Tag Archives: grief

Gramps and NaNo

Last time I blogged I shared that my Grandpa wasn’t doing so hot. He managed to hang in there a while longer but last week on Wednesday he did finally die. It was a bittersweet situation because of course it was sad to have to let him go, but I was also really glad to know that he wasn’t going to suffer anymore and therefore we weren’t going to suffer anymore either.

His last five days were rough. They started out on a Saturday morning when my mom woke me up at six am because she was pretty sure he was going to die which I blogged about here. After that he sort of bounced back and forth between us literally thinking he was going to die within minutes to him cracking jokes and being his goofy self. The last day and a half was the worst though when his breathing pattern was seven breaths in 42 seconds followed by a full minute of not breathing. He was pretty much in a coma at that point although because he was at home it wasn’t diagnosed as a coma by a doctor. But finally on October 17th around 1:00 p.m. he finally let go.

I always thought that seeing a dead body in my home and experiencing a death like that would freak me the hell out. But after sitting next to him waiting for it to happen for days and getting only 3 hour blocks of sleep every so often, it just seemed natural. We’d sat there so many times thinking that he was going to die and then he didn’t that when it finally happened it was like, “Wow… okay, it finally happened.”

I haven’t written anything since I wrote that last blog post, but since Gramps died writing has definitely been on my mind. I’ve been reading a lot which always gets me in the mood to write. My characters are also popping up in random places showing me that they’re almost ready to play again, so that’s good.

With NaNoWriMo right around the corner I’m faced with the dilemma of to NaNo or not to NaNo? The last time I participated was in 2010 and I’m still working on that story, slowly but surely. I didn’t even attempt it last year because Gramps had just moved in with us and I didn’t think it would be fair to my mom to spend that first month up in my bedroom trying to write a book in thirty days.

I remember thinking a few weeks back that there’s no way I could do NaNo this year unless Gramps died before November. But here we are just a week away from November and he’s gone so I really could give it a try without feeling guilty that I should be doing something else. Of course, my ongoing problem with NaNo is always that I can’t think of a plot before November and then when the month begins I get seriously blocked. But I also tend to wait until a few days before NaNo starts to think about plot ideas so I’m actually ahead of the game right now. LOL Plus I’ll be attending the GRRWG Ready Set Write Conference next weekend too which will hopefully shine some motivation in my direction.

So I guess what I’m saying is that yeah, I’m going to attempt NaNo again this year. I think I owe it to myself to do it, and maybe even to Gramps too. Who knows maybe I’ll write about a crazy 97.5 year old guy who lives with his granddaughter, thinks facial hair means a guy has something to hide, and loves Filet-O-Fish sandwiches. 🙂

RIP, Gramps.

Getting Close

Just before 6:00 a.m. my mom woke me up because she thought that Grandpa was about to die. He was non-responsive and his breathing was very poor.

I’ve been sitting in this recliner next to my Grandpa’s bed for sixteen hours and he’s still hanging on. There were times when his breathing stopped for at least twenty seconds at a time and then would start back up again. Other times he’s asked about food and drink for the first time in about three weeks. His swallowing isn’t going so great now though so even when he’s thirsty it’s hard to get a good drink in him.

Thanks to the dementia he keeps forgetting what’s going on. He’ll say things like, “Maybe I’m so weak because I need food…” but he doesn’t understand that he hasn’t had more than a sip of juice or soup in almost a month. So we remind him that he hasn’t eaten and that seems to worry him. “That’s not good,” he says. We remind him about his Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) and that it’s not getting better but he forgets that too. He’ll say, “Maybe those pills you give me will help…” but of course in order to take the pills he needs to be able to swallow.

We got a few pills in him just a little bit ago but it was a chore. The poor guy wanted nothing to do with the Juicy Juice he’s been drinking all week and swore that milk would be better. But with CHF when the heart starts failing it creates fluid buildup in his lungs so milk isn’t exactly the best choice since it can make him phlegmy.

