Grief

All posts in the Grief category

The Guidance That Will Never Come

Published June 13, 2013 by Tabby

Claudia Elaine Kisor, my memaw

I’m not normally a person who dwells on what could have been but the past few years there has been one thing that keeps popping up as I’ve done through several extremely difficult times.

I miss my Memaw. Yes, everyone misses lost relatives but lately I’ve been feeling so cheated. I not only lost someone I was very close to but a person that I feel I needed as I grew up and especially the last few years.

Claudia Elaine Kisor was born in 1946 and passed away on April 19, 1995, from breast cancer. She died just before the Alfred P. Murrah bombing. When we heard/felt the blast from some miles away I did not think of a terrorist attack. I thought it was my world falling apart.

I was eight years old. I was there in the room when she passed. I was told a few days before that she wasn’t going to make it to prepare myself. But there was no preparation possible.

She was my best friend. Since my parents were young when they had me (21 and 18) they worked liked crazy to make things work so I spent the majority of my time either at Memaw’s or at my grandma’s. I was the most attached to them than anyone. My mom used to say she was jealous of how close we were—I never wanted to go home but stay with Memaw.

I remember spending most days waking up early with her, riding in the car to drop my aunt and uncle off for high school and then spending a few hours at the Arrow Café. She knew the owner, who always stood me on a table and announced my birthday. She would visit with people, as she always seemed to know absolutely everyone, and would give me a small notepad with colored paper and a pen with all colors of ink to draw with while she had her coffee. She took me everywhere with her, I was like her shadow. And I loved it.

We were inseparable

Then she was gone. I remember the cancer coming back but at eight years old I didn’t really understand it. I went to every single chemo appointment and watched the nurses draw blood, fascinated. I never realized how bad she felt. I never thought anything of her losing her hair. Now that I’ve seen other people go through chemo as I’ve gotten older, I can’t imagine how she remained active with me despite the suffering she must have endured.

I remember her funeral. The day of her passing and the memorial will forever be burned into my mind. I cried and never stopped. I remember hundreds of carnations and a lot of purple-her favorite color. I didn’t realize how many people were at her service because my parents, aunt, and uncles kept me shielded from the others. Mom later told me there were a lot of people there, which makes sense considering she seemed to know everyone. I still can’t listen to Garth Brooks’ “The Dance” without uncontrollably sobbing.

Eventually the grief subsided. But fourteen later it reared its ugly head again. I was sitting in the LA airport on my way back from Japan and the absolute worst time of my life. I was blindsided by divorce from the person I had given up everything for. I sat in that airport, not wishing to talk to anyone but realizing I’d have to let some people know what had happened.

I sent emails and text messages, vague and short. I didn’t talk to anyone about it for months. Sitting in that airport it hit me, I only wanted to talk to one person—my Memaw. And I couldn’t.

I needed her. She would know what to say. She’d be pissed at first and probably want to go kill him herself. Then she’d help me pick myself up and dust myself off. I had other relatives/friends that were more than happy to do so, but I wanted her. I wanted her perception and her comfort.

I had never felt so cheated in my life. I needed her guidance at that moment but what about the other times in my life? I never had her to run and talk to during my preteens and teen years as I grew and my views of the world changed. I never got to talk to her as a young adult, trying to figure out who I was and what I wanted in life.

She would have been sixty-seven this July 30th. She should still be here, laughing at my bad luck, listening to my stories as I experience more life, helping me get past my doubts. Instead I imagine what I think she would have said. I think I do a pretty good job but it’s not the same.

Cancer is a bitch.

Memaw and a tiny me

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Why are Holidays Difficult?

Published November 29, 2012 by Tabby

Usually around Thanksgiving until just after the New Year, I deal with depression far worse than any other time of the year. I am not anti-Christmas, contrary to popular belief. I’ve been pondering why the holidays are so difficult for me. In addition, I’ve included some tips that may help. What’s your way to remain calm throughout the holidays?

