Tag Archives: Grandma

2015 In Review

Seeing as how it’s almost the end of the year (I know, this year flew by!), I wanted to take the time to sit down and reflect on the past 365 days, even though we still have a couple more weeks left.

By far 2015 was one of the hardest years to date. It was filled with loss, pain and also a lot of self-discovery.

Losing my biggest influence, besides my own mom of course, was earth shattering. I still cry about my Grandma dying. It’s still hard and I have moments where I feel like it was just yesterday I got that phone call saying I need to get to the nursing home right away. Starting my senior year of college, the first semester without her, was brutal. There were so many times that I got a good grade on something and found myself wanting to call or stop by her place to share the good news, but then I was hit with the sobering reality.

I also lost my friend, Heather. We lost touch a bit due to the fact we were across the country from one another, but when we talked on occasion it was like we never really stopped ya know? It’s strange how some let distance come between a friendship, yet I always knew that if need be, we’d be there for each other. I miss you girl, and I hope you’re spending your favorite holiday partying it up in footie pajamas and making everyone around you laugh.

But I also found myself more this year. Through all of the pain and grief, I pushed myself harder than ever before to be a better version of myself. I made a promise to my Grandma an hour before she passed away that I would be ok, that I would stay in school and continue to succeed and graduate. Yes, that promise was hard to uphold, but I continued going forward even though everything in me wanted to just stop and drown in the crippling sadness I felt.

Through that fight, I began to recognize that I am capable of reaching my goals when I fight and work hard enough. I was never one to quit something I was passionate about, and I found myself this year putting my whole heart into the biggest dream I have: my future.

I began another research project, working with one of my professors, and in that I had another sense of self-discovery: I realized that I no longer wanted to work with eating disorders and young adults. Now, and I believe it has almost everything to do with what me and my family lived through for the past 2 years, I am pursuing a career in gerontology.

Even after all of the pain, my Grandma still continues to influence my life in more ways than I once thought she did. I discovered I want to work with older adults and their family members/ care givers who are in hospice/palliative care.

Although this year started out rough, and still continues to be, I am actually in a weird way thankful for all of the experiences I had. I became more thick skinned, mature, grew a stronger appreciation for the people I have in my life and more confident in my own abilities to go for dreams I never thought I was good enough to reach for and achieve.

Anger & Anticipatory Grief

As a lot of you all know, if you’ve been following this blog, I’ve lived with the excruciating pain of something known as anticipatory grief for almost a year and a half. I won’t relive all of the details for you, but if you want to know what exactly I’m talking about when it comes to what happened to my Grandma you can find the posts on my page.

After my Grandma died I felt lost. Yes we all knew it was coming but even with that it’s still hard as hell when it happens. For the past week or two I’ve been thinking a lot about the people I’ve lost over the past year and I’ve come to realize that I was living a life fueled by anger.

All of the things I thought I believed were tested during that time of my life and instead of feeling those emotions I hid a lot behind anger. To sound all clinical and stuff, I was projecting my own disbelief in things like God or a higher power onto those in my life, using friends I held dear to my heart as a scapegoat.

The weird thing about anger and living through a grief process where you’re grieving an eventual loss before it’s happened is that in those moments when you’re hanging onto your last shred of sanity, you don’t realize that almost everything you say or do is an emotional reaction to something nobody can see or help you with. I’m sure if you were to ask those who saw me regularly during this time they would probably tell you I was not the easiest person to get along with. I was pushing a lot of people away who meant a lot to me because being alone was easier than letting people in when there was nothing they could have said or done to give me what I really needed: my Grandma to be ok and back to normal. I blamed God, those who believed in God and were praying and my anger grew and grew.

Now that I’m in a place where I can think more clearly, and the pain I feel now on a daily basis is that of missing my Grandma and still wanting her back, I see the damage my anger caused. To put it in the words of what a Dr. told me a while back. I was angry, I was firing bullets and those who were in my life got hit with the shrapnel. I was always good at anger because as I said previously, feeling anything else besides that when I am going through it makes me uncomfortable and is something I refused to allow myself to sit in and feel. But now that I’m learning how to feel and process my emotions I’m learning that living a life of anger when I was experiencing that anticipatory grief was doing more damage than good.

