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Posts Tagged ‘death’

The Loss of A Pet

In May, our beloved pet passed away.  His name was Gabriel and he was our pet ferret.

We got Gabriel when he was just a couple months old, 6 years prior.  When Gabriel was a baby, he fit in my love’s t-shirt pockets.  We took him to the park (only once or twice… he couldn’t stand the leash!), and we’d let him run amok in the house in the evenings.  Gabriel was amazingly mischievous, and one time I watched him drag a 5 pound hand weight 10 feet across the floor into the closet.

He was the sweetest addition to our family.  He was thoroughly loved and enjoyed by all.  Each evening when we would put Gabriel back in his cage, he would pace until we gave him his vitamin paste… he loved that stuff!

His last evening, he woke me up with crying.  Ferrets do have some sounds.  I had heard him scream out in his sleep, had heard his happy squeak, but this crying was difficult.  We held him and tried to soothe him much of the night.  We now know that he had suffered a stroke earlier in the day, and had partially recovered, but was now constipated.

I did what I usually do, and consulted the internet.  I made a concoction to help him, I kept him warm, I talked softly to our little angel.  He was walking around, but staggering a bit.  Parts of his personality were still there.  I made an emergency vet appointment, and showered.  After the shower, I looked at him… he had taken a very quick turn for the worst and was convulsing.  I wrapped him, put him in a basket and my son and I got in the car.  We had to drive about 2 miles.

Gabriel took his final breath as I put the car in park.  My son and I cried in the car.  I thought about driving away, but instead went in to cancel the appointment.  I couldn’t do it without sobbing, of course, and they had the vet come to the car and check him out.

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I still get tears in my eyes thinking of his last day.  And you know what?  I rarely think of it anymore.  What I think about is the 6 years we had with him, his spirit, and all the laughter he brought into our world.

The sting of death is so difficult.  And it takes time.  Sometimes a lot of time.  But once we are able to move past the anger, the pain, the shock, we can move towards the celebration of the life.

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Grief Rolls in. Times 3

2010 was an amazingly challenging year for my family.  Dad’s death in February seemed to be a catalyst for so much.  His death pulled some of us together, it ripped some of us apart.  We figured out how to cope (or not, in some cases), and we moved forward with our lives.  28 days later, though, I received the 2nd of the phone calls I would receive in 2010.  THE phone call, you know?  28 days after Dad passed, his wife of 28 years died suddenly.  Dad and Toni had been married for 28 years, and the doctors say she died from a broken heart.

I received the call at about 10pm.  I knew before I fell back asleep that I simply couldn’t do it.  I could not make the 15 hour drive so soon after all the time I had already taken off work.  Physically, I didn’t see how it would be possible.  Emotionally, I had no doubts that it was absolutely impossible.

After Dad died, I would call Toni frequently.  She was my link to Dad.  She told me things that I wouldn’t have otherwise known.  I held on to every bit of information like I was starving for it.  And now she was gone.  I grieved for Toni.  I grieved for Dad.  I couldn’t make the trip, I just couldn’t.

That was in March.  At the end of September, I got the third call.  My brother’s wife, Misty, had died.  My heart couldn’t comprehend the pain that my brother must have felt.  He was left with 3 children, and the love of his life was gone.  I reeled, just as every member of the family did.

We buried 3 of our people in 2010.  Each one completely reopened the wounds again.  The grief rolled in, over and over.

We held one another, we made numerous calls across the states, we kept a constant vigil, trying to grasp the pain each person felt, trying to hold on tight so as to not “lose” another.

It says a lot, I believe, that we survived that.  We still call one another for those “welfare checks”… wanting nothing more than to hear their voice and FEEL that they are ok.  The reality is that 2010 changed us all forever.  We have wounds that have morphed into deep scars.  Those will always be there.  As I type that, it occurs to me that scar tissue is stronger than the surrounding flesh.

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I’ve blogged repeatedly about my Dad’s death.  He passed away February 13, 2010.  My entire grief process was shared very publicly on this blog.  Today I would like to share with you some of the stumbling blocks I had while dealing with Dad’s death. 

I had to return to work about a week after Dad died.  I had to try to put on a happy face.  I felt like I needed to be strong.  I began telling myself that all I had to do was “fake it til you make it”.  If I could just keep acting like everything was ok in my world, then it would be… right??

I shoved things away, internally.  I convinced myself that others were tired of hearing about my pain.  I put up walls, I attempted to ignore the emotions bubbling away inside me.  I cried sometimes, but almost always when I was alone.   I didn’t ask for any help.  Instead, I tried to be strong for others. 

All of these things… I learned from them, yes.  But each one of them acted like huge speed bumps in my grief.  Ignoring the pain, well, that’s just never going to work. 

During that time, Patti Digh posted on Facebook that she did not like the phrase “fake it til you make it”.  I jumped right in there to tell her just how wrong she was.  That sometimes, especially after the death of a loved one, it’s exactly the right thing to do.  If you are grieving, have to hold down a job, take care of your family, etc, that faking it til you make it is exactly what is needed.  Months later, I wrote Patti an email telling her how wrong I was.  I’m stubborn like that.

