Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Thoughts on Grieving...Carpe Diem...No Regrets...

A longtime friend of ours lost his father this morning. 
After a hospitalization here they moved him in recent months to live in the city they live in about 3 1/2 hours from here. It appears as if he slowly declined over these months and finally his body gave out.

BAM!!!! I felt blind-sided by the cacophony and tide-pull of yucky feelings that I experienced one and a half years ago when my mom passed away after a seven month decline and hospice care. 

I was surprised by how strongly this triggered some painful memories and awful feelings from the last year of my mom's life.
Some similarities are there for sure, but there are pointed differences as well.
So I am processing and I guess inviting any of you who read this along for the journey.

Both my mother and our friend's father were extremely strong-willed, independent people. 
They met once when I took my mom out for breakfast at a local restaurant and our friend was there with his mom and dad. The minute my mom, Fae and his dad, Lou started talking it was evident that they both had sized each other up and weren't about to let the other one out-opine or out-maneuver the other in the opinion and strong will department. We laughed about it later, but at the time I remember feeling like a little kid and being very uncomfortable in the presence of this undercurrent of equally strong personalities.
They would not have been buddies that enjoyed hanging out with one another.

Lou left the security of his family and struck out on his own because nobody was going to tell him what to do or how to live his life. He did quite well in life as far as making a living and being self-sufficient.
My mom also left the security of the family farm and became a city girl at a very young age for basically the same reasons. She didn't want to fit in someone else's mold for her. She also did quite well for herself.

Both of my mom and Lou were hard people to get close to and to feel you ever really would be let in or know very deeply. They seemed to keep most people at "arm's length".

Even in their declining years they had discomforting similarities.
Neither one wanted others to help him or her and made it difficult to do so even when there were times and situations they could NOT possibly manage on their own. By the time you got around to convincing him or her to accept your help it was not the sweet affair it could have been. Very frustrating!

My mom and I struggled on and off over our lifetime together with our relationship. Lou and his son struggled in the years after his mom's death for a number of years. God granted me the last 7-8 months of my mom's life to change my heart and attitude towards her which amazingly drew her heart out towards me in new and sweetly beautiful ways.
Our friend had just these past few months where that happened, but as his wife said, "It's bittersweet to watch the transformation in the way Lou is relating to him and him to Lou!"

And here is where I've experienced the painful triggers and emotional minefield these past two days.
I have to constantly remember that God GAVE me SEVEN MONTHS of loving and caring for my mom and letting her respond in kind. It was weird and wonderful and too short. Often I felt that critical voice in my head screaming, "Too little, Too late Marsha!!!" Not to mention the hurdles that jump in front of me on a bad day that says, "You put your mother in a nursing home?!?!?!" Even though she refused to come to our home and seeing to her caregiving needs in either our home and definitely in her apartment was quickly disappearing as an option.
When this voice nags at me or screams at me, I have to remind myself of the amazing times together and the redemption within our relationship that was wrought over those 7 months! I need to be forever grateful for what I HAD and not focus on the "if only" and "what if I had_____sooner" fruitless thoughts. 

Now to my point:
Part of the grieving process, if anyone is totally honest, IS the "If only" and "What if". It may or may not be an untruth, a lie the enemy parks in an unguarded part of my mind, but I think that there are legitimate regrets that come with living life as an imperfect human in an imperfect world.
The challenge or the question is, "How do I acknowledge these regrets without dwelling on them or obsessing over them?" More importantly, "How can I grow and learn from this very human dilemma I've experienced?"

I spent time this morning with a friend having tea and talking about my sadness and then praying together for our friend and my own responses triggered by the events of the past 36 hours.
Let me preface this next part by saying that this sweet friend lost a child when he was still a baby and knows the many faces and pitfalls of the lifelong grieving process only too well.
She said that in her opinion part of the grieving process is when someone you care about loses someone in their life and is in the yucky place, for lack of a better description, you relate only too well and sometimes it triggers all those feelings you thought you were done with. You relate because you care for them and you know only too well what they are going through, maybe not exactly as everyone mourns and grieves differently, but in the big picture and even some of the more intimate ways...YOU KNOW...and this makes you sad for them.
The beauty of this is you can offer the gift of empathy and the Bible talks about that in II Corinthians 1:3-5. The NIV version says it best. This is indeed a gift and not to be taken lightly.

Another component of this is that although I may feel feelings from that "yucky place" and it's tentacles threaten to pull me under, I can stand in the Present and remember that I am no longer there and this other person's pain and sorrow is THEIR pain and sorrow, not mine. I do not have to, nor should I, stay there, camp out there! No, indeed I need to remember where I've come from and where I've come to in my own journey and in that I can offer others the real reassurance that this total immersion into the surreal, murky, netherworld of fresh, raw loss and grief is only for a time, only for a season! 

The other takeaway ,at least for me, has been to fully BE in the present moment, not cheat myself, others or God by not fully engaging in my time with others. 
Not put off those ideas or thoughts that present themselves to me at times. You know what I'm talking about. "Hmmm, I really ought to call...or wouldn't it be neat to...or I wish that (this person) and I would spend more time together." 
It's made me painfully aware of how easy technology has made it to rob ourselves and others of UNDIVIDED ATTENTION. So, the cell is getting turned off and/or ignored more and more when I am with others or having a quiet time with the Lord.

As I write this post, my husband has come home and is waiting for me to finish up so we can have the yummy dinner I made and watch a movie together and catch up with each other about our day.

So, I hope this wasn't more glum than I meant for it to be, nor preachy.
I would very much like to hear from anyone who happens across this post as far as their thoughts on all of this.

But, now, I need to seize this moment in time and be fully present with my husband!

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