Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Mourning Time

Within the past several years, I'm beginning to find out how common cancer is ever since Dad was diagnosed. Either I'm more aware, or there are much more people coming out of the woodwork (and doctor's offices) with bad news. I started to learn how close cancer is --- to every single person on this earth. It's like the most common disease, yet they still have no cure. AIDS is maintained and you can actually live a life being HIV+. With cancer, you have to bide your time even if you're in remission and wait that full month of a doctor's visit to find out if you're back in the big C game. It doesn't seem fair. My father had symptoms of his disease for years before he finally decided he was going to bite the bullet and see a doctor. He was that 'old school' type --"Ah the hell with dese' doctors. What do they know?? They look for shit." He instilled this sort of mindset into my mother's thinking. We all know mom has emphysema, but she won't get checked for it, and yet she still continues to smoke. I'm very worried about her. I realize that smoking is extremely difficult to let go of, but after seeing all that Dad went through, wouldn't that be enough to put the cancer stick out?

The grieving process is strange for me because in the beginning, it was more 'shock', or perhaps numbness to it all. We expected this for a few years, but it still hit us like a ton of bricks when Dad passed away. And why wouldn't it? He was a prominent figure in our family. My problem is, I have that 'distance distortion' --- where I'm only thinking about the active father who was always working, always positive and making people laugh - not the sick father I had who periodically would threaten to kill himself because he was in agony, or the dad that begged us to hold his hand because the pain was just too much. Those memories for me right now, are just overwhelming. So I drift over to the dad I once knew more than 4 years ago, and somehow, it makes it worse. My memories are distorted each time I "forget" about the bad times, and only focus on the good times - but in a way - isn't that a bad thing? I keep reminding myself how much he was suffering so I can pull myself together and realize what a relief it must be for him to be resting in peace with God. My human nature always pulls me back a few years though. It's not fair.

One of my nieces had a different reaction to Dad's passing. She didn't know what to make of it and when she found out he was gone. She took it in, didn't cry and went about her way. While sitting next to her during Dad's service, I thought she was looking for something in her purse as she had her back slightly turned away from me. Madelene poked me and said, "Your niece is crying." When she turned around, her eyes were like little water faucets letting out every bit of sadness she's been holding in for so long. She hugged us and then sat on Madelene's lap to cry some more. It just hit her hard, or she felt she was able to let it all out...finally. The service made it 'real' --- without the service, it would have probably been still a mystery to her. My heart instantly broke again because being a child and having that awful experience of losing your poppy is just so traumatic. I don't think she'll ever forget that day. It's one that'll stick in her mind forever.

As for me, I have my moments and I also try to keep it together for my mom. At night I've been getting horrible anxiety attacks that leave me up for hours. I'm afraid to go to sleep, because once I do, I wake up with my heart pounding and my clothes drenched from night sweats - and no it's not from menopause. My poor dog must think I'm crazy. She just stares at me like, "Go back to sleep! You woke me up!"  While speaking to my therapist, he said, "Are you allowing yourself to cry?"  I thought about it for a moment, and realized I have been trying to keep it in for the sake of my mom, and for the sake of Madelene because she had lost her father not too long ago. I don't want to be her 'trigger'. I sometimes cry alone, but usually when I'm alone, I'm working - which isn't the brightest thing to do. So because I haven't really mourned 'enough', it's manifesting into nocturnal panic attacks. Usually, after a night of attacks, I'm a zombie the next day with no energy left to do anything.

My only solution was to tell the world "Eff off, I'm taking care of 'me' now", and I wish that my family would do the same, because as far as I can only guess, they're probably not mourning enough just like me. At night, I put on a Reiki channel (traditional Japanese music with other meditative sounds) and it makes me fall into a deep sleep. Before work in the morning, I grab my coffee and sit out in the sun with my dog for about twenty minutes. Not only does it give me my vitamin D for those 'happy endorphins', but I get to sit outside every morning to pray and meditate. There's something different about the element of praying outside. After a 20 minute session (and a light tan), I feel ready to take on the day. After a good cry in the shower, I'm off to help others, because I helped myself. Madelene and I booked a one week vacation to the Cape for next month, which will get me out of my element and hopefully distract me a tad. But I don't want to be 'too distracted' and bottle things up. I just want to do this for a different change of scenery and to see my old friends again. It's much needed. I truly believe everyone has their own internal 'mourning clock', some longer than others. That's okay, as long as you have happy moments to outweigh the sad ones. I pray that all of my family's hearts heal, maybe not so fast, but in the timeframe to which they allow.

A scripture that helps me know that Dad's happy once again is this one:

"We know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down--when we die and leave these bodies--we will have a home in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long for the day when we will put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For we will not be spirits without bodies, but we will put on new heavenly bodies. Our dying bodies make us groan and sigh, but it's not that we're fully confident, and we would rather be away from these bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord." {2 Corinthians 5:1-8}

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The Elephant's Child said...

You are right. Mourning is such an individual process. It is now twenty years since my father died and still sometimes (when I want to tell him something or show him something) it bites just as hard as it ever did. And this is fine - I don't want to lose him completely.

the walking man said...

I can't explain it Deb, not succinctly anyway but my father has been dead for 30 years this year, next month. I saw him the last time in a hospital bed, talked him to sleep and then university came and got the cadaver...that was that.

My Mom who I actually got along with very much, I am her son. Same thing,no memorial, no mention of it in the paper or what have you. In '06 the year she passed I went to nine other funerals, 6 were suicides.

Not a tear for any of them, father mother, nephew, friends. I just can't bring any sadness or tears for them who have passed out of this place.

It's been over thirty years since I have wept for anything or anyone. Maybe it's me, maybe it's just the environment of this city, man tears can get you seriously hurt.

But I feel pain, I feel pain in other people and I feel pain in my own core when I know I have lost something precious but I let it roll over me until it's done hurting then I just gather myself and continue on.

Right now I have a friend who is alive and I care for very much and one day we are cool and the next (seriously) no calls returned no nothing, all contact cut off. That shit hurts--but I am a big boy, been there before and will be there again but I just can't cry. *meh* Not since the night my first wife took my children and moved just far enough away to make it difficult for me to watch them grow up.

I feel your sorrow Deb, truly I do but like TEC said everyone has to work through it in their own way. I don't avoid the pain because I know as distance lengthens I will feel it less and less and if, for example I ever do come in contact with this person again, there will be no pain left only care and love. Pain in me is easily diminished and forgotten.

So just roll with it as you have to and don't worry if you're doing it right or wrong, you're doing it (mourning) in the way your soul needs to mourn.

Deb said...

Thank you for both your responses. It helps to know people out there understand. It's strange, because I never looked at someone who lost a loved one who wasn't "showing enough grief" and thought, "Wow they don't care", because there are some who are so deeply hurt, more than the ones crying who are mourning just as much. And for some reason, I feel like it's just going to get worse as time passes on - like the first year or so when I miss Christmas, New Years and other celebrations/holidays with him. It's gonna be a rough year without him in our lives and there are going to be a gazillion reminders of how important he was in our life. But but but, I would never wish him back on this earth if he had to go through the suffering he did----no.

My human selfishness wants him back. My inner spirit wishes him well and knows the relief he is in, which is why I should pick myself up and carry on - as if it's a waste of time to even mourn at all. Mixed feelings.

Thank you for sharing your stories with me. It helps me more than you know.