“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

“Some people care too much. I think it’s called love.”  ~ Winnie the Pooh

So, I’ve been reading through the 2 years of blog posts I’ve written and it’s funny to see how much my life has changed. What was such a big deal at one time is nothing now and I know that in terms of relationships and break-ups, time truly does heal all wounds. How weird to see people I thought were so important to me be nothing more than a blip now. It’s nice to know the heart really does have the power to mend in these cases.

Almost every one of my posts has ma in it somewhere…even if it’s just apologizing for saying fuck. But wanna be in on a secret? Ma used to say it too every once in a while…probably 3 times in her life in front of me and always laughed and turned red when she did. So many of my posts talk about the fun we had together, conversations we trudged through, trips we took, and the list goes on.

Even though I am still in shock and a bit of denial (T and I both share these feelings), I am starting to see her everywhere…metaphorically. I did dishes today and she was there…standing over my shoulder at holidays with pursed lips telling me I didn’t rinse a cup well enough. On my way to school I realized that EVERY single place I pass is somewhere ma and I went: restaurants, stores, thrift shops, etc. I ordered a couple of African Violets just now (my new obsession…gramma and ma both loved them and I’m feeling it too 🙂) and it made me think of when I was a little girl and she had yellow shelving pop put together for her with violets covering them. I know I got my green thumb from her. I put a book on reserve at our library and thought about how ma went there every single week for all of her adult life. Every week. She was a voracious reader and T and I share that trait. Her favorite thing was to soak in a warm bubble bath with a little bowl of chocolate covered anything and read and snack. When T and I are doing things in her house I see her at her quilting machine…cross stitching on the couch…making the best chili in the world.

I think about our inside jokes…how we used to sign greeting cards with funny names or things we’d say while playing cards. She had such a great sense of humor and ‘got’ me more than anyone else ever has.

How can you describe someone who was your world? What words can possibly illustrate the scope of her in my life? The place in my heart? The memories in my head? It’s such an indescribable feeling to not only lose someone you loved more than life itself but to have your world so shaken up. Turned around. Changed forever.

Being Prof K helps a lot during the day…it gives me purpose and direction during this time of numbness. My students are absolutely freaking amazing and are so sweet in how they’ll ask how I am. But when I’m at home? It’s like I’m sleepwalking through life outside of campus. I can’t sew. I don’t know if I ever will again…T can’t either and ma’s bestie said the same thing to me yesterday. I’ve been doing huge jigsaw puzzles while listening to audiobooks for something to focus on but I hear her voice in my head telling me to work on the border first. Even writing this is hard…not because of the content and the fact I’m crying, but because ma always read my posts. Always praised them. Always told me how proud she was of me.

T and I are taking things one day at a time and I’m focusing on being there for O…he loved his gramma so much. Even Edward and Mally run to the door when someone pops over and I can see sadness in Ed’s eyes when it’s not ma. There was nothing he liked better than trying to lick her ears when she was on the couch.

So many people at school who have lost a parent have sought me out and talking to them helps. One friend said that I’ll never ever get over the grief completely…never have my world the same way again…but that you learn to live with it. That it’s going to take me a while. I know that my heart won’t mend this time…it will scab over but the hurt will be there. Always.

Today, a friend told me a quote by Winnie the Pooh:  “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” I was gobsmacked by this because it made me realize that ma was such an amazing person who I got to have for 55 years. But unlike Pooh, I’m never going to say goodbye. I’ll always talk to her. Always love her. Always miss her. And always work to make her proud.

I keep greeting cards I get and ma used to give me a lot of them. One of them I found said this: “You are loved and adored and I’m proud to be your ma.” What a great feeling to know she felt this way. What a gift. What a wonderful message that I can hold onto for the rest of my life.

Love you ma. Love you more.

Kristi xoxo

“When you Love Someone” ~ Bryan Adams

So, it’s been 2 weeks since ma died and the emotions I’m feeling are all over the place. I grieved my grandparents and was devastated by their deaths but ma’s has hit me like a truck. It’s almost like my brain doesn’t know how to process all of this yet.

Elisabeth Kubler- Ross wrote about 5 stages of death in her 1969 book called “On Death and Dying”. I’ve never read this entire book but am aware of the stages from psychology – Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.

Obviously these stages are going to be traversed through differently by everyone and they aren’t necessarily linear. However, I know that I’m in the denial stage which is common after a quick death.

An article in Washington.edu talks about the stress and trauma that grief entails and how it can overwhelm the person grieving. The stress hormones released affect sleep, appetite, ability to focus, feeling detached from self and others, and an overall feeling of constantly being in a nervous state physically and emotionally. I know my heart rate is higher (an effect of the sympathetic nervous system being the cause of the release of the stress hormones) and eating is difficult. I’m ‘forcing’ myself to eat meals but honestly, snacking and eating comfort food is a norm for me right now. Thank the Lord for peanut butter and jelly.

Me, ma and T!

In the same article it talks about what these stages of grief look like and denial includes: avoidance, procrastination, forgetting, easily distracted, mindless behaviors, keeping busy all of the time and saying “I’m fine” when asked.

If this were a checklist, I’d have a red mark by all of them. I know I’m avoiding the permanence of ma being gone. When I allow myself to think about it, I become so overwhelmed at the thought of my life without her that I can’t handle that flood of emotions yet. I find myself shutting it down. Keeping busy helps me postpone this grief I need to process: my house has never been cleaner and I’ve read more books these past 2 weeks than in the previous 2 months. I may not be absorbing what I’m reading but it’s an escape.

Experts say this denial can feel like shock, numbness, confusion and just shutting down…all things I relate too.