Mom tried explaining to him that if he’s thirsty he should drink anything that’s wet and he agreed but then decided that he still didn’t want the juice. He says, “But I don’t want the juice.” She then told him that she didn’t care what he wanted and the look he gave me made me giggle. He looked at me like, “Did my daughter just tell me no?” 🙂 I watered down some milk for him and he handled it okay but of course it didn’t taste very good anyway because his sense of taste is off. He asked more about food and other things he couldn’t have and once again we explained why he couldn’t have them and why he wasn’t going to be getting any better.

It’s basically been like that all day with lots of napping in between. He’s still in there, still the goofy old man we all love so much, but he’s fading. I really hope that he can just let go sometime tonight so that he doesn’t have to go through another confusing day like this.

He’s ready even if he doesn’t remember telling us so, and as sad as it’ll be to see him go, we’re ready too. The living that he’s been doing for the last couple of weeks really isn’t quality. He’s seen all of his kids except for one, he’s seen almost all of the grand kids and great grand kids who live in the area, and he’s even seen his brand new great grandson via Facebook who was born just two days ago.

He’s talked about seeing people in heaven like my grandma, his brother, sister and his mom. Apparently he doesn’t think his dad is in heaven though, but maybe he’ll be pleasantly surprised. 🙂 Hopefully there Gramps will be able to eat all of the Filet-o-Fish and chocolate shakes that he wants, his ticker will be perfect, he’ll be able to walk without any assistance, and even better… he’ll be able to drive again!

I’ll admit, when we moved Grandpa in with us almost a year ago it was scary. I was worried about him getting hurt or dying on me when my mom wasn’t around to help me. Despite how hard the year has been though, I’m really glad we were able to have him here. He loved being able to visit with my brother’s crazy kids when they came to spend the night. He loved watching hour upon hour of Law & Order in his own living room while knowing that if he needed help we were just in the next room instead of a 30 minute drive away. He liked having the animals around even if he eventually forgot Sly’s name and just called him Big Cat and continuously pronounced Kia’s name wrong. Even the ongoing Ketchup Saga of 2012 is pretty funny now despite how annoying it was back when we were in the thick of it. (Gramps decided at one point that Heinz ketchup was too bitter for him but he claimed that it was because the ketchup was in his words, “rancid.” When we’d explain that the ketchup was brand new he’d point to the 57 on the Heinz logo and tell us that the bottle was from 1957. This happened almost daily for a while until we switched to the much sweeter Hunt’s brand. That eventually went rancid too and he just stopped eating ketchup.)

Sure, it’s been really, really hard on us. My mom not only had to quit nursing school just six weeks shy of finishing (she did get her LPN though, yay!) but she had to stop working and was pretty much here at home 24/7. I gave her respite as much as I could but of course with my own job I couldn’t do it as much as I would have liked. Hospice didn’t get into the mix until just a few months back and although they did help out and let her get out of the house a little some days, I wish I’d been able to help more or that other family would have helped more. But, what’s done is done and I know that my mom and I have given Gramps all he’s needed not just this past year but long before that. There’s no doubt in my mind that he knows just how much we love him.

Life for us is about to make a huge change again. Mom’s going to be able to go back to work, and we’ll go back to living in this house without a hospital bed in the living room. There won’t be an oxygen machine, syringes of morphine gel, and we won’t have to take turns leaving the house so that someone can stay here to Grandpa Sit. Of course we’ll miss him dearly, but we’ll also have so many great memories to keep in our hearts and for me at least, that’s the most important part and what I’m choosing to hold on to right now while sitting here next to him. He’s a pretty awesome guy and all of us who know him are blessed to have him in our lives and in our hearts.

Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force. – YODA


Positivity and Feelings

Source: NataleeDee.com

I wrote not too long ago about the idea that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and how sometimes I don’t want to be stronger, I just want to be given a break. I’m still a firm believer in the idea that if you’re positive then you’re going to attract positivity but if you’re negative you’re going to attract negativity. I try to practice the Law of Attraction as much as I can and for the most part it works. I think though that some people are taking the positivity thing the wrong way.

