Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Pressure cooker

I am like a pressure cooker of grief. I can go along, hour by hour, minute by minute, and attend to the minutiae, but suddenly the pressure is too great, and I will weep for fifteen seconds or so. Then, back to our new version of normal.

My sister has pointed out to me that, after one of these outbursts, I will announce, "I'm all right." She did add that I don't have to be all right, and why would I be?

Yesterday, no one was all right. I spent the entire afternoon and early evening talking to each of the kids individually. Rocky still has his grief buried so very deep that he is alternately running away from it or picking on his sisters to make them visibly hurt. He keeps insisting he is fine.

Kiki finally melted down in geometry class yesterday, much to the distress of her teacher, who couldn't figure out how to help her and eventually sent her to the guidance counselor's office to depressurize. Kiki informed me that she later returned to the guidance office to tell them, "I'm all right."

Nita, on the other hand, is the most honest of all of us. She's angry, and by golly, we all know about it and have experienced her wrath. She's not all right, she wonders if she will ever be all right, and someone is going to pay for this Hell she is being put through.

Last night, I went to the nearby Borders store to use up a couple of gift cards and do some Christmas shopping, not to mention give everyone some space. I found all kinds of things which made me think, "Oh, EG would like that." So much he won't get to do and see here with us. So, who's going to pay for this Hell?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Cartoon person

I am like one of those cartoon people, the ones who are in human form but who have a huge hole in their torsos, openings so large that we all can see through them to the other side.

EG's passing made that hole in me, but I can't see through it to the other side where he has gone. I can function quite well, despite the hole, I think, except for periodic brain lapses. I drive, I pay bills, I grocery shop, I go to work, I cook meals.

I need to be here, but I want to be there where he is. Or, more accurately, I want him back with us. I want my boring little banal life, with the slightly messy house, constant lawn chores, fighting kids, and dog hair, and I want him to be here to share in all its mundane glory and not have left me to face it all alone.

Sunday, August 28, 2011


Today was the day Kiki's dad had set up for her fifteen year blessing, the marking of her transition from childhood to adult womanhood. We had agreed that this would not be the full blown quinceanara of the Mexican culture, but a blessing at Mass, followed by a family dinner.

She chose to go through with the simple blessing this morning, despite her loss less than a month ago, and instead of her father, she asked her cousin to walk her up the aisle. I felt her father's presence during the Mass, and his pride and pleasure at this event. And I cried that he wasn't there in person for us, to be a part of this rite of passage, the first of many for which he will not be physically present.

One step

In one and a half hours, I lost my best friend, my partner in parenting, my great love, my support, my greatest fan, and my lover and companion. All gone in one day. The person who knows me best. The one who loves me unconditionally. I appear like I am handling things well, but every once in a while, I will suddenly get the sucker punch remembrance that he is gone, and my reaction is, "Oh, my god!" Then I experience the "now what?," the panic, the great unfairness of it all once again. Over and over again.

Yesterday I took the kids to the science center because, first, they needed a distraction, and second, the membership was expiring at the end of the month. Each of the kids is handling it differently, Kiki apparently the best, but I wonder if she simply appears to be doing better than the rest of us. Rocky hasn't begun to verbalize this whole thing, and Nita has regressed a little, and is a little less fearless. She is like I am in that she will be blindsided and then cry a bit, and she is cranky, but at least she is showing some reaction.

Anyway, on the way to the science center, we were on the expressway, and I suddenly, for a brief instant, thought I could simply go into the path of a truck and end it for all of us. However, good sense (or at least social expectations) prevailed, and I recollected that we had purchased one of the highest safety ratings vehicles (a lot of good it did EG), and I realized that I could fail in my intent and survive but lose my children, too, and probably end up incarcerated and a paraplegic with no van left to adapt for hand controls. Or, worse yet, become one of those poster children for women driven over the edge (pardon the pun) by the hormonal roller coaster of menopause.

People ask, "How are you doing," but I don't know if they REALLY want to know, to listen to me rail about how much I hate this and how unfair it is, to hear about the pain and loss, or if they really care that I am having trouble breathing, thinking, eating, and making decisions. If it weren't for the kids and their schedules, and the dogs with their immediate needs, I don't know if I could or more accurately, would want to, function.

But I do.

Shortly after EG died, my sister gave me a ring which she purchased for herself. It is a simple silver band, but the shape is a mobius, so the ring draws attention to itself both from the wearer and the observer. The ring has the quote, "A journey of one thousand miles begins with a single step." And so, every day, sometimes every hour or every minute, I take one more step on the journey.

