Friday, October 23, 2015

Weekends Are the Worst

That's right.  I said it.  The weekends are the worst.

In my experience with loss thus far, the weekends seem like this vast expanse of time I have in front of me with nothing to do but deal with my thoughts and feelings.  Absent are the routines and busy schedules that fill our weekdays and make time march efficiently forward with less space to think and feel the absence of him.

With looser schedules and lazier days come quiet times to reflect.  The very qualities that I used to relish about our weekends together as a family are the qualities that now leave me anxious, restless, and longing for Monday for the first time in memory.

With nothing pressing to do and heavy feelings pinning me down, I inevitably turn to distractions that make the weight easier to bear.  Sitting outside on game day, playing with our kids, having quality, relaxed family time is a healthy distraction and I couldn't get through this without my husband's steady love and support nor without the responsibility I shoulder in caring for our children.  But it isn't enough right now.

Social engagements are also a healthy distraction and I couldn't survive this without my amazing friends and the ease with which we socialize and love each other.  But that isn't enough right now, either.

In my weakened state, I haven't the will to refuse those immediate, temporary remedies that relieve the scratching anxiety and numb my overbearing emotions.  I quickly find myself unable to say no more, to make rational decisions, and to look out for my health and well being.

In an effort to make myself feel whole again, I fill myself to the brim with food, friends, drink, and play and yet at the end of it, I still feel fragmented, broken, empty.  I get lifted above this all and escape it, if only briefly, ignoring the inner voice that knows what goes up must come down.  And I wake with the usual disbelief and forthcoming sadness with a thick layer of fog, exhaustion, and headache on top.

In short, it doesn't make me feel better.

But I do it because it is the weekend.

And the weekends are the worst.

Image Credit lifeisgoodkauai.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Comfort in Accomplishment

I'm a creature of habit. I enjoy structure, routine, and getting things done, one check list item at a time.  Like my dad did, I find comfort in knowing what will happen next, what I need to do, and what my day/week/month will look like.

This personality trait and way in which I manage my life left me feeling extremely disconcerted when I found myself in the position of not knowing what the hell to do with myself.  When my dad was first diagnosed, I'd spend what seemed like long periods of time doing nothing.  I was stuck, paralyzed with the news and unable to manage much of anything, much less lead a productive life.

But day by day, out of sheer necessity, I started getting things done.  It started with the most simple tasks, like:  Get out of bed.  Put food in your body.  Brush your son's teeth.  Take a shower.

A shift occurred when we moved in with Dad.  Things needed doing and we were there to do them.  I remember every meal I cooked, even something ridiculously simple like a box of pasta with a jar of sauce, felt like a monumental feat.  "I did it again," I'd think.  I managed to get us all fed.

And I started taking comfort in those accomplishments.  So I started doing a bit more and a bit more.

Practice yoga.  Check.  Take the boys outside for a walk.  Check.  Wash some clothes.  Check.  Do some cleaning.  Check.  Take a break to breathe, or cry, or scream because you must.  Check, check, check.

Now that I am more than four weeks into the next stage of this process, the part where he is actually gone, I have noticed a natural progression towards doing more, recapturing some normalcy for my children, my husband, and myself and yes, making to-do lists of things that need doing.

And again, I'm taking comfort in these accomplishments.

True, a list that would have normally taken me a day to knock out now takes me at least a week.  True, I daily find myself in moments when I'm unable to breathe, dripping unstoppable tears down my face, unable to accomplish anything but my grief.

But also true, I'm making progress.

Slow, steady, naturally human progress.

And I take comfort in that as well.

Image credit Zorbits Math.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Completing the Circle

I had never given much thought to whether or not I would step up and take care of my parents when age or illness left them incapable of doing it themselves.  I guess we never want to face the mortality of a beloved father or mother, especially when we assume that end will be so far into the future.  But life happens and things can change in an instant.

When faced with the reality that I was going to lose my dad, in a brutally short amount of time,  my brother and I had a decision to make.  I wasn't even conscious of the choice I was making because it was so clear and obvious and right.  Of course, he would go home.  We would take care of him.  We would figure out how to manage it all...our own children, our spouses, our lives.  We would see him through this with the end game being lights out on a wonderful life.

Our culture hides from death.  We avoid it.  We don't talk about it.  We certainly don't watch it happen if we can help it.  In days past, generations lived under the same roof so when Grandmother's time came, she was cared for by the family.  When she died, she was prepared for her final resting place by that same family.  She was on display under that same roof so that her family and community could view her.  Back then people knew what death looked like.  They knew what it felt like.  They experienced it wholly and saw caring for the dead and dying as an assumed responsibility...a most natural and clear duty.

Times have changed, of course.  Generations rarely live under the same roof anymore.  Parents are working outside of the home.  There are pressures bearing down on us all from forces far outside of our families and slowly, slowly over time one of the consequences of our evolving society was death was pushed away.  It was hidden from us.  It was given to someone else to deal with, somewhere else, away from our busy, distracted, chaotic lives.  And we are really missing out because of that.

Death is horrendously sad.  The weight of it impending is enough to crush the strongest soul and when it comes, it leaves you with an emptiness that no amount of time will every completely fill.  But   it is also profoundly beautiful.  And special.  And can leave you more whole, more wise, more capable than you ever thought possible, even with the staggering difficulty of your loss.

If given the opportunity to serve your loved one in this way, I implore you to take it.  Face it.  Be with them.  Experience it.  In doing so you complete the circle.  Parent to child, child to parent.  It is only through experiencing death that we truly understand and become able to fully experience life.

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