“Like a heart-broke Desperado, headin’ right back to my roots…” ~ Morgan Waller

So, I’m having a crummy day. Actually, I’m having a very shitty day and I’m hoping it won’t go anymore downhill from here. I cried about ma in my office before class and then during an exercise in my Intro to Socio course, a student started to cry herself because the exercise hit home for her. THEN, a student of mine gave me a wonderful t-shirt she bought from a college student who is working hard for suicide prevention: It’s pink and says “Stay Another Day”…that made me cry too! Sheesh.

Anyhoot, I’m finding out that death is handled a lot like cancer by many people: apparently talking about it makes it catching. When some colleagues pass me in the hall and ask how I am, I say “I’m ok.” Then they walk away…uncomfortable with that honest response. Actually, a truly honest response would be: “I’m fucking horrible. My ma died and she was my foundation…half of my entire world…and loved me more than anyone on the face of this earth ever has.” And obviously, if ma has computer access in heaven, I need to apologize for saying ‘fuck’ – sorry I said fuck, ma. I know you hate the word fuck. 🙄

When ma was diagnosed with breast cancer, many of her ‘friends’ and even some family alienated themselves from her…at a time when she needed them most! I know some of that is fear…feeling uncomfortable…being faced with the understanding that anyone can get cancer. I also think we shy away from cancer, and death, because it’s hard to know what to say. I get that…it’s so difficult to know what words to use. What will comfort or what will hurt. It’s a balancing act and I know I haven’t walked it well in the past.

It’s been 6 weeks since ma died and the tidal wave of grief has started to wash over me…it’s almost like I actually felt the water hit. It’s getting much more difficult to deny that she died and is truly gone…but I’m trying. I talk to her all the time (not out loud in public!) and Terri actually texts her old phone. I think it’s our way of still feeling that connection as we muddle through this time.

Being at school has been a mixed blessing. My students motivate me to be ‘on’ everyday and knowing I have to get up and get going is something I need right now. Rolling out of bed on the weekends is a process.

But the flip side is this: putting on my “Professor K” mask gives me something to hide behind. You know when you were little…and you thought that if you covered your eyes everything…including you…would ‘go away?’ That’s my mask right now. Plus, school started days after ma died and I had to work on my classes fervently since I didn’t while ma was in the hospital, so I’ve had that mask on for this entire time. Then, I’ve been keeping it on at home too. I know Edward and Mally understand I’m sad but I don’t want to burden others, i.e. humans, with it. My neighbors are totally wonderful and I have gotten in the habit of using their yard swing to meditate on, but I don’t want to vent to Terri or O. Terri is in the same boat I am…she’s mourning and sad and confused and still denying that this could have happened. She’s burdened enough with her own feelings. And O lost his grandma; plus, he has 2 businesses he runs and a girlfriend. He’s busy and I only see him about once a week. All of this means that I’m pretty much by myself unless I’m at school. For someone who craves hugs and affection and cuddles, this is so so hard! I’d give about anything for someone I could do this with. Confide in. Vent too. Keeping this in and being so fucking (sorry again, ma) lonely is horrid.

Hmmmm…

It’s funny because I thought I knew what lonely was. As usual, I was mistaken (big shocker, huh?). Even when I was lonely because of not having a partner (hopefully ma is working on that now – a cowboy with Levi’s and a great singing voice like Morgan Wallers, tall, weathered, and funny…not a lot of expectations there 😐) I still had ma. We talked every morning and every night and texted throughout the day. When anything would happen, I’d call and share it with her…she was just always there. Terri said this yesterday and it’s so so true: “I just want to talk to mom about my mom dying.”

Anyways, I have some answers to this: first, I’m starting to allow myself to be sad…to not feel like I always have to be my usual effervescent self 😳. I also know I have to start reaching out more; I’m getting involved in a really great church that’s small, friendly, and so relatable; Terri has gone with me a couple of times and it’s nice to share that together. I’m also trying to eat better since it’s always hard for me to eat when I’m upset and am proud to say I’ve been snitching Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups from our secretaries desk. Finally, O has encouraged me to see a grief counselor and I’m going to call for an appointment this week.

I know reading this is probably depressing but honestly, I need the outlet. Writing has always been therapeutic for me and I truly appreciate you all listening and many of you have reached out to me…thank you so so much! I’m actually going to do my best to get Terri to guest blog later this week. I think it would be good for her, and would also let her express things she might need to face which could be cathartic for her as well.

Thanks for listening, peeps…you’re all the best.