If I could say anything to those I pushed away over the past 2 years it would be this:

I’m sorry for the things I said or did out of my emotional reactions. Almost none of the things I said were coming from things I actually meant. Did I mean to hurt you? It sounds harsh but yes, I did. It’s almost as if I needed someone else to be in pain with me. For those of you who believe in God, I was projecting my anger that I have towards God onto you because you were tangible and represent everything that was in question at that time. I do believe in God and I am so sorry that I allowed my anger and grief ridden state of mind to dictate the things I said to you all and wrote on here. I was immature, in so much pain and angry but I know it’s no excuse for what happened. I know some of you forgave me, and on the off chance anyone else reads these words I hope maybe one day down the line we can sort things out as well.

Why I’m Better for Having a Relationship with my Grandma.

Over the year that my Grandma was in a nursing home due to her stroke and heart attack so many people tried comforting my loss with the phrase “you’re lucky to have such a strong connection with your Grandma; most people your age don’t have that”. Now, when she was alive that phrase angered me. When living in the state of anticipatory grief, anything anyone says to you is brushed off and I believe that idea is relevant to a lot of people. For me, I was searching for some magical key phrase from someone that would alleviate my sadness and grief, but nothing that was said to me was ever good enough. People’s best attempts at comfort were seemingly insignificant, ignorant and shallow.

Yet now that my Grandma is gone, I’m in the actual grief process. Mornings I wake up crying, staring at the pictures I have of her on my nightstand. Countless hours throughout the day her memory comes to mind, and I find myself at a loss when I catch myself thinking of stopping by the nursing home after class to go see how she is today. Nobody said grief and the stages of grief were easy or simple, but actually being all in, is a difficult place to be in.

But I don’t want to focus on the negative for this, instead I want to twist it a bit and focus on the positive impact my Grandma had on my life, and still has even though she has passed. It all comes back to the idea people told me, that I am lucky to have had a relationship like the one I did with my Grandma. As the days and weeks pass, I’m beginning to realize how lucky I truly am to be her Granddaughter.

We can learn a lot about life from our Grandparents, if we take the time to get to know them. So let me tell you some key points that stick out to me when I think about the woman who so heavily influenced me not only in childhood but as I grew into a young adult.

She was born in the late 1920’s and was growing up in the Great Depression era. Before she could graduate school she dropped out and began working so she could help out her family. In this time, education wasn’t as highly needed as providing for your family, but even without a diploma my Grandma had so much wisdom, the kind that life experiences can only teach you.

When she met my Grandfather and later married him, they tried to have children, yet had several stillborns, but their determination and longing to have a family caused them to keep trying and in the end my two uncles and mother were born. You know the cliche “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”? Most people after a couple of stillborns would have given up that dream to have a family with the one they love; although I don’t know much about who my Grandma was at this age, the fact that she was a strong and determined woman is evident. I’ve always said that I wanted to be her when I grow up, and this strength she mustered when the odds seemed against her is what I’m talking about.

She was a homemaker her whole life and did everything for the family; she loved to travel and spend time at the ocean. Grandma loved with all of her heart and never once wanted anyone to worry about her, yet she worried endlessly about everyone else. I wouldn’t necessarily classify this as a literal martyr, but in the emotional aspect I would. I remember after my Grandpa died when I was 13, my mom and I spent the night at her house so she didn’t have to be alone. It was something I didn’t even recognize until mom and I talked about it some years later, and that is the fact that Grandma didn’t cry in front of us. Knowing her, she held it in as to not be a burden to us, and it’s also that pride that I believe a lot of people in her generation were raised on. How can someone the day they lose the love of their life, the man they were married to for over 50 years, not shed a tear the night of their beloved’s death? But as me and my mom always say, that’s Grandma.