I dove into my online business.  I became a certified life coach.  I created an Artist Empowerment Class.  I showed my photography at local venues.  I was unstoppable.  And then guess what happened.  I stopped.  I lost my footing.  I  became ill.  I sat at my computer for hours at a time, and the screen would remain blank.  I melted down.  There were many times that I thougt of throwing in the towel.  What good is an online business with no new ideas.  I had lost my mojo. 

Not until I had a dream about my Dad, where he spoke to me, did I move forward again.  It’s been almost 2 years since Dad’s death.  Throughout those two years, I have not once stopped learning.  More than any other singular experience in my life, his death taught me what my path is.  I am meant to take all of those lessons and help others.  My light in this world is to ease others through this amazingly difficult journey of grief. 

Are you grieving?  Have you gotten stuck?  I can help you… contact me anytime.

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My 30th birthday was my most memorable birthday.  I shared a birthday with a dear friend named Eric.  Eric was one of my husband’s best friends.  He would stay with us many weekends, he paid me to clean his apartment every week, he exposed us to so many different kinds of foods.  He would go buy elaborate ingredients and cook for us most every weekend.  Through him we discovered sushi, among other things.

Anyway, for my 30th birthday, he gave me a copy of “The Celestine Prophecy” and told me it would change my life.  It did, but not as much as knowing him did.  Eric, though a bit older than me (by a year or two), was like a pesky kid brother lots of times.  He would take over the couch and the remote and grate on my nerves.   We bickered, yes… but it so often ended with me being angry and him saying “is that your face……(long pause)… or WHAT??” and we would crack up.

He was part of our family.  He wrote a song called “Impressive Words” when our oldest son was being bullied.  He was starting to teach our middle son how to play guitar.  He excelled in being wildly inappropriate and we all loved him.  So, he was there for my 30th birthday, which was also his birthday.  December 30.  And he was with us for New Years, I remember because I had about a bajillion resolutions that year and his only one was to be happy.

February 15, a month and a half after that shared birthday, Eric was killed by a drunk driver.  I received the call at 2am.  He had left work and was on his way home.  At home, he had a note waiting for him saying that we wanted him to come over for the weekend.  My husband went and got their friend A.  My husband, A, and Eric were the 3 musketeers.  We stayed up all the rest of the night crying, in total disbelief.  Morning came too soon and the boys woke up.  We had to figure out how to tell them that Eric was gone.  We hadn’t yet grasped it for ourselves, but we had to tell them.

My husband wanted to tell them, and he did, and we tried to make everything ok.  The next week, A and I spent many hours cleaning out Eric’s apartment and readying it for a memorial evening for all of his friends and co-workers.  We served Milano cookies and red kool-aid in mason jars, which is just how it should have been.  And we played his music.  During that week, when I took Eric’s laundry to my home to launder it, I walked in with the basket of laundry and my husband said “don’t wash it.  let me see it.”  He picked up one of his shirts and smelled it.  We must’ve sat there for over an hour smelling that shirt.  That may seem weird… but it was what kept us close to Eric for the moment.

Now, my ex has a sushi dinner every year in February to honor Eric.  We play his music.  We drink koolaid out of mason jars.  We laugh, we talk about our dear friend that we lost.   Our boys know Eric’s music well, and he will never be forgotten.

The drunk driver was a 68 year old man, who had never been in trouble with the law before in his life.  Why he chose to drink and drive that night, I will never know.  What I do know is there were 3 men in that car.  Eric was in the passenger seat and killed instantly.  The one in the back seat (passenger side) died 2 days later on his son’s 2nd birthday, and the driver suffered some brain damage.  The drunk driver will most likely die in prison and he will never understand the impact his actions had on my family.  I feel for him, having to live with 2 deaths on his conscience.  I must say, though, that his actions that night, while amazingly painful for so many, probably taught my children to never drink and drive.  For that, I am thankful.

Eric was one of a kind, and we are so blessed to have had him in our lives.  His death changed us forever.

My next post will be about the Grief of Divorce.

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When my grandparents died, I was married with children.  I don’t recall when my grandmother passed away because I simply chose to not remember those dates.  I do remember that I was at her funeral, holding my newborn grand niece.  My only real memory of her funeral was holding that squeaking baby, thinking that if you have to sit through a funeral after losing the woman who raised you, it may as well be done while holding a newborn.  The cycle of life.

I remember hearing some stories later about her death.  To this day I don’t know if they are true, and honestly, it doesn’t matter.  I choose to remember her life.

My grandmother’s name was Wanda B.   No middle name.  Just B.  She raised her children, owned a business, and just as retirement was nearing, found out her oldest daughter had MS, would be moving back home, and had her 3 children in tow.  I can’t even imagine.  But my grandparents did it.  I’m certain they never thought twice about it.  You do for family, and so they did.