My sissy and son are being awesome. T and I are both grieving and I know she’s having trouble processing our loss as well. O was very close to his gramma and misses her terribly. We check in with one another and support each other the best we can.

Ma and Mally!

I feel guilty that I’m not crying all of the time. I feel like I’m not doing this ‘grief thing’ right. I’m scared this weight will be with me always because I’ll never allow myself to work through it. But, it’s comforting to know that denial is common, but losing ma so quickly is still hard to comprehend.

All I know is this: ma was an amazing mom to me. I loved her more than words can ever say and I know she loved me more than anyone else on the earth ever has. I think that’s why this is so hard for me to face: to think this one person is now gone and I won’t feel that depth of love anymore. I have a huge depth of love for O…but he also has his own life and his own love and his expression of his love for me is very different from ma’s. My family is not touchy-feely at all…just me. Ma hugged and kissed me every time I was with her and she fulfilled that need for affection that I have. I miss that so so much.

I also miss having someone I can lean on during this (aside from my fam). Being alone is tough right now…I wish I had someone ‘there’ that I could hug and cuddle and get comfort from. Luckily, Edward and Mally are sweeties and they’ve never been hugged more in their lives…they’re loving it!

Anyhoot, I miss ma more than I can say and it’s so overwhelming that when you lose a parent, you are losing the way your world has always been.

Love you ma. Love you more.

Kristi xoxo

“You gave me love and helped me find the sun…” ~ Seasons in the Sun

So it’s been quite a while since I’ve blogged…I took the summer off since working on the computer for school all year takes it’s toll.

But I wanted…or maybe needed…to tell my sweetie peeps that ma died this morning. She was such an active, vibrant, beautiful woman and only began deteriorating in July. It was a fast downhill slide and sissy and I are in shock. I’ve written so much about her over the last couple of years and I know some of you have laughed at her antics. She always got a kick out of me apologizing to her whenever I fucking cussed (sorry, ma).

I’ve contemplated the word ‘love’ lately and realized, as I was watching her fight for breath yesterday in the hospital, that the word just isn’t big enough to describe what I felt for her. She was my light. My best friend. And the most amazing mom I could have ever ever asked for.

Ma was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver in 2006…she was an alcoholic but didn’t drink a drop after this diagnosis. Most people live about 5-6 years with the severity of damage she had…she lived 16. My sissy and I didn’t know that these last 10 years were the miracle we had been praying for these last couple of weeks. Our extra time with her had already happened.

This last decade was the happiest of her life. She was safe and healthy and happy and had so many friends that loved her. She did so much traveling and activities and at the age of 65 started a quilting business that was incredibly successful. She got to see her great grandkids grow up to their teenage years and took so much pride in sissy earning her LPN and working with special needs kids, and me being a prof. She told us so many times these past few days how proud she was of us.

I spent these last couple of days just rubbing her arms and hair…laying beside her in her hospital bed to cuddle…and telling her over and over again how much she meant to me. I think she understood.

I can’t say goodbye to her yet…I haven’t processed everything and know it’s going to hit me hard. All I know is that the times I thought my heart was broken were nothing compared to this. Nothing. My heart isn’t broken…that can be fixed. Instead, my heart has a piece now missing that can never…ever…be replaced.

Rest in peace, ma. You deserve that more than anyone else I know.

Kristi xoxo

Me and ma on Labor Day – 2021
Ma supported me in everything I did. Everything.
Ma loved Dottie so much…I think she’s probably cuddling her right now.
Ma took care of me when I was having some surgery in 2021…she was my rock.
Going over to ma’s for lunch…something I did every Sunday. After we ate, I’d kick her butt in cards. (Actually, she beat me just as many times and bragged when she did).

Dottie’s Rainbow Bridge

So, I’ve written about a lot of things in this blog: having bipolar, being sexually abused, being in an abusive relationship, and the list goes on. However, this is the toughest, and shortest, post I’ve had to write so far.

Yesterday, my son and I took our Little Dottie for a Quality of Life exam at our vet. She was almost 15 years old and was blind and deaf. She also was losing control of her bladder and back legs. In other words, she was suffering. After talking with the vet and her examination of Little Dot, O and I made the decision to have her put to sleep. We said our goodbyes, I sang her special song, and she died in my arms.

I don’t know what to feel. When Bill got home last night, I cried louder and harder than I ever have in my life…I made myself sick. I’ve never ever been in my house without her…and the emptiness of it is overwhelming. I see her everywhere.

Maybe people with pets can’t understand this, but she wasn’t a pet to me. She was my baby…my best friend…my comfort…my joy. It’s hard for those of us with mental illness to make real friends and I can honestly say I have only 3 human ones and that includes Bill. So Dottie was my bestie. She didn’t mind my bouts of depression and would lay down with me whenever I needed too. She didn’t care if I was manic…she’d be right along beside me watching me paint and getting drops of it on her back. When I had a mental breakdown, she was there…centering me the best she could. When I cut myself, I would hug her and try to forget the pain. When I attempted suicide and got off my bed to throw up the pills I had taken, Dottie was right by me…her brown eyes telling me I had way too much to live for.

There’s no words that can describe what she did for me, and I hope, with all my heart that I was a good mama to her. I believe in God and I believe he made animals for us to love. I truly know that my Little Dot is in heaven now…in my Grandpa’s arms…bossing everyone around like the diva she was.

Dottie: you were my precious baby and you are now my angel. I will never ever forget you and you will be in my heart forever. Someday, I’ll be making my way to heaven and I know you’ll be right there at the gate…barking at me to hurry up because you want to play fetch. And honey, I’ll do it.

Kristi xoxo

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