Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Six months

Hello, world. It's been a while... a long while. It's December 9th and somehow I haven't had a post since September 30th. I've struggled for words. I've struggled to process. I've struggled to think clearly. I hate to beat a dead horse but it's been a really hard couple of months.

I feel as though I no longer have any concept of time. Somehow it has been six months or 183 days since since my dad left us, and 199 since I last hugged him goodbye. How is it possible that so much time has passed when most days it feels like I just got the worst phone call of my life? It's supposed to get easier to deal with, not harder, yet because of my birthday and the holidays it's become so much harder.

I feel like for an entire month now I've cried at least once a day, but most days it's been more often than that. I read once that the tears dry up long before the pain stops... well, mine don't appear to be drying up any time soon.

My story, the journey to health story, was published on a HUGE Primal website on October 2nd. I was beyond excited for about two minutes...and then I wanted to pick up the phone to call my mom and dad and then it hit me again... "Nope, you can't call him now or ever again because he's dead." The outpouring from people all over the world who replied to the story on the site, sent emails, facebook message or reached out through this blog was amazing. But not being able to share it with my dad took away from the excitement and I think I officially hit the depression stage of grief.

What didn't help matters is that I didn't get to see any of my family for various reasons from Labor Day until Halloween weekend. Guess what isn't good on a single person who is grieving the loss of a parent 3-5 months after the fact... It made the struggle so much harder. When I finally was able to go to my hometown, we celebrated my 30th birthday a couple of weeks early. It was so great getting to spend time with my family but it was so sad without him there. Some things happened the weekend of my actual birthday that  made it a truly awful weekend, not mention being horribly sick with my second respiratory infection over the course of six weeks.

The week of Thanksgiving, the number of breakdowns I had were too many to count. I know I have so much in my life to be thankful and grateful for, and of course I am, but I didn't feel thankful for anything that week. I had people who have also been grieving various losses tell me that it's okay to not be okay, to not feel like celebrating anything, to not feel thankful. It's hard for me to not act cheery when I know I'm supposed to be that way but I simply didn't have it in me that week.

You have to be gentle with yourself. Nobody else knows how your loss personally affects you. For me and my past with depression, I'm sure that it's making it more difficult. If I hadn't worked so hard in the past few years to improve my health naturally, I would have started taking antidepressants and sleeping pills months ago. I refuse to do that for several reasons. I have been sleeping much better the past couple of months, but the dreams and nightmares I have often wake me up in tears. It would be easier but it would undo so much that I've done and my dad absolutely would not want that.

Christmas. Once upon a time there was nothing that could put more joy in my heart than the entire Christmas season. The celebrations with friends and family, the joy on the faces of my nieces and nephews, the songs that filled the air, the laughter, the giving, the hope, the peace....Through other family deaths and personal losses, it's been something to just get through as of late. Six months and one day ago I was looking forward to Christmas because I was finally in a great place again and so looking forward to being happy once again during the season. I've tried. I've helped other loved ones decorate, I play Christmas songs for my little man at work all the time, I even put my tree up. I have since taken it down. It made me too sad to look at it. A friend told me all that matters is that I did try to do something I would normally do. I feel guilty for not having the joy and thanks that I know I should have because of everything and everyone that I do have in my life but those moments have been few and far between the last few weeks...and apparently that is normal and okay, too.

A few days ago I was looking through some photo albums on facebook and found a comment made dad had written on the album. "I'm there guys, you just can't see me. I love you all." I needed to see that so much. I get asked all the time if I've found any peace about his death yet or if I've had any good dreams about him yet. The answer is no, I haven't. And the closer it gets to Christmas, the more I seem to cry and just feel sad. I needed to see that comment from him. I know in ways he is here. He is here through old stories and jokes. He is here in the eyes and personality of my youngest nephew. He is here through things my sister says all the time and it sounds just like him. But I can't see him, I can't hug him, and there are things I prayed to share with him one day since I was eight years old that will never happen and I just don't know how to be okay with that yet.

I know that one day there with be joy again and that I will feel peace. To those of you dealing with loss during this season, know that anything you feel is in fact normal and you should win a prize daily just for waking up and going about your day...a big one! To those of you who are lucky enough to not have profound losses in your life that make you feel like less than your normal self, don't judge us...we're trying. If you see me or talk to me during the rest of this month, please don't ask me if I'm okay or if I'm feeling better. Know that I'm not but I'm trying. Pray for me, pray for my family. Love your family. Be thankful for them. Tell them how much you love them.


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Keep on climbing...

Hello, world...