It is perfectly okay, in my opinion, to be pissed off. If something upsets you, let yourself be upset. You don’t have to wallow in the anger and make it a huge part of your life, but you do have the right to be upset. I get so frustrated when I voice a concern and everyone I know jumps on me trying to show me the positive side and “fix” it so that I’m not upset. I’m entitled to feel whatever I feel, don’t try to change that. Let me feel what I want to feel. Just because you may have been through a similar experience doesn’t meant that I have to feel the same way that you do or move through my feelings at the same rate as you. If you want to share your experience with me, great… but do not try to tell me how I should feel, that simply isn’t up to you to decide.

I think people are too quick to say, “Oh I’m being so negative” and then push their feelings aside. So meanwhile we’ve got all of these people going around with forced smiles on their faces who haven’t actually allowed themselves to feel anything. I’m not okay with that.

Imagine if social workers, counselors, and doctors worked under that belief. If you came into my office for help because someone you loved was dying and instead of letting you express your feelings I just kept telling you why you shouldn’t feel that way. That wouldn’t help you deal with your grief at all. I know this because I’ve been a grief counselor and know that although it’s not healthy to let your grief define who you are, it’s also not healthy to deny your emotions. One of the things we used to say over and over again in the grief support groups that I led for years was “All feelings are okay.” It’s okay to be happy that someone died. It’s okay to be sad that someone died. It’s okay to be both happy and sad plus pissed off, confused, and scared too. We have feelings for a reason, denying them isn’t going to make your life positive.

So why do that to me in any other situation? If I’m pissed off because of something at work, let me be pissed off for a minute. Let me express my pissed-offed-ness and then once I’ve been able to feel and experience my feelings I can move on. Telling me that I shouldn’t feel what I’m feeling is only going to piss me off even more. LET ME FEEL IT! Tell me, “Man, that blows…” not “You shouldn’t feel like that because of X, Y and Z.”

Denying someone the opportunity to feel what they’re feeling is never okay. Like when a little kid cries over something, adults will often tell the child to stop crying. But essentially when you do that, you’re telling the child that it’s not okay to feel what they’re feeling. It may not be appropriate to throw a kicking and screaming fit on the floor when you can’t have another Oreo, and perhaps the child needs to be taught other means of expressing their feelings, but feeling upset is still okay. The whole “big boys don’t cry” thing is another pet peeve of mine. Actually, unhealthy big boys who are taught to stuff their feelings don’t cry. Healthy big boys do cry because they’re able to express their feelings.

In the past week I’ve had an aunt die and watched my Grandpa enter the final stages of his life. As I type this he’s at my house in a hospital bed deteriorating. I know that because of the current stress in my life I’m a lot more sensitive than usual. I also know that when people try to fix things for me it’s because they care. I know that not everyone is a social worker. Not everyone has been through the training I’ve been through and learned how harmful it can be to deny people their feelings. Because of that I try to have patience when people try to fix my problems when I’m not looking for a cure. But to be completely honest, I’m kind of at the end of my rope with the positivity crap right now.

Last week I said that I was upset because I didn’t have enough leave time to be home with my mom & grandpa the way I’d like to. The response I got was, “At least you have a job where you have leave time.” That didn’t help me at all. Who cares if I have a job where I earn leave? The point is that someone I love is DYING and I can’t be there because I myself am so sick all of the time that I used up my bank of leave time. The point is that my mother is alone at home watching her father die and no one else is there with her most of the time that I’m at work. That is the point. I can be pissed off about that all I want.

Yesterday I said that I didn’t like the way the Hospice nurse and nurses assistant treat me and my mom sometimes. The response I got was that they’ve got a hard job and they might not mean to come across the way they do. Yeah, and my Grandfather is dying in my house so my job is hard too but I’m not a jerk to the nurses when they visit therefore they don’t need to be jerks to us.

Today I said that a change at work was making not just me but everyone in the office uncomfortable. The response I got was that I should embrace the change because work isn’t a democracy. Telling me that isn’t going to make me say, “Holy crap, you’re right… I don’t have any right to be uncomfortable!”

