There will by Joy

Thank you to all my dear friends and family members who commented on my last post about not loving Fall so much these days. Like I say in the description of this blog, “writing is my therapy.” It helps me process my thoughts and feelings. When I work with clients who are going through grief and loss issues I tell them that time does not heal all wounds. You have to do the “grief” work. I tell them about a song my children learned in pre-school that went something like, “you can’t go around it, can’t go over it, can’t go under it, you gotta go through it.” So it is with grief. You have to go through it. The more you deny it and push it away, the harder it will come back. That is why when I’m feeling sad or having those moments where I’m missing my mother terribly, I write about it. I’m getting through it.

What I want to tell everyone (and I do tell my clients) is when you’ve done the “grief” work (and it never ends) you realize that eventually there will be joy. It’s impossible to comprehend when you’re in the throes of the worst hurt you’ve ever felt in your life. But I have found that is very true.
Recently one of my friends told me that one of her friends’ father was just diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer (my arch nemesis). She asked me if I would “friend” her on Facebook hoping that I could help her in any way since I have been through this before. I didn’t really want to because I didn’t want to be taken back to that place of unimaginable grief. But then I remembered how after my Mom had breast cancer back in 1987 she reached out to others who had cancer to help and comfort them or to just lend a listening and compassionate ear. I remember she spent 2 hours on the phone with my friend Lauralee’s mom, whom she had never met, after she had been diagnosed with melanoma cancer. That was a great example to me so I “friended” my friend’s friend.
And talking to her did bring me back to where I was when my mother was dying. I remembered, rather viscerally, the feelings I felt and how grief is not only an emotional but a physical pain. She was very thankful for our talk and the advice I gave to her. And in talking to her I realized something very powerful. I have come a long way. I’m not in that place anymore. My heart isn’t breaking every second of every day.
I can feel joy again.
My life is good. I have a wonderful, loving, committed husband. Three beautiful children who enrich my life and teach me to be a better person. A beautiful home. A dream job that I love and look forward to going to. And wonderful, amazing, supportive family and friends. Life really is good.
Every now and then my heart still breaks a little. But those moments aren’t constant. They’re not everyday. And I have survived and am thriving. I know that’s what my Mom would want for me. She would scold me if I felt sad for even one second. She would remind me of all the good times, the funny times, the times we laughed. She would tell me that life moves on, I have to move along with it. She would tell me of her infinite love for me and how, as it says in our favorite movie “The Princess Bride,” – “death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while.”
So for all those who are grieving I want you to know that eventually, there will be joy. I promise.

Fall, I don’t love you anymore

I used to love Fall like everyone else. I used to love watching the leaves change color on the mountains. The brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows. I used to love feeling the weather turn cooler and bringing out all my sweaters and hoodies to wear. I used to love going to the pumpkin patch and watching the joy on my children’s faces as they picked out just the right pumpkin to carve later. I used to love carving pumpkins and getting messy and goopy. I used to love Halloween and searching for the right costumes that my kids wanted. I used to love the transition into November and getting ready for Thanksgiving. I used to love all those things.

And now, Fall, Autumn, is a sad time for me. Everything about Fall reminds me of when my mother was sick and dying of cancer. She was diagnosed right before Fall started. The dying leaves and trees were symbolic to me of my mother’s dying organs. I spent most of October 2007 on the blasted 5th floor of the hospital. I sat for hours in the waiting room. I didn’t want to disturb my mother’s rest by being in her room, except for a few short moments when she was conscious. I had a front row seat in the waiting room of the mountains, the leaves changing color, dying, and then falling to the ground. Now when I see those same mountains change color, I am no longer filled with joy because of the beauty I’m surrounded by. I am forever reminded of the month I spent in the hospital waiting for my mother to die.
I used to like Halloween. My kids love finding their costumes. My wonderful mother-in-law took over the costume procuring for me that year because she knew I was incapable of doing it. My daughter wanted to be Glinda, from “The Wizard of Oz.” Since she was tiny, that was her favorite movie. My mother-in-law is very talented and made a Glinda costume for her from scratch. That costume is literally a masterpiece. For my son, she bought a pair of overalls, a denim shirt, a red bandanna, and a train conductor hat. At three years old, he was obsessed with trains, especially of the Thomas variety. I didn’t know that Halloween would be the last time my children ever saw my mom, their grandma, alive again. We took them up to the hospital in their costumes. My mom had just been taken off chemotherapy and was transitioning to hospice. She was lucid and so happy to see the kids. It was the happiest I had seen her in months. She loved my daughter’s costume and marveled at my mother-in-law’s craftsmanship and talent. We brought the kids in one at a time and didn’t stay too long in order to not overwhelm her. If I had known it would be the last time, I would have ‘whelmed her. Six days later she was gone.
That first Thanksgiving without my Mom was weird. We had just been through the funeral and the whole shebang a week and a half before. Several people invited my whole family over to their house for Thanksgiving. My in-laws invited all of us including my dad, brother, and my sister and her family. My sister’s mother-in-law did the same thing. We decided we wanted to close ranks and just be together. So we had the smallest Thanksgiving dinner I’ve ever been a part of. We had it at my house. I cooked the turkey. It was my first turkey and it was delicious (despite the fact that my dad and sister called me several times that week making sure I knew how to cook a turkey). My Dad brought crystal goblets that used to belong to his mother. He made a toast to my mother that was lovely and heartbreaking at the same time. We ate, laughed, remembered, cried, grieved, and loved as a family that day. We were all broken down, our hearts open wounds, not knowing that in a year’s time our lives would be completely different.
So you see, I don’t look forward to Fall anymore. When I see the first tree turn it’s leaves from green to red, I mourn. I mourn for what I used to have and can never have again. I mourn for my old life. I mourn for all the moments I took for granted in a blissful ignorance of believing my Mom would live until I was at least old myself. I mourn for my children. Their memories of her are already fading. And until the last leaf falls from the last tree, I am reminded of what I once endured and by miracle survived sanity intact, if not a bit scarred.
“Just because I’m hurting, doesn’t mean I’m hurt. Doesn’t mean I didn’t get what I deserved. No better or no worse.”
-Coldplay, “Lost”