Grief is a real thing

So grief, grief is a real thing let me tell you. I’m not sure I really understood the whole process of grief and grieving until we had roughly 18 months of onslaught. I’d been sad before, obviously, you hear about death, you lose a beloved pet (and I howled like a banshee for days after that), contemporaries of your parentals pass away etc etc but it’s only (in my opinion) when it comes knocking at your front door that you really get it.

So first of all my mother in law died, we weren’t close but she died ugly (rampant alzheimers and all the accompanying stuff that goes with that) and I needed to be support for my husband while he dealt with her passing and his father and siblings and all their stuff. I need a new word for stuff but you know – emotion and baggage and arguments and discussions and stuff! Then 6 months later my feisty, never ill, full of life 86 year old mothers appendix burst and she dies two weeks later in hospital. My father literally fell apart and I put up my hand and said it’s ok, I’ll sort it out. You see, I told my comatose mother on the day she died that it was ok to say goodbye and I would look after my father and well that’s a promise you can’t exactly break. She, in her infinite wisdom, had always done everything from cooking, cleaning, finances, shopping for groceries etc etc My father was just, I can’t, I don’t know how, I don’t know what to do. So in the next 6 months we sold his house (at his request), moved him into a retirement village (best decision ever) and tried to find solid ground to stand on. The phone calls were endless and I can remember one night going into a room in our home, switching off the lights and curling up on the floor with my arms wrapped around my head and thinking I can’t do this anymore, I can’t do everything for everybody, when do I get a chance to grieve? Did I tell my husband the depths of my despair? No I didn’t (rightly or wrongly) I’m also the “strong” one, always the one who picks up the pieces so I did, I picked myself up and got back to getting on with life. I think the first time I really cried, well other than at the funeral because who doesn’t cry at funerals (I hate funerals with a passion let me reiterate but we did it because my father thought it was the right thing to do) was driving home from work on my birthday roughly 10 months after she died. It was in the winter and cold and dark and I wept for my mother for 8 kilometres and then I packed it away.

I’m jumping around here but about 4 months into project Save Father, one of our dearest friends also died from colon cancer. He was in his 40’s and once of the loveliest people you could wish to know – his parents have now buried both their sons (the first one in a car accident) so you can imagine walking that road of pain. On the day of his memorial, we got a call to say that my father had been involved in a car accident and was being rushed to hospital. You seriously cannot make this shit up – the photographs from the memorial are something, I look like a ghost. My father was lucky with relatively minor injuries but the psychological impact was massive combined with everything else.

Grief and grieving is an individual process – I don’t believe there is a guaranteed or recommended formula for everyone to follow. I do believe time is critical and that there has to be a line drawn in the sand and when you get to that line its time to start living your life again. You don’t forget, ever, but you remember how to live and why you need to live.

Its now three years later – I’ve had some health issues, nothing major but enough to give me a wakeup call. I’m quite convinced the utter overwhelmingness of the stress and grief was a contributing factor. What has grief taught me? I’ll tell you one thing its taught me –  to take care of myself and make myself the first priority in my life. I consciously avoid people and situations that are stressful and I have redrawn my boundaries – I put up with a lot less than I used to. You’ll probably find that there are people that think I’m selfish but that’s ok because I know my truth and the people that matter know me.

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30 days – just like that

The fleeting nature of time, the emphemeral substance of life, the adage of “this too shall pass” was never more forcefully brought home then when turning the pages of my diary. Yes, despite all the technological stuff (to which I’m happily addicted) I still like to use an “old fashioned” diary for work. There is something strangely comforting and affirming in writing down the day – achievements, failures and you’ve got to be joking moments. I use different coloured pens as well (what does that say about my character – probably something dodgy but whatever) to define what’s what. It was while flipping through crisp, clean whiteness to diarise a purple moment for one month hence that the old inner voice woke up and yelled in my ear “do you see that your worries and stress and issues are doable – swish, boom, bang and you moved forward 30 days.” Mouthy wench is the old inner voice but she has a point.

Do you talk to God

or whatever power source forms part of your belief system? This is not a religious poser but merely a passing blip ruminating on whether human beings refer to an intangible something to air their views when life gets on its inevitable rollercoaster of highs and lows.

Example – earlier this week, after an incredibly arsed up day at work, I got in my car to drive home and asked God (my thing, doesn’t have to be yours) if he had got out the wrong side of bed that morning, hence the iffy day! Now some would probably call that disrespectful and irreverent but it made me laugh and the utterly spectacular sunset brought me a hint of sanity and by the time I got home all was well with the world.

