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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