We were not very well behaved children.  They disciplined us quite regularly, and often harshly.  But I will always know they did the best they could.  I thought a lot about what they both had sacrificed for us while sitting there with that squeaky baby at the funeral.

I was 25 when my grandfather died.  He passed before my grandmother did.  I lived in Alaska at the time, and had been emailing my family about some medical stuff going on with me.  One of my tonsils was swollen, and they suspected cancer.  They wouldn’t know until they removed my tonsils, and I could choose when to schedule the operation.  I let my family know all of this, and scheduled my surgery.

The military hospital didn’t get to me until well into the afternoon on the day of my scheduled surgery, so they chose to keep me overnight.  I was in a ward, about 6 beds in this huge long room, but I didn’t care, I had some pretty good pain meds.  The next morning, I got called up to the nurses station for a phone call.  It was my husband (why he called instead of telling me in person, I will never know).  My sister had called him to tell him that my grandfather had passed away.  When I hung up, I grabbed a box of tissues right off the desk and walked back to my bed, sobbing.  I asked the doctor if I could go to the funeral.  No flying for two weeks he said.  Too much of a chance for bleeding.

The next 2 weeks were a blur.  I don’t recommend a tonsillectomy as an adult, that’s for sure.  But the day I started to wean off of the pain meds, the grief hit me.  I had lost my Papaw.  If my grandparents were yin and yang, he was the kindness of my childhood.  I appreciated the glint in my grandmother’s eyes, but Papaw was kind.  He spanked us…. sometimes… but it was a lot more of a “scheduled” kinda thing.  He thought out his punishment and wasn’t rash.  By the time it hit me, he had been buried.  He was gone.  No closure, no last respects.  I sobbed so much that I threw up.  Not a good idea, I can assure you.  And I went back on my pain meds.  I needed to be numb.

I felt so much guilt for not saying my goodbyes… for not being there to support my family.  Even as I type this, I’m in tears.  The grief has a way of washing in… especially when we re-open the wound.   But sometimes that’s exactly what you have to do.   I now remember my grandparents regularly and fondly.  For how they lived.  My grandmother was like this blazing comet.  My grandfather more like well… when I picture him, I see smiling eyes.

Their deaths helped to form me… just as their lives did.

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My First Lesson in Grief

This beautiful woman is my mom.  Mom was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis when I was 4.  She passed away when I was 14.  She was my first teacher in grief.  When she was alive and bedridden, I grieved for my lost childhood.  I grieved at having to be a caregiver.  And when she passed away, I busied myself.  I picked her casket, her gown, helped my Aunt pick flowers, talked to my boyfriend’s mom to have her sing at the funeral, made sure my sister Lynda could handle the viewing on the way home from the airport, I did all I could to ease other’s work.  I felt the weight of her death on my grandparents.  My grandmother almost passed out when the casket was closed for the final time.  I knew that a child, no matter how old, should ever precede her parents in death.

I didn’t cry for 3 weeks.  I’m fairly certain that no one really noticed, and that was fine with me.  When I did cry, I did so alone, in my bed, in the middle of the night.

I look back and I think that my grieving process could have been helped along.  I am certain that my mom’s death changed me forever, more than it should have.

Honestly, though…  I had been the caregiver for my mom since I was 9.  Feeding tubes, urine bags, the whole bit.  I was the girl, and that was a role I fit into.  I did not feel like I lost my mom at 14.  I felt like I had lost my mom at a much younger age.  And at 14, I lost a patient.  That sounds cold.  But it was my reality.  We were not a touchy feely family.  We did what we needed to do.  I am certain that from the moment my mom became ill, we all went into survival mode.  My grandparents gave up everything to take us in and take care of mom.

And because of these feelings, I lived with guilt for many years after Mom died.  I never wonder what my life would have been like had she not had MS.  As I’ve shared before, I know that every event in my life has made me who I am.  Since Mom was my first teacher of grief, I guess it can be fair to say that from her death, I learned the signs… I learned what I experienced in my denial, and I learned what to look for in others.  I know how to see the feelings that go unspoken.  I know all the words that need to be said… to help through the process.  I will forever be grateful for all that she taught me.

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On Tuesday, our ferret died.  We got Gabriel 6 years ago, as a baby.  He was the sweetest soul, so gentle, and ever-loving to each ferret we had rescued over the years.  He was always the youngest, always the kindest.  My son had re-named him Raticus.  He was a conniving little guy, always trying to get into places that we had barricaded.  He had a stroke sometime on Monday, and drew his last breath Tuesday as I put the car in ‘park’ at the vet’s office.  Up until a half hour before his appointment, he was doing ok… walking all around, a little lean-y, but still getting into trouble.

We buried him…he has a beautiful spot in the forest.

His death taught me a lot.  I learned once again that life is too short.  It’s way to short to remain miserable or to surround yourself with miserable people.  Gabriel was loved.  He had happiness.  And oh so much mischief.  There is much to be learned from him.

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