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Moving ThroughAugust 23, 2008

 
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Had a rough dream about Mom yesterday afternoon. This is why I do not take naps normally. Dreams are always scarier, more visceral. Something about grabbing that time to rest -- it just throws me off.

I dreamed that Mom was healthy and fine, and in the dream my sisters and I were remembering that time with her when she was so sick we thought she might die. We were so happy in the dream, knowing she didn't die, laughing that we'd thought she might. Then, at the very end of the dream, I'm outside smoking (!) in front of the library, and I remember her death. I remember specifics about her dying. It's so awful that I wake myself up, and then I lie there. What a horrible dream. I've repeatedly dreamed ever since I was very small that someone I love dies, and it's always a great relief to lie there in bed and slowly make the connections, No, I talked to her yesterday and she's going to Target today, that was just a dream. But I couldn't do that. Instead, I had to walk myself through the memories of her dying because the dream of her being alive was so fucking real. That was pleasant.

I had a seventeen-minute long CPR call the other day. It was that long because they lived so far out in the country. It was the first thing she said when she called, "We're so far away! They'll never make it in time." So this elderly farm wife did CPR on her husband for seventeen minutes, and while I coached her through every minute, I heard the grief set in. I never have to hear that. Normally I only hear the fear. No one, no outside party should hear that private grief that happens moments after death. The call, the woman's love for her husband, and the way she worked on him even though we both knew it wouldn't help (she would not give UP! I've never heard anything stronger), affected me more than any other call I've ever had. I went outside to cry. Within three minutes I walked back in, back in control (mostly). I apologized to my coworkers for failing the dispatcher code of no crying.

A coworker said, "No, I think you passed the human code, that's all." That helped.

And that call, I think, is what's brought up some extra grief about Mom. Extra slice! Another helping! Great! Just when I thought I was pulling it together.

The world gives you a set time to grieve. A friend of ours told my sister that we'd get about a month, and then the world would assume we were pretty much done with it. I'm not done. I'm better, and I'm happy again, and I can sing and write and live without constant pain, but I'm still so sad over here, in this pocket of myself. I can almost point to to where the pocket of sad is, deep in my chest, the core of my body.

It was funny -- I woke from that dream, and I found a message on my cell phone. My sisters were having a funky day, and were headed for a Friday happy hour. So I got to meet them there in a little dive bar in Oakland. We don't know why it was such a crappy day, particularly. But it was, and it was good to be with them. We're lucky to have each other.

Today, I'm going to write. And maybe cook something for my work week. And clean the house. And go to Costco for Roomba 4.0 (the latest one just died -- must exchange again). And somewhere in there, I just want to sit and knit and laugh with Lala. It's good. It's rough sometimes, but it's good.

(That's Bethany's new tattoo up top, a New Zealand Tui bird gracing it. We're not bugging Christy yet to join our ranks, but if she wanted to THAT WOULD BE OKAY. No pressure, though.)

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Comments

There is no set time for grieving. It comes and goes in waves that can put you right back in those first moments of grief and it is always a shock. I think you'll find that each time the return to yourself gets faster and easier.

That sucks.

*hug!*

Honey, you get all the time in the world to grieve. Anyone who thinks it's time to "move on"? They don't have permission to set that limit.

i just wanted to thank you for sharing these feelings with us.

hard days suck. big hugs to you.

Hugs. I remember when my brother died last year, how after a month or so I felt like people expected me to be "back to normal." There really is no normal or timeline for grieving. There are good days, there are bad days, there are dreams that leave you shaking. Just when you think you've got it, something comes along and shakes you up again. I'm glad you have the support you have to help you. It's hard, but you've got alot of friends. Hang in there.

I agree with Carole. The grief never really stops, you just adapt to it. My dad's been gone for more than 21 years and I still get surprised by the pain of him being gone every once in a while. But you do get over the bad moments a little easier each time.

It's been one year and two days since we lost Nanie and it still hurts enough that I, too, can point to the pocket of sad and missing her. Hang in, and certainly follow the timeline YOU need.

Your two and your stunning tattoos are not helping my desire for more of my own. Such beautiful tributes.

A month for grieving a death? Hell, the world gives more time to the grief you get from a failed relationship!

That is not right. Take all the time you need. It was your mama, not anyone's but yours and your sisters'. Only you have the right to say when.

