New Way to be Human

Nov. 18 2004, my Mom was diagnosed with Stage IV Lung Cancer. I started this blog to chronicle her journey. July 19, 2005 she gave her life in the battle. This blog is my place to process through the journey I walked along with her, and now my journey through grief. It's also a place to discuss the effects cancer has on the lives it touches--survivors and caregivers alike. I'm a Navy wife, a Mom, and my mother's daughter now and forever.

Thursday, October 27, 2005


Would you think I was crazy if I told you that it was a really big deal to me that someone offered me a box of tissues, today?

I visited a pastor this afternoon-- One that I don't know very well, which made it more and less scary simultaneously.

And, to my suprise, I cried a lot during this little visit.

During one of these crying spells, I looked up to see the box of kleenex that had been sitting on pastor-guy's desk held out to me. I'm really terrible, because my first thought was, "That's so cheesy... Yeah, like holding out tissues is going to make me feel any better."

My second thought was, "I could so totally have gotten my own tissue. I'm independent. I've been doing all sorts of stuff all by myself for quite a while now."

And then I thought, "But isn't the point of my being here that I don't have to be doing this incredibly overwhelming feeling and grieving stuff by myself if only for a few moments?"

So I took the tissue.

It's been a while since there's been a real, live, warm, breathing person in the room while I'm processing through this stuff. Andy is usually my tissue-offerer (though frequently, I just use his shirt. ahhh, love), but he can't be right now.

It just felt good to have this tiny, little tangible symbol of support.

My nose felt better too.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Expectations vs. The way my grief looks.

I think when people here the 'g word' in reference to specific people, a lot of expectations come up in their minds. When you think of a grieving person you think of someone sitting around crying all the time. You think of tissues, and wearing black, and long faces. You think of people not going out, loud emotional outbursts, the person constantly talking about their loss.

I think sometimes grief doesn't look like that.

I don't meet many of those expectations. I don't think many grieving people do because people grieve in so many different ways. I think in the face of a different sort of loss my grief would look even more different.

When I'm in public, I think I look pretty normal. Truth is, I am pretty normal. I'm still me. I just happen to be in the midst of a process that is bigger than me. But I don't wear that process on my shirtsleeve.

I don't sit around crying all the time. Especially in public. Sure... when I'm driving or sitting somewhere sometimes I *will* be suddenly gripped with tears, but they subside rather quickly and I'm back to business.

I don't talk about my circumstances much. I don't like to be pinned into talking about it when I don't want to, and I get skittish when other people bring it up. That's not to say that I don't need and want people to let me know it is ok to talk if I want or need to, I just don't find myself able to much. If I do talk about it, I don't say much. Being vague works for me. And no, I don't think I fit the typical stereotype of, "Women talk about their feeilngs more." I process mentally a lot. I think about what I am thinking and feeling often, but these days most of that goes on behind the scenes of my words. It's there. It's mine. I'm comfortable with it that way.

I think because grieving folk don't meet the expectations of people, we are often misunderstood. Some people might think we didn't feel our loss deeply. Some people might assume we have 'gotten over it' and thus expect us to be chipper and 'back to normal.'

It is stressful sometimes to feel that people are sort of peering in on your life watching how you are reacting. Wondering about the way you are showing your emotions. It is strange to have even less of a clue than I did before about how to answer the question, "How are you?" and to know that once I do answer, that person is likely thinking to themselves, "But how are you really?"

Actually, that's not true. I do still know how to answer that question. It is, "I'm ok." And yes, I really DO mean it. I hurt and am sad sometimes. My current situation is bizarre and difficult some days. But I am ok. I've just come to believe that okness = I am not spinning off the edge of the world out of control, physically, emotionally, or spiritually. I know God is there. And I know that whether I feel like it or not somehow it is true that, "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well... No matter what."

But it throws people when I say I'm ok in the context of grieving. It doesn't reconcile with that expected picture of grief. My okness is bigger than grief. Grief is something that happens. It just does. It doesn't make me not ok. It just is something that I have to be in right now.

I can't say that I know how I want other people to interact with me, and I am still negotiating how I interact with the world. I related to the words of a journal about grief by Nick Turnbull (, when he mentioned that he got angry at just about every reaction people have to him and his situation when his little boy died. The people who made comments made him mad, the people who said nothing made him mad, the people who inquired after him often made him mad. There was just no winning. I feel that way too. It's terribly unfair to everyone in my life, but I can't seem to help myself.

