Death, Grief and Inexplicable Nightmares

Ugh. Nightmares. I’m just about tired of them.

It does NOT phase me to be with someone when they die. I mean, I don’t see it as a negative experience. I’m good at being fully present for another person’s death. I’m good at opening my heart. Letting the energy flow. I’m good at holding hands and holding space and saying the words that you say to dying people, helping them to let go. Lord knows I’ve done it enough times.

It does NOT freak me out or make me uncomfortable to be around dying people. I know it’s part of life. It doesn’t scare me. It doesn’t make me feel weird or distressed.

In fact, death is one of the most peaceful things I’ve ever been around, in the moment that it takes place. It’s the getting there that is hard and sometimes scary and painful. It’s the living part that is hard. And the grieving. The being “left.” Dying? Dying is easy.

Everything goes quiet – even amongst all the noise, whether it’s chaos or just the whines and whooshes of machines that surround it. Everything goes still for that one, solitary moment…the one when you hold your breath as you wait to see if they’re going to take another one…and then, when they don’t…the release of your own long held inhalation.

I have seen them leave, and I always wonder where they go. What’s really next…? Are they still there, in a different plane of existence? Did they see a light? Did they know they were dying? Did they see something beautiful, or did they see nothing at all?

I mean, there are gross things about it – certain smells and things they do sometimes at the moment after dying, as the body releases them…it’s not “pretty” all the time but it’s not…it’s not that terrible to me, that moment. In that moment, they have something I don’t have: real peace, and the knowledge of what comes next. It’s relief. It’s that final endeavor of living.

I find death to be one of the most precious moments you can share with another human being. And so very often, it feels like a gift…

So why these nightmares. Why? My therapist says I’ve been through a multiple year long trauma that ended with holding another person’s hand as they died. I don’t feel like I’ve been through a trauma. I feel like I shouldn’t be having nightmares. Especially not ones in which my kid is dying.

Maybe I AM losing my mind. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m the only one left of that little family unit that was my family unit all my life. No grandparents. No parents. No brothers or sisters…or are there, somewhere? Maybe that’s it… The fact that I was adopted never phased me, until now. I never really had questions. I never really wondered. I just knew that I was blessed to have a home and to be loved. Not that I’m not now… I just…as we ease up on the one month mark since my mom’s death, something weird is happening inside of me.

WTF, dude. I don’t know…

Excerpts from counseling chats, #1

The last few years culminated into feeling like a dream for the last several months – I have literally survived, I realize now, by living in a whole non-reality, on autopilot, and there are very few everyday experiences and mundane daily tasks that I do now without being in an almost confused state. Like, “what is this?” or, “how did I ever do that…I don’t remember…”

I am beginning to realize that I actually exist – and can exist – as a being separate from continuous worry and fear about/for my mother, and I have completely forgotten how to be that person. I still wake up some mornings, if I’m not already at my moms, with this programmed state of, “I have to go check on my mother,” being the first literal and conscious thought in my head. Even if I stay there, which I haven’t been able to peacefully do yet, I find myself in the mindset that I have to get up every few hours to check and feel guilty when I wake up and think I forgot to set alarms to wake up.

Everyone says, “it’s got to be such a relief, though, since she died…” It is, in some ways. But in others, it is the same, just different, level of stress to readjust to “normal,” which is difficult now anyway because WHAT IS NORMAL in a world of COVID? I focus myself on cleaning and doing what needs to be done before anything else (music, photography, etc.) when the things I used to do I was only able to do mindlessly, really – just as a distraction from insanity.

I don’t know if this will make sense to anyone who reads. It has to sound like the ravings of a lunatic mind – but as I’m remembering my intelligent, creative, indulgent, passionate, and subconscious mind I find myself feeling everything from confusion to guilt to elating freedom to even complete blankness and emptiness.

It’s not the grief. Well, it’s partially that but only about 3/4. I don’t know, in this moment, WHAT the word or feeling or experience is. I remember going to through it to some extent after Dorie died and I had been such an integral part of taking care of her, but it wasn’t the same as this, nor was the care.

24/7 worry and anxiety about someone for years, and then 24/7 for months – even to the point of every single daily task they needed to do and then to the point of helping them through every moment of their death…it’s a completely different experience to readjust to existing without that task attached to your back when it was there for so long.

So yeah, you’d think it’d be lighter, more peaceful existence…but it’s actually more like a feeling of chaos. I hope like hell it doesn’t last long. I have too much to do – and, too much I want to do. I assume it will last through and a bit beyond probate because that limits me on the speed at which I can chose to move forward and move on… If it were up to me, I’d snap my fingers and life and the “me” I was “pre-Alzheimer’s parent” would click right back into place.