Somehow it's been nearly a month since my last post. This summer was without a doubt the hardest, most bizarre of my life. I wake up every day and for a while it seems as though life hasn't changed...and then it will sneak up on me at some point every day that it's all so very different.

Allow me to get corny for a moment and actually quote a teenage girl group. "Searching for a sign in the night, even like a lonely string of lights that'll burn just long enough for you to see it. The road's been long and lonely and you feel like giving up. There's more to this than just the breath you're breathing. So keep on climbing, though the ground might shake. Just keep on reaching though the limb might break. We've come this far, don't you be scared now cause you can learn to fly on the way down...You won't forget the heavy steps it took to let it go. Close your eyes, count to ten, hold your breath and fly." 

About a month ago, I thought that I was ready to jump fully back into my life as it was before losing my dad. Not so much apparently. As I have every transition into fall for the past several years, I had a huge fibro flare up. Thankfully, it hasn't been as bad as the other years (Thanks, Zeal), but enough to stop me in my tracks off and on. Given the physical, emotional and mental exhaustion I've been under the last three and a half months, I'm honestly surprised it wasn't worse. 

Sunday evening I decided to do my full workout routine.. biking, weights, yoga, chiro stretches, core training. I have no idea what possessed me to do so but it was the first time since right before losing my dad back in June that I did all of it. The crazy thing is that I was scared to do it. I was scared of how my body would handle it. I was scared I would hurt a lot afterwards. I was scared of locking in and doing too much. Each day since I have pushed myself like I was before sixteen weeks (how has it been that long?!) ago and it's taken so much more now to do it. Why? Because the first two months I barely slept, hardly ate and if I did I got sick more often than not. Though I didn't gain anything back this summer, I definitely lost a lot of physical strength.

I got upset at myself last night at the gym. It's a well known fact that I loathe Tuesdays now and yesterday was no different. Monday night I did 13 miles on the bike (I was at 19 miles two days before my dad died) and was proud of myself. Last night I was on the bike for 6 minutes longer and did 4 miles less than the night before. And of course upon telling my mother this, she said "but you went and you did it." My heart definitely wasn't in it but right now I have to make myself do it because I felt incredible 16.5 weeks ago...truly the best I had ever felt as an adult. To make up for not doing as many miles, I did extra yoga and lifting after I got home. I slept horribly last night, again, nothing new for Tuesday but got right back at it this morning. I did several miles this morning walking through Forest Park (and pushing a stroller no less), up and down Art Hill multiple times and I felt really good afterwards.

It doesn't matter how many times you pause while fighting for something, the point is that you fight. You do it because no matter how hard it might be some days, the end result is worth it. My dad was so proud of me for how far I've come the last couple of years. I have to not only get back to where I was strength wise, but to push beyond that and continue on this journey of health and wellness without traditional medicine. From pushing myself this week again I've lost 3.5lbs already...and I didn't lose much more than that all summer, even with not eating much most of the time and the couple of months of being sick. How is that possible? Because as I've learned over the past two years now, it is not in my body's nature to just lose weight like a lot of people would. Most people would lose a lot if their bodies physically went through what mine did this summer. I was in survival mode, which meant just getting through the day more often than not so I wasn't super gung ho about eating strictly Paleo/Primal, or juicing very much. My Zeal Wellness was no doubt my saving grace in terms of nutrition. But this week I've given my body all of the foods (and juices) that heal me and make everything work like it should and that plus pushing myself physically is paying off.

I've grieved loss many times before, but unlike all of the other times, there was truly so much loss with losing my dad. So many hopes and dreams that will never come true. And unlike the other times, I've been completely by myself through all of it and it's been the hardest thing I have ever had to endure. No matter what anyone says the will to fight through the bad days ultimately comes from within. Everything I've ever known about loss and grief before now pretty much went out the window.

People have commented lately that they can't believe everything I've been through at not even 30 yet. Some days I can't either. But through all of it I've come to know myself better than most my age for sure. I know when to physically push myself and when not to. It's time now so that's what I'm doing. It might be really freaking hard some days but in the end it will be worth it.

Monday, August 31, 2015

After a season of suffering...

Hello, world...

Lord knows I am no stranger to suffering, but I am also no stranger to an infinite amount of grace from God, from others and from myself. I am no stranger to restoration of mind, body or soul. The last nearly twelve weeks of my life has been the hardest season of suffering I've ever known...and that's saying something. In the last week, however, I feel as though my soul has been renewed and I can finally turn the page again.