Monday, August 22, 2011

I have only two cheeks

The story of Rocky's breakdown started with him not sleeping. He then was bailing out of his window to walk up and down the street to make himself tired. Eventually, after a week of this and sleeping about two hours a night, he was so exhausted that, when he came up to the house to climb in his bedroom window, he got our house confused with the neighbors' house. Yes, the handgun people. So, then, since he thought his contraption to get back in the window was missing, he went to get the ladder next to the garage and propped it against the neighbor's house. Since the ladder was closer to the second floor, he managed to maneuver to their upper level, which happened to be their fourteen year old daughter's bedroom window. He reportedly went in, but he went right back out again.

Thinking about this objectively, I think that, if he really did get in, he realized he was in the wrong place and went back out right away. However, the woman next door, who has made it perfectly clear in person, via phone call, and by letter complaints that she doesn't want us there, and since we aren't complying with her wish that we would move, would give me parenting and life directives, has gone off the deep end. I do understand her fears--after all, her husband works every third night, and she is alone in the house with her kids. However, what I don't understand is her continuing hatred.

This woman called me on Thursday and told me there were some things she needed to feel safe. She obviously had gotten my cell phone number from the police report, and I was on the road. When I told her Rocky was scheduled to come home Friday, she about flipped. Trying to take the high road, I asked her what I could do to help her feel safe. I offered to move him to the basement, with one access, and put an alarm on the door. That wasn't enough, I guess, as she called the principal, had her daughter's schedule changed so there was no chance of passing Rocky in the halls, requested that Rocky be let out of class at a time to ensure this won't happen, have Rocky sit at a specific place at the lunch table, and wants a different bus to pick up her daughter. I offered to have Rocky sit up front with his sister, to get off first, and to have Kiki walk the kids home. So now Rocky is ostracized.

I tried to explain to her that his reaction was caused by his grief, and Neighbor, who studied social work in college and who is apparently an expert on mental health issues (in others, as she cannot recognize her own neuroses), said, "This is beyone normal grief." Some day, I would like to check in with her to determine what exactly "normal grief" is. She also refused to acknowledge that Rocky was confused about the houses by lack of sleep, saying, "That's kind of a far stretch." I tell you what, Lady, try sleeping two hours a night, for a week and tell me how you function.

The capper was that I got a call from the psychiatric hospital where Rocky was staying. Neighbor called there to talk to the staff about some concerns she had about him coming home. The therapist said, "She is overstepping some boundaries." Of course, they refused to talk with her. The scary part? Neighbor works in a medical office and should be able to understand privacy laws.

So, after five years, I am done with her. I think she'd only be happy if we'd move away, burn the house down, and cover the property with pesticide so nothing will ever flourish here again. I do understand that this death has most likely brought up issues from her past, and Rocky's alleged invasion has made her aware of how vulnerable she (and the rest of us) just might be. But I am taking care of me now. If there are concerns, she can have her husband bring them over. I have tried to work with her, I have constantly apologized, and I have offered to make restitution for real and imagined offenses. However, she operates under the "no thanks, I am going to be mad" approach to us living here. She professes to be a Christian, but I see absolutely nothing in her behavior which resembles the Jesus Christ I know.

I have only two cheeks, and since she has so little respect, understanding, and regard for anyone other than herself, I have decided she is toxic, and frankly, I am tired of letting her poison my life.

So, now, she doesn't exist. I will talk with her husband, who is trying to be kind and work with us. I will be pleasant to her children. But she can stay over there and fester in her own venom. Shoot, she can put up razor wire and searchlights, for all I care to try to keep us out. She'll have to let me know how that works out for her, but she'll have to do it by mail, as I don't want any more interaction with her.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Numb week

My tax person, whom I have known most of my life because she and her family went to the same church I attended as a child, lost her husband suddenly when her boys were relatively young.

She told me last week, "This is numb week. Next week will be paperwork week."

Okay, this week is also numb week for me, most likely because Rocky had a breakdown and had to be hospitalized over the weekend, so I still haven't really faced my sadness. About eight last night, I noticed my legs were shaky, I felt weak, and I was having serious anxiety issues. I started to think I was having a heart attack, too.

Then, of course, I couldn't get to sleep last night, and at five thirty this morning, Penny alerted to something, so I got up and turned on the outside lights, most likely to only ward off the doe and her fawns who had come up to the house to graze on my grandmother's hostas.