Love you ma. Love you more.

Kristi xoxo

“You’re missing, but you’re always a heartbeat from me.” ~ Enya

So, it’s been a month now and I’ve been in denial about the permanence of ma being gone. Unfortunately my head…and heart…must think it’s time for me to break through this and it’s like a storm has suddenly washed over me.

It’s funny that what you wish for isn’t always what you can handle. For the last couple of weeks, I’ve wanted to get past this wall I had up and start ‘really’ feeling the grief I know is in me. And bam. It’s a’happening.

T and I were at ma’s yesterday helping someone pick up a quilt ma was making for them. After T left to go to the dentist, I walked through the house ma and pop built and that I lived in from the age of 6. I could see ma in every room, remember her laughter, and hear her voice. I could even smell her in that ‘house scent’ we all have in our homes.

You know, whenever I used to go over to the house, I’d walk in and yell: “Ma?! Are you there ma?!” And she’d say: “Kristi?! Is that you?!” Then I’d hug her hard…always always always hug her first thing. I yelled that yesterday. Again and again. And I was wanting so fucking bad for her to yell back; when she didn’t, I think I finally realized that my ma died. And honestly, I feel a sense of loneliness I’ve never…ever…felt before.

Me, ma and O in Texas!

Of course I’ve been lonely at times in my life…sometimes it’s hard being single and living by myself. But no matter how down I got, ma was there. Always there. I could call her…go to her…and just always know that despite anything else in my life, she was within reach. Always my constant. Always my anchor.

Knowing that’s no longer so makes me feel like I’m adrift in the sea…no focus…no path…no direction. I’ve never felt this emptiness and it’s one tough son of a bitch to handle. Today I was just needing a hug. A simple hug. But my hugger’s gone and as someone who craves affection, it’s hard to not have that physical comfort. My neighbors across the street are getting used to me popping over in my boxers and t-shirt so they can give me a squeeze. It helps.

It also helps to keep busy so I’ve got a huge coloring poster hanging up and I work on that. I’ve done some jigsaw puzzles…just finished a 1000 piecer…and have been getting some more African violets to fuss with. There’s around 16,000 different varieties and even though my collection is growing, I do know my limits with these.

Anyhoot, I’m going to take this grief thing one day at a time…I guess that’s all you can do. I’m going to let myself cry. Vent. Yell. Whatever I need to do to start working through this heartache. I know I’ll never…ever…get ‘over’ ma. I know I’ll grieve her until I see her again. But I also hope it will become if not easier…then ‘less’. My pain will turn to an ache that will always be with me. And that’s OK. Because I know ma is with me…in my head and my heart. And I’m going to keep her there. Forever.

Love you ma. Love you more.

Kristi xoxo

“But there never seems to be enough time…” ~ Jim Croce

So, one day O’s dad came home from work when I was 8 months preggy and found me sitting on the living room floor shoveling Oreo’s down my gullet, watching All My Children, and bawling with umpteen parenting books spread all around and all open to different chapters. He sighed, stomped into my pity bubble, scooped up all of these tomes and proceeded to chuck them in our dumpster. And yes son, this is before us old folks regularly recycled.

Trust me, this was an act of mercy. I don’t know about you all but when anything happens to me, I turn to books to try to figure things out. The only problem with this is that every book has conflicting advice, ideas, and tips to use for such a task. For example, EVERY parenting book I was reading on that day of infamy said something different about ‘how’ to raise my baby. Every one. I was so befuddled I thought about calling my OB/GYN (who had the bedside manner of a turnip 😳) and telling him I was calling off this ‘birth thing’ that was ultimately B’s fault. But know what I figured out after being a new ma for a few months? That they were all right. And all wrong. And my job was to do the best I could with the personality of the little guy I had and hope for the best. Luckily, it worked. Very well.

And now? I find myself doing the exact same thing with books on grief. I’ve read tons of info on ‘how to grieve in the right way’ and if I put into practice all of these, I’d be once again bawling, watching soaps throughout my day (which I actually wish I could🤔 ) and gaining 10 pounds a week. Hmmm.

However, I have come across advice that does help me and while searching I found this from Everyday Health (paraphrased):

“Saying goodbye to a parent is a life-changing experience, marking the end of a bond we’ve known for our entire lives (Heidi Horsley, PsyD). Until it happens, we don’t know what our lives are like without our parents and to have them gone can be traumatic, whether it’s sudden or expected.”