I had a little chat with my chiropractor this morning about finally being ready to put my focus back on myself. He told me he was hoping I would tell him everything I did. I admire him both as a doctor and as a friend who has helped me physically, mentally and emotionally. I told him (and I quote) "And even though this is twice now in the last 2 1/2 years that I've been on this life changing journey that I've paused for an extended period of time, I knew both times I would find my way back because of the changes inside of me that had taken place." 

If you tuned into the blog last week, you saw the picture of that awesome dress I found! Somehow, seeing myself in that dress is what gave me the spark I had needed all summer. I turn 30 in 74 days...on a Friday the 13th no less and I've been dreading it. Ever since I lost my dad, I've dreaded my birthday because it's hard to fathom not sharing it with him. I've realized that I have to change my way of thinking and find a way to make it something positive. Said dress from last week fits now, but in 74 days I want it to look amazing. I haven't stepped foot into the gym since the day before my dad died and today is D-Day, so to speak. Right before we lost him I was in the gym nearly every day plus doing my yoga and chiro stretches at home every day. I was sleeping very well. I was eating exceptionally well and taking my Zeal every day. The only thing that has stuck since losing him is my Zeal and I know that is physically what has kept me going. I've continued to lose over the summer but nothing like I was before, not that I expected to. I set a goal to reach by my birthday when I surpass that goal, I will have something to focus on a celebrate rather than merely being sad that my dad isn't there with me. 

I've been watching my country count on Blogger steadily go up since creating this blog (after saying goodbye to my old one). Today I hit 60...SIXTY countries. That continues to blow my mind. My blog has been read in nearly 1/4 of the countries in our little world. 111,683 views. I had multiple people reach out to me last week and thank me for talking about grief and not sugar coating what it's really like. Knowing that my story reaches others who are hurting helps me. I started changing my life two and a half years ago after refusing to be defined by pain and medication, by doctors who seemingly knew nothing or by past hurts that had damn near broken me. Today I've lost 150lbs, 7 dress sizes and a dozen medications. I've gained a sense of self that nobody can ever take away from me again. I've gained the ability to pick myself up, no matter how hurt I am. I've gained the strength to share my entire story in hopes of giving others the strength they need to make a change. I've lost a lot but I've gained so much more.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Crawl if you have to...

Hello, world...

Yesterday marked eleven weeks without my dad. It was the first Tuesday since that awful day that I haven't cried. I still cry, Lord knows I do, but it doesn't break me repeatedly every day any more. I miss him more than I ever knew it was possible to miss another person but I'm getting through it.

One thing I miss is the unwavering support and encouragement my dad gave me every day. It's a well known fact that we often collided and got upset with each other, which happens with two very stubborn people. The last few years though we truly grew in our relationship with each other and saw one another in a different light. The last two years especially, he had vocally been my biggest cheerleader. Oh, how I've missed that. I've needed that encouragement so much. Insert the tears...they're never really all that far away.

Last night something awesome happened and I know he would have been the first to say something about it. I sent a text to my DC bff/sister from another mother and she told me "He's smiling so big right now!" It made me sad and she said not to be sad because of how happy he would be for me. And it's true.

For the last couple of weeks I've been working on building up my fall wardrobe as everything from last fall is just too big. I've been buying regular XL sweaters which truly blows my mind. I saw a dress hanging on a clearance rack (hello, 80% off, plus an additional 20% off AND I had a 15% off coupon...$9.28.) that all but screamed my name. I tried it on and couldn't believe the reflection in the mirror. I felt beautiful and happy for myself. My birthday is in two and a half months (30...eek!) and the goal is for this dress to make an appearance during the festivities and to look amazing on.

I've fought REALLY hard to go from a size 26/28 dress down to that XL. The last eleven weeks my body has been through absolute hell and torment. The first two weeks without my dad I was lucky if I got 2 hours of very broken sleep every night. If I felt like eating at all, easily 90% of anything I ate did not stay down. I had a continual migraine and hurt from head to toe. In the weeks since, my sleep, thank God, for the most part has improved quite a bit. Most nights I manage 5-6 hours, still broken though and often have pretty awful dreams, but I still get rest. Most days, however, I'm nauseous all throughout the day and it doesn't seem to matter what I eat or don't eat. It's not uncommon for roughly half of what I manage to eat to still not stay down. It's grief and it's awful...but it's normal, unfortunately. The headaches and migraines have been atrocious, though not surprising given the lack of sleep and nutrition. My saving grace in terms of nutrients every day is my Zeal...I have no doubt that is part of physically what keeps me going.