Today I have a few hours of work, another funeral, Nita's open house at school. What I really want to do is to crawl into bed and just curl up in the fetal position. My sister said, "Luckily, we are at an age where our bladders demand attention in the morning, and by the time we take care of that, we are already up." Between that and the dogs' bladders, and the chickens needing to be let out, I have some momentum at the start of each day.

How long it lasts will be another story.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


In the time after the death, most people have been kind and thoughtful. Rocky had a meltdown of sorts and has been hospitalized, and the girls and I are more or less huddled together like survivors in a horror movie.

I belong to a board of parents of children who have experienced trauma, and one of the moms there posted, saying that she could only partially understand my loss and then offering a series of platitudes, "God doesn't close a door but he opens a window", "everything works out the way God/the universe has it planned", and the absolute worst, "don't sweat the small stuff." She told me to take time for myself and that I should attempt to heal.

I read the post out loud to Nita, who at 11, asked, "Is she an idiot?" Um...

The next day, my sister sent me the following, which she found on the website I wish I knew the author so I could give credit.
This is intended for the people around you. Read it when you are ready. It is off of the Widownet bulletin board. I don't know who author is.

To My Friend

I have lost the one I love, the one I cherish. My lover, my best friend, my whole life.
Either you have stumbled across this because you want to find out how to help me,
or I have given this to you.

How I am Feeling
• I am numb. I am in shock. I am emotionally exhausted.
• I am in pain. A horrible, gut-wrenching, intense, unimaginable, and indescribable pain.
• My mind is totally occupied with processing my loss. I am trying to understand what has
happened. I am attempting to make sense of it all. I am trying to comprehend the incomprehensible.
• I can't sleep. I want to sleep all day. I am physically exhausted.
• I can't eat. I can't stop eating.
• I can't be bothered cooking. I can't be bothered cleaning. I don't want to go shopping.
• Everything is overwhelming. Small tasks are overwhelming. Small details are overwhelming.
I just don't want to know about it right now.
• Nothing sticks in my mind. I walk out the door without my keys. I forget what I was going to do.
I forget everything except that my love has gone.
• I am going through tidal waves of emotion. One minute I might be laughing, the next I may be
in tears.
• Sometimes I want to talk. Sometimes I need to be alone. Sometimes I need silent company.
Sometimes I need all of these things in the space of 5 minutes.
• Some days I just want to curl up in bed and do nothing. Some days I will keep myself totally
occupied in an attempt to escape.
• Sometimes I will be intense. Sometimes I will be irrational. Sometimes I will be snappy, and
often I will be totally lost in myself.
• Often I may not have a clue as to what I want, but it only takes a moment for me to realize
what I don't want.
• I am hypersensitive and will often be offended by things you say to try and make me feel better.
• I want to wail. I want to scream. I want to cry. I want to just sit.
• I have no choice how I react. This is coming from deep inside me and intelligence and self
control have no effect. It comes from the basal self.
• Sometimes it so hard for me to respond to phone calls or letters or emails, but I truly appreciate
that you are doing it, so please don't stop just because I don't respond.
• I will not be fully-functional at work for a long time. In fact, I may never work with the same
intensity again as my perspectives of what is important and what isn't has been changed permanently.
• I still want to laugh. I need to laugh. I may suddenly go quiet mid-laugh, when hit by a sudden
reminder, but I desperately need to continue to laugh.

Emotional Things You Can Do
• Let me talk about him/her. I want to talk about our love. I want to tell you how we met, our last
days, and everything in between. I want to show you his/her picture, tell you how wonderful (s)he was.
• Let me cry. Your acceptance that I need to cry and your permission to allow me to is one of the
best gifts you can give me. Hand me a tissue, and do your best to sit quietly and let me cry.
• Once you have allowed me to open up or cry, please don't change the subject or try to stop me.
I know you feel uncomfortable that I am in pain. Don't. Changing the subject, trying to stop me
crying just makes me hold everything inside, and eats away at me.
• Tell me all your stories of when my love was sweet, courageous, rotten or funny. I need to hear
everything about him/her. If you don't know many, find out some from those who are too scared to
approach me now.
• Let me try to tell you what is going on inside me. I won't succeed, but I need to try. You don't have
to do anything. Just allowing me to do it, and allowing me to feel what I need to feel means so much.
• It is really hard for me to tell other people about my loss. I'm working full time to deal with my
emotions. Trying to deal with someone else's reaction or discomfort is the last thing I need, so if
someone needs to know it would be good if you could explain it to them.