 1. Winter was not a good time for my ancestors

Several far gone ancestors suffered and died during the winter months. In my lifetime, the deaths of family members have mostly occurred in the latter portion of the year. Not only do I always lose at least one family member, I am reminded of who is missing at the family dinners.

 2. Stress

I take more anxiety medication during the holidays than any other time, including finals week of the semester. Deciding which family members to see when in a short amount of time prove the largest stress. I love seeing and visiting with family but it often results in logistical nightmares trying to get everyone’s schedule to agree. Then there are overnight accommodations and a resulting lack of sleep for two days. By the end of the three day holiday, I am exhausted and sleep deprived, haven’t had a moment to myself except for in the shower, and tired from resisting from being cranky. Holidays require an extra day in which to recover.

It is at this time that it becomes more than apparent that I am not Suzie Homemaker. I abhor cooking (but not baking), which the holiday seems to revolve around. On the other hand, I am very good at gift wrapping.

Gifting also makes me nervous. On the show The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon spazzes over gift giving, worrying that it will not be what the recipient wants, appropriate cost, etc. I have similar worries, especially living on a student budget.

On top of all the personal stress, I also use winter break as a time to complete school projects that would otherwise be impossible to complete during the regular semester. Because I am not enrolled in classes, most people do not understand that I still have work to do. As a result, I am seen as avoiding people.

 3. I am not a Christian         

As an Agnostic, Christmas is a time when I am bombarded with “Keep the Christ in Christmas,” tirades against the term “Xmas,” etc. While I am not opposed to Christianity, I do not appreciate it shoved down my throat for three months. And heaven forbid you mention Christmas came from a Pagan holiday. I have often wished to leave the country for a less religious one during this time.

 4. I remember the dreams not yet obtained

For some reason, my mind chooses the end of the year to analyze my life. Most often these thoughts go towards what I want that I still have yet to accomplish. Most of this involves anxiety as to how my personal life will turn out. I overanalyze personal relationships and their possibility in leading to a happy and fulfilling future.

 5. It’s frickin’ cold

I am a person that doesn’t handle cold temperatures well. I have Raynard’s Phenomenon, which is a fancy term for extremities that turn colors and experience frostbite at higher temperatures than normal people. So not only am I stressed, my skin is dry and itchy, my hands and feet are in constant pain. On the positive side, they turn pretty festive colors.

If it snows or ices, I am forced to remain in an apartment for multiple days, with or without power. While one snow day is amazing, after multiple days of the same 1,200 square foot hell, it starts to turn into a small scale version of The Shining. I’ve been so desperate to get out I’ve walked somewhere. The lack of sunlight is also not conducive to any kind of happiness.

 6. Unrealistic expectations and overcommercialization

Due to the millions of Hallmark commercials and displays, Norman Rockwell arts, Coca-Cola ads, we see Christmas as a perfect, nuclear family-oriented day. Kids will be polite and quiet, excited for their Christmas gifts. The adult women will be happy to spend all day in the kitchen while the men will sit calmly watching football. In the evening, the perfect dinner with perfect tableware will be served to a quiet, mingling family. And afterwards, the dishes magically disappear, the kids fall asleep with their new toys, and the adults share a small glass of wine while marveling at the glorious Christmas tree. This does not happen, at least as far as I know.

However, due to these expectations we are often a little disappointed and depressed with the way our Christmases actually turn out. Maybe we have to spend the majority of time traveling between divorced parents, distanced siblings, or keeping some family members from killing others. Some relative will ask the embarrassing and inappropriate questions of ‘why aren’t you married?’ ‘Why don’t you have kids,” or ‘You’ve gained weight.’ This will also cause an acceleration of reason number four. ‘Yes, I’m not married, thanks for pointing that out.’

The “holiday blues” affect many people. If you have a family or friend that may seem a little more blue than normal, don’t simply call them a Grinch. They may be dealing with more than you know.

 Suggestions to prevent holiday stress and depression

 1. Snuggies, blankets, portable heaters, fireplaces, and hot chocolate

            Comfy conditions definitely help, especially when it’s cold outside

2. Make realistic expectations for the holiday season

            It is what it is.

