Saturday, December 31, 2011

The End

It is very early in the morning on the last day of 2011.  Like many of us, I am reviewing the events of this year as I prepare to welcome the next.  Interestingly enough, I found a note on facebook that I had written on the last day of 2010, lamenting what a terrible year it had been.  Dear friends of ours lost children, spouses and parents.  Others had lost jobs or their relationships had ended.  The economy wasn't improving, the housing market still sucked and we still had brave men and women away from home fighting wars.  I was so glad to see 2010 come to an end. 

Yes, 2010 was tough for me, the Queen of Empathy, however none of those losses were my own.  I plowed into 2011 full of hope and excited for the new year.  We started the year with a great trip to Wyoming with friends where we played in the winter wonderland like kids.  February did see knee surgery for me, but it was minor and I felt so much better afterwards.  March was great for me professionally as I was recognized by my peers with two awards at our annual conference.  By April, I knew my dad wasn't well although it would take almost two months and numerous tests to finally get the diagnosis of stage 4 lung cancer.

The next few months were a whirlwind of running between home and Bowling Green to help take care of and spend time with daddy.  All that time I was also doing my best to keep the balls in the air at work.  As many know, watching someone you love die is terrible, so much so that while the final breath is heartbreaking, the relief is sweet, at least until the numbness wears off and the grief sets in.  Grief is debilitating.  I've said before that the loss of my father reopened the wounds of losing my mother and sister before him.  I struggle daily with the loss of my family.  Grief has become my constant companion.  It has robbed me of my joy, my ability to be kind and my patience.  I keep a grasp on knowing that it is a temporary state, at least I hope so.  I pray that this current version of myself is not permanent.  

We buried my dad on a lovely summer day at the end of August.  I have missed him every day.  Within a week of my dad's passing, one of the dearest friends I have ever known told me that she is moving to California.  I did not think my heart could possiblly be any more shattered, but I was wrong.  I still can hardly talk with her about the pending move.  At the first of this month a beloved friend, who had also been a member of my team at work for the past ten years had major surgery.  She did not recover and died just a few days before Christmas.  Sweet Robbie, I will always miss you.  Christmas was bittersweet.  My small family spent it in St. Augustine, which was beautiful and nice, however my husband had to stay in Tennessee to care for our dog who had complications after a tail surgery.  I hated being apart from him.  

As I ramble on and on, I am trying to get the the point that all years are challenging.  Maybe not for each of us personally, but probably for someone we know.  As we get older our losses grow.  It is logical.  It is sad.  It is true.  The New Year will be here in just a few hours.  I'm not one for resolutions, I fail enough without having to set myself up to do so.  This year, I especially do not need to set resolutions.  I am entering this year depressed, bitter and angry, not really the mind set you need to tackle a resolution.  I am going to allow myself to ride out these feelings for as long as it takes to waddle through my grief.  I'm not going to pressure myself to make a change, have a new beginning just because the calendar rolled back around to January.  

I am, however, ending this blog with the end of the year.  It feels right.  During the months that I have used blogging as a tool to help me cope with my dad's sickness, I did discover that I love it.  I am intending to blog further, but not in the forum that this one was created.  Thank you for reading, thank you for reaching out, thank you for the support.  I sincerely wish each of you a Happy New Year. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Warriors One and All

I saw a quote a friend posted on facebook this morning which said "be kind, everyone is fighting a hard battle".  Could anything be more true?  Just in the past few weeks I have had friends lose children, parents and spouses.  I've had friends diagnosed with serious illnesses, some waiting on transplants to save thier lives, others facing extensive surgeries.  Friends have recently lost jobs, had to put their loved ones in nursing homes, put down beloved pets.  I know people who are barely paying their mortgages, worrying about how to provide Christmas presents for thier kids and keep food on the table.  Everyone has something going on in their lives and outward appearances don't always clue us in.  Be kind, everyone is fighting a hard battle.  Another quote I have always loved is "Be kind whenever possible.  It is always possible".

Both of those quotes are great mantras for daily living.  I wish I could say that I am always kind, but in truth I am not.  I think that I used to be much better at being kind, but lately grief and maybe hormones have challenged me.  I am impatient with people.  I have very little tolerance these days for much of anything.  Bad drivers, people who interrupt conversations, whiners, silliness, over-friendly clerks and servers, people who turn every conversation into something about them, inconsideration of others, politics...everything bothers me.  I truly hope that my intolerance is because I am depressed and that as time moves on, all will get better.  I know I don't feel like myself. 

Certainly the holidays approaching are not helping my frame of mind.  This time around, it isn't that I am just missing my dad but I am missing my entire family. My mom, my sister, Memaw, Papaw, Mawmaw and my sweet cousin Danny and all the other beloved aunts and uncles that have passed on. The emptiness dwelling in my heart right now is so vast.  I remember the first time I visited Mammoth Cave as a kid, the guide walked us past a "bottomless pit" and told us if we threw a coin into it, we would never hear it hit the bottom.  That is how deep my sorrow feels to me right now.  I listen to others planning their holiday celebrations with thier big families and I feel like the most alone person in the world. 

Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle.  I am going to do my best to concentrate on that over the next few weeks.  I am going to hold others in my heart who are walking the path of grief during this holiday season, as well. I am going to embrace the small family we are now and give thanks for each one. I am going to try to remember that everyone, stranger and friend alike, each one of us are doing battle.  We are warriors one and all. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Silent Suffering

I seem to have some unreal expectation of myself that I should be over grieving for my father by now.  It has just been two months since his death.  Two months!  Why on earth should I be beating myself up when I catch myself grieving is a mystery to me.  I certainly would never have that expectation of any one else.  I would more than likely be reinforcing their grief with acknowledgements of how little time has truly passed.  We are so much tougher on ourselves than others would be. 

Truth is I am so sad that I can hardly function.  Every single little thing is a chore for me.  It is my busiest time at work and I swear I don't know how I am managing to get through it.  I am rolled up in self pity like a baby in a swaddling blanket.  I feel incredibly alone.  A few years ago, before my church home became so dysfunctional that I had to leave it behind, the pastor did an exercise during the service where we wrote our greatest fear on a piece if paper then tacked it to a wooden cross.  The point was to give our fear over to God and I loved the symbolism of that exercise.  Until that day, I had never voiced my greatest fear outside of myself, but I bravely wrote the truth on that slip of paper.  My fear is that everyone I love will leave me and that I will truly be alone. 

I realize that a good deal of us share that fear.  I believe it started for me when my parents divorced and a few years later my sister dying soiidified it. Each time a friend moved out of my life, or another loved one passed on, it grew.   Now that both of my parents are gone, the fear seems more palpable than ever before.  I know it is unfounded, i have a loving husband and great friends, but in the quiet times that fear flickers at the edge of my thoughts.  I am working daily at giving that little slip of paper over to God again. I am so glad that I am a believer, for the comfort that brings is medicine to my injured soul. 

Life is tough for all of us.  Losing an parent who was sick from cancer pales in comparison to things I know others are dealing with.  I fight feeling guilty in my selfish grief, but we all have our pain.   From experience, I know that eventually I will become more engaged in my life again and that fear will fade back to the closed vault I keep in my mind.  Time is a healer, that much is true although it never can truly fade the ache of a mourning heart.  In the meantime, I am going through the motions, doing the best I can while silently suffering. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Here We Go

Today is the beginning of the milestones we will mark as life marches on without my dad.  Tonight we would have been dining together and celebrating his 80th birthday, probably at the Catfish House or O'Charleys or Cheddars.  He loved them all.  Instead of celebrating his birth today, I am intensely aware of my personal loss.  There will be no more birthday celebrations for my dad, just as there will be no more birthday cards for me from him with a crisp $50.00 bill inside.  I miss him so much today.  I've been watching the calendar for weeks, this day creeping closer and closer, just as Thanksgiving and Christmas are lurking in the future.  There is no joy in the anticipation of the holidays this year.  Only a heaviness. 

I am going to slap the first person that says to me "it is time to make new traditions".  As I write that, I realize I have said that very thing to friends who have suffered the loss of loved ones.  How lame am I?  I know just as I was trying to be positive for them, others will feel compelled to do the same for me.  I am not ready to hear it.  I don't want to hear it.  I need to grieve through the holidays and mark those anniversaries, the first Thanksgiving without, the first Christmas without.  I still need to feel sorry for myself, little orphan Katona.  Orphan.  Webster defines Orphan as a child whose parents are dead.  Becoming an adult orphan is hard.  You have lost the last person who could love you undonditionally and care for you like no other can.  No matter how old we become, when your parents are living you are still someones little girl.  When they are gone, no one is left to nurture your inner child except yourself.  It is very sad. 

Nearly every time I saw my dad or called him on the phone, he greated me with "Hi Shug (short for sugar)"  I loved that so much.  It went right to my heart and warmed me from within in a way I can not really explain.  I adored my father.  I've said before that our relationship was often challenging, but he was my daddy and I wanted nothing more in the world than to make him happy.  I didn't usually go about it in the right ways, but I really did want him to be proud of me.  We often butted heads, argued about choices I made, but no matter what tensions were between us, I was still his Shug. 

I miss him so much. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Those Odd Moments -Reprogramming

it is about 2:33 in the morning and I am spending a sleepless night in my cozy room in my friend's home in Wyoming. I want to be sleeping, as I am very tired, but it just isn't happening. I have been struggling for the past few weeks trying to get through my busiest time at work while dealing with grief fog. It isn't easy. I am literally exhausted at the end of each day because I have been struggling to work hard and take care of business when I really don't give much of a damn about it right now. My patience is thin and hanging on to my temper some days is like wrestling a python for eight hours. I am going to have some serious scar tissue on my tongue from biting it so much in order to keep words from flying out of my mouth that I can't take back.

I still can't believe my daddy is dead. His absence in my life is palpable. It is a weight bearing down on me every minute of my days. How then is it possible to forget he is gone? Tonight after dinner we were wondering through a gallery in Jackson Hole and I saw a puzzle on a table a table of some bears. I picked it up thinking that daddy would enjoy it for his birthday which is coming up next week. What the fuck! How does that happen? How do you forget? The reality of his absence from my life crashed over me so hard that I almost dropped to my knees in the middle of that gallery. I miss him. I miss my mom. I miss my sister.

