Wednesday, October 29, 2014

We Are Surviving and Finding Our Way

I made it through my birthday. I made it through the one year anniversary of losing Sue.

Sam had an assignment to take nature photos and he took this! I love it.
Yesterday was a day I had been dreading for an entire year. I focused on it so much. I feared it, but also felt like if I could just make it there and through it, then I would be okay. There was so much sadness and anger leading up to the day. I had a very, very rough time the day before.

It turned out that the day I had assigned so much power to, was just a day. I got up, I did stuff, I had feelings, both good and bad, and then the day was over.

I am both relieved and sad that it is over. I know that sounds strange that I would be sad to put a day I had been dreading behind me. But the day also marked a milestone of having lived an entire year without my precious sister. I now know that I can make it through an entire year without her. But I never wanted to know or experience a year without her.

So, what do I do now? Now I'm 40, and now I live without my sister. Now I face another year of milestones without her. Now I observe her kids growing another year older without their mother.

We will see what this year brings. I was amazed in the past year, how in the midst of such pain, we also experienced so much joy, fun, and love.

I will stay open to seeing the joy in my life. I will continue to take care of myself (I ran 3 miles again this morning! First time running in my 40s!) I will keep trying my best to be the person I am meant to be.

Sam took this one too! He's pretty good, I'd say.
Thank you to everybody who called, texted, emailed, came to my birthday party, sent me cards or gave me gifts. I know it is hard for all of you, too. Nobody quite knows what to do with the birthday that is also a death-anniversary. You all did wonderfully. I could feel your love in every gesture. 

Thank you so much to the people who gave money to The Red Cross in Sue's name for my birthday. I absolutely LOVED that. And thank you to my friend, Donna, who sent me a picture of herself after running 3 miles for the first time in her life that was captioned, "I pushed myself to make it happen in honor of your birthday"

But most of all, I was so proud of Sue's four kids, who called me last night to wish me a happy birthday. They chattered on about their days, sang to me, laughed, and I was simply amazed by them. Their strength, joyfulness, and love shined through. I felt Sue's love and strength coming through to me by way of her incredible children.

We are all surviving.  We are going to be okay. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

My Birthday/One Year Anniversary of Sue's Death: What it's like right now

I am right in the middle of the tough part.

Saturday night my husband and my sister threw me a wonderful party. It was seriously everything I could have wanted in a 40th birthday party. We had so much fun. I read a story about Sue aloud and dedicated a song to her and everybody danced (I'll share that story in a later post). I really felt great. Somewhere deep inside I think I believed that if I had the most fun party ever, I wouldn't end up feeling down about Sue.

I should know by now that it doesn't work that way.

Today is the day before my actual birthday. Today, one year ago, I spent the day with Sue. I remember that I left her house that night at 7:00, and told her I'd see her the next day. I had planned to show up at noon. Instead I was there at 8:30 am, because she had already passed away. It was the worst day of my life.

I wanted to try to document how this feels, the emotions of the anniversary of her death and also my birthday rolled into one. The best way I can describe it is to say it is like a gigantic roller coaster. Saturday night I was at the very top, SO happy and SO grateful. Then on Sunday I started on a downward ride that has left me where I am now, which is at the bottom.

It took just about everything I had to get out of bed this morning. I am in the depths of intense grief, to the point that I've wondered if all of the work and growth I've experienced this past year has just vanished. I've wondered if this anniversary is putting me right back at square one.  It is intense.

Tomorrow I will be 40. Tomorrow my sister will have been gone for one year. She never got to know me in my 40s. I never wanted to be a person writing a blog about grief. I never wanted my birthday to also be the anniversary of the worst day of my life. I never got to choose. I also would never wish this particular birthday/death anniversary of a treasured loved one combination on anyone. It is hard to explain how difficult and painful it is. I wish this had never happened and that I was back to being the person I used to be, the person who had two wonderful older sisters instead of one.

I knew this would be hard, but I didn't know that it would be knock-me-down-sucker-punch-in-the-gut hard.

But here's what I need to do (and it's simple really): keep going.  I just need to keep getting up, keep taking my next breath, keep taking care of my kids.  And I will, because it's what I do. I keep trying and keep working at making it through.