Do you see where I’m going here? I totally get that the people responding to me were trying to be helpful. And I know for a fact that because I’m a social worker I often try to help people see all sides of a situation too, but there’s a difference between providing perspective and denying someone the chance to feel. There’s also a huge difference in being a negative person and allowing someone to feel emotion.

If all I ever did was bitch about how awful everything was and how the world hates me and I never smiled or laughed or believed in anything positive and was a huge bully to everyone, you could feel free to call me a Negative Nancy. But if I’m an essentially good person who is going through a hard time and happens to voice my frustrations so that I can process them and begin the progression of feeling better, please don’t get in my way by telling me that I’m wrong. Especially if you have no idea if I am wrong! If I’m wrong and you know it because you’re a part of what’s happening, by all means put a boot in my ass. Or if I’m wallowing in self pity a little too long and you can tell I need help, yes, step in and lend a hand. But if you’re just assuming that you know what’s best for me without knowing exactly what’s going on, stop. I have to be able to make my own mistakes and feel my own feelings and acknowledge my own stuff without someone telling me that I’m being too negative.

Nothing in the world would ever change and improve if everyone just forced themselves to be happy with everything at all times and didn’t allow themselves to get worked up every so often. Can you imagine how awful that would be? Don’t like racism? Too bad, that’s just the way things are. Think bullying is awful? Oh well, there’s nothing we can do about it. Someone treating you like shit? They probably had a bad childhood so just give them a break. Someone sexually abused your kid? That’s awful but get over it. Devastated that someone you love died? Move on, you’re being too negative. Or perhaps we can experience and acknowledge our feelings. We can use our feelings to change and grow or just simply process and move on. Feelings are meant to be felt.



We’ve all heard the saying, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”  I wholeheartedly agree that the things we go through shape who we are. It’s how open we are to learning from experiences that determine how we grow though.  For example, if you’re not open to learning from mistakes, you’re most likely to make the same mistakes over again and not really learn anything.  On the other hand if you have the strength to learn from what life gives you, you’re more likely to come out of it stronger in the long run.

It’s a good theory, and it’s one that I try to remember to live by.  But sometimes, I find myself thinking “I don’t want to be any stronger.”  I don’t want another life lesson that kicks my ass so that I come out stronger on the other end.   In other words, I want a break.  I’m sick of having jobs that suck and challenge my ethics, I’m sick of having this stupid mystery illness that no one can figure out how to treat, and I’m sick of worrying about my mom and my grandpa.

I was convinced a few days ago that my grandpa who lives with us was within days of dying.  I totally freaked myself out and did all sorts of awfulizing in my head to “prepare” myself for the worst.  Then the next couple of days he was a lot better and so I was better.  Today he’s back to acting like he’s giving up and shutting down.  He hasn’t wanted to eat or drink, he’s slept almost all day, and he’s spent hours just laying back in bed or in his recliner with a warm compress over his eyes.  It’s not like I expect him to be up and running marathons… he is 97 years old.  We’ve had hospice in place for a few months now; he qualified for it not because they thought he was going to die soon but because of his age and because his Congestive Heart Failure isn’t going to get any better.  He is, however, regressing.  No one can say how quickly he may progress, and it’s been pretty clear this week that it’s a day by day sort of thing.  But man does it suck.  Never knowing how he’s going to be one day to the next.  Wondering if today’s going to be the day I get a call telling me I need to come home from work early because he’s getting worse. 

Of course I want what’s best for my grandpa.  I don’t want him to suffer.  I also know that being here at home with us is what he wants and that if he’d been in a nursing home or a hospice facility he probably would have been gone a long time ago.  He wouldn’t have been here to sit on the deck the other day playing catch with a foursquare ball with my niece and nephews in the sun or to tell me yesterday while I was knitting about how his mom used to knit mittens for him as a kid.  These are things I’m grateful for.  Is this all making me stronger?  Sure, I guess so.  I know some day I’ll feel like it, but right now I’m just tired. 

So if I seem a little out of it, I don’t talk as much, I cancel plans, or I’m a little forgetful… please be patient.  It’s just that I’m pretty busy right now learning how to be stronger. 🙂

“Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” – A.A. Milne

photo credit: AJ Knowles via photo pin cc

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