Monday, March 16, 2015

Sometimes Grief is Never-Ending

This is an appropriate picture of our late sister Kim, because that is how I think of her - happy, bubbly, enjoying life.  I wish I could be like that.  I hope to be able to be that way someday again.  I used to be more like that, at times, before we had to deal with so much of this grieving.

It's also fitting that there is an angel in this photo (on Juli and Kevin's Christmas tree), because I think of Kim as being an angel now.  Many people who loved her thought of her as an angel even when she was here and alive.  She had so many friends and was so outgoing and fun and friendly.

I've probably said this before, but don't ever let anyone tell you that you are grieving wrong.  Everyone is different.  Some people may distract themselves or seem to move on quickly, or possibly even wish that you were doing the same.  Other people might want to think or talk about the person, or talk about feelings.  Whatever way you grieve is whatever is best for you at the time.

I worry so much about Kim's son Ethan.  Some of us adults are not coping well with this loss, more than two years after her passing, so how can a child understand and cope with it?  We talk about his mom when he wants to, and bring her up when memories occur, and we look at the beautiful book that my sister Juli made with photos and memories of Kim.  Most of the time, Ethan is trying to distract himself with video games and things, probably trying to not feel most of his pain.  I do the same things, too.

In my younger days, I experienced some losses that didn't feel very difficult, like the loss of grandparents I wasn't very close to, or other people I didn't have a strong connection to.  In recent years, though, there have been important and serious losses, like my sister very quickly passing away from cancer.  Other big losses have been my in-laws, and my husband's aunt, all of whom felt like real parents to me.  Plus, we all lived in the same house.  I feel that the grief over these recent, big losses will never really go away.  It seems to stay and stay, and continue to cause a lot of pain for my husband and for me (as Kim's loss also does for Mom and Ethan and Juli and others).

Grief isn't limited to just people, either.  My husband and I still feel grief over some of the most special cats we've had, too.  As anyone who has truly loved a pet knows, they are like little, furry people.  We love them and care for them and miss them a lot when they are gone.

I guess this is what getting older is like - dealing with loss after loss, if you are lucky enough to be someone who remains alive yourself.  It's a very hard thing.  Like I said in my previous post, I keep calling this compound grief.  It's as if each loss opens the previous wounds again, or as if the crack in your broken heart gets bigger each time.  Then you try to heal a bit, and experience another loss and it rips back open.  Each loss seems to remind us more and more of all of the others who are gone, and we aren't coping too well with it, at times.

We keep trying.  We keep setting goals, making plans, trying to live our lives, but as any grieving person knows, there are constant reminders that make you think of the people over and over.  Sometimes we have funny or happy thoughts or memories, but other times it's just painful.

It's not like I'm enjoying this continued blogging about grief, but I have these thoughts and they need to get out.  Writing these things makes me cry and it feels very hard, but maybe someone can relate to something that I say, and it might make them feel less alone, less odd.

Please be kind and gentle with yourself if you are experiencing grief.  Take care of yourself and give yourself credit for just getting through each day and doing the best you can.  It's such a difficult thing, especially for extremely sensitive and caring people.  Loving and caring about people brings us much happiness, but also pain.

I wish you peace and comfort and joy in the future.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Compound Grief

