When Is It Time to Say Goodbye?

The past few days have been an emotional roller coaster for me. My older cat, Patches, has been having a very rough time since Sunday.  That night and most of Monday, he didn’t eat or drink anything, and he just stayed in his bed all day. So tearfully I was planning on taking him to the vet on Tuesday to have him examined. But then late Monday night he started eating again, so I started feeling hopeful. However, I did go to bed not knowing if he would be with me in the morning. Not only was he still here, but he was also eating and drinking and mooching treats. But his back legs weren’t working correctly at all, and he was having extreme balance issues. But he seemed to be getting stronger, so the Tuesday visit to the vet became a plan to go today. Today, he has continued to grow stronger; he’s still wobbly but not nearly as bad as yesterday. This is where the questions begin. Is he suffering? I don’t know, most likely in some ways, yes. Then there’s the whole quality of life versus quantity of life debate that’s been raging in my mind. I don’t want him to suffer, but I don’t want to cut his life short, either. It’s just so difficult to not be selfish and keep him around just so I don’t have to lose him. I mean, I know he’s 17 and nature is going to run its course, but man, that selfish side just wants to wring out every second I can with him. It certainly doesn’t help that the first anniversary of my mom’s death is rapidly approaching and the idea of a resurgence of grief over her swirling with fresh grief if I lose him is overwhelming. How much pain and sadness can I take before I crumble into dust? But then I think about how he depends on me to do the right thing no matter how much it breaks my heart. I just have to wait and see how he does in the next few minutes, hours, and hopefully days.

Life’s Rubber Band

Major life events become

Rubber bands wrapped

Around our life time.

As time passes

It can stretch

To make it

Seem like forever

And when it relaxes

The event

No matter how long ago

Seems like mere days

Have gone by.

Years may pass

Before the band

Loses its elasticity

And the event eases

Itself into real time.

Until that happens,

Humanity is stuck

In a limbo of

Push and pull

On our conscious memory.

Time seems to move fast

And slow all at once.

And we just drift with it.

 

One year ago today, my mom went into the hospital, for what would turn out to be, the last time. It’s another one of those firsts that I’ve had to face since my mom passed. I’m running out of time to have those first moments though. In five weeks it will be a year since she died. That in and of itself seems impossible. That day, her last in this house seems so long ago, yet it seems like it happened last week — such a strange sensation, to bounce from one distance of time to another. Somehow, I’ve found the strength to get through my first summer without her, the first fall, her birthday, holidays, all without her here. There have been moments of unbelievable pain and moments of peace where I’ve found some kind of acceptance. Even though pure acceptance has yet to materialize in my heart, I still can’t believe she’s gone and in some ways, now that so much time has passed, I can. And back and forth I go.

Primal Grief

This week has been difficult for me, regarding my grief process. My mom loved certain television shows and one in particular, “The Good Doctor” had become one of her favorites. I have been a fan of Freddie Highmore for years, my mom became a fan when we watched “Bates Motel.” This week was the second season premiere of “The Good Doctor,” and I knew it would be hard to watch, but once again I underestimated the power of grief. About halfway through the episode, I turned to ask my mom what she thought and froze. The room felt so empty, and I felt so alone in that instant that I started to cry, and then I just couldn’t stop. I tapped into the primal side of grief and just sobbed and wailed and begged whoever could hear me to allow my mom to come back again.  Afterward, when I was a gasping blob on the sofa, I felt more drained than I ever have before. It wasn’t just the television show that brought this on, last weekend was the 4-month mark since my mom passed. Having it be one-third of a year since she died felt like a substantial milestone. Now I am looking forward, with dread, to the upcoming months which will have her birthday, the first holiday season since she passed, and my birthday in January. I wish I could just crawl under the covers in November and not come out until next February. I honestly don’t know how I’m going to get through it, it’s going to be the hardest time of my life. There are a lot of dark days ahead, but at the same time I know I’m going to get through it because even though my mom isn’t with me in person anymore, I know she’s still around. She’s still with me, watching over me, and that helps.