While this is not a good time for me to be out of the office, I need a few days to be away from my daily routine and honor my grief. I need to be in a place where I feel close to my Maker and the quiet peacefulness of Wyoming is about perfect. I need time to clear my head of work stress and quiet my mind and mediate and pray. A lot. I need to work on Reprogramming myself to my new reality.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

This and That

I spent most of this weekend in Bowling Green.  I am finding that being there brings me comfort since daddy died.  I wanted to see my step mom and spend some time with an old friend, but I also had a personal ritual in mind, too.   I love tattoos and had been wanting to get one in honor of my dad for the last couple of years.  Since his death, the need to get it done became greater.  He hated tattoos, hated that I had a few and would hate that I got yet another.  It was sort of fitting though, maybe that last act of defiance, but this time in some twisted honor of our relationship.  I also felt very strongly about getting it done in BG, where he lived his entire life and I grew up.  It is funny the little rituals that we go through to deal with all that life throws us.  After daddy died, I became obsessed with cutting my hair and did so as soon as I could.   In some cultures even today, women cutting off their hair after losing a loved one is a badge of grief.  I've been reading a book about grief that a friend gave me.  In one chapter it mentions how in today's busy society, we tend to hurry everything including mourning our losses.  The writer mentions that once upon a time when a loved one died, family members would dress in black or wear armbands or black ribbons every day for a year.  These tokens were to remind everyone of thier loss. 

Today we are constantly rushing from project to project.  I have friends with kids who seldom have an evening where they are not rushing from work to pick up a kid to take them to ball practice, cheerleading, hockey, youth group or any other of a dozen activities.  Americans work more hours than most any other country.  We are plugged in all the time.  Me too.  We are always asking each other what plans we have for this night or that weekend almost like if you don't have something going on, it's wrong.  Rarely do we just allow ourselves to do nothing.  Sit.  Listen to the quiet.  Unplug.  It isn't how we roll.  At my company (which I can say nothing but great things about) we get three days of bereavement time for the death of a parent.  Other companies give one.  Not to say that you shouldn't get back to work, life does go on after all, but one day?  When you are grieving, one of the hardest things is to accept that the world keeps on turning.  You just feel like everything should stop, even just for a little while and acknowledge that your world has changed forever. 

You can't hurry dealing with grief and it never truly goes away.  Each loss leaves behind it's own little cell of grief that you will carry with you for the rest of your life.  My sister died 33 years ago, but there are moments still where her absence in my life takes my breath away.  My mom has been gone for nearly 13 years and I often have days where I sob as hard over losing her as I did the day she died.  I miss my Memaw everytime I watch a squirrel play in the yard, or eat dumplings.  I am not going to let anyone tell me that I should "be over it by now" or "I should get on with my life".  I am getting on with my life and part of that includes allowing myself to wear my little internal black ribbon for as long as I need to.  No one knows what is best for me but me. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

No Two Alike

Grief can be incredibly dibilitating.  It fascinates me a little, quite frankly.  The old saying about death and taxes is so true.  Death is the one thing not one of us is immune to, therefore we all experience loss in our lives.  Friends, family members, beloved pets, odds are you are going to lose someone you love in your lifetime.  Grief will at some time or another be a part of our lives.  I do have friends who have not yet experienced the loss of a significant loved one, but most of us probably have.  Some maybe many times over. Just as there is no escape from dying, there is no escape from grieving. 

I've said before that grief is very personal.  While all of us will probably experience grief in our lifetime, we will all handle it differently.  There are scores of books written on the subject of grieving.  Someone even came up with the five steps of grieving, although not everyone goes through them.  I wear my emotions on my sleeve.  I've always done so.  I honestly don't know how to be any other way.  Others hold tight to their emotions, never show a tear or quivering lip.  Many are somewhere in between.  There is no right way or no wrong way to grieve, just as long as you do.  Grief is important in healing a broken heart.  Someone very close to me, who I have rarely seen cry told me the other night that he feels like if he cries because someone has died, he is in some way disagreeing with God's big plan.  He can't cry because he is afraid of offending God.  I find that to be so beautiful, even though I don't feel the same way.  I think crying is cathartic and necessary and when I shed tears for a loved one, I don't think God is offended by that.

I'm a big fan of the tv series "True Blood" because is is great escapism.  There are lines in that show that sometime just knock me out of my seat they are so funny, like "don't go all lost in nature retarded on me" or "I'm a fairy, how fucking lame".  In one recent episode, two characters were talking about how to go on living after someone they loved died and one said "you just keep breathing, baby".  I loved that.  We just keep breathing.  We just keep taking one step at a time.  We just get through this day before thinking about tackling the next.  We just keep allowing ourselves to have the days you want to scream.  We go back to work, go out with friends, look for a little joy in each day. We know that while no two grieve alike, we all are brothers and sisters in heartache and we are not alone in our experience.