I know that I keep using too many of the same photos.  I just don't have the time or energy to search around for other ones right now.
These two people are the ones we lost most recently - my sister Kim and my husband's Aunt Dee Dee.  I never know whether I'm supposed to say my Aunt Dee Dee or just call her his aunt.  I tried Googling it once, and came up with the wrong results to answer my question.
One thing I've noticed in all of these recent years, with several more of the important people we love being gone is that each loss seems to make the previous ones hurt even more.  I've been calling it compound grief when talking with my husband about it.  I don't even know if that's a term that anyone uses, but it's just what I've been saying.
I guess how I'm feeling is that with each loss, there is one less person who loves and cares about us, and who cares about the same people that we miss.  It seems to keep dwindling down to a few of us who are really sad about all of those who are gone.
I don't even feel like I'm explaining this correctly.  Perhaps a lot of my pain and my husband's is because four of the losses we've experienced have been very important people, and three of those were people who lived in this house.  We all had our separate areas to live in, but could all visit and talk and care about each other, which was wonderful.
I know it's strange to many people, in this day and age, to stay at home with the older folks and live together.  The fact is, we never could afford to leave, but also we didn't want to.  We loved these people.  Dean's mom never wanted us to leave - ever - she told us that.  She wanted us all to stay together, and we all felt the same way.  Sure, we all could've used more room, but being together meant more to us.  So, even if we would've had the money to move ourselves, my husband and I always said that we wouldn't move unless we had enough money to move all of us to a larger place (or attached condos or something).
Getting back to the compound grief concept - each loss we experienced was terrible, but there were still people who we did things with and took care of, in this house.  When Dean's dad, Ray, passed away, we focused on doing things with and for his wife Milly (lots of gifts and cards, cooking and baking for her, going out to dinner, etc.).  We had something to do - care for her, and knew she was here caring about us and our pain, too.
When Milly passed away, we focused more attention on her sister Dee Dee and doing things for her.  When my sister Kim passed away, Dee Dee was here to comfort and console us.  We were still together, some of us.
Of course, the most important person in my life (my husband) is still here, and I am supremely grateful for that.  I still have my mom and my sister Juli and other loved ones, which I am also very grateful for. 
When my husband had his heart attack and heart surgery and I had some time at home (when I wasn't at the hospital), no one was here for me at home, other than the cats.  Mom and Juli and people on Dean's side of the family were supportive, but no one was here in this house with me, talking with me and comforting me, so it was hard.
I guess, in a way, that I will be glad to leave this house someday, when we can afford to go someplace else.  Too many memories are here.  People's things are all over, because we don't have the emotional or physical strength to clean them out.  We are in Dee Dee's old place, and almost all of her things are still here.  It all feels so strange, all of them being gone.  We just feel constant, daily emotional pain - not that I think it will lessen much when we move anyway.
I know this might be sounding too personal, too much like a journal entry and not a blog, but I'm still hoping that it will help others who are grieving, and make some difference to anyone who can relate to any of these posts.  I know I could just be writing all of this in a simple journal and keep it all to myself, but if it helps even one person, then it's worth putting it out here.  I know that sounds like such a cliché, but that's how I feel.
If you yourself are experiencing any type of grief, I wish you comfort and peace. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Grief and Those "Helpful" Comments

That's my sister Kim.  She passed away more than two years ago, but it still hurts so much every single day.  I think about her all of the time.  I said to my husband once that I feel like if Kim lost me or our sister Juli or even Mom, she would be handling it better and be living a better, happier life than we are doing right now.  I feel like somehow she would manage to enjoy life and live each day to the fullest.  My husband said that's not necessarily true - we don't know how Kim would be handling this, really. 
I feel that I'm not doing as well as I should be.  It doesn't seem to get much easier.  I mean, we do go on and we do live our lives, but some of us will never be the same because of this loss.  Of course, Kim's son has it the worst.  How can a small child understand, when we adults can't?  Mom is also grieving hard, and hers is even worse than mine, I know.  I'm not really doing okay either.
Sometimes people will trot out their platitudes and say things like "time heals all things" or "God never gives you more than you can handle" or "it will get easier in time," and things like that.  These types of expressions never seem to help, and sometimes they even make a grieving person angry.  Here is a good link for things to not say to a grieving person.
Okay, I know it might sound judgmental or harsh to tell a person what not to say.  They might say that they are only trying to help, but are they really?  Sometimes people truly want to say something to comfort a person, but in my opinion, at other times they just want you to "get past it" so that they don't have to think about the uncomfortable topic of death, or so that they don't have to feel your pain.
I'm not saying that's the case with all people, of course.  Some people truly care and are truly trying to help you feel better.  I guess you'd know which type of person they are by the person you think they generally are.  Are they usually kind, caring, and sympathetic, or are they generally selfish and just wanting to talk about themselves?  Of course, they can also be caring people, but they just are uncomfortable talking or thinking about death (since it's a fearful thing for most of us). 
I'm lucky, in a way, because I don't spend time with too many people.  My mom is the one who gets these types of things said to her, and sometimes she gets angry about it. 
I'm just saying, try to be understanding of those who truly do mean well when they say these things, and possibly distance yourself a bit from those who are less sensitive individuals, if this is a time when you really need love and support.
For anyone who is grieving at this time, whether it be from a recent loss or one from many years ago, I just want to wish you peace and love.  I have had several recent serious losses so I do, in some way, understand how you feel even though no one can really feel the exact same things.
We all just try to go on and do our best.  Reach out to those who truly care, and try to find love and happiness wherever it is available, as you continue on without those you loved (and still do).