Yes, I do have a significant other and we talk a lot and often about everything and then some but pause a moment and ponder on this – I also need someone to talk to about him when he gets up my nose and I want to smack him (which is rare but it happens). So you see there is method in my madness as far as that goes and for those intensely vulnerable moments, which everybody has as far as I’m concerned, there is nothing more comforting than a non-judgmental sounding board.

“Certain thoughts are prayers. There are moments when, whatever be the attitude of the body, the soul is on its knees.” ~Victor Hugo

Judge, Jury & Executioner

Part of my “growing up” rule book was don’t judge other people. Honestly, I think, when I was younger I wasn’t very good at abiding by that rule – I made assumptions, some good, some negative and some so left of centre that they were just plain stupid (good old hindsight). There are enough “official” quotes and sayings about the subject as well but my personal summation of the whole philosophical slice of the pie is everybody has a story.

Does that sound terribly noble and cliche’d? Probably but more and more I’m having to consciously redirect my thought process and remember those four words. Today I learn’t that the lady at the local stationers, who always looks like a shoddily made sack of potatoes, is not a slob but is in a really crap relationship with a nasty piece of work. On the other side of the coin I also discovered that the woman I work with genuinely has an ugly dark heart and my prior theory of benefit of the doubt may have been sadly misdirected.

Listen more, talk less – everybody has a story.

The rules of friendship

Are you your genuine self with your friends? Do you show every personal trait and preference in all their stark honesty or do you tend to wind it down a little and go with the flow?

The reason I pose the question relates to my best friend (do you get to have a best friend in your 40’s or is that more a juvenile thing – ok so very close friend) – she’s warm, caring, generous and a wonderful mom. We’ve known each other eight years and basically hit it off from day one. We have our differences (which is fun) and tend to thrash out anything that grinds, especially music related as her taste is dire 😉

There is one topic though that I stay away from, same sex couples. She is surprisingly biased which never ceases to amaze me for all the wrong reasons. Is there a single word that respectfully encompasses same sex couples? I’m stumped so for now will abbreviate it to s.s.c. Both my husband and I have s.s.c. friends and yet I find myself avoiding the topic when she and I chat and we do chat, a lot. Most times I just let the niggle go but some days I think should I tell her how I feel and to stop being such a blinkered bat and that (in my opinion) sexual orientation doesn’t influence the caliber of the person? Or should I weigh up her many good facets and just skip the “controversial” stuff?

My head tells me one thing and my heart tells me something else. It’s a head kind of day so I’m taking the cop out route, walking the more travelled path and avoiding the debate. I’ll deal with the drama on another day.

The greatest gift you can give yourself

Chatting with some friends the other day, the dreaded subject of the festive season and gift giving to the in-laws raised its scaly head. After much hilarity and a number of suggestions that would make most people blush the discussion took a more philosophical leaning towards spoiling yourself. Over and above beauty treatments, shopping trips and a personal chef (which are all utterly spectacular don’t get me wrong), my contribution was ..

Solitude, also known as time to be by yourself and with yourself

Seriously, in my humble opinion, it’s a priceless commodity – time to think and examine and investigate your own life. I think people tend to hide and shy away from their true feelings and thoughts when they are with other people (even a beloved spouse) but when you’re on your own there’s nowhere to run. You have to face all the stuff head on. It’s surprising just how much peace stillness engenders and how truly doable it all is. My personal “think about it” process – compartmentalise, pack away and stick on a label.

I don’t have a predetermined schedule for looking inwards – if living was that straight forward it wouldn’t be necessary but as often as possible I become one (the oneness of it all sounds ridiculous I know but you get the idea).

“Language has created the word “loneliness” to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word “solitude” to express the glory of being alone.” Paul Tillich

About me, when the going gets tough

Health, stress and its affects have been front and centre of late. Call it circumstance, fate or whatever – multiple people that we know are ill to varying degrees. I suppose being away for a few days has also sparked another spell of thinking. How do you or is there a right way to deal with stress?

I’m very vocal (not always to the stress causer mind you) and if my office walls could talk I’d probably need to take out a gagging order! Lets put it this way I’m a firm believer in better out than in.

Music is my figurative punching bag. Hard rock, classical or something that makes you cry – there’s a tune to pretty up and every mood (that said rap and hip-hop have yet to reveal their purpose to me).

In a utopian world, you’d be able to tell your stresser that they are the root cause of your stiff neck and twitching left eye but until then ………………

“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music” Aldous Huxley