I have a lot going on right now and I am feeling extremely stressed out. Life in general is not going well for my youngest daughter, and in order to help her cope I have decided to leave work and stay home with her for her second semester of school this year. Also, I have just found out that I require surgery on Dec 7th which will take me out of commission for awhile (not to mention I am scared shitless of having the surgery), and I am panicked as to how I will prepare for Christmas around this surgery. I just can't seem to get it together, and the looming Christmas season isn't really helping. Christmas #2 without Ben.
In any case, I'm just going to be straight up honest and tell you all that I can't cope with writing a new blog post this week, but I am going to post something that I wrote at the end of November 2015. When Christmas was looming and I was really stressed out. I guess November does that for me. I feel essentially the same today, except Ben was alive back then and I could still see him and touch him and hear him, even if he was mostly sleeping. So life may have actually been better back then.Read more
My youngest daughter is 16. She was 13 years old when she found out her Dad was dying. She was 14 when he actually died. I’m sure it goes without saying that every moment of her life since the day she found out he was sick has been a challenge. A challenge that most adults would be unable to manage, and yet this girl manages. She is resilient, for sure.
I could tell you all sorts of horror stories that happened to her in the months since her Dad became sick and in the months since he died, but there are just too many. So here are the highlights in a nutshell:
She didn't know how to cope. She became very angry. From her perspective there was really no one here for her. She felt like she was being treated like a baby. She felt lied to and betrayed and she became even angrier. And while it is so easy (for adults) to understand why my daughter would be so angry, unfortunately her friends did not.Read more
Last Monday was just an average day. I had some running around to do and appointments to attend. A pre Vegas hair colour, a dentist appointment... that sort of thing. Nothing too crazy or anxiety inducing, and the panic I tend to experience on the daily remained at a reasonable low for the most part.
I ended the day by attending a relaxing yoga class with a friend of mine. It was exactly what I needed to wind down and I was well on my way to feeling the zen when, for no reason at all, a most unwelcome memory popped into my mind.
The memory was of a text Ben sent me from the hospital shortly before he died. Death was inevitable and it coming fast, and every moment felt like we were staring down the barrel of a shotgun. I had spent the entire day with him and had gone home in the middle of the night to be with the kids and make sure they were safe. I crawled into bed, texted Ben "I love you" and he texted back saying “I don’t want to die. I have so much to live for.”
At that moment I felt as though my heart had been ripped out of my chest and thrown across the room. I texted back and told him that I didn’t want him to die, but i did not say “You aren’t going to die.” To deny his pending death seemed wrong to me. It just seemed so dismissive to say “oh, don’t be silly...you aren’t going to die.” He was indeed going to die. So many people had spent the nine months after his diagnosis in denial, and that had angered me to no end. There was nothing helpful about denying what was to come, because denial has not been proven to be an effective method of curing cancer. So instead I told him that he was leaving a legacy in his three kids. And he responded that “legacy or not” he still didn’t want to die, he wanted to fight. He didn’t want to die.
As I sit here thinking about what I want to write, I am struck by the fact that I don’t really want to write about Ben specifically. That’s a first. I had a pretty good week overall, and despite going it alone I was still able to find some joy.
Last weekend was the start of several busy days in a row which left little time for grief to rear it’s ugly-yet-somewhat-comfortable head. My sister and niece came over from Vancouver Island and together with my mom, my eldest daughter and my other sister we all spent the day in a tattoo parlour. (It was my mom’s idea. She’s 73, by the way). By the time we left at the end of the day my mom was sporting her very first tattoo – a small tulip on her ankle. She’s been talking about it for years and now it’s done. Way to go Mom!
The rest of us also left sporting brand new tattoos of our favourite flowers. Jaime and I chose the daffodil which is the flower of March (Ben’s birth month) and of course it is the symbol of hope for finding a cure for cancer.Read more
As I write this I have just pulled into the parking lot at the office of my urologist, Dr A. I have parked in stall number 61 and I find myself frozen in the drivers seat of my car as unwanted memories come flooding back into my brain. I remember the day I pulled into this parking lot with Ben. I don’t recall what stall number we parked in that day, but I do recall repeating the number out loud and saying “that’s our good luck number today.”
On that particular day in April 2015, which was two and half years ago but feels, smells and tastes like yesterday, we thought we were coming to find out how Dr A was going to help save Ben. How he was going to operate on Ben’s kidney in conjunction with another (as yet unknown but definitely brilliant) surgeon who would simultaneously remove the tumour on Ben’s sacrum. ON, being the operative word.
Sadly, that’s not how that day turned out.Read more
I wrote this post a few days ago in the middle of the night. I'm posting it just as I wrote it on that night. Read on.