I've been in survival mode for the past eleven weeks and I hate "living" in survival mode. It's not living and as should know as that is what life was for me for roughly fifteen years. I don't want to merely survive and get through the days anymore. I know that grief doesn't magically just go away. With my birthday and the holiday season coming up, I know it's going to hit me harder than it has thus far probably but it isn't supposed to be easy.

I know how proud my dad was of me for all of the changes that have been taking place in my life. He told me on a nearly daily basis. I've been really gentle with myself. It's now been eleven weeks and three days since I last stepped foot into the gym and I had been going almost daily before that. I told myself that it physically wasn't safe for me to go and push myself because I wasn't sleep, wasn't eating and if I did eat I got sick. I've been doing yoga at home still a few times a week but it's not the same. I need to get back to where I was physically before June 9th and run with it. I know he would want me to.

One thing we tend to forget when we're in the depths of a storm is that life does in fact go has to. There are always going to be waves that will crash into us, knock us down, beat us up and attempt to drag us out to sea. When you get swept out, you have to find a way to get back on land and stand on your feet again. Some days in the last eleven weeks it's felt like all I could do is crawl out of and into bed. I've made eight trips to Marion in the last eleven weeks, been out of town for work, had overnights and spent a total of 6 nights in my own bed over the course of four and a half weeks. I've been completely and utterly exhausted this summer...mentally...emotionally...physically. Schedule wise, life is finally starting to get back to normal so I need to as well. Even if I have to crawl into and out of the gym to get back into it and be where I was, it's what I have to do. I refuse to give up on the plans I've had for myself.

I also sent in my application yesterday to be one of the 2016 faces for a plus size company...wish me luck! It's something I've thought about doing for a VERY long time and have been told time and time again that I should do. I picked up my mail and had something from them that informed me the deadline was today. Even if I don't get picked, I'm glad I finally tried.


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Baby steps...

Hello, world...

Eight weeks. I don't know how it is that time keeps marching on. Some days feel like they last for months. Some days it feels like nothing at all has changed. Other days I'm reminded just how much my entire world has changed and will never be the same and in this case, that isn't a good thing.

I came across something the other day while reading and it really struck me.
I am a griever. That doesn't mean I have a disease. It means that I miss and love someone who has died. Let me grieve at my own pace. My reality is forever changed. Do not judge me nor feel it is your obligation to tell me to "move on" or "get over it." Getting over it is not an option. With time, I will do my best to move forward with one step in front of the other. They might be baby steps, but it's better than none at all. When I need you...just be there.

I am constantly amazed by the number of people who try to tell me how I should be feeling right now. People who still have both parents. People who are married, have kids, grand-kids in some instances, try to tell me that I need to essentially just suck it up because he would want me to. That's not only unfair, it's not fully accurate. My dad was the biggest cry-baby I have ever's where I get it from. Not only that, but my grandma Tressie (yes, I was named after her) passed away before I was even born. My dad lived the last 34 years of his life without her and I heard about how sad he was, how much he missed her, etc, for my entire life. Most people in my family on both sides lived to be 80-90, so based on that we'll assume that I have another 50-60 years of life without my dad. You can't begin to understand what this feels like unless you've lot your dad....and really you can't understand unless you are a woman, unmarried, in your 20's still and have no kids. It's a completely different reality than losing your father when you are already married and have kids. I also can't imagine what it's like for a son to lose his father. But I don't pretend to know what it's like or interject my thoughts on how someone should deal with it or not.

Last week I finally ventured back to Baseball Heaven for the first time since we lost my dad. I was genuinely really excited to go. I met up with an old friend at a pub beforehand to grab something to eat and I should have known when I was about half a block away that the night wasn't going to go in my favor. Why? Because three years ago I looked at a wedding venue with my ex and my mother and it's the place that (even post breakup, obviously) I still imagined my dad eventually walking me down the aisle one day. It hit me all over again that he will never do that. It sucked. During most of the game, I thought of all of the baseball conversations we shared and the memories from the stadium that we soon as I got into my car afterwards, I lost it. I cried for a while. I was awake and very sick to my stomach for hours after that.

I can truly be completely fine one minute and then the next I see something, hear something, smell something, remember something and I just yearn for my dad. This happens a lot when I go to my hometown. I was there the last full weekend of July and needed to feel my dad's presence. I drove down to our old marina at the lake and just hung out on the docks for a little while. I felt him there and my heart was flooded with memories of being on the water with him. A hot summer breeze blew over the water and I got a whiff of fish and that was all I needed. I left and drove down to the cemetery and that was gut wrenching. I remember very little from the last time I was there because I was so out of it the week we lost him. After that I needed to be with someone who reminded me of my dad, who has the same corny sense of humor that he had. I went to his younger brother's house to visit for a while. Remarkably, at the cemetery was the only time that trip home that I cried.

