Tag Archives: grief

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.

Dealing with Loss

You learn so much over the course of your life, but knowing how to deal with and handle death isn’t something we learn. I don’t think anyone gets used to people dying, that they figure out a system as to how to deal, cope and go through the grief process. But if someone has, and you’re reading this, please enlighten us all on how you managed to do it.

What brings this up today is the death of my friend, Heather. I met her when I went to treatment in Arizona when I was 23 and she was one of the people I instantly clicked with. She was in the IOP program they had, so she would come to groups and then go home for the day. I remember one day we were sitting on the patio of the house I was in and she told me how she felt like an outsider because everyone else who was there and in groups were residential, PHP or whatever label the insurance companies used to describe people who were basically inpatient. I being one of them. From then on we began hanging out more, I guess you could say I took her under my wing and we became fast friends. When I went back home to New York, I wasn’t expecting her and I to stay connected, but we did. That’s something they don’t prepare you for in the therapy sessions where they try to prepare you for what’s coming once you’re discharged. Overall, in my opinion, they don’t really prepare you for shit because they don’t know what your life is like back home. But anyways, I got off topic.

About a month ago she posted a picture on Instagram of her in the hospital. I thought maybe she was in because of her eating disorder, but when I shot her a message I found out the real reason. She had blood clots in her lungs, but at the time she told me they were putting her on blood thinners for a year to try and keep them under control. I didn’t know then that that would be one of the last conversations I would have with her.

Yesterday on Facebook I saw friends of her posting messages on her wall, saying how they’ll never forget her and how incredible she was. Doing a little more research I found that she had passed away Thursday. I was shocked.

People aren’t supposed to die at 24 of a pulmonary embolism. She was so full of life, encouraging, real, hysterical and we shared so much in common. We always talked about how if I got into a grad school out there we would find an apartment and move in with each other. How she wanted to come to New York because of the 4 seasons (yeah, I tried talking her out of moving here because she clearly didn’t realize what winter in NY entails). She was my West Coast Twin. We loved the same movies (Titanic), the same music (Frank Sinatra) and the same TV show (Law and Order: Special Victims Unit).

So now with her being gone, I can’t help but to feel sad, and I honestly don’t know how to process this or even deal. When I first heard of her passing, my 1st instinct was to text her. I kept replaying the last time we talked in my head, which was about a week or so ago. We had a conversation about faith, God and the Bible. She was in a place that I am/was. Questioning things, wondering about things the Bible says compared to what the world and todays culture says. Our conversations were always real, and she was one of the best people I ever had in my life.

Over the past 4 months I lost 2 incredible people. The loss of my Grandma still hurts like nothing I’ve ever experienced, and now I’m mourning the loss of my friend. I wish I knew I had a positive thing to say about how I’m not letting this grief over them get me down, but I would be lying. My Grandma’s death was hard enough even though we spent 15 months watching her die, but there’s something about losing Heather that feels like a punch to the stomach. It was unexpected, and maybe it’s because for the first time in my life I am dealing with an unexpected death, and even more so the death of a friend who is 6 months younger than me. That’s the killer part.

There’s no manual on how to handle this. No instruction booklet exists telling you to start at step 1, and by the time you get to step 10 or 20 you’ll feel better.

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.

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.