“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

“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

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