We don’t get into any state of being in the blink of an eye and we become the next version of ourselves even less quickly, I suppose. That’s been my past experience. So trudge along and get it done, I guess… ((Yawn.))

🤷‍♀️

Never

Sometimes,

a thing needs to get lost,

never to be found again,

before I realize just how much

it really meant to me while I had it.

Her laugh,

her smile,

her scent,

her softness,

the sparkle in her eyes

when I’d tell her the secrets of my heart…

and the fire in them

when I’d tell her the pain in it.

I never expected to have a “her”

in my life.

I never expected “her”

to last twenty years…

Then, cancer.

Three years later,

three years since the end,

I’m more convinced than ever I

never will again.

Sometimes a thing,

like this one,

doesn’t get lost.

It is taken.

Stolen away,

for what seems like no reason at all.

That pain never heals.

Never.

~C.

I wonder…

I wonder…

what is underneath that smile,

what hides behind that sparkle in your eyes.

if you are as strong,

as confident,

as your acitons express,

or if you carry hidden burdens

and an aching in your soul

that only you can see.

I wonder if you are like me…

C.

Then There Was You

My life was crashing

down all around me.

The rubble –

it was ugly

and the cloud of dust it created

was too dense to see through.

I thought I would suffocate.

And then,

there was you…

You saw me through that cloud

when I couldn’t even see myself.

I don’t know how,

or why…

but I could suddenly breathe again…

Because then,

there was you.

C.

Live

LIVE your life.

Be who you were

before the world told you

that you had to be someone else.

Be all the things

life has told you not to be –

open,

forward,

brave,

unashamed,

unafraid.

Be a radical nonconformist,

let your spirit blaze.

Be unrestrained in your fervor,

in your passion…

Be wild.

Be free.

C.

Unafraid

Good morning. 👋 Welcome to this morning’s ramble, which has brought me to the deep, sudden and unexpected realization that in my “oversharing,” I’m not crazy or weird at all. I’ve let certain people almost covince me that I am at different times in my life, and there’s always been a sort of overshadowing insecurity in me about that, off and on. This morning I feel as though, well, I’m not crazy at all. I’m just unafraid to express myself (and pretty good at it, too)…

Last night, I ended up watching “The Monster Calls” with my son, who couldn’t sleep. You wouldn’t think a movie like that would help him sleep (spoiler alert, the mother dies of cancer), but after watching it and cuddling close and having a good cry together, he slept just fine.

I, on the other hand, have been awake most of the night and wondering what I did to deserve such an amazing kid to help me through my own troubles. This morning (as of 4:33, when I’m writing this), I still feel physically horrible (that hole in stomach, you know) and fairly anxious (because I wasn’t expecting the graphic cancer/death ptsd triggers in that movie), but I also feel so happy and grateful deep within. That boy. I just love him so…

After a brief nap I can’t sleep again, so I just keep alternating between watching him sleep and typing away on my laptop, banging out my frustrations and fears and pain into the same, now monotonous and annoying, adjectives and analogies. I suppose it stems from being so bored with what my eyes and my mind keep seeing that I decided to imagine my laptop as this classic Smith-Corona (thumbnail photo) instead of the 8-year-old MacBook that it is.

Oh, the memories… Even down to the color, it’s just like the Smith-Corona my mother wouldn’t let me touch as a child despite my desperation to caress and become one with it. I literally felt like it was a sin to touch that typewriter and that I’d go to hell if I did (thanks again for the ridiculous, guilt inducing religious undertones to EVERYTHING in life, Ma). I think that typewriter is what made me aware that I wanted to write in the first place, and that my oversharing now is some strange, delayed rebellion to that feeling from childhood.

Hashtag psychology, you know?

I was always obsessed with that typewriter. If a child can covet, that’s what I was feeling. Then, when I was 13, my mother sold the damned thing for $40 in an estate sale after my grandmother died. When I asked why, she explained that she just didn’t want it anymore. So why couldn’t I touch it if she didn’t really love it? And, since she knew how much I loved it, why couldn’t I have had it?

The ridiculous truth is, I’m still sad about that… Anyway, now if only I could get my insomnia/malnutrition induced delusion to include the clickety-clack and the ding…

Ramble over… Hope y’all have a lovely, inspired day out there in the world. Make it count. All the love to you. 

❤️😘✌️🙏🏼

C.