My mother is moving up here for sure and I'm glad she is. However, I am dreading the process of helping to sort and pack. I hate how many of my dad's things I will never see again because we have no use for them. I know how awful it was for me when my parents packed up to move from Illinois to Florida. I cried and cried. It's totally different now and I can't imagine it would be better. How do you pack up, give away or throw away things that belonged to a parent? You can't keep everything (especially when you live in a one bedroom apartment and have absolutely no use for most of it), but you hate to see someone else have it. I can't imagine there never being a garage full of fishing stuff ever again. I can't imagine not seeing all of his tools. I've already brought some things back to St. Louis with me and there are others that my mom will hold onto and I will get eventually. With my mom moving here, even though I still have a lot of family in and around my hometown, it feels like part of me has to say it's no longer going to be "home." That breaks my heart.

I've also learned over these last eight weeks just how important it is to be kind and gentle with yourself, and not in the normal ways even. For several weeks I beat myself up about the fact I've yet to get back into the gym. Perhaps some people it does help them feel better to physically work it out. For me, it takes everything in me most days to chase a toddler all over creation at work. Throw in the fact that I go through huge of waves of not sleeping or eating and it would actually be really bad for me to go to the gym in that state. I've never been one to let myself just do nothing...I've had days/nights where that's all I crave and you have to let yourself do that because your body, your heart, your mind and your soul need time to just be and not have to fight to make it through the rough days. On the good days, I go out with friends and enjoy normalcy. I think that the biggest thing I've learned is how alone you feel because most of the people in your life (I've now learned from experience) have no idea what to say or not say to you so instead they say nothing. Eventually, you will reach out because you want your people and they'll say something like "Oh, I think about you every day", and you'll think something like "I'm so glad you think of me daily but never reach out, because that helps me...not." And if you're like me, you'll later feel bad for even having such thoughts. Don't hold things against your friends who truly have no idea what you're going through and thus don't know how to approach you. Don't beat yourself up for thoughts that you have because anger is one of the big parts of grief, unfortunately.

When you're grieving, all you can really do is live day to day, and sometimes its more like minute by minute. Nothing truly makes you feel better. Words or people can offer comfort, but I've learned how fleeting comfort really can be. Some days you're going to feel everything and it's going to hurt like hell. Some days you'll laugh and feel normal. Some days you will feel numb to literally everything and everyone around you. But that is in fact normal no matter how strange it feels. And if you want to heal, you have no choice but to let all of it come and at times consume you.


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

It doesn't go away...

Hello, world...

Six weeks. Six weeks today since my dad died. That still sounds so bizarre to say. My dad died. He's dead. What?! What's more bizarre than saying it, is hearing someone else tell me they are sorry that my dad is dead. It's like sometimes I don't realize I'm being talked to because it often seems unreal still.

Last week was a terrible week. The two weeks before were nothing in comparison to the last one. I actually put my bluetooth in on my way to work one morning and picked up the phone and hit my dad's speed dial. I lost it when I realized what I was doing. 

Driving home from work one night an oldish (from the 90's) song came on called Holes In The Floor Of Heaven...I listened to it for probably a minute before I realized what I was hearing and I started to cry uncontrollably. I changed the station and another oldish song was playing. A song that was always on my list of potential songs I would dance to with my dad at my wedding some day. "You're beautiful baby from the outside in. Chase your dreams but always know the road that'll lead you home again. Go on, take on this whole world but to me you know you'll always be, my little girl...Someday, some boy will come and ask me for your hand. But I won't say yes to him unless I know he's the half that makes you whole. He has a poet's soul, and the heart of a man's man. I know he'll say that he's in love but between you and me he won't be good enough." That was enough to nearly kill me. I instantly started gasping for air, had to pull of the road and ugly cry it out for a little while until I could drive again. My dad is dead. He will never give a man permission to marry me. He will never walk me down the aisle. He will never dance with me at my wedding. How is that actually reality now? 

My mom was up here this weekend looking at condos. Why was she up here looking at condos? Because my dad is dead. As much as I want her to be up here with me, it's unfreakingbelievable that she is considering moving here because he is gone. 