It’s been shown in research that the relationship a Grandparent has with their adult grandchildren is beneficial to both sides. For the older adult in the relationship, their connection with the grandchild helps bridge that generation gap; we as adult grandchildren, just by living our lives, help keep them integrated into society as much as is possible. Our own generations culture is kept up when we spend time with our grandparents, and they are less of a minority or outsider in the world. That’s why I always disliked nursing homes. When Grandma first entered into the place she would ultimately die in, I remember how impersonable it was. There was no outside influence on the place, and the staff seemed to try and go back in time with what the older generation should like. Black and white movies played constantly in the common area near the nurses station, and the only thing I saw that was current was the attitudes and mannerisms of the staff. Now that I think about it, there wasn’t even up to date magazines for the residents to read, no books on the shelves or anything that resembled a normal life. Even though my own Grandma couldn’t communicate back with me, I made sure to keep her up to date on everything that was happening in my own life. Not because I felt I had to, but because I know she would want to hear of the things I was doing with my life. The research of bridging the gap, so to speak, makes sense. It was never a conscious decision, but as a grandchild, simply being who I am with my Grandma, at least I hope, helped keep her feeling as if though she belonged.

Now on the other hand, and I slightly touched on this already, the adult grandchild & grandparent relationship also touches the lives of us in the younger generation. If you’re familiar with psychology you know the stages of development. As I was growing up I spent many days down at my Grandparents’ house. From the time I was an infant I was exposed to their generations culture and if I’m being honest it had such a profound influence on my own life. There was something intriguing to me as a child, seeing the things of the generations before me. Spending time looking through the mass amounts of pictures from the early 1900’s, seeing people I had never met but were still family by blood, listening to the music my Grandma enjoyed and even seeing how fulfilling their life was even though they lived without many of the “needed” things our generation views as necessities.

The relationship I have with my Grandma bridged that gap between our generations. I grew up in those early stages of development with my grandparents, and as I grew older I had such an admiration for their generation. I loved the music they grew up with, the colorless black and white films were fascinating to me and the years of wisdom my grandparents built up just from simply living their lives and doing the best they could with what they had, I believe played a role in molding me into the old souled young adult I am today.

So getting back to the statement I opened with, yes I am very lucky to have had such a connection with my Grandma. It makes me sad to think that she may not have ever known how much I looked up to her, how much she influenced me, but I find peace in knowing that even if she didn’t know, that her life lessons and everything I ever learned from her will continue to be of high importance as I continue on living my own life.

Goodbye’s the Saddest Word

I lost one of my biggest role models on March 4th. It’s crazy to think that the day after I wrote the post about my Grandma being in palliative care, she would pass away not even 24 hours later. In the weirdest way it made me feel better that I saw her an hour and a half before she died. I got to say my goodbyes to her and had one of the most heartbreaking conversations I’ve had to have in my life, yet for her it was liberating. She had been hanging on in this state for over a year, and as her condition got worse, she still  continued to fight to stay alive. Grandma always worried about others, and it wasn’t until she passed away that I learned of how she especially always worried about me. I’m the youngest of her 3 grand kids, and I was the closest to her. So that morning when I went to go see her before I had therapy I decided to have the conversation I got my mothers blessing to have with Grandma.

I told her that it was alright if she wanted to go; I’d be alright, the family would be alright and I’d still be in school. I told her how well I was doing, and that I’d continue to do ok after she was gone. I told her I loved her with all my heart and that it was ok for her to go…. Almost 2 hours later she was gone.

Now it’s been 2 weeks, and my heart is still grieving. People tell me there’s no time limit on grief and that I shouldn’t make myself kick out of my grief process. School has been particularly hard to go to, I think because I now associate it with making Grandma proud, and at the same time knowing she won’t be there when I graduate next May. Life goes on even after the goodbyes, the wake and the funeral and we who still have breathe in our lungs and a beating heart can do nothing but get back into our lives the best we can.

It feels like a giant piece of my life is gone, but that promise I made to Grandma that I’d be ok makes me want to continue living my life and making her proud by my hard work in school. She wouldn’t want me missing classes or not going to work because of her, and as much as it’s hard to get out of bed in the mornings, I make myself do it in an honor to her.

Palliative Care & Anticipatory Grief

So yesterday the nurses stopped the majority of my Grandma’s medication and reduced her tube feed a little bit. She’s in what you would call palliative care, so now it’s all up to her when she wants to go. For those of you who don’t know what palliative care is the World Health Organization defines Palliative Care as:

Palliative care is an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problem associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritual.

I thought hearing the update from my mom today would make things easier on us, but the anticipation is still there, and it’s getting worse now. None of you have ever met my Grandma, but she is such a strong, independent and stubborn woman, so the fact that now her days are up to her scares me because I know she’s stubborn enough to keep going like this for months or even another year.

