GRIEF IS STRESSFUL
Losing a loved one can cause PTSD and if left unmanaged, has the power to steal your health.
I have been feeling heavy for the last 3 days. Unable to do the things I do on a regular, everyday basis. Why now? Why, after 7 years do I feel like I cannot function at the capacity that I typically do? And by feeling heavy, I mean physically and emotionally. My appetite is down yet I’ve gained weight (inflammation) in just the last few days. My hours of sleep are up, yet I am fatigued. The world is crazy so I cannot really go anywhere, but I can’t seem to accomplish the responsibilities I have around my house/office even though I have the time. I’ve been to church, meditated, prayed and yet my mood is still in the toilet. I am driven and can accomplish anything I set my mind to and right now, I can’t even focus on this post without thinking about doing 5 other things.
I miss my Dad beyond belief. I’m angry that he isn’t here. I’m pissed that he did everything he was told to do and the few things he wanted to try in attempts to heal weren’t supported so we will never know if they could have worked.
My regret of having information and not knowing what to do with it circles back on occasion and slaps me in the face. What if we could have had another year or two of celebrations, holidays, birthdays, laughs, bonfires or random MEMORIES if I’d had just ditched doubt and tried anyways?
It sucks to wonder. I know it wasn’t God’s plan, but I’ll be honest and fully disclose that I don’t like this plan. On most days – months – years, I fully trust in the plan, but there are days like today when my selfish human self says listen God, THIS JUST ISN’T FAIR.
Some things float in my mind like they happened yesterday. Others times I struggle to jog my mind to recall certain points in time. I have to separate myself from everything and sit in silence to flood my mind with all the things I have to be grateful for.
I still have the last text messages we shared.
I still have the last voice mails he left me.
I still remember, crystal clear, the songs he hummed and whistled to that played in his garage.
I can hear his laugh, sarcastic remarks, and the sound of his Mustang coming from blocks away …. I can still smell his cologne and when I close my eyes, I can see him in my backyard teaching my boys how to cut the lawn.
Grief plays tug of war with your emotions. Even after I soak in all the memories that bring a smile to my face, the tears can take over in a flash and just start flowing with no warning and there’s no way to stop them. I don’t get to ask him all the things a girl needs to ask her Dad. I don’t know how to console my daughter when she cries at night because she misses him.
I lose my composure when I speak about him to my sons because they are missing out on so many things he could be helping them with in their lives right now.
I had my grandparents at their ages and the void that is now present without him sometimes screams in our faces. This psychological scream can be so loud that I can feel it in my bones, brining me physical ailments. To know that I can’t hug him and I’ve even forgotten what his hug even feels like kills my spirit at times.
Especially today, the day he went to be with Jesus in eternity, 7 years ago.
Most days, I’m ok and have learned to shed a few tears then fill my heart with gratitude for all of the wonderful memories I have to cherish. I can usually redirect my thoughts of resentment of the one-sided system, before they turn into emotions of anger and frustration.
Praise the Lord that I have been brought to learn and understand how my emotional and spiritual wellbeing is so so important. I would be in big trouble if I never found the techniques to take control of my mind. Grief never ends. It comes and goes in seasons, almost storm like. Mental health is not given the credit that is due when it comes to emotional stressors the power they have over our physical health. I remind myself daily that I am blessed to know just how impactful emotional health is in overall wellness.
It’s a daily practice that I’ve had to learn to incorporate. Without it, I’d be a hot mess probably on a daily basis. Given my “grief storms”, I’m pretty proud of myself for gaining composure of my feelings. It’s a practice and I know I will forever be putting my skills into action.
Let me make it known though, these storms come without warning. Just when I think I’m going to get through a day, anniversary or event without a hitch, the waves come crashing in and I have to work especially hard to re-center myself so that I don’t become lost at sea. Especially when certain days like today come up on the calendar.
Those sounds of the CICU will probably never leave my mind. The monitors, pressure tanks, respirator, alarms, codes being called, staff sending messages over speakers, doctors – nurses – staff talking in huddles. Family and loved one’s weeping.
I had been up for days with my Mom and siblings, clinging onto the desperate prayer that test results would come back and reveal some sort of infection. If that was the case, the specialist could surely determine the best drug to kill it off so my Dad could recover.
This was not the case, however. Staff informed us to “just let go”. His lungs were so badly damaged that there was no recovering, he was struggling terribly to breathe and wanted to go home, but held on as we all desperately prayed for a miracle to happen.
He couldn’t go home to be in peace though, like he wanted. The progression and seriousness of his lung failure put him in an unstable condition and bound him to the hospital. So, instead we filled his room and gathered around his bed, listening to my husband play guitar and sing his favorite songs. We fought tears as his struggle to breathe worsened as the hours passed.
Every so often, he would try to communicate a message, but every ounce of energy he had was devoted to breathing and moving the oxygen mask for long enough to speak a few words wasn’t worth the recovery he had to endure after. Eventually he ran out of energy to sip water from a straw and couldn’t afford to remove the mask from his face.
The night came quickly. Everyone except myself, my Mom and my siblings went home. I sat up in the chair next to him, monitoring every machine like a hawk, ready to cater to whatever need he may have. With tears streaming uncontrollably, I asked him to write “I love you” on a note to each of my kids.
We cried together as he granted my wish. Morning came, my Dad was exhausted and ….. just couldn’t anymore. I asked the nurses if I had enough time to run home to grab my boys and husband, they advised I not leave.
As we gathered around his bedside, my brother played “Easy Like Sunday Morning”, the song my Dad had been listening to on repeat for weeks. We appreciated, thanked, expressed everything on our minds we could think of, told him how much we loved having him in our lives, how much we would miss him, how love he was…..
Then, his nurse stepped forward and injected fatal amounts of morphine into his IV line – swapped his breathing machine mask for a simpler one. He gasped and we witnessed him leave us to go be with Jesus in Heaven.
Haunting. Painful. Nightmarish. Yet thankful to have that time, be by his side and also with my siblings and Mom. I will never forget those moments. They are what keep the torch of his legacy burning. I will never stop sharing his story. He was one of the chosen to save the lives of others. This I know because his lessons have already saved my sister.
There is healing in the feelings. It is when we get stuck that the stress of grief becomes a problem and can manifest into health issues of our own. Feeling anger isn't bad. Trying to live in happiness and sunshine all day every day isn't realistic. Feel, and move on. You deserve it. You are human, God gave us the right and the ability to feel the emotions he created. Use them.
From Graves to Gardens. The waves of grief will forever rise and fall. Thanks be to God for showing me the light to care for myself and my family so that we are able to get through, in faith and love.
The most powerful tool we have to ensure we make better health and wellness choices in the future is KNOWLEDGE.