But it is so, so hard.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Working to Choose Gratefulness

It has been a week of annoyances. I have been stressed about running our household by myself because Frank was out of town from Monday morning until last night. I had too many extra commitments and not enough down-time for my liking. I pulled something in my shoulder, and have had on and off stomach problems all week, which have impacted my running workouts. And there is still the ever-present stress of the flooded house, which is still going on and, I believe, will be going on until the end of time. Toss this all together and cover it with grief-sauce and you get an idea of how my week has been.

I've been stressed, bummed out, sad, disheartened, crabby, and just plain sick of it all.

I'm really, really grateful for these people!
This morning my internal dialogue was set to "extreme crabbiness".  I did a not-so-great workout and then sat down to find a recipe for Shepherd's Pie.  I went looking on a website called Southern Plate that Sue had sent to me a few years ago in an attempt to get me to make her some pumpkin cupcakes (it worked, I made them for her, they were good too!)

I found a recipe for Shepherd's Pie, but when I started poking around her site, I found that her blog post for today was about gratefulness.  That stopped me in my tracks because I have been stuck in a mode all week that hasn't left room for any gratefulness.  In other words, I've been poor-meing it for days.

Her post begins like this:

We often lose sight of the incredible blessings we have because the small hitches and drawbacks of life tend to overshadow them in the daily requirement to deal with them. (When we have a problem we must address over and over, we can’t help but keep it at the forefront of our thoughts.)

That is why it is important to actively call out our blessings each day. To pull them from the back of our minds, from that area we don’t think about because it hums steadily along without much need for attention.

(you can read the rest of her post here)

I felt like she had posted this for me today, like she was very nicely pointing out that I've been acting like a baby and I need to get over myself and cut it out.

Message received!  Right now I'm officially starting this day over. I am pulling forward all the blessings that I take for granted and spending my time being grateful. 

Here's a very small list of the first few things I thought of when I decided to be grateful:

1. My wonderful family, both immediate and extended, those who are still with us and those who aren't.  I wish I could post a full paragraph about each of my kids, my husband and in-laws, my sisters, my nieces and nephews, my parents, my grandparents, my aunts, uncles, and cousins (and I have a LOT of cousins!) to tell you why each of them is special and unique, and has had a positive impact on my life.

2.  My awesome friends.  In short, I have the best friends available, anywhere. Each one is a treasure I have been lucky enough to find.

3.  Everyday opportunities. We live in a safe, comfortable house, our kids go to great schools, Frank has a very good job, we feel safe where we live, we have enough food to eat, we have clean clothes to wear, we drive cars that are comfortable and that work, we have access to excellent medical care, we have clean water to drink and we can take hot baths/showers whenever we want.
Today I will go out into the world with gratefulness rather then crabbiness in my heart.  Have a great day.  I think I will now, too.

You know what else? I am grateful for you!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Three Miles!

The week started off pretty rough, remember? But things got better. I keep learning that same lesson over and over: when things are hard, I need to just wait a bit because it gets better.

Now, look what happened on Wednesday:

please don't look at my sweaty wrinkly forehead, thank you.
I stood in my driveway, covered in sweat, unshowered, and held up three fingers!

Okay, there was actually a little more to it than that...I stood in my driveway covered in sweat, unshowered, and held up three fingers because I had just RUN THREE MILES!

With 20 days left before my birthday, I met my goal. I need to take a little time to think about that because I tend to do something I should be proud of, but then just quickly move on to the next thing without giving it much thought. This time I intend to spend a bit of time feeling proud of myself.

Today I ran three miles again.

And I am going to take this thing a step further: I'm going to feel proud of myself all weekend! I think you should join me. Think of that thing you've done recently but didn't really allow yourself to feel proud. Spend the weekend feeling proud of yourself every time you think of it. It will feel good and we deserve to feel good.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, October 6, 2014


My day isn't great, but it is very pretty outside
My last few posts have been pretty chipper and happy. This is good because when I wrote them I was feeling that way. I don't always feel that way and I need to make sure that this blog doesn't just become a place I come to document when I am having a good day or moment. I do want to document good moments, but if that was all I did then I would be leaving out a huge part of my life. I want this blog to be a real representation of how life is right now, and skipping over the hard parts would be not the whole truth.