They took her off the thyroid medication, blood thinner, antibiotics for her pneumonia and as I said before they reduced her tube feed because they can’t legally remove it from her. The scariest thing is that she’s no longer on the blood thinner that has been keeping her blood clots in the brain and heart from getting bigger and causing another stroke or heart attack.

With all of this happening my mom and I have been talking and we all agree that we think Grandma needs to hear that it’s alright if she wants to let go. Truth be told I avoided going to visit her today because I know what I eventually have to say, and I don’t want to have an end of life talk with my Grandma. Even up until now I’ve been her Grand-baby, and I don’t want to say goodbye to her and give her that permission to go. I know I have to tell her that I’ll be alright, that I’ll get through it but I don’t know how much I believe it. I’m already fighting like hell to keep it together. I’m working my ass off in college because of her, I’m trying like hell to keep my recovery for her. I want to be alright because I know she always worried about me and everyone else.

Being in this position isn’t easy. The past few months her nurses have told us she wasn’t going to pull through this pneumonia but Grandma always did. So now with her being in palliative care I don’t even know what to expect. I don’t want her to die, I’d give anything to have her stay alive and be my Grandma again, but I don’t want her being this hollow shell of a person any more.

I live everyday wondering if my life is going to change forever that day. I never go without my phone any longer and when I’m out I have the ringer on and I always dread the day I see my moms name pop up on my phone at an odd time of the day. It’s all killing my mom too. She’s reaching a breaking point with this and she’s not herself as of late. She seems distant and exhausted. I understand why she is the way she is, I just wish there was something more I could do for her to help get her through this.

Anticipatory Grief

For 1 year now I’ve been experiencing what psychologists would call anticipatory grief. On the website abouthealth.com they give a pretty simple definition of what exactly anticipatory grief is; they say “ Anticipatory grief is the normal mourning a person feels when he is anticipating the death of a loved one. Anticipatory grief includes sadness, concern for the dying person, preparing for the death, and adjusting to changes caused by the death   (http://dying.about.com/od/glossary/g/anticipat_grief.htm).

Every day for a year this is what I’ve been living with. My Grandma got sick in December 2013 with a stroke and heart attack; pretty much removing any semblance of who she was my whole life. An independent 86 year old woman turned into a vegetable, unable to talk. The memories of walking in her house that night and finding her laying there, face almost blue from the dangerously high blood pressure levels, will never leave my mind. I suffered from intense flashbacks for nearly 6 months after; I’d find myself reliving the entire night in great detail over and over and over again.

A few months ago I got to a point where I was able to accept that the woman who played a major role in raising me, and who I always looked up to as a role model/influence, was no longer here and not coming back. Thank god for therapy, because I wouldn’t be able to work through that on my own. But yesterday, all of this changed. My Grandma turned 88 on Wednesday, and the day after everything in me and my family’s life changed again..

7:30 in the morning my home phone rang, and I saw on the caller id it was the nursing home. My heart always stops for a second whenever I hear the phone ring, but yesterday as I saw the name pop up I knew something wasn’t right. Her nurse practitioner was on the other side telling me how my Grandma has pneumonia in both lungs now, a fever that keeps going up and down throughout the day and how they don’t think she’s going to make it out of it this time. I felt my whole body shake as she asked me what my mom’s plan was in this case; leave her at the nursing home and keep her comfortable, or send her to the hospital. I didn’t know, but I wasn’t the one they should be talking to so I called my mom and she called them.

Enter in the anticipatory grief all over again. Now, all we can do is wait. I went to the nursing home after class yesterday and spent time with her. I refuse to have regrets this time. My Grandma means the world to me and I would do anything in my power to keep her here with me, but at the same time I want this all to be over. Her quality of life is none, she spends all day in bed because she’s unable to move and seeing her like that isn’t who she is.

Nobody teaches you how to cope with this type of grief, but I’m thankful I’m not alone. I have some of the best friends with me now that support me and are here for me. But that doesn’t stop the fact I’m starting to grieve and nothing has happened yet.

Holding On and Moving On

There’s been an internal fight I’ve been having with myself the more I look at possible schools to apply to once I graduate from undergrad: is it really alright for me to be that far away from home?