What Not To Do
• Don't tell me you understand how I feel, or that you can imagine the pain I am going through,
unless you have lost the love of your life. Trust me, you can't. If I can't, and I am going through it,
trust me, you can't – your mind will just not let you voluntarily imagine this much pain.
• Don't try to compare my loss to the loss of a parent, or a friend, or an acquaintance or pet, it's
not the same. I understand that all of these things are painful, but it is not the same.
• Don't ask how I'm doing unless you really want to know. I am assuming that as you know, and
as you have asked, you truly want to know.
• Don't try to save me from my feelings or make me feel better. I know you can't bear to see me
in so much pain, but I need to go through all of these feelings whether I want to or not.
• Once you have "given me permission" to talk or cry, please don't try and distract me with small
talk. I know it makes you feel better if I appear happy, but my pain is ever-present and it makes
me feel like you don't care.
• Don't tell me everything will be okay.
• Don't tell me "(s)he's always with you".
• Don't tell me "(s)he's no longer in pain".
• Don't tell me "(s)he's looking down on you from heaven".
• Don't tell me "you're lucky that you had such love, some people don't".
• Don't tell me "(s)he's in a better place".
• Don't however be surprised however if I say these things…
• Don't ever tell me "you must be strong". If ever there's a time I should be permitted to be weak,
this is it. What's more, if I only "need to talk" to you once every few weeks, chances are I have
been strong and right now I really need you to understand that I am exhausted and need help.
• Whatever you do don't tell me "If I were you I'd…." Until you are in the same situation, you
have absolutely no idea what you will do. Your logical brain has absolutely no control.
• Never try telling me "life goes on", or "(s)he wouldn't want you to cry", or "God will never give
you more than you can handle" or any other meaningless platitudes.
• Don't try to solve my "problem". Unless you can bring him/her back, it can't be "solved".
• Don't feel the need to fill in silences. I know the silences are hard for you, but if you can accept
them, you are helping me immensely.
• Please don't try and help me find "closure", or tell me I need to find "closure". Closure is an
obscene word for me right now, as is "moving on"/"move on".

Practical Things You Can Do
I understand that a lot of you find it hard to cope with my emotional pain. Hate to see me
hurting so. If you can't help me emotionally, you can help me practically.
• Don't ask me what you can do to help. I have no idea, I am overwhelmed.
• Bring me some meals that I can just put in the microwave.
• Find out what sort of bread, milk, toilet paper, etc I use and bring me them to me. I have
no idea I need them until I run out, so don't bother asking me if I need anything.
• If you are an organized person offer to manage my bills. Collect the bills as they come in
and let me know when they need to be paid, and make sure I do. Time has no meaning for me
right now. It's only when the cut-off notices come that I realize I need to do something.
• Get copies of photos I don't have from family and friends and put them in an album for me.
It will be one of the most precious gifts you could give me.

Practical Things I Need To Do
• I need to surround myself with beauty.
• Sit in the sun and just soak it up.
• Enjoy nature. Look at the majesty of mountains, and enjoy the miracle of a blade of grass.
• Have a massage.
• Write in a journal.
• Cry when I need to. Tears are a release.
• Not make any big decisions for a while. A big enough life change has already taken place.

• Grief is an emotional injury that requires time to heal. Not a week, not a month, not even a year,
it takes as long as it takes. It is similar to major physical injury. You may not be able to see the
wounds on the inside, but they are there.
• Real-life is nothing like TV.
• I will not "get over it" - I will learn to live with my loss and incorporate the lessons into my life.
• I will get better over time, but I will never forget him/her. The pain ebbs and flows, but never
goes completely.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Seriously? What the hell?

On Saturday, while teaching the younger two kids to use the new mower, EG collapsed. I thought he had heat exhaustion and called the rescue squad. They raced him to the hospital, where he died of a heart attack. He was 46.

We had spent the previous day at the fair, and he had gone with me to run errands that morning. Then he had been in the yard with the kids, teaching them to use the self-propelled mower. It was normal day, and that morning, we had been talking about how things were starting to settle down over the past year and how we were just starting to enjoy life again.

Then everything became upside down again.

A friend of mine came over and said that, when she meets God, she is going to say, "Now that we have dealt with my sins and shortcomings, I have a few questions and a few things I'd like to address."

But for now, my only question is "Seriously? What the hell?"