For those who follow this blog, you may know that I have had a time these last couple of years with the sudden death of my mother, care of my dad and then the brief, yet emotional drain of seeing my dad go from seemingly functioning, to a fall, then hospice and then his death on January 6th. I still feel that I am in that in-between time and land: where I cannot go back and cannot go forward. It is difficult for me to concentrate, sleep and generally function. I know that it is the physical process of grief and yet it is frustrating nonetheless. Part of me wants the pain of grieving to be over and another part of me wants to wallow in it.
I went to see the bereavement counselor supplied by the hospice. She was very helpful. I look at the scenario leading up to my dad's death and I see the many blessings of God's hand: while it seemed like the days went on forever while we waited in the hospital for a clear diagnosis of what was going on and then the days spent in the hospice, yet from the time he went to the ER until his death was just three weeks. Not too long when others spend years with chronic and declining illnesses. Because we had dad tested over the past summer and had a grasp of his capabilities and decline, we were able to present an accurate picture to the doctors and the hospice so that dad received the best care. I am so grateful that his decline and end did not happen when I was incapacitated with my own surgery recovery.
While dad was in hospice he was able to see and spend some time with all of his children. My one sister was there when he took his final breath. His "financial" affairs were all in order. He was ready to see my mom. He and I were ready to part- no regrets with either party. I feel very fortunate to have spent much time with my parents. The last couple of years were transactional- they needed help and care from me, just like when I was little and needed help and care from them. But the subsequent years in-between were great. My parents and I and then later, my husband and sons enjoyed spending time together, enjoying The Cape, going on trips, visiting extended family, visiting museums, playing games, sharing hobbies together.
Even with all the good memories I find I am still grieving. Grieving is not bad. It is part of life and death. It is a process we all must go through. Grief can be for a number of reasons, not just for the present death of a loved one. Perhaps it is the regret of the past- a poor choice and its consequences. Or it can be grief for the future- a loss of a dream or expectation. I think there are positive attributes with grief, once the shock of loss is worn off and the day to day existence commences. Good grief brings about a clarity of purpose, of reevaluation of life's plans and of one's mortality. Grieving the past may be the only way to put it in its place- the past. Grieving the future may help narrow the purpose and plans of one's life.
With all my muddling and aimlessly wondering around the house, I have had time to ruminate on all that has happened in my and my parents' lives. I find that my grief comes at a time when I am also grieving unmet expectations of extended family and of my own future and career. I know that my grieving goes back before the death of both parents, it extends to my parent's decline and my increased roll of caregiver. I also recognize that I gave so much of my time and emotional energy to extended family that I am reevaluating where I spend my time now. I feel that I spent so much lost time and emotional energy over senseless things and situations over which I had no control.
It is if a fog is starting to lift. No more are all objects shrouded in heaviness and angst. I am beginning to distinguish shapes. I still have a long way to go but I feel a peace on the scene that is unfolding.
What about you? How is your experience with grief? Grieving a person? A situation? A lost dream? A future? A past? What has helped you muddle through? Have you felt at peace? Has it lasted?
Things you may experience when you are grieving: (resource page from Gilchrist Hospice)
- hyperactive or under active
- feelings of unreality, e.g. detached from body
- physical distress- chest pains, abdominal pains, headaches, nausea
- appetite change
- weight change
- sleep difficulties (getting to sleep, staying asleep, waking up)
- crying and sighing
- feelings of emptiness or a physical void
- shortness of breath
- tightness or lump in throat
- overly sensitive
- avoidant of others
- lack of initiative
- lack of interest
- difficulty concentrating/focusing
- slowed thinking
- wandering aimlessly
- dreaming of the deceased, or sensing his/her presence
- searching for the deceased
- needing to retell the story of person's death
- avoiding talking about loss for others' comfort