It’s not that I’m scared to be away from friends and family for a bit, I experienced what that’s like when I was in Arizona for treatment. What I’m scared is being away from my Grandma. It’s been a year since she got sick and in a few weeks she’ll be turning 88. I promised myself that night last December that I would be here through it all until the end. I’ve said it before but it unfortunately took this shit circumstance for me to realize how much I loved her, admired her, aspired to be like her and the relationship we had since childhood so now that I’m planning out my future, I’m scared I’m going to miss it.

I’m scared that I’ll be at school in Arizona or Florida and receive that call from my mom that she’s going. I’m scared I won’t be able to get home in time to be with her when she’s dying and I won’t get to say my goodbyes. I know without a doubt she’s beyond proud of me. I’m the only grandchild who graduated high school, and even more went on to  college. That thought is what keeps me going. I love visiting her and telling her all about my successes in school and the grades I’m getting from working my ass off, even though she is unable to respond or show any sign that she is happy for me; I still know she is.

I still fully intend on applying to the schools I have been looking into out in Arizona and down in Florida, even though the fear is telling me to stay local. I know Grandma wouldn’t want me to put my life on hold or not go for my dreams because of her, so I’m trying to keep that in mind when I think about the future.

Feeling A Moment

I had a moment today while visiting my Grandma. I was sitting in her room on the big chair that attempted to engulf me in the cushion; out of habit I glanced down at my phone, pressing the button so the screen would illuminate and I could see what time it was. Something in that particular moment hit differently for me though.

Before all of this happened to her, I remember taking her for granted. I guess you could say I was feeling guilt as I sat there, contemplating whether I should gather my things and go do the errands that were a part of my Sunday routine. I guess guilt is a good adjective to use here, because I found myself wishing I could go back and re-do all of those visits throughout my life up until last December. If I knew that this was the shit storm life or God or whoever would throw at her I would have spent more time with her, embracing her company and knowing that the love and life of my Grandma is fragile and can be gone in a matter of seconds.

I think as I sat there in that chair today, it was the first time I was really present in a moment as it happened. With difficult situations it is so hard to be there 100% mentally. Yes, I was there through everything the night me and my mom found her lying there inside her home. But I don’t think any of us were actually there mentally. The mind is a wonderfully powerful organ in ourselves. It was protecting me that night, and the last 11.5 months. Now I would kill to go back and be 100% present all of those days I spent with her.

I would go back and not ask my mom “how long until we leave?” or “I don’t want to go down today, can’t I just stay home?”

I was so fucking selfish when I was younger. If I could have even just one of those moments where I was begging to go home or whatever, I would shut my mouth and stay just so I could be with her and my family. I want to feel a moment, not just be physically present.

If I could talk to her and she talk back, I would apologize to her for not seeing her as much, for taking her for granted and just have a conversation I haven’t been able to have in so long. I want to be called her Grand-baby again.

“Why Would God Punish So?”

“I probably sound like a hypocrite, but why would God punish so?”

Those words have been resonating inside my head for the past 2 or 3 days and unfortunately it’s a question I don’t think I’ll ever get the answer to. I mean you talk to people and they tell you God doesn’t cause us harm and that He is this Almighty and powerful being that can heal us and that He isn’t a punishing type of God. But I’m having a really fucking hard time believing in all of that shit as of late.

Ya know, I’ve been going around the past year or so convinced I wasn’t pissed off at God for what happened to my Grandma. Yes I pissed off and hurt that this God would heal other people and they had stories to tell of it, but then there’s my Grandma who also believes in God and she is in this place where she is a shell of a person, with no cure or “divine” healing. What the fuck did she do to deserve this?

So on Thanksgiving when I was spending time with my Grandma and her roommate called me over to talk to me about my Grandma and what happened, I was a little shocked that she said the statement I began this post off with. I understand though. I believe in God, but aren’t I also allowed to be fucking pissed off at him too?

The truth is I don’t know why God would punish someone as loving, caring and genuine as my Grandma. I don’t know why He chose to give her a stroke and heart attack, which in turn took away any shred of her independent life she had lived for the last 87 years. It’s not fucking fair, and it hurts. So why would God punish? Who the fuck knows.