with it. And to truly love life. That’s the goal. I think I see now that “The day I’ll stop grieving – is the day I’ll stop breathing” and that I have to figure out how to live each day with that grief.

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