Today is my mom's birthday. I was on the phone with her after work last night. I told her "Well, tomorrow is Tuesday and I hate Tuesdays now...but it's your birthday." She said we couldn't be sad tomorrow (today) because it's her birthday and had she never been born, I wouldn't have been either. My response? "Yeah but then I wouldn't be 29 with a dead dad either." What the hell is wrong with me?!?! Who actually says that? 

I read in a book last week that generally after three months your grief intensifies, not to mention birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, etc... Great. I'm glad I have that to look forward to. 

What really throws me is how much I love everything else in my life. How happy I am with everything else in my life. Yet I have this unbelievable shock and sadness in my heart that sometimes just absolutely stops me in my tracks. Sometimes it physically hurts. I'm still not sleeping very well. I still have days at a time where I can't keep anything down or days where I have no appetite period. There are days where it's all I can do to simply get through the day and just get home to my bed so I can shut the rest of the world out and not have to be a functioning human. Yet then there are times I have a lot of fun with my friends and family, enjoy my time with my little monkey at work, enjoy cooking and baking, making plans for the future. 

Grief is the most unnerving and ugly thing I've ever encountered. There is no easy way to get through it. You can't bypass it. You can't sleep it away. You can't avoid it. There is nothing anyone can ever say to you that legitimately makes you feel better. I've had more migraines in the last six week than in the past year combined. Sometimes I can feel the pain in my chest. Sometimes I want and need to cry and the tears never come. Other times they hit me hard and fall out of my eyes like water coming out of a faucet with no end in sight. 

I read something a few weeks ago that struck me. "The day you died the musical score of my life was forever changed. A sad undertone was added. Some days it is very loud. Some days it is very soft. But it is always there. I am thankful for the days when I can hear the joyful melody of life. I will listen to your song forever in my heart."

There isn't a day that goes by that I don't miss my dad. Some days it breaks me...some days I am seemingly fine, normal even. 


Friday, July 10, 2015

The G word...

Hello, world....


What is it? The ugliest thing a human being can ever go through. I thought I knew grief before. I thought I would never feel more heartache and sadness than I felt last spring. I thought wrong.

In the 31 days now since my dad passed away I've been pushed into denial, dread, depression, rage, pain, woe, regret, bitterness, anxiety, confusion, panic, dismay, apathy, sorrow, anguish, disappointment, emptiness, resentment, fear, yearning, envy, jealousy, helplessness, loneliness, betrayal, sadness, rejection, relief (what?!) hurt and distrust. That is essentially everything tangled together in that ball. Have you any idea how completely and utterly exhausting it is to experience all of those things over the course of 31 days?! It's maddening, especially when all of those feelings are so far outside of your norm. That's not to say that I feel those things 24/7 because I don't, thank God, but several of them I cycle through on a daily basis.

I'll say it again, grief is ugly. It's nasty. It doesn't care who you are. It hits you harder than anything you can comprehend. You can choose to let it take you over and work through it, or you can ignore it and hope it goes away. The thing about grief is that you can only keep it at bay for so long. The longer you ignore it, the harder it becomes to deal with. Grief shows you who you really are, what and who matters most in your life, which as you're going through it can feel like both a blessing and curse.

In his Book Don't Take My Grief Away, Doug Manning described grief as feeling like this:
"Right now your chest hurts--the numbness has worn off and real pain has replaced it. You wonder if you will ever be well again. A thousand questions flood your mind. A thousand hurts pop up every day. Every day you find a new thing to cause memories and bring tears. You find it hard to sleep. The awful loneliness seems to be there every moment of every day. The finality of death leaves a hollow feeling all over your body. Loneliness comes in only one size-- Extra Large. "

I would add to that that it's a feeling like your world is spinning out of control. No matter how much I know or believe about death and eternal life in Heaven through my beliefs in Christ, right now, it doesn't help my pain or sadness. It doesn't stop the sometimes all consuming pain that rushes through my entire being. It doesn't stop the nausea that I battle all day long and have for 31 days now. It doesn't help me sleep any better at night. Regardless of the fact that I know I will see my daddy again someday, the fact is that I will likely live another 50-60 years without him. That devastates me. It sickens me. It angers me.

When my dad died, dreams I've had since I was a little girl died, too. I read something earlier this week that talked about grieving for all that is lost, which includes the future. I've had multiple people comment to me that I need to not focus on those dreams, implying that dreams and plans fail anyways. When I was 8 and thought my dad would die any day, I suppose I started having anticipatory grief then. He wasn't supposed to live another 21 years like he did. I spent 21 years thinking he would die every single time he got sick, with every single heart attack or bad test result. My biggest dreams have always been that I would be a wife and mother someday, a wife like my grandmother was, and a mother like my own. Within those dreams were ones that my daddy would walk me down the aisle to my husband, that he would hold my babies and watch them grow for as long as he could. Those dreams died with him. I will never have that.

