I will keep the tie that binds us ~ Johnny and June Carter Cash (‘Cause I Love You)

So, I’ve struggled with losing ma and am beginning to cognitively realize the finality of her being gone…but it’s something that I simply can’t emotionally accept yet. It’s been a bit over 3 months and I know I should be facing things better yet I feel like I haven’t really even started the actual grieving process yet.

As always I decided to research all of this and after digging through mountains of material have come to understand that navigating grief when you have bipolar is a bit more difficult and can often lead to complicated grief…something I didn’t know anything about.

Honestly, I really hadn’t thought about bipolar affecting how one grieves and once I came across some articles I saw myself in them more and more…it actually makes me feel better just in the sense that what I’m going through is normal for my abnormal brain (hmmmm…confusing statement, huh?😳).

A wonderful article helped me understand that those with mental illness (or anyone!) often experience delayed grief which is basically when people postpone coping with the loss and not being able to grieve or actively suppress any emotion that begins to rise. (Repression and suppression are often used synonymously but repression is unconscious and suppression is conscious). Bipolar itself can force this delay simply because there is little space in our emotional world – it’s already filled. I never thought about this but I relate.

Depression is a huge part of complicated grieving anyway but exacerbated in those of us who deal with it regularly. Verywellmind.com lists signs that indicate complicated grief and although I have these now, actually diagnosing this states that the loss has to have been at least 6 months ago…so maybe I won’t experience this seriously since it’s only been 3:

  • Excessively avoiding reminders of the loss – definitely…although I have a lot of pics of ma around, it’s hard for me to actually look at them. O gave me a digital frame for Christmas last year and it’s on my kitchen table. I always used to have it on all day to see my fam, but now I just leave it off since ma is in so many of the stored images.
  • Obsessively thinking about the person – Hmmm…I don’t have this since I’m repressing every attempt to think about it…
  • Intense longing for the person – yep.
  • Feeling a loss of purpose in life – you know, this is a toughie. School has been amazing this semester and has given me a routine and a reason to get up everyday. But honestly, I’ve been teaching for a total of 32 years (including elementary) and had been thinking seriously about retiring. Now I’m not so sure…teaching is so much of my purpose and even though I love it so so so so much, I’m getting tired of the bureaucracy that’s inherent in any public institution. Decisions are made and edicts fall from the top when us faculty actually know how to do our jobs pretty durn well. I don’t need yet another meeting talking about syllabi or calendars…after 3 decades, I think I have it down pat. When ma was here, retiring was more enticing since I had her as a social support/best friend/travel buddy, etc. Now I feel like I’m just floating and if I don’t continue to teach, I don’t know what my life would look like.
  • Seeing proximity and reminders of things from the person – ma’s living room furniture fills my house now and it really does make me feel closer to her.
  • Suicidal thoughts – no.
  • Unable to accept the loss – yep.
  • Experiencing instrusive/persistent thoughts about the person – yep…when I’m least expecting to, I often find myself just thunderstruck by her…I never know when it’s going to happen.

The causes resound with me (and Terri as well) –

  • Unexpected death – ma was fine in June, hospitalized in July, and gone Aug. 2nd
  • History of mental disorders 🙄
  • Experience of more than 1 death within a short period – in fact, Terri lost the boy she was a private nurse for and who she considered a son while our aunt died 18 days before ma. Then, Terri’s mother in law died just a few weeks ago and is grieving that loss as well. She’s been through so much.
  • Not being present when the death occurred or being a witness to it – Terri was there when ma died and even though she’s a nurse, it was so traumatic for her. I wasn’t at the hospital that early morning (we took shifts) and although I didn’t want to see her actually pass, it’s almost unreal that she did. Yes, I saw her in the funeral home, but that was more surreal…doesn’t really make sense, does it?
  • Older females – well hell, that’s us. 🙄

Anyhoot, reading about all of this actually helped me a lot since it gave me some answers regarding this process and helped me understand how my mind is processing all of this. I totally understand that there is no ‘normal’ way to grieve and I also understand that everyone grieves at times in their lives. Terri and I talked about that the other day and said that we wouldn’t be able to stand this if it were one of our sons. And although we know we’re lucky that ma was very happy her last 12 years and didn’t suffer for an extended time, it doesn’t take the pain away from our own hearts. Yes, it could be worse. Yes, we were lucky to have her 76 years. But in the end, she was still our ma.

I’ve been wanting to post for a while but it’s so hard to motivate myself to just do it. It’s the same with running or getting some painting done around the house. Four months ago I was zipping around…so excited about all there was to do…and now I just dread having yet another task to complete.

I know this won’t last forever. I know that I’ll eventually work through this. I know I shouldn’t feel guilty when talking about this to others simply because I assume people are getting tired of my sadness. That’s actually a tough one for me. I have a couple of people I chat with outside of Terri and O, but I always feel like I’m burdening them if I’m down and need to talk…I hate feeling like that…I want to be the one to relieve others of their burdens.

And Terri and I also know this: we were so fucking (sorry, ma 🌞) lucky to have the mom we did. She was so so good to us and her love, support, care, kindness, unconditional acceptance, and the list could go on and on, is something we know not everyone has. We truly were blessed.

Love you ma. Love you more.

Kristi xoxo

Author: Kristi

Just a bipolar Professor working to end the stigma of mental illness.

One thought on “I will keep the tie that binds us ~ Johnny and June Carter Cash (‘Cause I Love You)”

  1. Oh my sweet friend. I just want to hug you and tell you that all you’re feeling, all you’re experiencing – it’s grief, and it’s horrible, and it’s lonely and even without bipolar, it totally and completely fucking sucks. (sorry, Kristi’s Ma. I know you can read this in Heaven, so don’t be mad at me, and don’t tell my mother, k? ) It will get better. No, it won’t, but it will become bearable. You are so strong. And this is not your fault. And I love you

    Like

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