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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
So, I don’t know about you but February is a notoriously sucky month for me. Holidays are over…snow is coming down…there’s mud and slush everywhere…and you can go days to weeks without seeing the sun. Charmed, I’m sure. However, THIS February sucked balls even more…let me explain.
To start with, I had COVID during the first 2 weeks and was stuck at home in quarantine for 14 days feeling like Typhoid Mary. Bill and I did get along (he had it too and I don’t want to point the finger of blame at anyone for getting it but Bill gave it to me…probably… 😳) only because he has my basement fixed up like a little apartment and we didn’t have to really see each other unless we wanted too. After a few days, we didn’t want too. I know all of you women are nodding your heads right now…and believe you me, I got on my knees and thanked the good Lord above that I was insightful enough to buy a house with a finished freaking basement 15 years ago. Just sayin’.
We were lucky with our symptoms though: fatigue, loss of taste and smell, headaches, some congestion…and that was about it. As I’ve said before, I missed not having the senses but Bill, for some unknown reason, wasn’t as upset. When I asked him why he mumbled a couple of words that sounded like ‘kitchen’, ‘cooking’, and ‘God send.’ I’m really not sure what he meant.
Then, I had to put my sweet Little Dottie down. I’ve had to do this once before and I prepared myself since she was getting so old and I could see my baby failing. But when you actually do it, no amount of preparation can lessen the heartache and pain you feel. Not a minute goes by that I don’t think of my sweetie and I still look for her all of the time. Every night, for 15 years, she slept on my bed and I’m still putting her blankie out every night…I’m not ready to stop that yet.
Y’all might not agree with this but I once read that you might have a lot of dogs over the years, but 1 will always stand out as being ‘that dog’. The one that was just a bit more special to you. The one you connected with a bit more. For me, it was Little Dot. She was with me from the day I moved into my house with O and we were never apart. Her personality was something else: diva + sweetheart + ornery + sassy + adorable. It was quite a combination. I will miss her until the day I die and when I see her, I know she’ll bark her fool head off.
Then, I went in for a ‘procedure’ on Friday and to make a very long story short (but less dramatic 🙄), I need to have a full hysterectomy. Well, fuck me (sorry, ma 😬 ). This is major surgery and I’m scared! My awesome gyno is going to do it laparoscopically (it took me 4 tries to spell that correctly 😐) so the downtime won’t be too bad…just a couple of weeks. I’m going to schedule it, hopefully, on the first day of Spring Break so I can recover a few days before I go back to teaching.
The really fun part is going to be juggling 7 regular classes, a late-start class, healing, mourning, and taking care of my house. But as Hubby 3 used to say (shutty the mouthies 😳), I’m a ‘scrappy thing’ and I’m sure I’ll be OK. (Note to Bill, Ma, Pop, T, and O: I’ll still need a LOT of spoiling… 🤨).
So, ma went with me for my “procedure” (that sounds like such a weird word…old ladies say it with ‘quotation fingers’ because they don’t want to say the real reason because it’s usually gross, like hemmorroids or something; mine wasn’t that ‘gross’ but it’s still not table talk) and I got us lost. NOW HOLD ON A SEC…WE NEED TO WAIT UNTIL MA PICKS HER CHIN UP OFF THE FLOOR SINCE I DIDN’T BLAME HER LIKE I WANTED TOO.
Anyhoot, we had to go to Springfield to get ‘er done and I drove there so ma could drive back when I was groggy and possibly vomiting. Here’s how the conversation went and as you read it, be sure to make your voice very shrill (on ma’s parts), very sweet and patient (on my parts), with the volume increasing with every sentence:
Ma: “Kristi, do you know where we are going?” Me: “Yes, ma…duh. In fact, you made us leave so early we’ll have plenty of time to kill. I know Springfield like the back of my hand.”
45 minutes later:
Me: “Ma, since we’re 40 minutes early, let’s pop into the General ($ General) and I’ll get a magazine to read.” We browsed for 20 minutes before I said, OK…let’s go!
I drove around various roads and kept taking wrong turns (there are too many one way streets there) and even though I had no idea where in hell I was, I DID not want to let ma know that. However, I finally found the building after driving by it countless times, and once I got going the correct way on the one way street, got the car parked, trotted into the building and…wait for it…didn’t see the surgery center listed by the elevators. I go up to a nice young gal and ask her where it is. She said: “It’s downtown…about 6 miles from here.”
Ma was still behind me…I rushed ahead ‘just in case’ something went awry, and when the gal asked me if I needed the address, I said “No! I know where it is!” before ma could hear this exchange. I didn’t know where it was.
When ma asked what was going on I actually said this (don’t judge…you don’t know ma when she’s pissed…right T?): “They moved the surgery center and now it’s downtown.” Ma: “Do you have the address?” Me: “Duh. Of course.” I didn’t.
So, off we go again with 5 minutes left to get back to the car and find this place that magically ‘moved’ overnight. I started down the street I thought was right and was fumbling with my google maps that was screwed up because it was trying to connect to ma’s fucking blue-tooth in her car. As I kept making more wrong turns, she kept getting more pissed off. I said a little prayer, found the place completely by accident, and didn’t have to read the magazine I had bought at the General.
BUT, here’s what’s weird: I had COVID, lost my baby girl, and have to have major surgery all within the span of a month, yet I’m in a manic phase. Bi-polar doesn’t give a hoot about what’s going on in your life. It’s going to do what it wants to do…period. How can you explain that you’re grieving or scared or achy or sad when you just can’t stop moving, doing, etc.? People with bipolar process emotions differently than others. I’m not saying I feel MORE than others, but I am saying what I feel is on a different ‘spectrum’ than others. It’s very very hard for me to process all of this: I’m ‘up’, yet I’m so so sad. I’m ‘up’, yet I’m so so scared. I’m ‘up’, yet I am worrying about how I’m going to do all I need to do while recovering. What a weird thing: it’s like my brain is experiencing this bit of mania (it’s not too bad, but Bill can’t believe all I do in a day) but my heart is experiencing so much else. And, since these 2 things aren’t matching, I feel confused. Kind of lost…even kind of guilty.
Anyways, I hope your February was better than mine and I already know March is going to suck balls. But, by April I’ll be ‘as good as new’ and hopefully have a great summer.
Take care of yourselves, peeps…stay healthy and safe. K?
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.