Jealousy, envy, anger, resentment, disappointment and sadness have all hit me hard because of that. I love my sister more than I could ever express but I'm jealous that she has those memories to hold onto for the rest of her life and I'll never have them. I resent and feel anger towards people who insist that my dad will still be there with me for those events, especially if they are already married and/or have children. And then I feel  bad for feeling that way but I can't help it. It feels like a slap in the face for people who still have their fathers and got to experience those things with them (or even for those who have lost their fathers later in their lives and experienced those things) to say that to me. I want to yell at all of them "Tell me how you would feel if the roles were reversed!!" Of course, I don't. I grieve for the things in the future I so badly wanted to share with my daddy and telling me he will be there in spirit does not help me.

I've seen lists of things you shouldn't say to someone who is grieving and most of them are spot on. I am so tired of being asked "How are you?" Earlier this week I had an exchange with someone who I hadn't spoken with since four days after my dad died. I was asked "Well, are you feeling better?" Immediately I felt enraged. I actually said, "You mean am I feeling better about the fact that my dad is dead than I did the last time we spoke, four days after he died? No. I don't feel better."What I've come to learn is that people who have never lost a parent think there is a timetable for grief, that you should feel better within x amount of days. Just because I'm not curled up in a ball, in my bed all day every day crying doesn't mean that I'm not absolutely heartbroken. I go to work every day. I laugh and I smile often through the day (thanks, H). I go out with friends a couple of times a week now. I manage, but a part of me is broken. That doesn't mean that I want or need to be fixed either.

I've been told by several people that I should be stronger for this reason or that reason. I've been told that crying won't help. I've been told too many times to count "I understand", again by people who have not lost a parent, which means they do not understand, in fact, they cannot even come close to understanding.

I generally don't know how to tell people to stop asking me seemingly stupid questions right now. I don't know how to tell people that I would rather them not try to make me feel better because inevitably, more often than not it makes me feel worse. I get that people don't like to see other people sad or hurting, and that it often makes them feel inadequate. However, there is no magic word or phrase that anyone can throw at me to make me feel better. What makes me feel better is simply talking to me and letting me cry if that's what I need at that moment. Talking about things that don't relate to losing my dad at all, doing something fun even just for a little while to distract me helps.

In her book, On Grief and Grieving, Elisabeth Kubler Ross says "The reality is you will grieve forever. You will not "get over" the loss of your loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same again. Nor should you be the same, nor should you want to be the same." Life doesn't stop just because my dad is gone. Day to day, my life looks pretty much the same as it did the day before he died. Inside of me though everything has seemingly changed.

Everyone deals with grief differently. Truly, no two people can grieve in the same way. For some it takes much longer than others to get through. Some people need to talk about it, some people don't. Some people need to be left alone and some don't ever want to be alone. Grief comes in waves and it has so many different facets that I learn more about every day. I've read several books now about grief and from what I've experienced for myself in these 31 very long days is that you do have to acknowledge your pain and your grief in order to start to heal. Some days I cry a lot, some I cry only a little. Some days I laugh a lot, some days I can't imagine finding anything funny. But I talk about all of it because there is a healing power in words.

I miss my dad. I miss him more than I ever knew it was possible to miss another person. I miss his laugh. I miss his smile. I miss his corny jokes. I miss his posts, comments and likes on facebook. When I'm in my hometown and I wake up in the morning, it takes me roughly an hour to garner up the strength to walk out into the living room and not see him, and even then, I still cry because it seems so unreal. I miss hearing him say "I love you, Sweetie" or "I love your face". God, I miss that. I miss the jokes we would make about my mom being left-handed. I miss talking about the Cardinals with him. I miss telling him funny stories. I miss calling him in the morning on my way to work just because. Every fiber of my being misses him.

Grief. It's ugly. It's all consuming. It makes the most unselfish people the most self-absorbed and there is nothing that can be done to stop it. You just have to let it happen.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

When fear becomes reality...

Hello, world...

I write because it helps me heal. I write in hope of helping others heal. So what does one write when there are no words that can heal?

Three weeks ago today my world was shattered. For as long as I can remember, I feared a life without my dad. My worst fear is now my reality and that doesn't make it any easier to deal with. When I was eight years old, my dad had five bypasses done and after all was said and done (after multiple complications), he was given two years on the long side to live. By the grace of God he got another twenty one years. Shouldn't I be happy I got that at least? Yes. Is it enough? Not hardly. When you always know in the back of your head that your dad is on borrowed time, there is an unending fear in the back of your mind every time the phone rings.