3. Pace yourself. Do not take on more responsibilities than you can handle.

            Learn to say no. And don’t feel guilty about it-you are only human.

4. Live in the moment, focus on the “right now”

            Rather than the fourteen million things you need to do, enjoy whatever is happening

5. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment and sadness by comparing today with the “good old days” of the past.

6. Find holiday activities that are free

Look at at holiday decorations, go window shopping. You could also have movie or video game marathons.

7. Limit your consumption of alcohol         

Alcohol is a depressant. Excessive drinking will only increase your feelings of depression.

8. Try something new. Celebrate the holidays in a new way

            But don’t get too excited until you have the agreement of your significant other/family. Some are not as open to changing their holidays or creating new ones.

9. Spend time with supportive and caring people.

10. Make time for yourself!

“Me” time reduces the homicide rate

11. Let others share the responsibilities of holiday tasks

12. Keep track of your holiday spending

Overspending can lead to depression when the bills arrive after the holidays are over. Extra bills with little budget to pay them can lead to further stress and depression.

13. Be crafty!

I find that doing a craft, which can be holiday oriented or not, can be very relaxing. Then you can give away your crafts as gifts. One year I made ornaments. I have also gotten together with a friend and made our Christmas crafts together.

14. Remember the holidays will end

Bummed…Depression and Suggestions to Beat It

Published November 14, 2012 by Tabby

I found this article on a wonderful website for quitting Adderall for adult ADHD. Since I’m currently experiencing this, I find it very helpful and comforting that other people have the same symptoms. However, this article focuses on tips to beat depression, which can happen to anyone, regardless of the reasons. I hope it helps.

Mike, “How to Beat Depression,” Quitting Adderall.com, http://quittingadderall.com/how-to-beat-depression/ (accessed November 14, 2012)

Depression is often a huge part of quitting Adderall. Most people know that creation and productivity is good, and that idleness and sloth is bad, so when you temporarily strip yourself of your ability to produce, you understandably feel worthless for a while.

The two key points to remember about post-Adderall depression are: 1. It can help you keep moving and 2. It is not permanent.

You must constantly fight your depression. Do not let it take you. A great philosopher once said “you are either moving forward, or you are deteriorating”. Remember that and live by it.

Step 1: Identify Depression Triggers

For most people, depression does not occur randomly, even though it feels random sometimes. You’ll feel like “oh, now I’m depressed again…out of nowhere”, but if you look closely, you can trace most bouts of depression back to a cause or a combination of causes.

Here are some examples of depression triggers

1. Direct triggers: Your ex calls and tears your heart out, unknowingly kicking you while you were already down. You were having an alright day but now you feel like total shit…and every negative thing starts piling up…you start spiraling downwards.

The Antidote: When you get a direct deperession trigger, remember that this bout of depression is just about the trigger event. Don’t let your brain invite all of these other horrible thoughts into the mix. Keep yourself focused on the one thing that triggered the depression.

Direct triggers can be avoided if they have a consistent source. For example, if half of your conversations with your ex girlfriend/boyfriend end in your severe depression, don’t talk to them for a while, or have one difficult conversation to put yourself on better terms with them.

2. The un-epiphany: You suddenly realize something that totally blows. Maybe a memory hits you and you suddenly understand the full, terrible implications of it. Or maybe you realize that a current effort is going to be much more difficult that you originally thought.

The Antidote:  The most depressing thing about un-epiphanies is that you feel helpless to do anything about them at first. The instant you figure out something you can do to address or accept the facts revealed by the un-epiphany, you depression about it will start to go away. That’s the key with un-epiphanies:  Find out what you can do about it and start doing it.

3. Culmination events: Sometimes all the little fears and doubts that nip at your heels every day will build up to fever pitch and body-slam you. Then you must fight them off before you can stand up again. Sometimes that takes days or weeks.

