Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Grieving and Friendship

I wrote here about my girlfriend's mom.  Their journey with cancer was short lived, and her mom passed away earlier this year, only a few months after receiving her diagnosis.  In those months, my friend had sold her home, moved her family into the home where her parents had just moved, switched schools for her daughter, and she 100% cared for her mom.  She had doctor appointments daily.  She still cared for her family, and her dad.  Cooking, cleaning, laundry, everything.  Not one moment was spent on herself, she was always on call for someone else.  The end was such a whirlwind, I am still in shock about how quickly it all happened.

My friend and I are alike in so many ways.  We are both very sarcastic, great sense of humor, quick witted, giving, honest (to a fault), genuine, reliable.  We are both co-dependent and often go to each other for life altering decisions ridiculously simple advice, like, which shoes should my kid wear.  We also both avoid grief.  Grief totally sucks.  I hate it.  It’s one of those things that you can’t just make GO AWAY.

If you’re having a bad day because your kid stomped on a snail or drew on the wall, I can help you with that.  Make a joke and suggest downing a bottle of wine, and we’re back to giggling.  Your kid eats some colored bath drops?  I’ll Google that for you (actually, Rachel did that for our other [nameless] friend, and her kid is fine, btw), and suggesting a glass of wine.  FIXED!  Husband being a jerk?  Make disparaging remarks and always be on her side.  Now and then be objective and gently help her through the situation.  And then suggest wine.

Grief doesn’t just go away with jokes and wine.  Of course, I have been known to make an inappropriate comment to her to make her laugh, and I’m certain wine has helped her numb her pain on occasion.  But the pain of losing your mom?  That is just flat out never going to go away.  Not one thing I can say or do will even put a dent in what she has ahead of her for the rest of her life (sorry, Rach, I know you’re reading this and that’s a huge bummer).  Also, we live so far apart from each other.  I can't run over to her house after work, clean her house, watch a movie, help her with the kids.  It sucks! It feels so disabling.  I want nothing more than to be able to remove this pain from her.  And I can’t.  She is stuck with it.

Another tricky thing about grief is that the person grieving doesn’t always know what they need.  Sometimes a hug or a good cry will suffice.  Sometimes a listening ear is good enough.  Sometimes they need more.  But they don’t know what it is.  Maybe because whatever “it” is, doesn’t exist at this point.  It might be time, or some self-discovery down the road.  Or this could just be a piece that always pains their heart.

She texts me about it.  Usually, I don’t know what to say.  Other than I’m sorry, or I love you.  BLAH BLAH - I should have been a therapist, right?  What she has been doing is something I find to be very brave.  She posts about it on Facebook.  For nearly 700 people to see, she is vulnerable and open about her loss.  With (intentionally) less than 200 friends myself, 50 being family, I would never have the courage to share like she has.  As I mentioned here, this is something I don’t often see on social media.  Her boldness is inspiring to me.

The first time I saw it, I was a little hurt that she didn’t come to me.  I feel selfish thinking that, but I wanted to be the (only) one there for her every moment that she is hurting.  However, as stated previously, I’m kind of lousy at saying the right things when it comes to her loss.  I'm also wishing to steal the blessing that others can be for her.  Those who can offer beautiful words of comfort to her.  When I do help her feel better, it makes me feel good.  Others should be able to experience that as well.

She probably avoids grief with me for the same reason we both try to avoid it...we’re not good at it.  On either end!  Avoiding it is so much easier for both of us.  It’s easier to talk about the fixer upper she is drooling over, or last week’s episode of Survivor.  My hope is that avoiding serves some purpose on her healing journey, too.  I would get an Olympic gold medal for that every time.

I haven’t asked her why she is doing this.  Today she mentioned than many of the people she is friends with on Facebook have been part of their whole journey, from the transplant to the cancer.  Maybe that’s why.  She also linked to a site regarding how to become an organ donor, as that is what had saved her mom fifteen years ago.  That is certainly an amazing way to honor her mother, and what better platform to do that than social media.