Probably more than most little girls, I dreamed of my daddy walking me down the aisle and seeing me have kids, always knowing that I probably wouldn't get to have that. There was a time in my life when I thought I was with the person my dad would walk me down the aisle towards, and I was raising a child my dad cared for as if he were my own. There was joy in that for me, knowing that something I wanted to share with my daddy for so long was within reach. Then it was gone.

Most of you know that last month my life changed as well as his. There are no words to describe how thankful I am that until the last two days of his life, he got to live in a way that he hadn't been able to for more than two decades. He got to sleep peacefully at night, wake up without pain, walk without his cane, go fishing (something that he loved almost as much as his grandkids) and truly enjoy it again. He got to have hope that he would have several more years like that. He had hope that he would be there to walk me down the aisle one day and to hold my children. I had hope of that for the first time. When you suddenly find hope in something that you never thought would happen and then in an instant it's gone the sadness is overwhelming.

Sometimes the sadness is so overwhelming that I feel pain in every part of my body and it's hard to simply breathe. Other times I'm okay and it doesn't seem real at all. I'm sad for my family. I'm especially sad for my sweet nephews who love their grandpa so much and will never understand the depths of how much he loved them. I'm sad for my dogs who still don't know what to do without him around. I'm sad for my future child or children who will never call him grandpa. I'm sad that the one thing I wanted more than anything as a little girl will never happen. I am 29 years old and God willing I still have another 50-60 years...I cannot fathom living that long without my dad. Every time I post anything at all on facebook, I expect to get a notification that he has commented on it. When the Cardinals are playing, I expect to talk to him. Every time I wake up in my parents house, I expect him to be in the living room. I expect to hear his corny jokes. I expect to hug him when I get to my hometown and when I leave to head back to the city.

As a Christian, I know that my daddy is in Heaven and his body is perfect. I know he is finally with his parents again. I was named after his mom who passed away 34 years ago. My whole life I've heard about how much he missed her. I'm happy for him. I'm happy he's home now and never ever has to feel another day of pain. I know I will see him again someday. However, none of that really makes me feel better right now. I miss my dad so much. There's a song by MercyMe called Homesick and the first part of it plays in my head many times throughout the day. "You're in a better place, I've heard a thousand times and at least a thousand times I've rejoiced for you. But the reason why I'm broken, the reason why I cry is how long must I wait to be with you. I close my eyes and I see your face. If home's where my heart is then I'm out of place. Lord, won't you give me strength to make it through somehow. I've never been more homesick than now."

Even though he had suffered so much in the past twenty one years, it was still very sudden. He'd had a flareup for a couple of days of his hiatal hernia and the pain was so sever that it made his heart weaker from the spikes in his blood pressure. At 1pm he had made a post on facebook and by 2pm he was gone. My nephews were at the house when it happened and I thank God that they didn't see him like that, but my heart breaks for my mom for finding him just gone.

In the past 15 months I have had a lot of sorrow and grief to get through but it all pales in comparison to losing my daddy. I also know that if I was still living in DC, I wouldn't have had all of the time over the last year that I got to have with him. I never would have found my way to a chiropractor who changed my life by introducing me to Zeal, and thus my dad would never have gotten to have the last month that he did. I had back to back weekends at home with him in May and that wouldn't have been possible if I still lived in DC. If I still lived in DC, I wouldn't have had ten days with my family over the past three weeks and I don't know if I would be able to be a functioning human being. I may be very sad off and on throughout the day right now but being able to be here so close to my momma, my sister, my sweet nephews and several close friends is what keeps me going. In time it won't hurt like it does now. Right now the grief comes in huge waves and all I can do is ride them.

One thing I've learned in the last few weeks is that people have all sorts of ideas of what they think they should say to try to make it better. Nothing makes it better and there are some things that really do make it worse. If you have a loved one who is grieving, just love them and listen when the want to talk, let them cry if they need to cry. Pray for them. Sometimes not saying a word is the best thing you can do. There are no magic words that heals a heart that is absolutely devastated. Being able to comfort someone goes a long way though. This week I'm trying to get back to normal and back into a routine. It's the strangest feeling. I still feel like I'm going to wake up and it will all just go back to normal and this will have been nothing more than a nightmare...but I know that isn't the case and this is the new normal.

I miss you and love you so much, daddy.