The Antidote: Culmination depression is like an evil potion, made up of a slew of painful ingredients. The key is to make the depression potion less toxic by cancelling out the ingredients one by one. Put literally: The only cure for a culmination event is either to shove it back down (it will come back later) or make significant movement on your goals…towards being a better, happier, more accomplished person….towards shutting one of those negative voices up once and for all.

Step 2: Develop Your Own Anti-Depression Tactics

The name of the game with fighting depression is Change your Mind. You have to figure out ways to trigger a mood shift, like your own natural antidepressant. Most tactics involve distracting yourself, or throwing your brain into a different, happier, more productive perspective.

Here are some examples of anti-depression tactics…

Go to work: Even if your job sucks, it still forces you to act rationally and keep your chin up for appearances sake. This is why it’s important for depressed people to fill their life with some obligations. Obligations, though stressful, can keep you sane and moving by default.

Go run an errand (go outside): Depression tries to keep you indoors, isolated in your cave with your worries. Sometimes breaking the cycle is as easy as stepping outside or taking a drive, even to do something mundane like going to get groceries.

For the love of God, get the fuck out of bed: You’ll be tossing and turning under the covers, telling yourself that nothing is possible, and from that position, nothing is.

The depression nap: Let the depression carry you to bed, kill a couple hours of the day, then wake up and reset. Make sure you have something to do when you wake up or your funk will continue. Note that this doesn’t work if your depression has lasted longer than a day.

Force yourself to hit bottom: Sometimes you’re expending so much effort trying to fight the depression and you know you’re losing the battle. Then you hit bottom, and you start climbing up again. If all else fails, dive, dive, dive. Until you crash. Then rebuild. Note that this is painful and should only be a worse-case tactic.

Small moves on your goals: You’ve heard me say else where on this site that “A success per day keeps the depression at bay”. I’m a huge believer in this. When the depression voice calls you a failure, succeed, and silence it. You have no idea how small a success it can take some time. Hell, sometimes just cleaning your room will do the trick. Other times it will take something bigger like submitting a job application.

Face festering problems: Sometimes you can use your depression to move yourself radically forward crazy acts of desperation. When you’re in medium-spirits, it can be scary to send a job application in that you really care about. When you’re wallowing in misery, you can say “fuck it something pull me out of this” and click the button with your last breath. You can also redirect your depression into physically productive tasks like “move crap out of old house” when you don’t feel like doing anything mental.

Google your fears: So much of what the depression voices say is a lie; truth can often be the antidote. If the source of your depression is worry, do some research. Google your fears and more often than not you’ll feel better afterwards.

Step 3: Avoid Depression Accelerators

For all the activities that help you beat and conquer depression, certain activities will make your depression worse. Here are some examples.

Drinking Alcohol: Using alcohol to escape an emotion is a dangerous slippery slope. It’s terribly easy for this response to depression to become habitualized. Even if it helps you feel better for an hour or two , you’re pre-screwing the next 24 hours of your life. Being depressed and drinking alcohol pretty much garuntees that you will be depressed when you wake up the next day hung over.

“Fuck it” mentality: Do not let go of all the noble things you have commited yourself to just because you’re angry at your depressed state.  Many professional organizations like NA and AA warn against the “fuck it” mentality, and rightly so. Doing this for more than one day will engender failure at things you were previously succeeding on…thus prolonging your depression.

Mental cutting: “Cutting” is the practice of physically cutting yourself. Teenage girls seem pretty into this these days, but it’s been around for a while as a psychological compulsion…long enough to be diagnosed, investigated, and treated. Having dated a cutter who was also a psych major (and thus could explain it to me in technical terms), I’ve learned that most people cut to feel alive. Some people do this in their brain. Especially depressed people. They bring up painful thoughts and memories because they are painful, like a cutter slicing into their arm. If this applies to you at all, you must stop. It’s totally abnormal and unhealthy for you to drag yourself down unnecessarily like that. Normal, healthy people do not think like that.

Evading big problems: You must make a habit of making small moves on your goals…you must make little successes frequently. If you let your problems linger and fester, they will grow so sore that they consume you. This is where Culmination Events come from (discussed above, under depression triggers).

