I don’t want to do this anymore

posted 2/11/2013

I don’t want to do this anymore

If I could have a dollar for everytime I have said this phrase in the last 9 months I’d be rich.

Whether it is…

planning a funeral…

getting out of bed (or off the couch) in the morning…

going to a dr. appt for Aaron alone…

asking for help when I need it…

feeling sad…

feeling helpless…

feeling lonely…

or make another decision on something as small as “what should we eat tonight” to something as major as “Do I take Aaron to the doctor?”

I am very fortunate to have amazing family and friends.  My support team around me is absolutely amazing.  Many of them have and continue to tell me how well I am doing through this whole journey.  They tell me I’m brave and so strong.

What if I just don’t want to be that anymore?

What if I want to do the exact opposite ..curl up in a ball and wish the days away because the cards I have been dealt stink to holy hell.

I know I have a beautiful baby boy that needs me and that should be the best reason to get up in the morning and face the day.  What if some days that wasn’t enough.  Wow…that sounds terrible.

Everyone can call off the alarms because Aaron IS the most important thing in my life and he IS enough but I can easily see where those who don’t have a strong support group can go down a very dangerous  and scary path and if I’m completely honest, I don’t blame them one bit.

I have said, screamed and cried this phrase many times, yet when  the screaming is done and the tears run dry I somehow  find it in me to do what I need to do and continue on.  To do the one thing that I need to do…move forward.  I don’t do it because I want to or because I should or because it is easy…I do it because I HAVE to.  It’s never easy although some may say it looks that way.

did he die?…pass away? or is he no longer with us?

Posted 2/7/2013

did he die?…pass away? or is he no longer with us?

This topic came to mind the other day when I realized that I was saying that Jay had died instead of passed away and it just seemed weird.  You hear people say that someone has “passed away” or even shorten it to they have “passed”.  Even more confusing is when someone says that the deceased is “no longer with us”.  So my question is…did Jay die…pass away or is he just no longer with us.

If you sit and think, these 3 ways of saying someone is deceased say the same thing just a little differently.  In my opinion when you say someone has died it just seems so harsh but if you think about it, that is exactly what happens.  When they say they have passed away it is just a “nicer” way of saying someone has died.  The whole “he is no longer with us” poses the question…well where is he?  Until this experience that comment didn’t bother me.  Now the more I think about the “well where is he?” question I can think of two answers.  The first is “in his urn on a shelf in my built-in” and the other is in heaven.  Neither answer seems like a good answer to give in conversation.  And honestly brings anger and sadness.

When talking to others, the conversation was interesting.  To say someone died meant they died young or suddenly.  To pass away meant you were older or had a long illness.

So I guess no matter how you look at it, Jay died…passed away and is no longer with us.  And any way you say it, it will always be unfair and really really suck.

 

What’s worse?

Posted 2/2/2013

What’s worse?

That is a question a friend of mine asked me when we first met.  Her husband died from cancer.  Jay died of a heart attack.  Being asked the question, “What was worse…losing a husband to a sudden heart attack or a battle with cancer?” was a pretty loaded question. The question alone was an eye opener…the fact that it was asked the first time I met her made it even more unique.  My answer and her reaction  play in my mind often as it helps remind me to keep perspective.

My answer was “The outcome was the same so I say they both suck equally.”  She looked at me and said, “Great answer and hold on to that because people will try to compare.”

The title of this post is “What’s worse?” but the topic is really about comparison and responsibility for one’s grief.  One of the first things my counselor told me was that I was not responsible for anyone’s grief but my own.  My other responsibility was to take care of Aaron.  During one of our sessions I had told her that I visited Jay’s co-workers at Wells Fargo and her question to me was…”Are you doing that for them or for you?”.  My answer was “I am visiting them because it helps me, they calm me and I want Aaron to know them.”  This is true to this day as I try to visit them often and have friendships with many of them.  My counselor also said that there was no comparison in people’s grief.  So Cancer vs. heart attack…husband vs. son…old friend vs. recent friend…there is no comparison of grief.  I shouldn’t say there isn’t because there is, you just shouldn’t, it’s not healthy.

Everyone’s journey in grief is different.  Until you have walked a mile in someone’s shoes you cannot begin to understand what they feel or what they are going through.  It wasn’t until we lost Jay that I truly understood that phrase.

 

The first moments

posted 2/6/2013

The first moments

I decided to challenge myself tonight and see if I could write about the first couple days after Jay died.  So, here goes nothing.

I remember the morning of May 9th like it was yesterday.  I remember hearing my phone ring around noon, not recognizing the phone number, answering the phone and hearing Jay’s personal trainer telling me to get to the hospital as soon as possible.  I remember the gut wrenching feeling when all she would say is that I needed to get to the hospital as soon possible.  I remember the drive to the hospital feeling like it took forever.  I remember that Jay was in room #9.  I couldn’t find it at first when I walked back into the ER.  I remember finding it, walking in and seeing him.  There is no way to describe the image I have in my  mind but I can tell you it exists and it is vivid.  I remember asking the nurses in the room if he was OK…but I already knew the answer.  I walked back out to the hallway and fell to the floor.  A doctor and nurse walked up to me and took me to the consultation room to talk about what happened.  I remember the doctor being a jerk but in his defense I wasn’t really being nice either.  I remember calling Jay’s dad and telling him his son had died.  He said they would be at the hospital a soon as possible.  It felt like eternity for them to get to the hospital.  I remember one of Jay’s co-workers sitting with me in the consultation room as I tried to digest what had just happened. 