All of this to say, I'm not having a great day.

I woke up already exhausted. I think I was having stressful dreams. I don't remember them, but I know I woke up missing Sue more than usual. Missing somebody who you know you will never see again in this lifetime is exhausting because it is never-ending.

I needed to drop Natalie off to leave for three days for 6th grade camp. I am generally not an overly mushy sort of parent, so imagine my surprise when I dropped her off, walked back to my car, and bawled my eyes out. Goodbyes are hard because sometimes people don't come back. This thought, which is always with me, is exhausting.

Next up was my counseling appointment. I think going to counseling is very important for me. It is helping me climb up out of grief. It helps me figure out the areas in my head that still need work. I am so thankful that I have the time to devote to my well-being and the resources to access such great care. However, doing this emotional work is exhausting.

Back home to send emails and make phone calls about the flood at our rental house. This is something I am working on constantly. The flood happened August 11 and it is still taking up so much of my time. We are getting there, but so slowly. This process is (you guessed it) exhausting.

Finally I forced myself outside for my run because it is Monday and I ALWAYS run on Mondays. Why was I so shocked that I ran one mile, walked one mile, and walked home?  I knew when I started that I was "off" today. I am trying with all my might to not consider today's run a failure. I'm trying to tell myself that sometimes it's a bad day. That sometimes I'm allowed to just sit on the couch and feel sad.

Now I have an hour left before kids start coming home and the more busy part of my day begins. I have succeeded in exhausting myself in many different ways. I will work at trying to do all the rest of the stuff I need to get done today, but I actually just want to go back to bed and get to tomorrow.

The real truth is that some days are just heavy with grief and I cannot get my crap together.

Friday, October 3, 2014

A Story About A Run

Today I woke up not wanting to run. I really, really didn't want to run. It was very windy. I put on my running clothes anyway. I got my little boys ready for school and took them to the bus stop. I still didn't want to run. I got the dog ready. She didn't want to run either.

We started running. Now I should tell you that the word, "run" when used by me means "the slowest jog that is possible". And I should also point out that I am the dorkiest runner ever. I do a lot of singing along to my music, and when I sing along I like to get everyone else involved in the song by pointing and singing right to them at important song points.  But since I'm running by myself, "everyone else" becomes the dog, a nervous squirrel, a dead frog, and an occasional bird.  Until I get to our neighborhood construction sites filled with construction guys, when I get to those I run serious and stone-faced, like I'm in the Olympics.

So the run started out like usual, with me wondering why the hell I would do this to myself. But then I started to get into a rhythm. I started jamming to my music. I sang and pointed to the dead frog, "I knew you were trouble when you walked in!" I scared the nervous squirrel with a "I'm coming at you like a dark horse!" And I musically informed a nearby robin that "I'm all about that bass, about that bass--no treble!"

Then it started to rain. The dog was shooting me really dirty looks. She hates rain, as do I. But by this time I was halfway done and I didn't want to have to get exercise some other way when I was already here, already doing it. So, back to my music, only now I was looking crazier by the minute.  A crabby, soaked dog by my side, rainwater running down my back, and still I'm singing/yelling out random song lyrics.

Then I noticed my shoe was untied. Then I bent down to tie it and my headphones flew out of my ears, then my crabby/freaked out dog ran a circle around my legs, tying me up with her leash.  Then one of the construction guys came by.  He waved and chuckled.

I looked exactly like this:

except not as cute, and instead of one of my ears being adorably askew, both of my ears were dripping with a combination of rainwater and sweat, And I was wrapped up in a leash. And my headphones were dangling. And my shoe was still untied. But I looked that same amount of pathetic.

Just in case you were looking for a feel-good, warm-fuzzy story of strength and redemption, I should tell you that this is not one. I just untangled the leash from around my legs, tied my shoe, shoved my headphones back in my ears, and finished my drippy, crabby run with a bad attitude.

The end.