Trigger Warning: This is some of my truth about grief
What will 2019 hold for me?
2018 was challenging for sure. Some could say I would have every right to be in a state of depression, anger or shock after losing so much last year. It would be easy to fall into that. It might make sense to other people, who project their own assumptions on me, to see me as struggling, “of course she’s struggling, she just lost her life partner, her dad died this year and her mom – just a year ago. No wonder she’s a mess”. I don’t know anyone who will admit to feeling or thinking that about me, but I know if I were looking at me, I might be inclined think that.
But what if I don’t struggle? What if I could process this as just another step in my life and there is still so much living to do? What purpose would despair ultimately serve? I have this strong belief that the universe gives you back whatever you put out to it. So I choose to keep moving, to grow with every experience and find the beauty in the aftermath.
Grief: The Lonely Bitch
Here’s the thing though, grief is a lonely and solitary process. You can’t possibly know what I have actually been through these last few years, I barely know. I couldn’t possibly know what someone else who has experienced a loss, has gone through. It is all so personal and no two losses are the same. I have sad moments, they are usually in the evening and overnight while I dream and I am terrified of being stuck in those moments. Then they pass and time does its thing. The pause button will not work, not even for grief.
Over the last few years, chaos kept coming at me and I had no time to process the last blow before the next one came. But in that chaos I was forced to keep moving, to keep being there for my family. Living with someone who is critically ill and in chronic pain is no joy ride. Watching your loved one deteriorate and desperately want to be better and be here to find the beauty of life in spite of his failing body is it’s own special kind of torture.
Losing a parent to Alzheimer’s is a totally different kind of torture, they leave one small piece at a time, leaving you with hope for recovery when you see glimpses of their old selves and you wonder if you got it wrong, if you made the wrong choices for their care. But then they are gone again.
How am I Doing?
I get asked daily how I am doing with everything. It’s such a huge question. I’m never sure exactly how to answer it. Everything? Really? How do I even begin to unpack that? Often this question is sent by text, or when I meet someone in the grocery store.
It’s not that I don’t appreciate the acknowledgement, and I can see that they just want to show me they care. But I am in the middle of trying to get my veggies, I am not really up for a heart to heart in the aisle and my grief is really just below the surface, so if you could please just smile and nod, I might actually get through shopping without crying. Instead of asking ‘how are you?’ maybe you could just invite me to dinner so we can have a real conversation. Maybe I’m a little tired or maybe I’ve now realized that I want deeper relationships with people. I would much rather have more open and frank conversations. Just not in the grocery store.
I’m not going to lie, there are moments for me that make me feel overwhelmed, confused and lost. There are so many questions, so many times I wish for a do-over, to see if I could alter the outcome. I know in my heart though, that all three of my recent losses were not preventable, that their suffering is now ended and their deaths were inevitable.
How Do I See the Light?
The thing is, the last five years of my life have challenged and prepared me in ways I didn’t see coming. They have taken an emotional toll on me but also pushed me to be strong. To weather the storm and see the beauty in spite of the suffering. I am determined to accept this grief as it comes, with all the mess of sadness, despair, relief, opportunity and liberation that comes with it.
I am processing my losses, but really, my privilege would be showing if I looked at these moments as the worst possible thing that could have happened. They are significant, no doubt and I am grieving, but my amazing life carries on.
I live in an awesome community with a strong group of women who have been in my life since my kids were born, they check in daily. I live in a home that I built with my partner. It has electricity, water, heat and I have food in the fridge. I own 2 cars, I have a studio I get to do my art in. I’m sitting here writing a blog post about my year, in the comfort of my peaceful home, nestled in the woods on an iMac. I know there are people with much less in their lives, more trauma and more pain. I know I have a privileged life and I am grateful for it.
My kids are awesome people. They are here for me too. They miss him of course, but they are also looking at the person their father was and they want what he had. He was so giving and loving, they want to use that as a compass for their own lives. He lived his best life, they want to do that too. I couldn’t ask for more.
The other thing I keep in mind is that I had an extremely successful year in my art business. I had a piece receive a significant award in an international quilt show. I had several successful art shows and was selected as an instructor for The CQA/ACC National Conference in June 2019. Also, I moved into a new studio space that is so inspiring, with a multitude of ideas for the coming year.
The truth is, I have no idea what is next right now. I am taking time to live in this moment. To connect with my family, my art, my writing, I’ll see where it all goes.
Over the last few years, I have fit my dreams into the corners of other people’s schedules and care needs. I have been a primary caregiver for a very long time, starting with my kids in 1996. Five years ago it became a full-time job for the 3 closest people to me; my partner, my mother and my father, along with having a full-time job to keep our lifestyle financially intact. In the blink of an eye, they are all gone. Not only is their suffering over in an instant, but in many ways so is mine. My kids are now grown, the world is now my oyster.
I need time to sit with this new reality and I plan to do great things. To live my best life, I have the privilege to explore that for a while. I am now at liberty to live my life in any way I want. It’s amazing and terrifying all at once.
Thank you to my parents and my partner for bringing me to this moment in my life.