My Dad died when I was seventeen and it took me years to process the emotions, probably because I buried everything for so long to be normal for everyone else.
I also agree it is not something you get over...you just process until you get to a good place.
Take your time.
Love the tattoos! They are really beautiful.

My experience has been that grief doesn't just suddenly end, not a month later, not 12 and a half years later. It is a cyclical process. It comes upon you unexpectedly, sometimes when you don't even realize that the feelings you have are grief. Slowly it changes. You understand more about it, but it never truly goes away. There is nothing but time for grief. Those who love you will be here to listen, to hold your hand, to sing a song with you, to see you through every minute that you miss that sweet Little Mama. I miss her too, even though I only met her for a minute.

All agreed- there is no time limit. And the hole? Just fill it with love. Lots and lots of love. hugs...

I think that the people in your day to day life move on and stop thinking of you as the grieving daughter after a month or so, but I have found that nobody expects you to be "normal" after a month. Just the other day a friend asked when had I lost my father? I said "four years ago". She replied "That's so recent!!!" I find that a lot of people get it. When you lose a parent, especially such a great one, you have lost them for the rest of your life. It gets easier, but it doesn't ever go away, that old normal won't come back, you just get a new normal.

I wish I could tell you it gets easier, but it doesn't. It gets...different. That pocket of pain becomes something you're accustomed to carrying around, and it doesn't surprise you anymore after a while when it bubbles up. But I'm 15 years on from my dad's death and it isn't done with me yet.

Love to you.

Rachel - I'm just a lurker who loves your blog, and I want to tell you that your letters from the land of loss and grieving are a great gift to me. It's a land I'll be traveling (as we all will at some point in our lives) in the not-too-distant future, and the details of your journey, your wise and compassionate heart, and your unflinching honesty are a roadmap somehow. May gentle solace come to you to ease these difficult days.

Oh, Rach. If you didn't write so damned beautifully, I wouldn't be feeling so sad now. Sending you love...

(and LOVING B's tattoo!)

Be kind to yourself. It's been over three years since my best friend died and I still find myself surprised into tears by the grief. *hugs for you*

You never stop missing a mother. Mine's been gone over ten years and I still find myself thinking I'll tell Mom something or ask her something and then remember that I can't. There are always regrets and pain. But it does change and get easier to bear.

I'm not one to be easily swayed by tattoos; I'm just that kind of person. But my heart is breaking just a little for you, and for that poor woman out in the country. I'm practically ready to join the "Little Mama" tattoo club, because it seems perfect for you and Bethany - and they're beautiful.

You've known your mother your entire life, and the world thinks you should be done grieving in a month or so? This is why I like my critters. They don't mind how long I continue to cry into thier fur. Have fun with Lala, and your sisters. Laugh, cry, scream, do whatever you need to do, for however long you need to do it.

I agree with all the other commenters, who prove that at least this little piece of the world will never impose a deadline on your grief. Anytime you want to share any part of that with us, we'll be here with full support.

After my beloved grandmother died suddenly, I kept having dreams in which she was alive, but at the same time I knew (in the dream) that she really had died, and that somehow this brief time we were having together was a magical, temporary moment, and she'd be gone again soon. They made me weep uncontrollably when I woke up, usually.

And she died two and a half years ago, and I'm crying as I write this. So I would never imagine that you would stop grieving any time soon... or ever, in some fashion or other.

No, definitely, there is no set period for grief. Most certainly, some inner reorganization is slowly taking place. You remember some of your dreams with such clarity, Rachael and you have such a vivid way to narrate them! You are a very dear friend for me.

Rachael, it's been two years since I lost both of my parents after being their caretaker for a year and dealing with Mom's terminal illness in the midst of her own grief over Dad.

For me, the grief has been paralyzing. I am just now beginning to remember I have a life outside of grieving, that there is more to this than death and pain and loss.

They visit me in my dreams, too. At first, it hurt like hell and they looked awful (ill, dying). But as time went on, I began to welcome their visits, because that's what they felt like--visits. They began to look healthier, too. We have conversations just as if they were really "here", and they still help me work out my problems.

Who knows? Maybe they are. Maybe this "life" thing is just one dimension and they're on another non-physical dimension. Maybe the bodies fall away and die, but the essence of the person continues, and the only way to interact for now is through dreams.

