What Do We Do With Grief?

 

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Twelve years today,

your spirit whirled away,

far out of reach. 

It took all of these years

to move from the constant grief,

to face the fears

of a life with out you.

To see through the darkness 

that you held the light to.

In my heart the nostalgia sustains.

It’s the memories i keep 

that give me courage to face each day.

It’s been a treacherous journey just to get this far,

I wear proudly on my soul, the scar.

Today I feel that grief again,

like a dam trying to hold the flood

I tense up.

Afraid to feel,

my logic scrambles, how do we cope?

Throw yourself in homework,

paint, create!

Channel the grief for better.

For better my spirit screamed, now that’s just mean!

What do we do with grief?

We feel it,,we let the sorrow in, we honor the loss, we sit with that pain

because reality is, my life will never be the same.

Her smile, laughter and wisdom

are not in the flesh,

yes, she’s with me, but it’s not the same.

It’s not fair, my sadness weeps,

my daughter doesn’t have a grandmother

and its fucking sad, my grief bellows.

I let the flood take over me,

run through me, and fill me.

In the arms of my daughter

I set the tears free.

I am so blessed to have her, 

we are like you and me!

It is true, I have lost part of myself forever,

and it is also truth we are all together.

It’s okay to feel sad

my sorrow whispers.

It won’t consume

like it once had.

A cardinal appears

and I know you are near.

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This cardinal appeared a few hrs ago, right after I finished a good cry.

19429936_10212322039393646_8990911526266190717_n RIP my angel ❤

Parenting and Mental Illness

 

 

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Parenting is like the ocean. Somedays are rough and turbulent, other days more calm and serene. Learning to go with the flow of the waves is the challenge.

Being a single parent it often feels like you are alone and swimming against the current.

When you are a single parent with mental illness, raising a child with mental illness;  it feels at times like we are both drowning.

My daughter was 6 years old when my mother died and my mental breakdown followed. Despite struggling with deep depression, I swallowed my tears and used every bit of strength to provide for my daughter; but, there were times when I couldn’t move weighted down with sorrow. I think my sadness scared her because I was all she had, and my condition threatened our stability.

She was often emotional and had major separation anxiety since childhood. She often threw fits when I had to leave, and she hated night time. She cried to sleep with me most of the time. Family and friends would comment and suggest that I should get her on medication, or I shouldn’t let her sleep with me, or she needed help. I didn’t believe any of it. I just wanted to pacify her fear.

I started her in counseling when she was 10 years old as a preventive measure. She had been through some trauma and I thought it would be helpful if she had someone else in her life she could talk to.

When she was 12 years old she started cutting herself. I can not express the horror in my heart as my babygirl felt compelled to hurt herself. I have a memory of tucking her into bed one night and noticing some cuts at the bottom of her pajama leg, as I lifted the material up I discovered a whole paragraph carved into her skin. Nooo! Not again!

I have another memory of coming home from the grocery store, and as I opened the door, she was on the kitchen floor in tears, “Mommy, I didn’t want to do it.” “I can’t stop myself.” There was a large steak knife stabbed into the cupboard door. Cuts on her arms. She had taken handfuls of ibuprofen. To the hospital we went.

I was completely traumatized and couldn’t leave her alone at all. The school called several times a week for me to come pick her up, because she had hurt herself or had thoughts of doing so. That year she was placed in the state hospital five times and endless trips to the ER.

She continued in therapy, DBT groups and we had family therapy. She did really well using her skills to refrain from cutting for four years, until she turned 17 years old. The pressure of her approaching adulthood got the best of her. We have spent the last year in and out of hospitals and programs. She refuses medication, so there is only so much treatment that is available to her. She is now doing better but the depression and mood swings are mainstay.

Her anxiety about becoming an adult is partially my fault. She lacks confidence in her ability to take care of herself, because I have always protected her. I lacked in structure because of my own depression. I failed to discipline effectively because of her eruptions. I try not to beat myself up and I truly know I have done the best to my ability; but, still feel guilt.