Step 4: Condition your reaction to depression

The ultimate goal in fighting depression is to change your perspective as quickly as possible so that it naturally puts you in a happier, healthier, more productive mental state. The quickest way to do this is movement. Once you are aware of your depression triggers, and of the activities that help you fight them, then you must condition yourself to react to depression with your depression-fighting tactics, instead of wallowing in the crappy feelings.

You have to train yourself to recognize that depression is starting, and immediately take steps to beat it back and come out on top.

Step 5: Understand the natural purpose of depression

Depression has a natural place in the human mind. It is like pain. It lets you know when you are injured, and when you have a wound that needs to be treated.

Depression is a hunger…for movement, for fulfillment. Feed it.

 

Getting Over a Breakup…or Anything

Published November 12, 2012 by Tabby

As the third anniversary of the stupidest decision I’ve ever made is coming up, I’ve wondered if there are stages of working through the grief. And how do you know when you’re done with it? Every time I’ve gone through a rough patch, I’ve been able to trace defined steps of grief: shock, manic action, depression, acceptance, and realization. The one time I truly believed the world was falling down, I oddly didn’t have any of these normal steps. It was overwhelming shock, emotional and physical pain, and then nothingness. I shut down completely and went emotionally numb. I had no idea of what a normal way to cope was. Now a lot of people may be thinking, ‘Jeez, it’s been three years, get over it already.’ I’m over “it” and what happened, but not quite the trust that I have the ability to survive anything like that again or cope like a normal person. Sometimes I wonder, what’s going to put me back in that mental/emotional place I don’t ever want to go again? I found this article that sums it up, the healthy ways to cope. It’s specifically for breakups, but I think it could apply to other grieving times as well.

Mark Banschick, MD: Getting Over Him In Six Steps
By Mark Banschick, MD
Posted: Nov 8, 2012, 3:00:57 AM
Huffington Post

You’ve been dumped. It feels like hell, and you don’t know what to do. What will it take to get over a nasty affair, or worse, an unexpected divorce? And will you or your kids make it?

The key is to your recovery is to take back control and own your life. Acceptance is mandatory. As hard as it sounds, there’s no moving forward as long as you’re mired in regret, anger or fear. This is not to say that you don’t have to protect yourself, and sometimes, your children. He may be manipulative. She may be dangerous. Acceptance does not mean passivity, it means living in the present, the future and not in the pain of the past.

Here are six steps to feeling yourself again:

Mourn: You sacrificed a lot for your marriage and it didn’t work out. Feeling hurt, anger, remorse, guilt, or shame is normal. You will have to go through the steps of grief one by one: denial, bargaining, anger, depression and acceptance. Get a good therapist and grieve properly. You may still be angry with your narcissistic ex wife or your adulterous husband, and that is a part of the healing process. If, however, you get stuck in one of the phases of grief like anger or depression, make sure that you’re in good hands.

Admit: Admit that you cannot control everything. It is hardly productive to focus on the “what ifs” of the past. Admit that breaking up cost you something — be it emotionally, financially, or both. Bad things do happen to good people.

Trust: Have faith that you won’t feel like this forever. Healing is what your body and soul really wants. And healing is what your children want. Perhaps this is an opportunity for spirituality. Many people are comforted by the sense of being held by a God who cares. If you’re not inclined toward religion, perhaps get in touch with the grandness of the world. See your story as the part of a complete human experience. Meditate and observe. It can liberate.

Forgive: Forgive yourself, forgive the universe, and if possible, forgive your ex. Understand that everyone carries their own injuries, and that he or she may be fighting his or her own demons.

Make Centered Decisions: To forgive is not to forget. Become more aware so that you can move forward. If this means self-protection, then self-protect. If it means allowing your kids to see an ex you hate, but who is a loving parent, allow it to happen. Wounds of the past should not prevent you from making sound decisions. Plus, taking care of business properly feels good.