It's awkward. It's confusing. It's exhausting.

No... I probably don't look like I'm grieving... But I still am.

Friday, October 14, 2005


I miss my Mom.

Thinking about Thinking about Grief

People who know me pretty well--especially my in-person friends, though I'm sure it comes through on-line too--tell me that I am always thinking, and that most of the time the fact that I'm thinking doesn't stop registering on my face.

And what I do is think about stuff. And then think about what I'm thinking about. It all gets very circular sometimes and can get me into trouble if I don't watch it.

All that to say that I have these observational thoughts about grief all the time now. They aren't like, "ouch that hurts" thoughts, though sometimes they spring from things that do hurt. They are just thoughts about the process. Thoughts that come from thinking about thinking about it.

(I'm really blathering here, so I better just get to the point.)

Today's thought was this:

When I get a cold or the flu or just something little and sicky, and I'm on the mend, I usually have a day or two when I try to resume normal activities before my body really feels up to it.

So I'll go out and doing the flight of stairs will just really wind me or I'll just feel so listless that conversing with people takes too much energy, and all of a sudden I will go... Hmmm... I guess I'm really NOT well enough to be out and about.

Well I found out today that grief can be like that too.

We had a weinie roast here at our house tonight for our neighborhood--pretty ambitious for Dad and I, I guess.

Anyway, I was out there and had the same sort of thoughts... I guess I'm not well enough to be doing this afterall. I'm not as far as I thought. This is really taking a lot more out of me than I expected and it's because of where I am in this recovery

I just thought the parallel was interesting. And I think some days I'd be more ready than others to do what I did today. But today felt like one of those early recovery days after an illness when I think I can do more than I really can and feel like I'm gasping for air all day.

So there is my thinking about thinking about grief thought.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

My Loss Isn't Big Enough?

I went to a Grief Recovery group tonight. I was anxious about it. I was afraid it was going to be really 'Come to Jesus-y' and that I would feel that people's pain was being exploited for the purpose of 'winning people to the church.' I guess the up side of the evening was that didn't happen.

I struggle with not feeling like I have a right to feel my emotions. I struggle with thinking "well it could be so much worse, so why am I being so down and whiny about this?" In some ways it's a technique to get out of feeling what is hard.

But tonight, I went to this group hoping to find some company in the process of my grief. Hoping for some guidance and support.

What I came out with was a feeling of invisibility and the subtle message that my loss wasn't big enough to be worthy of needing a grief support group.

I've never deluded myself into thinking that losing my Mom holds a candle to the pain of losing a child or a spouse. I am fully aware that both of those losses must be truly, truly crushing.

I found myself tonight though, longing for some validation in my own loss. Longing to know that I wasn't the only one who felt a gaping hole in her life after her parent died. Longing to know that I wasn't the only one who didn't just 'get over it and go on' as the world seems to demand.

Instead I watched a video and was left out of discussion that centered mostly around the loss of a spouse. I was the only person there who hadn't lost a spouse. I struggled from the get go with all of the things I mentioned above--feeling unworthy of feeling my feelings because the circumstances in my life weren't as big as others'.

The message that I heard loud and clear (whether it was intended or not) was this: It is NOT the natural order of things to lose a spouse or a child, so you will feel awful about that and have a right to. It is the natural order of things to lose a parent so get over it.

I felt invisible. The facilitators facilitated around me. Why wouldn't they? They lost spouses themselves. That was common ground that they had with everyone.

But what about my loss? It might not have been as big, but it was big. It left me feeling big things. It left me with big grief. My loss WAS big. I lost my MOM. The woman who shared her body with me for 9/10 months. The woman who taught me how to be a woman. The woman who was supposed to be here to help me through being a Mommy myself. I lost her just as I was starting to get to know her as a person and not just as a parental entity. Maybe it was the natural order of things, but it didn't seem natural to me. It seemed like one of the largest chunks of my world--one of my stabilizers--fell away beneath me, and I'm still not sure how to stand up without it.

It was also suggested that because those of us who had lost our loved ones to terminal diseases had time to prepare that our experience was easier. That it was still hard and we were still unprepared, "But at least we had that time."

And part of me says, "YES. Thank God we had that time."

Another part of me says, "I'm still trying to figure out that time... That wonderful, horrible time. I'm still trying to figure out THAT on top of my grief."

I don't like feeling invisible or invalidated. Especially in places where I go to seek out validation and support.