Today I woke up to her crying and bellowing. I held her and let her release it. There is nothing I can do or say to make it better. I feel completely helpless. A few hours later she is crying again. It is draining and I wonder how much more I can take. Will she ever be able to be on her own?  I start feeling hopeless. Then I catch my own depression. The tricks my mind is trying to play on me. Trying to convince me that it is worse than what it is. Taking me to a dark place that is all too familiar.

Truth is, I can’t take away the pain, the fear or the mental illness. I can support and love her while she learns to love herself. I watch patiently while she figures out how to cope with her own mood. She went for a walk as I write. We both need space to calm our own minds. We are very close, too close maybe. Our feelings effect each other on deep levels.

Some days are filled with laughter and happiness. Days that are sunny and the surf is good.

Then there are others gloomy and gray, and we are pedaling water furiously just to stay afloat.

 

photo by LanWu on Deviantart

 

 

 

Update: Chaos, Upheaval and Change

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Happy 2017 Everyone!  I feel like I am still purging 2016. I hate that I haven’t blogged in so long; but, my life has been in a constant state of chaos.  If you read my last update, then you know last year was a rough one for me.  After my meltdown, I regrouped and started prepping for winter by going back on my antidepressant (Wellbutrin) and increasing my Vitamin D. I always get depressed in the winter, so I figured preparing better might help. The holidays were around the corner which has its own stress; but, somehow wipes away when family gathers and laughter and love fill my heart.

I had a few good months after my last update; but, then December hit me hard. My daughter was sinking into a depression. I believe part of it was because she was feeling anxiety and pressure becoming an adult. She turns 18 in June. She dropped out of her DBT group, and then her dance program. She loves dance, so this was a big red flag. We started talking about residential treatment; but, here in NH there isn’t much available, especially if you don’t have money. She decided to try medication. The psychiatrist put her on Seroquel. She hadn’t slept in weeks, and the first night on the medication she slept like a baby, and it warmed my heart. She also started seeing her counselor twice a week instead of once. Things felt better for a second. Then she started talking to and meeting up with a couple of older men she met on the internet. Talk about a mother’s nightmare. I absolutely insisted on meeting the first guy who was 22years old. I had them meet in the mall figuring it is a public place, got his full name, address and telephone number. The second guy she snuck out to meet.

I woke up in the middle of the night to a person laying on my floor with their arm outreached for what I figured out later was my purse. They had a black hat on and a flannel. I reached down and touched their head, and questioned, Serenity? I thought it was my daughter and she couldn’t sleep again, and came in to  curl up as she has so many times before. The second I touched their head, they took off swiftly, ran down the stairs and out my back door which was left open a crack. Not fully awake, I quickly assumed it was Serenity and she was sleepwalking on her Seroquel. I searched the neighborhood, calling her name. After about 15min of trying to find her, I knocked on my sisters door and she and her son came over my apartment as I called 911. Shortly the police were over taking her description. I said she was wearing a black hat; but, then I saw on our stand the only black hat either of us own, and her flannel was hanging in the hallway. Now, I was confused and unsure what she was wearing. The officer took my info and went searching with flashlights through the neighborhood. To no avail, they had to call in a dog to search. I gave the officer her pillow case to have the dog sniff out. Again, no Serenity. The fire department came and used thermal imaging to try to find her. No success. They finally concluded that she must have took off and they left. I remembered her saying she met a 25yr old online, and now I was terrified what may become of her. About 5am, Serenity came through the back door. By this time, I had picked up my other sister too. As hard as it was adjusting to both my sisters moving close to me, I sure was happy to have their support.