I think I must be the only person in the world to experience anxiety attacks while I am actually asleep. Seriously. It can be 4am and I can be in the middle of what I would hope to be a solid 8 hours, when suddenly I find myself awake and gasping for air. Gasping. No joke.
Such was the case this early morning around 4am. I woke up suddenly with a tight chest and a disconcerting inability to take in air no matter how hard I tried to inhale deeply through my nose AND mouth. Technically I was able to get the air in, but it just didn’t feel like it was enough and that sent me into panic mode. (No comments about heart attacks etc please. I assure you that my heart is working properly, and if you send comments in that direction I will just start panicking more.) By 5am I was trying to sleep sitting up in the hopes that it would help me breathe. By 6:20 am (the current time right now as I write this) I am two Ativan deep and soaking in a tub while trying to talk myself down from the proverbial ledge.
I have no idea why this happens to me.Read more
Just when I find myself moving along a little more effortlessly and thinking, "I'll be damned. I think I've got this handled" ... it happens. WHAM! Grief jumps out of nowhere and slams me so hard in the chest that I find myself gasping for breath and thinking, "What the fuck just happened there?" (Or, "what the heck just happened there?" Depends on how much you curse, I suppose. I enjoy the "F" word at times. It has more oomph.)
That's what happened to me this past week. I had a few really good days, in part because my friend Mary (who I met in San Diego at Camp Widow) came to visit. It was so nice to have adult company around who just "gets it." No explaining required. And it's not as though we spent our days sitting around crying about the fact that our husbands oh-so-rudely decided to up and die on us. On the contrary. We toured Vancouver and did the ride over Canada that I have been wanting to do for quite some time. We ate out (a lot) and watched a movie and just breathed. I loved it.
The nightmare in Vegas happened while Mary was here (did I mention that Mary is from Vegas?) and instead of losing my shit and thinking about all the terrible things that could happen in the future without Ben here, which I would normally do, I just sat with her while she made sure her loved ones were safe. They were. Thank God.
Eventually our visit came to an end and I took Mary to the airport and then drove myself back home. Alone. And that's when Grief came back to pay me another unexpected visit.
Good advice, right? I have always liked to pass that piece of advice onto my kids whenever I had the opportunity. “Take time off before University. Go see the world. Live your life while you can.” That’s what we used to say to them. We had all sorts of tidbits of advice which included, "Happiness is a choice, so choose it." "Be a good person." "Work hard." "Be kind" and "Live Your Life". We only get one of them.
But then Ben died, and everything changed. I became torn between wanting my kids to live their lives and wanting them home with me every second. I became obsessed with controlling everything they did, even when I knew I was being ridiculous. Even when a little voice inside my head told me to lay off or they would say "Sayonara Mama" and move right out of this house so that they no longer had me breathing down their necks. Even when I caused my son immense frustration. Even when I made my daughter cry.
It seems that after Ben died I no longer wanted them to live the life they wanted … I wanted them to live the life that I wanted. And I wanted them home, safe, and with me every minute.Read more
Did you ever feel so consumed by your own grief that you have forgotten that others grieve too? That they grieve not only for the loss of your spouse, who may have been a friend to them, but possibly they grieve also for other people that you may know absolutely nothing about? Do you find that during this time of all consuming grief, you have forgotten that other people have suffered loss too?
Recently that realization has hit me hard.
For the last 19 months I have been consumed by my own grief and I didn't have room to consider the possibility that anyone else in my life could be carrying around a similar, agonizing grief from their own past. That wasn't on my radar at all. Lately though ... lately my eyes have opened a bit to the world around me as I have slowly started to awaken from my drugged slumber (figuratively drugged, not literally), and I have been surprised to discover that others - not random strangers but actual people who are a part of my life - have suffered their own agonizing losses that I knew nothing about. How could I have not known??Read more
I was scrolling through my personal blog recently, because I like reading what I wrote while Ben was still alive. Re-reading my words allows me to remember certain days with clarity. For a moment I can close my eyes and feel myself back in my real life when Ben was alive. And even though those days were terrible for him (pain, chemo, radiation, more pain), the saddest day with Ben in my life was still better than any one day could ever be without him.
Towards the end of summer in 2015 I was getting desperate. I knew that it was only a matter of time before Ben died, but he made it clear that type of thinking / talking was off limits. That meant we didn't get to discuss anything about what life would look like without him. I didn't get to tell him that we would remember him, and honour him, and talk about him. I didn't get to tell him that he would always be my number 1, and that I would miss him every single second for the rest of my life. I didn't get to tell him that my heart would break and would never fully heal, that scars would remain that would remind me constantly of a life I would no longer have.
So I wrote him this love letter, in a way that we would normally banter back and forth. In a way I hoped wouldn't scare him. In a way I hoped would let him know the depth of my love and how deeply I would miss his presence when he was gone.Read more