This Journey

Yesterday was a tough one for me. I woke up feeling the gaping hole in my heart that my mom has left and I started crying. I got up and cried. I ate breakfast and cried. It’s safe to say I tapped into that maelstrom that has been brewing within me. By last night I was so exhausted and cried out I fell asleep quickly and would have slept through the night if it hadn’t been for the nightmare. A nightmare where this giant spider descended from the ceiling wearing my mom’s face. I woke up shivering and freezing and scrambled to pull the quilt over me and try to find warmth again. I lay there in a fetal position my heart and thoughts racing unable to find the path back to peaceful slumber again. I got up and rifled through my closet until I found my childhood teddy bear and brought it to bed with me. It seemed so ridiculous for a middle-aged woman to curl up with a stuffed animal but it brought me enough comfort that I did finally fall asleep. This journey I’m taking with grief is a strange one. I thought I knew what twists and turns I’d be facing but it hasn’t been like that at all. Some days I feel like nothing has changed, which has been the most unfamiliar feeling of all. How can I feel like everything is how it’s been when I’m adjusting to a new normal? It is a maze of confusing contradictions and I can’t find my way out. I’ve taken too many turns trying to outrun my grief. And now I’m lost somewhere in the middle of it. At least I think I’m in the middle, maybe I’m still in the outer ring of it. I wish I had a drone’s eye view of it so I could figure out how much further I have to go. Realistically I know this grief will be with me for the rest of my life. Time heals all wounds but does it lead you the middle of the maze where I imagine acceptance and peace dwell?

Completely Apathetic

I don’t know if apathy is a stage of grief but it has filled me to the brim today. I haven’t wanted to do anything at all. I’ve sat on the couch most of the day passively watching whatever has been on the television. My brain has felt like it’s been on standby mode just running on low gear. I have nothing I have to do. Nowhere, I have to be. And most importantly, no one to take care of. This feeling of emptiness is just consuming my body and soul. I know I should go out and be with people and get out of the house and not close myself off but I just don’t have any energy whatsoever to do those things. There is so much advice out there on how to deal with grief and how important it is to let the process evolve naturally. But I don’t want this apathy to become a lifestyle. If I’m honest with myself I have been finding myself reverting back to apathy more and more. I don’t want to feel the grief. I don’t want to feel the pain of losing my mom. And when I’m just in low gear, I don’t feel anything and my brain won’t allow myself to go anywhere near that pain that still simmers below the surface. I’ve tapped into that pain a few times and it is unbearable. Uncontrolled sobbing and a heaviness in my chest that makes it nearly impossible to draw in full breaths. Can you blame me for wanting to hide from it? I feel like a frayed wire and if I get to close to it I get a painful shock that makes my heart and soul jump. Do they make electrical tape for the soul? Just wrap it around the exposed bits and get on with my life and hope it’s strong enough to hold back the electrical aspects of grief. It might sound stupid but I wish grief came in a vending machine and I could put my money in and get a little bit when I wanted to deal with it. But that’s not how it is. It has been coming at times I’ve expected and at the oddest times as well. I suppose this will continue for the foreseeable future. I just have to learn how to take its hand and walk with it instead of running away from it. Maybe then the healing will begin in earnest.

Hollowed Out

I feel hollow.

The foundation of my life is gone.

Unstable ground is what I

Tremble on.

Unsure of who I am.

Unsure of where to go.

Unsure of everything.

I try to move forward,

But my gait is unsteady

And I fear falling

With no one here to catch me

Before I hit the ground.

At some point forward movement

Will become necessary.

I know it is what she

Would want for me.

But for now, I sit trying to

Fill this aching emptiness

With memories of happier times

With my mother.

Empty Spaces

The cat having given up on

His former napping spot

Cuddles up to me

As I write.

Grief has given me

Tunnel vision.

I find myself obsessed

Over the now empty spaces

Where my mom sat.

Her kitchen chair.

Her place on the sofa

Her napping chair

All now filled

With pink elephants

I try not to look at them

But there’s a gravitational pull

To what is no longer there.

Swimming Down

“…the moments when you’re in so deep it feels easier to just swim down.”

-It’s Quiet Uptown from “Hamilton: An American Musical”

It’s been two weeks since my mom passed away and for the first time today I felt like giving into the grief and depression that’s been burbling under the surface of my consciousness. It was so strange, in the quiet moments, I almost felt like something kept brushing against my feet threatening to grab my ankles and pull me under. It must sound insane and that’s how it felt. I have been treading water since my mom left us just waiting to drown in the grief I thought I’d feel. But it hasn’t happened yet and I’m puzzled by that. And yet, I can’t stop fighting the urge to sink. My arms won’t stop paddling to keep my head up. Why am I so afraid to really let myself feel my mom’s loss? That’s what I find myself asking myself. And yet I know the answer. I’m afraid if I let myself feel it I’ll get lost in it. I’ll lose myself in the power of it all. Then I have to remind myself that it has only been two weeks and I have the rest of my life to grieve. I don’t have to feel it all at once. I will grieve in my own time and my own space.