“Our biological parents give us life, and the parents who raise us (whether biological or not) shape our lives in really big ways. They’re with us from day one, forming the foundation of our identity.” (Alexandra Kennedy).

Research show that people continue to report trouble sleeping, concentrating at work, getting along with people, and a strong emotional response one to five years after losing a parent. Other research suggests losing a parent puts someone at a higher risk of numerous negative mental and physical health outcomes, including higher likelihood of binge drinking, self-esteem issues, and overall decline in happiness. This evidence also reinforces that parents often play critical roles in our self-confidence and sense of purpose throughout our lives.

Carmen Chai

Honestly, reading this comforted me in a way nothing else has because it helps me to understand the gut-punchy feeling I’m walking around with and why I have such a hard time accepting ma’s death itself.

Ma really did play such a role in my self-confidence…no matter what else might be happening around me, ma ALWAYS supported me and believed in my abilities to handle whatever it might be. I did feel a sense of purpose being ma’s daughter…that was (and I guess still is) a HUGE status for me and at night, when I’m used to talking to her and reviewing our days together, brings that home to me. I know how much I needed her attention and love and how ‘less than’ I feel by not having it now. She made me feel like I was so important in her life too, and never passed up an opportunity to show her appreciation for me.

Crystal Raypole wrote a great article in Healthline and gave 10 ideas for how to navigate through grief which is a great compilation of advice I’ve read elsewhere. Some of these are easier than others…and some are going to take me a lloonngg time to either begin or traverse through.

The first couple are to both validate your feelings and then allow yourself to fully experience the grief. OK. These are the toughies. I keep apologizing to people for being in such a ‘sleep walky’ type of existence right now and when others ask me how I’m doing, I always say OK which is actually not the truth. I know saying fine isn’t true at all and saying horrible probably is a bit harsh to put on someone else, so OK is my go-to right now. However, a friend of ma’s, T’s and mine said this yesterday: “Fine simply means fucked, insecure, neurotic and emotional.” I guess with this definition, fine really does sum up my day to day right now. (Love you, Teeeny 💘)

And fully experience the grief? I think this is different for everyone and right now, I can only take it in dribs and drabs. I find myself vacuuming yet again when I feel these waves come upon me and I know that if I open that door, I’ll drown right now. I eventually will…but right that that tsunami would be way too much.

At a walk for cancer research.

Caring for myself is one I’m working on and I definitely have support from the fam but what’s ironic is this: I get to crying over ma and start to call her so I can talk to her about it…after all, that’s what I always did when I was upset. What a tough habit to break.

Sharing and honoring memories is another idea and T and I are doing just that in a lot of ways. Ma made so many beautiful quilts and we have given a quilt to all of our family, ma’s friends and neighbors, and are going to have the rest professionally cleaned and then donated to the local Cancer Care center for them to give to those getting treatment. This is the same place where we asked for memorials and it honors ma’s 25 years of having been a cancer survivor. We know she’d love knowing others getting comfort from what she made. Every time we talk, T and I (and O and I too) share memories and some make us cry…some make us laugh. And you know, having T is a gift. Only she knows what I’m feeling since she’s struggling with it too…we are truly a team in this loss.

Finally, a suggestion I’ve seen in various places as well says to forgive the person for past wrongs, unresolved issues, etc. Here’s a true testament to ma: I don’t have any. I know people make the dead into saints when in fact, no one deserves that title. However, ma was an amazingly, perfectly imperfect parent and she was there for T and I no matter what. We were lucky that we got to talk to her so much up until a couple of days before she died, and at one point she tried to apologize to me for having married her ex husband (yes, he’s a fucking bastard and had he shown up at her funeral, my nephews and O were going to ‘escort’ him out 😠) and putting T and I through these horrible years of domestic violence and the abuse he heaped on us as well. I stopped her. I told her she didn’t need to apologize…she needed to absolve herself of any guilt she had towards us because he was the abuser…not her. And I know that she was the one that had to ultimately understand when she could get away from him with her life. How can we blame her for going through hell? I blame him.

Maybe I’m reading too much about this grief thing and maybe I think that by doing so, I’ll glean quick fixes to this shattered life. The best thing I’ve learned is this: it’s going to take a LONG time to grieve ma…I’m going to feel things in my own time and way…I’m going to have to re-learn life with having a ma in it…and I have to make sure that the life I have is lived to it’s fullest and the people who are in it simply know how much I love them. If T and I can both do this, I think ma would be proud.

Love you ma. Love you more.

Kristi xoxo

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