Grief is a process. Take time, work through it as you need to. Yes, it's the hardest thing you'll ever do. But you can do it. We're all here to support you and help you through.

Grief is a process - and it's so non-linear, I could punch it in the face. My dad's been gone over two years now, and a friend of mine just lost her dad & it was like a sucker punch. With guilt for making even a piece of it about me. The only thing that's marginally good about it all is the universal-ness and unity it brings you with people who have gone through the exact same thing. For many months I woke up thinking, wishing, the pain and grief had all just been a dream.

That CPR call brought tears to my eyes. We're all human, and you kept it together until you had the time to cry, when you didn't have to be strong for that woman anymore. I love -and envy- that you have your sisters, too. It's lonely being an only child sometimes, mourning.

I lost my mother 22 years ago and my brother just 4 years ago. While I've certainly carried on with my life and find joy in so many things, I can't say I've 'gotten over' losing them. Most of the time I'm just fine but once in a while it's just hard (like right now) - I expect to experience those sad waves the rest of my life. I promise you it does get better, but it doesn't mean you don't still hurt. Don't let anyone tell you what/when you 'should' be feeling.

And on a happier note, those are both beautiful tattoos. And you're lucky to have your family. Hugs to all of you!

Made me cry. I don't miss my mom so much as the idea of what it could have been like if things were different. I still miss my dad terribly after 2 years, but am so thankful that the smell of some aftershaves can bring a smile with the memories now.

When I was a freshman in college I read in a friends psychology book that the grieving process could take as long as seven years. It was such a relief to read that, my father had died four months before and I was struggling with what was normal. Of course the process took a lot longer than seven years but at least I knew that what I was feeling was normal. You grieve at your own pace, don't listen to anyone else.

Hey Rachel, there's really nothing left to say but please know some of us sit quietly out here, with you but without anything profound or useful or encouraging even to say except yeah, we're with you, and your truth is our truth too. Thanks for sharing your joy, your pain, and the schtuff in between.

A year. Things get easier, but the firsts are the hardest.

I like the Tui on Bethany's tat. I still dream about my mother, who died suddenly and alone in 1981. It's hard stuff. You're doing fine, and the fact that you could deal with that call at all is the proof.

My version of your dream was my dad coming back to life and dying again over and over. 2 or 3 times a week for at least a year and then slowly over time less and less. He died 25 years ago and I still get such dreams. I have something similar with respect to my partner. I don't think grief ever ends Rachel, not with someone who we have such connection as parents & partners it just becomes part of the fabric of our character and easier to live with.
Your call sounds very difficult and I think your coworker is right you passed a human test. I think I might have said this to you already but your blog fills me with hope so thanks for sharing even your grief.

You totally nailed me with the CPR call. How lucky that woman was to have you on the phone!

There is no set time to grieve. I lost my friend Brian 2 1/2 years ago and sometimes it is still as fresh as the moment I said goodbye. My father lost his mother 41 years ago and he says it's the same for him. I know you resonate with music, so I'll mention Death Cab for Cutie and their song What Sarah Said - "love is watching someone die". That that is the purest expression of love - and it is.

Much love to your and yours, especially the numb-butted cat.

Honestly? Sometimes you never stop grieving. A little part of you, forever, is always a little sad. It's your mom, yo. I grieve a little for my mom's death and she's still alive.
Wow, a 17 minute CPR call? I would have cried too. I've been with families as their loved ones die, sometimes unexpectedly, and I know that private grief you're talking about. You're right, you did pass the human code. I'm amazed you recovered so quickly. I might have taken the rest of the day off.

Hey RAchel. Sooo. I came here for the knitting, ages ago. And the running, sometimes. Lurking and such. My dad died when I was pregnant with my second child. I was in Germany with friends when my husband finally reached me to let me know. That was almost 5 years ago and I still want to call him and tell him things about my day, my life, my kids--his grandkids--and then I realize he isn't there to get the call. And, you know, he was a totally shitty father. A great drinking buddy, a pretty decent grandpa-in-training, but he really let me down as a kid. Somehow, though, that doesn't change the fact that I was part of him and he was part of me and his loss is going to be my loss . . . forever. Hold on to the love. And keep writing. We're rooting for you.