Accept: You are now in a place where you can understand what happened to you more clearly. Maybe your narcissistic husband or boyfriend did not truly love you. Acceptance is necessary, and at some point, you need not fight the past. It means seeing things clearly.
In the aftermath of a divorce, your emotions may seem overwhelming. I urge you to experience them all, from the outrage to the hurt to the self doubt and the fear of what comes next. Grief work is required, and it’s a necessary component of healing.

Grief is the spiritual equivalent to the body slowly healing a bad wound. It gets triggered time after time, overwhelming when least expected. But it gets worked through and the wound ultimately heals.

Life is not fair.

Loss hurts. If he left you, then you are holding a bag of resentment and hurt. If you left him, you’ve been grieving the loss of your marriage for some time. It’s a big loss. We all want to rage at the world, or crawl into a depressed spot when we feel the injustice and randomness of our pain.
Acceptance heals. Real acceptance is a gift — for you and for everyone else in the world. If you try and shortcut your healing, you will not get there. Losing a relationship is a loss and grieving is required. Just know that there is hope, a brighter tomorrow and that true acceptance can help you and your children get there.

Acceptance is an evolutionary good because acceptance doesn’t mean passivity. It means freedom.

Oh What a Loss and Resulting Void: Goodbye to an Old Friend

Published October 11, 2012 by Tabby

Yesterday afternoon I lost my bearded dragon, Gimpy. I had had her since I was nineteen years old and she was about six or seven years old. I’m grieving similar to those who have lost a family member or close friend, because I have. For many of you, you may not know what a bearded dragon is or say, “big deal? It’s just a lizard. It’s not like it was a dog or something.” Gimpy was more than “just a lizard,” and this is why.

I got Gimpy for my nineteenth birthday from my now-ex boyfriend’s parents. We drove to a pet store in Shawnee, OK and I picked out the adorable five inch bearded dragon. I loved her instantly, with her inquisitive eyes. On the car ride home, I noticed she was very still in her too-small box. So I opened it and let her sit in my hand. She was calm and seemed to enjoy both being out of the box and looking at me. I noticed she was missing her back foot and part of her tail. It was an old wound, with no bleeding or sores. The pet store owner had said she wasn’t taken out of the cage with her mother in time and they tend to nip babies. I had a rough childhood too and could commiserate with her. I was asked if I wanted to take her back and exchange her and I felt that would have been like taking a baby back to the hospital after giving birth. Yeah, I was that attached and protective from just the car ride home.

At the time, I lived with the now-ex boyfriend, sharing his bedroom at his parents’ house. I held her and played with her every single day at multiple times. She loved to run on the bed and climb the blanket mountains I’d make her. Eventually, she became part of how I coped with stress and bad times. I’d simply pick her up and carry her around, which always made me feel better.

Another thing that hit me when I lost her was how much I’ve gone through since I was nineteen and that she was with me for all of it. I’m not saying I didn’t have family and friends to lean on, but I often don’t vocalize my feelings, and she was right there in every bedroom I lived in from then on. She was the one I held, snuggled with, and cried with. She saw me at some high points and some of the lowest in my life. She never talked back or told me how stupid I was being but she did sometimes give me the stank eye.

She saw me through three college degrees, often running around on the bed while I did homework. She’d then tire herself out and sleep in the bend of my elbow when she was small or against my neck as she grew. She saw me through five moves and always viewed new surroundings not with fear but curiosity. She saw me through the departure of my now-ex, planning a doomed marriage, and the long and torturous process of abandonment and divorce. She saw me pick myself up and move on my own. She saw me to the happier time in which I now reside. And now she’s gone.

 In a lot of ways she served as the last bridge between now and my nineteen year old self. She reminded me of how much I had survived through, in a good way. So full of personality, I always loved how she never wanted me to put her down. How she tolerated other people in my life (despite always giving them the stank eye) but always loved me most, unconditionally. I will always remember her strong character and the wonderful memories. But the best people, and bearded dragons, leave the biggest voids when they leave us. Goodbye, Gimpy.

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