I remember picking up Aaron from daycare and the embrace with his teacher as I told her Jay had died. 

I remember once we got all of the details of funeral home, Iowa donor Network, etc taken care of and getting back to our house, walking over to my neighbors who were standing in between our yards watiting for me as I fell into their arms.  I remember Jay’s dad and brother driving back to Wells Fargo to get Jay’s vehicle.  And while they were gone having my parents get to the house and I again fell into their arms.  I didn’t sleep at all that night.  From the conversations that next day it showed.  May 10th was planning day.  Finalizing the visitation/funeral days, songs, poems, coffins, urns, writing the announcement for the paper and picking out flowers.  There were many times that day that my dad had to hold me up.  One specifically was when we went to look at the coffins.  May 11th was meeting the pastor and the visitation.  The visitation was from 4-8 and there were so many people that  showed up in the first hour I remember asking one of the Hamilton’s staff what time it was, expecting him to say 6:30/7:00 and looking at me and saying…it’s 5:00.  I remember seeing many of Jay’s friends come up to me with tears in their eyes.  It was so difficult to see peope’s reaction to the situation.  I stayed strong for most of the visitation but as one of the staff members said to me, there were definitely certain people that I broke down too.  There are two of my very close girlfriends that when I saw them I lost it. 

The day of the funeral started off OK.  Everyone was nervous because I was going to speak.  Many told me not to do it but I did it and there are many that have asked me to tell them someday how I pulled it off.  My answer is simple…Jay was there.  The hardest part of those first 3 days was the final good bye.  My dad had to pull me away from the casket.  It was then that I was truly numb. 

I sent my whole family home that Sunday morning…mother’s day.  It wasn’t a popular decision of mine but I made it anyway.  I had a friend that stayed with me the first two nights and others were later planned where I had someone with me at night for the first 2 weeks and I had a doctor appointment that next afternoon.  I had my first counseling session on the 15th.  Jay died on the 9th.  I took Aaron to daycare the morning of the 15th.  That day forward I established a new routine.  Coffee with my neighbor, dropped Aaron off at daycare and hung out at daycare for atleast another hour just writing notes of things I needed to do and talking to the daycare teachers.  To this day, the connection I have wth those two teachers is a sisterly bond that I cherish very much.  I would run errands, write thank yous and other misc things those next 4 weeks before I would go back to work. 

For now…that is all I can write.  Good night.

What to expect when you are not expecting anything…

Posted 2/5/2013

 

What to expect when you are not expecting anything…

 

I have had to make many adjustments in our lives since May 9th.  There are times I look back and it can make my head want to spin when I think of everything I’ve done. 

 

I remember initially thinking to myself…

 

I expected to raise Aaron WITH Jay…

 

I expected to pre-tire and travel with Jay (he always had aggressive goals for retirement)…

 

I expected to have another child with Jay…

 

I expected by be ganged up on by my two boys…

 

I expected him always to come home.  And then one day he didn’t.

 

As you can see there are many “expectations” and all but one was a plan for the future.  Knowing those will never happen makes me sad but the last one is the one that stings the most. 

So I sit here and think if I don’t expect anything, would it make it easier when things don’t happen or when crappy things do happen?  It lessens the disappointment & frustration I guess.  But then I try to think if there is a difference between having dreams and having expectations.  So to put it into context, I can dream to be happy again but I shouldn’t expect to be happy.  Wow…that is rough.  In that context alone I probably have many of my friends & family screaming…”ALYSSA!…You WILL be happy again!  Don’t think you won’t.”  I guess it is human to expect things.  To think that you have tomorrow or next year to do things or say things but the reality is you may not.  The visual is forever burned into my mind of when I first walked into the trauma room and saw Jay there…already gone…it reminds me EVERY DAY we may not have tomorrow.

 

Jay expected to raise Aaron with me…to pre-tire somewhere warm…to have another child…to gang up on me with Aaron and to ultimately come home around 4:30 on May 9th but he didn’t. 

This is not meant for people to feel bad for me or to tell me not to feel this way because not expecting anything from life…friends…family…it just may be the one mindset that helps me get through the rest of my life.  And maybe if I’m lucky…I will be pleasantly surprised.

Survival versus Living

Posted 2/4/2013

Survival versus Living

It never really occurred to me the difference of surviving and living until today when I was sitting having lunch. 

I went to one of our favorite restaurants but instead of sitting at a table or in a booth I sat at the bar.  I ordered my favorite salad, a Diet Pepsi and then pulled out my nook and started to read one of the books I have on it.  It was one of the most relaxing lunches I have had in a very long time. 