It's been more than ten years since my grandma (who mostly raised me) passed on as I held her hand and I STILL have those dreams every couple of months. She's alive and in the little bungalow that, for me, was always "home" in a way that no other place I've lived ever could be! In my dreams, I'm always relieved that I was wrong and that she DIDN'T die. Yeah, relieved of the sense of grief and loss. Then I awaken and the relief evaporates. All that reassures me is knowing that, when we love someone, they do live on in a way, in our memories and our dreams.

So sorry for the CPR call. My other half is a former Paramedic and I know about the "You mustn't cry" code all too well. Glad that your co-workers have compassion. Sometimes the stiff-upper-lip protocol is necessary, but there wil always be experiences which transcent that. If some things can't still make you cry, I think you lose a little bit of your humanity - and no job is worth that!

Sending hugs and prayers from the Himalayas for you and Lala, Little Mama and the anonymous farmer who didn't make it.

And yeah, Friday sucked all over.

My stepdad died five years ago, this week. Every so often I still get smacked down with sadness. And, that was my stepdad. At one time, not so very long ago in the grand scheme of things, a year was considered a standard time of mourning. Down to wearing black and no frivolity for a year. We cannot decide was is appropriate for each person, but a month is probably normal for not being wracked with grief on a day to day basis. After a month, if you cannot get out of bed at a normal time and start living life again, then you probably need to seek some assistance.

Don't let others push. Lala is probably the only one who could make a determination that something is just not quite right. From the outward appearance, you seem ok, but this is a blog and only shows what you want it to, Lala gets to see everything.

Vanessa's (my partner's) mom died a little less than a year ago, and, even though I love her more than anything in the world, it is so easy for me to forget how much she is still grieving. Yesterday afternoon I had this sudden buoyant feeling, and I turned to her in the car to tell her how happy I was in that moment, but she was crying-- out of the blue. Because a year ago today she was taking her mom to doctors' appointments, and she wishes she still could. My heart is broken for her. Such utter contentment and such aching sadness existing side by side. But I know the happy's in there for her, too. I can't imagine anyone who loses her mother ever completely stops grieving for her.

Almost a year after my dad passed away, my mother-in-law called, really down. It was her late father's birthday; he had died 10 years earlier. She spent the day wearing his bathrobe, being really, really sad. Seeing me through my first year after my dad died had just churned up things for her.

The thing is, I was so relieved to know that 10 years later I would still feel really bad sometimes. I was just getting to a point where I was tired of feeling so sad for so long, and I was ready to deal with the guilt of feeling alright. Knowing that I would always have "Bad Dad Days" for the rest of my life really helped.

It's been almost 5 years, and while most of the time I'm really OK, there are still some Bad Dad Days. Not as many, not so frequent, but they're there.

My Dad died three weeks before your "Little Mama", May 18th, I was there when he coded, asleep in the waiting room at 6 AM on a Sunday morning, after I had just told my sister the night had been quiet and he was OK. Everyone witnessed my private grief of not being allowed in the room to tell him I was there and had been there all night with him, I just didn't want to wake him. I too have dreamed he is well and with us, or sick and being released from the hospital; it is always the strangest mixture of times and episodes. My tattoo will be the word "faith" in latin because it is what keeps me going. My siste and I had not had much contact with our Dad in recent years and yet before he died we had three weeks with him between his heart attack and his passing, where he was ours everyday, just like it was before alcoholism took over his life. He met our husbands, told us he loved us and we forgave one another all our trespasses. I picked the same quote as your family for his funeral card and I wrote the story of those last three weeks down in case I ever start posting on my blog. Sometimes I go sit and look at his ashes in the cemetery and cry and tell him I miss those three weeks and all they reminded me I had been missing for so many years. "Faith"...there is a master plan. Thanks for allowing me to grieve from afar with you.

hang in there girlfriend. i don't think grieving ever ends. it just (eventually) hurts less.

Another longtime lurker here. I lost my mum 10 months ago and I have good days and bad days.

I'm lucky, all my memories of mum are filled with laughter (she was completely batty) so even when I'm sad I'm laughing at something she said or did.

I still have those gut-wrenching, heartbreaking dreams where everything is ok, she's alive and happy, and then I wake up and reality sets in.

