Shoulda' Coulda' Woulda'...

Recently, I was talking to one of my readers about grief. She sent me a direct message over on Twitter saying how much my words have helped her. She has an elderly mother who she is terrified of losing. She sounded much like myself before Mom passed away. The mere thought of losing Mom was out of the question -- she was off limits. And that's how my new friend feels. She's afraid to say the wrong thing, or perhaps treat her less than important. Her mom tends to talk above her, or interrupts, and she wants to just accept that more and let her mom be herself. What I suggested is, just be YOU. Many of us don't want to have any regrets when our parents or loved ones die, but at the same time, you can't stop being the person you are "just in case" something happens. The thing is, over on the other side is no pain, no resentment, no anger, no sadness -- just pure understanding and unconditional love. Nobody's pissed off up in heaven -- I promise you. The ones who have left us now have a deeper understanding on humanness. We need to embrace ourselves, flaws and all and know that if God can forgive us, then why can't we forgive ourselves too?

The one thing I noticed that I find so interesting is, people are scared to talk about this topic. They're fascinated by it, but scared to even "go there" when it comes to discussing the "what ifs" of a loved one dying. I was always scared to, especially when it came to my mother. I once told my therapist that I would die if she died. I told mom that if I ever lost her I would just die. She'd always say, "No you won't!" And she was right, I didn't die. As I wiggle my way through this struggle of grief, I'm finding new strengths I never had before. I have a lot ahead of me, because my grief is fairly new, but even in this short time, I am beginning to understand things on a much deeper level.

There's a quote I read recently that says, tough times never last, but tough people do. If you can grasp that with every fiber of its meaning, you'll realize how tough you really become when something like this happens to you. I've had my challenges where I would curse the sky, throw things, punch a wall and cry my eyes out until I was all cried out.

Weeping may go on all night, but in the morning there is joy. --Psalm 30:5

There are those who are too afraid to cry because they don't want their family members, like their children seeing their parents in a weak moment. Years ago, when my parents lost their long time friend and one of their brothers, I saw my parents cry. I saw Dad cry -- which was rare. I didn't view him as "weak" -- in fact, I saw a whole other side of him that made me respect him in a whole new light. He was strong enough to show emotion. You're not "traumatizing" your kids by showing them you have sadness for someone's loss. You're showing them what life is about. It's not all happiness and fun all the time. Sometimes, we have to go through a season of sadness in order to come out on the other side. We need to go through that. If we hold it all in, it eventually comes out in some sort of negative way. Let it out. Cry it out. Scream it out. Grieve the way you grieve and never let anyone tell you that it's the "wrong way."

Some people lose their faith in God when one of their loved ones pass away. This is all the more reason to believe more. Look for signs, talk to God, draw closer to Him as He shows you how very temporary our world really is. Time on the other side is not like time here on earth. Someone asked me, "How come my loved one didn't contact me?" Think about this: if 5 minutes in heaven equates to 80 years on earth, then maybe they just got distracted hugging all their lost loved ones who also passed. They know that it's no big deal. They know how fast human life truly is. Time goes by faster than we notice. I remember Dad sitting on his hospice bed in the house saying, "Ya can't believe how time flies! It feels like yesterday when I was only 19 years old starting up my new excavation business. And just. like. that --snaps his fingers-- it's gone and you're dying of cancer." He was speaking of his own experience, but he was trying to explain how all that time here on earth passed by in the blink of an eye.

"Coulda' woulda' shoulda' syndrome" -- stop. Don't do that to yourself. I had a moment of weakness and went there. I know this is gonna sound like nonsense, but you could only do what you could do. There was nothing more that you could've done. As I watched my mother's state decline into a ball of pain and agony, I also tried keeping it together myself. Sometimes, I had to distance myself from my anticipatory grieving that I was doing. One day, she actually heard me cry over her. I was so sleep deprived -- hadn't slept in almost 5 entire nights. I couldn't take it anymore. It was torture, especially for my mom! I couldn't watch her die right in front of my eyes. She would lay on the couch, rocking back and forth until the pain meds kicked in. When she fell asleep, she'd be all crumpled up in this strange position due to the pain, along with labored breathing that I never heard before. After she fell asleep, I tried getting sleep of my own, to only stay up the entire night crying over her pain. I wanted to take her pain away, but there was only so much I could do. So, whenever those "coulda' woulda' shouldas" come resurfacing, I shoo them away, because honestly, there was nothing else I could possibly do to make her better. If you have guilt of some sort -- you weren't around as much or you feel like you didn't do enough -- take guilt, throw it in a bag and shoot it! Guilt isn't an emotion God gives us.

No grief is greater than another, however sometimes there is another factor that comes into play. I live in my family's ancestral home. I came here to take care of my dad when he was diagnosed with cancer, and then after dad died, mom was the target of the big "C" -- so it all worked out that my partner and I were already here. So the grief I have is not only missing my mother, as all of my sisters do, but it's now a daily routine to see and touch everything Mom did when she was alive. Cooking in the same kitchen, using one of her knives or pots that she loved or even just watching TV in the living room like we used to do together has become a little offsetting. I moved around the furniture to make it feel different, and that has helped a great deal. My grief comes with reminders -- perhaps more reminders since she lived here with us. Everything in this house was "her" -- everything in this house was touched by her. Even just gardening outside reminds me of what she used to do -- almost mimicking what she did as a mother and housewife. It's almost like a residual kind of haunting. I use her landline phone from time to time, knowing how many times she has had conversations on that very piece. The remote control still has her fingerprints on it. You get my drift -- all things in this house has been touched by her, with fingerprints still in tact. I had to let that sink in, and release it for what it was. It's now become comforting to use all the things she used to use and touch. I'm okay with it.

So as I sit here and type, I know that I have to face another day without her. Tonight, instead of making dinner for three, I am accepting that it's a party of two. I miss having a cocktail with her before dinner. We would sit and talk about everything. Those days have ended. I'm trying to accept that. This weekend promises differently though, as I'll have some of my friends over to share some food, wine and fun with me. I'm trying so hard not to isolate myself, as I've done while caring for Mom. I didn't want her to feel uncomfortable, if I were to  have friends over. I wanted her to be able to feel free in this house and not burdened with people laughing and having a good time. It's like a kick to the throat in a way. I tried to respect her peacefulness, although she loved company when she had her good days. Regardless, I did push away many of my friends just because I didn't want to leave her, nor did I want to make her feel bad about me having a good time without her, even if we were in the same house. I know that she wants me to change that, and I am...I am. I just loved her so much that I wanted complete peace and comfort for her while she was suffering. That's all. Now it's time to crawl out of my rock and face the world again.

God I miss that woman so much, but but more pain, no more sadness, no more agony.

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