Seriously, whatever the reason, I am so thankful that she has found an outlet to express her thoughts.  It is certainly better than keeping it all inside.  It is also better than reading the asinine political discussions that are littering my news feed these days.  She says these eloquent words that move me to tears.  I feel so lame commenting on her posts. “Sorry.  Love you.”  Like I broke her iPhone, or one of her vintage Pyrex bowls.  People who I know don’t know her as well as I do (because I know her best) offer nicer condolences than that.  When someone I love is hurting, I am literally at a loss.  Maybe that is part of my frustration.  Normally, I do not lack the ability to use words to express myself, and aside from the daily occasional road rage swear, I have a fairly articulate vocabulary.  Yet, I can’t seem to muster more than, “I’m sorry” when it comes to her grief?!  Maybe I should Google a list of things to say when people are grieving. #googlefixeseverything

I would drop everything in one second and run the entire 2,216.2 miles to hug her until the end of time if that’s what she needed.  And I would bring wine.  I hope all of my friends know that I would go to the moon and back to fix their pain.  Even though I express myself verbally as well as a snail when it comes to grief, I’m still here to listen and support them whenever they need it.

And with that, I am going to leave you with the most powerful portion of this blog post, which is my friend’s post from today.  May it move you to consider saving the life of another person.

“Tried making plans to distract myself today but Cohen of course has a fever so we are home alone and I'm left with my thoughts instead of avoidance. Today would've marked 15 years since mom received her heart. 15 years ago parents stood by their daughter Shelly, who was 15 at the time, and probably held her hand and told her good bye. Much like we did with mom. They heard that her life was over while they looked at her heartbeat on a machine still going and they were told her life, that beating heart, could save someone else. So, in the midst of what is likely the hardest day they've ever faced, they decided to selflessly give us almost 15 more years. The day mom was in ICU and unresponsive I couldn't help but watch her heart beat on the monitor and cry for Shelly and Shelly's parents. I could finally completely understand their heart ache and their choice. I asked the nurses, knowing the answer was likely no, if mom was a candidate for being a donor. Unfortunately they said no. At 2, when the nurses came to turn off Mom's vent, I watched her heartbeat slowly decline. That gift kept giving beyond the time her own body was able to sustain her. I'm forever grateful for them and what they gave not only my family but so many others through my mom. If you're not already an organ donor, please in my moms honor change your decision. Get started here.”

I’m sorry you are hurting, Rachel.  I love you.  I miss you.  And your mom.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Holiday: Easter Basket

There is always an excuse to have sugar and candy in the house.  It starts with Halloween, then Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine's Day, Easter, school birthdays, parties, etc.  My kids will get sugar from their grandparents, from school, parties, etc.  Therefore, I really try to minimize sugar for them.  They do get one or two small treats in their baskets and stockings.  Here are some ideas to avoid sugar during the holidays.

Overall, I do lots of crafts with them.  It is a great time to discuss the event (even if it is something as simple as leap year), the meanings, history, etc.  As well as gives them time to do creative projects.  And they can be great gifts for grandparents!

I also like to get them things I need to get them anyway.  Like clothes.  I know that's cheating a little bit, but they, the girls especially, love to get new clothes.  So I'm taking advantage of that!

Here is what I am putting in our baskets this year:
Spring pajamas


Spring outfits that I make (except for my teen son's, his is purchased!) - can be worn for Easter, Mother's Day, church, etc.

Normally, I would include flip flops too, but they just received new ones.  Maybe I will put some dress sandals if I find some before Easter.

They will each receive one or two pieces of candy as well.

Here are some other non-sugar ideas for Easter Baskets.  Of course, if you get all of them, then it can get expensive, so don't think I am suggesting that!  Our baskets will have 6-10 things in them, and half are clothing items, which they need anyway.  I spent less than $35 on the contents for each basket.

Stuffed Animal

Coloring Book



Finger Puppets
Rain Gear
Gardening Tools


Army Men
Hot Wheels


Action Figures
Squirt Guns

Beach Towel

Hair Clip/Headband
Sandals/Flip Flops

I also love this idea, and here are a few more suggestions (here and here).  I hope this helps you come up with some great items to fill those baskets!

What do you put in your Easter Baskets?