Grief is a deeply personal thing and no two people grieve in the same way. I guess the long and the short of it is, there's no time limit on grief. It's ok to be sad on the bad days and it's ok to be happy on the good days.

Take care,

Vickie

I didn't even think about this during the book suggestion post, but I just lost a good friend to suicide and reading "The Year of Magical Thinking" by Joan Didion really helped me to process my grief and understand what I was feeling, even though it was all about -her- pain and -her- loss. It's also an incredible read in other ways. Her use of language is astounding.

Hugs, hugs, hugs, and Bombay Sapphire to comfort you!!

Thank you for sharing this very intimate part of yourself with us and I pray that you'll feel comfort as you move through this.

It's 5 years for me. And I still cry when I think about her too much. Not to take the wind out of your sails. Some days I'm good. Some days I can't believe that this is really my life.

As for someone who's family was once on the other end of that 911 call, thank you. Even though you were there longer than normal and had to hear more than you wanted, you were there. And that was probably a comfort to farm wife who had no control of the situation she faced. I'm a nurse and we aren't supposed to cry either. But frankly, I would question if you hadn't. Don't go all cold inside even though it's easier. Your mom wouldn't want that. Your warmth is what makes you good at your job.

Whoever told you "the world gives you a month" to grieve was incorrect. Most normal people need far longer than that...maybe a month to be totally prostrated by it, to feel all the time like nothing will ever be right again.

But then you start to get glimmers of happiness and better times. But the grief will still come back and whack you.

I still have dreams about my grandma - who died nearly 20 years ago now - dreams where she's alive and healthy and I'm at her house. And I still wake up and cry when I realize the dream wasn't true. Even though they COULDN'T be true because she'd be nearly 115 if she were alive now.

Oh, and I'm totally with your co-worker who said you passed the human code. Even though that kind of grief is not something outsiders should be party to (maybe), you may have helped that woman during the first shocking realizations of her grief by just being there on the other end of the phone.

(And I cried a little bit, sitting here at my desk, reading about the call).

Human emotion is such a complicated and difficult thing...and so variable from person to person. Some days I go around feeling maybe the Vulcans had it right...but then something wonderful happens where I wouldn't give up the ability to feel good things even in return for never feeling the bad ones...

You know, there are other ways to look at that dream...

About a week after my grandmother died, I had a dream that I was sitting at the funeral home with my family, and out the corner of my eye I saw someone peek around the corner into the room.

I went to investigate and found my grandmother in the hallway, her black eyes twinkling with laughter. I was floored. I said, "How can you be here? You died and it was terrible and you're over there in the casket! You're dead!"

She smiled and asked, "Well, you still love me, don't you?"

"Of course!"

"Then how could I ever be dead?"

I have treasured that dream in my heart ever since, and it's given me strength through many losses. Perhaps your dream was meant to reassure you of the vital, very- much-alive, love you shared with her, and that all is now well.

Having to wake and realize that our loved one really is gone from our daily life is a painful burden we carry, but at least for me it's so much lighter when seen through the lens of forever love.

Conversely, my mom was the most selfish person I have ever known. Enormously conflicted, deceitful, controlling, addicted, and just plain mean, she left me & my dad when I was 15, and she ultimately died alone following a long illness. I never dream about her, I think because any love I had for her was tortured to death.

So IMHO, it's the love that lives on, and once in a while we get a reassuring reminder from those who cherished us and cherish us still.

When my father died, someone told me: give it 8 months. It's not that you don't grieve, on some level, after that, but often the grieving fledges into something a little lighter. I know it's hard, but you're where you should be, letting it happen. That's healthy.

You are doing such a service in your job. Hang in there. And I love the tattoos.


I think it's amazing that you can do what you do at work, keep someone calm and working CPR on their dear spouse even if it seems like it's not going well, and not lose it til the call is over. YOU are amazing.

The grief thing waxes and wanes. Sometimes I feel very accepting of my parents' deaths (4 years ago, after both were ill) and other times it all catches me up short. The hard part is that my parents are not around to be grandparents to my kids and I miss that terribly. But I also miss them for who they were -- my mother's many talents and dry humor, my father's wit and love for talking. I wish I could have them back for a while. Hang in there.