“Serenity!” I screamed and threw my arms around her. Where were you? Why were you in my room at 1am, on my floor? She admitted she had snuck out to meet this guy; but, she swore it wasn’t her on my floor, and that she had left around midnight. It dawned on me that there was an intruder in my room and was reaching for my purse. I called the police to report she was home. The officer came over and gave her a gentle lecture about the fact that nothing good can come out of a 25yr old man meeting a 17yr old girl in the middle of the night. He went on to tell her that I swore by her and believed she was sleepwalking, and that they used about $5000. worth of resources trying to find her. Serenity at this point was crying. She gave us the guys name, and my sisters and I went on the internet to search for him. He had a lot of dark stuff on his Facebook page. I was extremely concerned. I wondered if somehow the intruder in my room was connected to him. Regardless, I told Serenity that it IS connected; because of she left the back door open. I could’ve been robbed, raped or killed. I grounded her and we had an appointment the next day with the psychiatrist.

The psychiatrist wanted to increase her Seroquel. He explained that the medication isn’t at a high enough dose to help with her mood disorder. At this point I am a mess, and she is out of control. I know medication isn’t going to solve this. We saw her counselor right after the psychiatrist. She told us about an intensive outpatient program for teens. Great. Serenity and I were arguing and when we got home she ran up the stairs, smashed her full length mirror, grabbed a shard and cut her arm all up. I hear her screaming mama, and I see the blood, the mirror, I fall to my knees, and call 911….again.

At the hospital, Serenity is as sweet as pie. I am angry inside and not falling for it. I can’t believe this is where we are at. She hadn’t been this bad since 12-13yrs old, when she had to be hospitalized 5 times for self harming and suicidal thoughts. The good thing was she was ok. I was hoping she would get admitted somewhere so they could help her stop this path of self destruction; but, Serenity knew what to say to keep herself out of the hospital, and we agreed on trying the outpatient program that her counselor had mentioned.

At this point I am feeling distant, angry and hopeless. We are normally very close; but, I couldn’t even talk to her. On Christmas morning, she breaks down because I had been so closed off from her. I hold her while she cries, and outpours her emotions. I cry with her. Then we agree that we will try this outpatient program, and that we will get through this. First, we are going to have a great Christmas. After we have our Christmas morning we are all heading to my brothers and our family will be together.

My sister video calls me and says her son fell down the stairs and they’re going to the emergency room. All I can see is my little nephew with a neck brace on in the back of an ambulance. I honestly snapped inside and went on auto pilot. We got to the hospital and thankfully my nephew is okay. He got a staple in his head. My daughter and I are starving and went to the cafeteria. She looks at me and says she wants a turkey sandwich. We’ve both been vegetarians for almost 2years. Let’s do it I replied. Finally, we are all leaving the hospital and head to my brothers where we had an incredibly beautiful Christmas.

The day after Christmas, my other sister who wasn’t feeling well enough to make it to our brothers, says she is moving back to Pa. I was extremely concerned that she would move back and use drugs again. It was too much to handle and I told her to give me a day. The next day I managed to go say goodbye to her and hear her out. She explained that financially she could be making strides in Pa. and she had a safe, supportive environment to go to. She missed her kids. My daughter and I exchanged hugs and tears with her and she left.

The very next day pesticide control was coming to inspect my apartment and confirmed my fearful suspicion, bedbugs. We had less than a week to bag up every belonging, and were instructed to buy mattress covers, and get ready for treatment. I dug into my small savings to purchase the covers and then went into physical exhaustion bagging up and laundering our entire apartment.Not to mention I was already emotionally spent. My BFF/brother in law was now staying in the living room with us for a few days, because he was having trouble at home

The morning they came to treat, I was throwing up. I had to get my 3 cats into the car and stay out of the apartment for 6 hrs. I asked them if I should throw away my furniture, and she said she had no opinion and that they were going to treat it. On the third and what was supposed to be the last treatment, I am informed that both mattresses, and my living room chair and couch are infested, with adult, babies, and larvae, and that they had been feeding. Now, I had to throw away all my furniture. Plus, they said I had to relaunder everything, and my place was too cluttered. I had to move my things into a storage. I was exasperated. Why didn’t they tell me this before? How was I supposed to afford a storage? Even if I could afford a storage, I knew I had clutter that needed to be tossed. IMy sister made an appointment with the health inspector for me. I went in circles trying to get some answers. Basically, the landlord was doing minimal action in order to be legally compliant. In reality, they should be treating the whole building and preferably heat treatment. Regardless, it didn’t change the fact that I had 5 days to complete these instructions. I spent 4 days, from morning to night sorting, tossing, crying. They came to treat again last Monday.