I haven't had time to read all of the comments - so I'm sure this will be a repeat of much that has been said. Grief is so personal. There is no set time and a month is just a drop in time. There will be ups and there will be downs. My dad died in 1980 and still, every once in a while, something comes up that just knocks me on my ass I miss him so much. There are a lot of people - mostly those who have not had a close personal loss - who have no clue. Hang in there, it sounds like you have lots of understanding and loving support. Ignore the ignorant ones.

oh sweetie; i'm so sorry for your grief but i'm so glad you are not a stone-hearted person. that's partly why we all love you so much.

Yes, yes and yes to everything you've said. It really does seem to be about a month until (people that haven't suffered a significant loss themselves) expect you to mostly be over it.

Mom died 22 years ago. I still have that dream where she's actually alive, and she only got very sick, but got better and I'm so happy. Sometimes the scenario is that she went on a long, long trip and now she's back. The good news is - those dreams stop being sad and scary, and they become kind of funny and wistful.

Grief, and then the other less painful reverberations from it, will wash up on your shore forever. It won't always be this painful, I promise xo

Honestly, the immediacy of the grieving does get "better", but you'll have moments forever. The first year is the hardest, but with Lala and the sisters you're solid.

Bethany's tat looks grand! Did she enjoy the Tanja artistry since that script looks quite similar to yours?

Those dreams are part of grieving. I had them for years after my parents died. As time passes the pain these dreams cause, both in the dream and awake, lessens.

Be strong, sounds like you're surrounded by love.

oh.. I just want to give you a hug right now. Condolences to your whole family. You are amazing. The commenters here are amazing, too. You and your sister's tattoos are both beautiful.

Oh sweetie. I'm so sorry. Many hugs.

Sending hugs. It does get better, but you'll probably feel that grief/sadness every day. If only for a couple of seconds.

And sometimes it's almost funny: I went to see Tropic Thunder and thought: Dad would LOVE this movie. Silly and sad and okay.

Yep, it is tough. I'm the one who's mom was playing baseball when she passed. It's been 3 and half years. Things still hit me. My precious Boston Terrier died this year of the same liver disease that mom did, thanks to the Chinese addition to dog food.(Read poison)Same meds, same restrictive diet, I just know they are together sending me butterflies and pleasant dreams!!

So my grandfather died when I was 18. Four years later, when teaching ballads to a group of senior ESLs we wrote a ballad to a special person in our lives, living or not. I chose him and just about lost it in front of my students...12 years on? I still think about him at xmas time, that's when he passed. He was more my dad than my dad, and yeah, some folks get it, some folks don't.

The world and "people" can seem cold that way. Individuals who know you, though, or have lost a love one, they know.

It does get better, promise.

Rachael, I am so sorry the sadness goes into your dreams. It seems unfair that we are so vulnerable when asleep, the actuality of Jan's passing was peaceful, but the dreams can lead you to a drop.

More time...I am convinced we will get better with time. Right now, it is hard to see that; I am swinging wider from depression to mental health. Still a part of me just says "more time" and it helps stabilize me.

Anyway, love you much and wish I could make the hurt go away like I could when you were little.

Love and hugs till Strawberry.

Dad

I'm so sorry. A month sounds about right; that's when folks expect someone to straighten up, adjust their clothes, stand up and go on with life. It's insane. I have a friend who lost her baby at 20 months and she had the same experience... and still does when folks ask how many kids she has. She says, "Do I say 2, or 3?" It is hard.

My heart is going out to you.

Hi Rachael - it's been nearly 9 years since my mother died and I still miss her every day. I found the path that grief leads us on is a crooked one - some parts are smooth, some are not - and there are switchbacks. The missing part gets less raw, but really never goes away. I see it as a tribute to a really terrific woman and a good relationship between us. I've had to settle for the old platitude that "she's always with you" and truly do believe it, but still think it's a piss poor alternative (if you'll pardon the language!).

Your Mama always sounded like such a wonderful woman. So hard to have one so close to us pass on..

Grieve however you grieve and as long as you feel fit. I lost my brother when I was 19 years younger and still find myself lost in thought over him, remembering how special he was at times.

The grief never really goes away but in time you learn to honor the person and cherish the memories of the times you spent together.. So much less painful.

Grieve.. You just have to. She was obviously so very special to you.

Y'all get to grieve as long as you need to, sugarpop.

I got a hole in me that's going to have been there for 14 years come January. It'll never fill in completely, for which I'm glad.

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