Meanwhile, my daughter started the outpatient program. Because she refuses meds, the insurance won’t cover it, so we have to pay each day she goes. Last Friday, she called me from school with thoughts of self harm. I picked her up and she went to her program. A few hours later, I received a call that they feel she needs a crisis evaluation, she is having suicidal thoughts. We spent two nights in the ER and Sunday she was admitted to a treatment hospital in Vermont. I was hopeful that finally she would get therapy she needed; but, again because she refuses meds she is being discharged tomorrow.

This past Monday, pesticide control came to do an inspection and finally got the good word that they didn’t see any bedbugs. However, I am leery, and will be very careful unpacking our things. I am also wondering when I do get furniture again, will they resurface? Are they hiding in the walls waiting?

So, my friends, this is why I haven’t blogged in awhile, and these are just the highlights. Presently, I am sitting on my bean bag chair next to my air mattress with everything I own in clear plastic bags. I await a family meeting over the phone with my daughter, and the hospital staff. I am on my third cup of coffee, and feeling more tired than ever. Last year was hell, and this year feels the same thus far. Outside my personal life, it seems the country is feeling some radical chaos itself. President Trump and all the upheaval is felt by all of us.

I pray that soon the sun will shine on us again. That all this change will even out and life will be bearable. That the chaos and upheaval will pay off in a way that was never suspected. Here’s to 2017.

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Sitting on your Birthday

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This morning

I mourn,

sitting with

the memory of

my mom.

The day of her birth

onto this Earth,

playing the tune

of the Cardinal’s song.

Angels dance and celebrate.

I sit with bittersweet fate.

Sending my love

up and out,

beyond the stars.

I sit and weep with

my wounds and scars.

Growth and change,

the season of Fall.

Drenched in pain,

feeling small.

I miss you

sweet mama,

my other half.

Your smile.

Your laugh.

Living in my memories,

you will be

always,

Alive in my

heart and soul,

Today and all days.1376529_10201816702366786_995448202_n.jpg

Anger, Love and Grief

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A few months ago during a therapy session, I was recalling a particular traumatic event. “Where is the anger?” my therapist asked. I was dumbfounded. I told her I didn’t know. I went on to explain that I learned a long time ago to let it go. It was a survival skill. To forgive was to heal. Holding on to anger was unhealthy….

Blah Blah Blah!!!

She was right! Where is the anger for all the horrible things I’ve endured? Abuse, abandonment, rape….why wasn’t I mad?

The following weeks I sporadically tried to get in touch with this emotion and had little results. It was really difficult for me. I had anger that seeped out in self destructive ways throughout my life; but to sit and feel it and process it was another story.

I pondered on it and discovered a few therapy sessions later, that I never had an environment where I was allowed to express anger.  I grew up with an abusive grandmother, and an alcoholic father who you didn’t mess with. I also had my mom, but she was usually too depressed or overwhelmed to deal with such matters. Growing up it isn’t quite encouraged, it’s actually discouraged. Parents frown upon children throwing tantrums or raising their voices. Disciplinary action usually follows. In situations such as abuse, and being raped, of course, you learn that anger only causes more pain. So, you bury it, forget it and try to move on.

Then a few weeks ago. I found some anger and it came from a completely surprising source. My mom. My best friend. I wanted to be angry at abusers and attackers, not my mom; but, you can’t pick that stuff. Whatever needs to be healed will present itself. I was in therapy recalling childhood, and remembered at least one incident where my dad was kind of ragging on my mom, and encouraged me to laugh along with him. I would and then I felt terribly guilty, I was only 5-6yrs old and I didn’t fully understand what was happening; but it didn’t feel good. I would sneak away from my dad’s side to find my mom crying in the other room. I remember apologizing and wanting to hold her, and/or needing to be held myself. She would calmly mumble, “ya, it’s okay” and continue to cry. I don’t remember being or feeling close to my mom before my parent’s divorce. She was  robotic and depressed. My therapist explained to me that not having that mother/child bond while that young is most detrimental to the psyche. I cried, and cried, and cried some more.

It took a few weeks for it to all sink in. I fought believing that my mom wasn’t there for me. It couldn’t be true. I did not want to dishonor her by being angry. Then, the flood gates opened and it all made sense. I was angry. I was angry she was too depressed to be there for me when I was a little child. I was angry she left me to take care of my brother and sister, even though I was proud of her as she worked two jobs to take care of us, it was still okay to be angry. I was angry she left us in my grandmother’s care, even after we talked about the abuse that I and come to find out she too suffered from. I was angry she was often too tired and depressed to hear about our days. I was angry that I became her best friend but not her daughter. I was angry when she confided in me that she took a bottle of pills and wanted to die. I was angry that she never let me express these feelings of frustration. I was selfish, or just like my father, or she couldn’t handle it right now. I was angry she never quit smoking cigarettes, no matter how much we begged. I was angry that she got lung cancer, and never talked about her feelings about it. I was angry she left me. I was angry and it felt good. It felt like I had been carrying that in my body for along friggin time, and it felt good to let it go.

As I got in touch with the anger, I simultaneously processed guilt, love and grief. I loved my mother more than anything in the world. She was my best friend. Was she perfect? Nope. She fucked up a lot. I think the worst was she didn’t allow me to verbalize any of these feelings. My mom had depression, even though we didn’t have a name for it at the time. I now understand depression, and more than sympathize. Getting in touch with the anger was a good release; but, my love for her is still stronger. I miss her everyday.

I am still processing all of the memories and allowing myself to feel them, then I will gather the anger, the love and the grief and put it all in a big bubble, thank it and release it.

 

When you lose your mom~

When you lose your mom,

An astounding amount 

of personal comfort

leaves with her.

If there’s no mom,

there is no one to stroke

your forehead when

you’re feeling down.

There is no one to call,

when you’re feeling alone,

because you’re miles from home

or nobody’s around.

Nobody to laugh with 

over life’s flaws and

idiosyncrasies.

Nobody to do

the happy dance

when you achieve

particular victories.

When you lose your mom,

You have to learn to self soothe,

whether you are sick or sad,

and through good or bad.

When you lose your mom,

no matter your age,

you become an orphan,

alienated, yearning

and disengaged.

You stand with shaky legs

and tread unsure.

When you lose your mom,

part of you goes with her.

A piece of you that 

you never get back

and will forever lack.

So, if you have a mom,

embrace her,

love&cherish her,

and thank her 

for always being on your side.

I did right up to the day

that she died.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY MOM~FOREVER IN MY HEART

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Inspiring Person Essay (by my daughter)

My daughter had to write an essay as part of her application process to her new high school.

She had a few topics to choose from. She chose to write about a person that inspires her.

I am so flattered that she chose me! I was even more honored when I read it.

After she finished the essay, she said, “Phew mom, writing about your life was exhausting!”

I laughed and replied, “Ya, and those are only the highlights!”

She had to ask me for adjectives, highlights& lowlights of my childhood, early adulthood and adulthood.

It was hard for me to reflect on. I had to search for highlights and tried to not sound so dismal with my adjectives; but, she proceeded to compose a beautiful essay about me that brought me to tears. I am such a proud mama!

I share it with you: Inspiring Person Essay, by Serenity Fairbrother