For an hour I wasn’t making conversation with anyone or having to make sure they weren’t choking on food or fussing and disrupting people.  I was alone and that was OK.  It wasn’t until I was on my way back to work that I completely realized what had just happened. 

I was living.  Now you may read that and say, “Alyssa, you’ve been living for a long time…almost 34 years now”.  I have to disagree with you because I think for the last almost 9 months I have just been surviving and scared as hell to live.  The last 9 months have been about continuously moving…continously doing something so people won’t think I’m just sitting at home being sad. 

The more I sit here I begin to see that this weekend I started to “live.”  Aaron and I were out and about, we saw friends on Friday night, then ran errands  Saturday & Sunday morning, napped, played, blogged and were just able to ‘be’.  The scary thought I have now is that Saturday and Sunday it really seemed that Aaron was calm, calmer then he has really been in the last 9 months.  I sat with him alot and played.  I wasn’t trying to continuously move.  I didn’t spend every minute with him but when I did I was really “there.”  The scary thought is “what have I been doing up to this point?” 

Surviving.  For 9 months I have been surviving.  As I sit here with an overwhelming sense of calm I can tell you…living is MUCH easier then surviving.  It is exhausting to always be trying to think “what is next?”  To try and be ready for whatever was going to come at me next. 

So here is to living.  I am sure I will go into survival mode many more times in my life as will others but atleast now I have the understanding that to live is so much easier. 

What’s up God?

posted 2/2/2013

What’s up God?

I have accomplished alot already today with running errands this morning  and packing up the kitchen that I figured why not tackle the topic of God.  So after much anticipation…here goes nothing.

As a child I remember going to church with my parents and brother, sitting in the pew scribbling notes to my mom on the bulletin, having mom sit between my brother and I so we would pay attention and ultimately being comforted by the message in the sermons given.  When I moved to the Des Moines area, I tried but was unable to find a church where I felt that I fit in and after Jay and I got married it just didn’t seem important to find one. 

May 9th happens.  I then find myself asking God…”Why ME?”…more importantly “Why Aaron??”.  I think the conversation went a little something like this…

“What did I DO to deserve this pain?…I am a good person….Jay was a good person…Aaron is so innocent…What in the hell did Aaron and I do to deserve loosing this wonderful man from our lives?    What plan is soo damn important that it required taking a person that was loved by so many and is needed so much on this earth?”

After the questions and pleading were done, anger set in.  There was anger towards Jay for leaving but even more towards the person who took him away from me. 

Many would tell me I coudn’t be mad at God.  There is a plan and it isn’t His fault.  Many argued with me as I cried and yelled at Him.  My reaction to people was “I can be mad at whoever I want.  Especially God.  I don’t like his plan…his plan SUCKS!” 

There were many times I would sit alone and remember the phrase “If He brings you to it, He will  bring you through it.”  I wanted…I still want to believe that.  But then I sit and think back to when I found out my mom had cancer…then 2 days after we got the great news she was cancer free and had a clean bill of health we found out Jay’s mom had cancer.  Jay’s mom becomes cancer free and Jay and I had begun trying to get pregnant.  It was a 3 year struggle to get  pregnant.  In there somewhere Jay and I go for a mini-vaca to Omaha one weekend and not even 2 hours after we got there I am in the Creighton University Hospital ER with a broken ankle needing surgery.  So silly me, I thought maybe …just maybe…I was due for a break from overcoming obstacles.  I had a beautiful son…a wonderful husband and I was finally back to work after being on maternity leave…life was finally on the right path.  Jay and I were happy, and other than being really sleepy with a newborn we were obstacle free.  Now I know the truth was…”we” were…but “I” was not. 

It wasn’t until Christmas this past year that I finally went to church.  I went with a dear friend to the Christmas cantata.  Aaron was fussy so she took him out to walk around in the hallway as I sat and listened to the cantata.  I used to love the Christmas cantata when I was a child.  Music has always calmed me and when I was a child my dad was in the the adult choir.  It was the most peaceful 30 minutes I had had in a very long time.  Tears ran down my face…and a certain peace filled my heart. 

Truth be told, I still get angry at God.  It just isn’t as strong of an anger as it was initially.  I don’t understand his plan but I can now recognize it exists.  My advice to those that are going through a significant loss is to be angry.  That is your right.  But from my experience I woudn’t stay angry long.  It serves a purpose for awhile but ultimately it can define you and that is not healthy.  For those with people struggling with this topic, I encourage you to be patient.  We all get back to where we need to be…it’s part of His plan.

Innocent until proven guilty

Posted 2/1/2013

Innocent until proven guilty

I bet I have a few of you interested on where I am going with the title of this blog today.  We as Americans ,if accused of a crime, are “innocent until proven guilty” right?  It doesn’t matter if the person feels guilty, is guilty or if everyone thinks they are guilty…they are innocent until proven otherwise. 

Guilt.  It is a handicap of the grief stricken.  This is a HUGE hurdle for me and even as I write this I know it will be something I will have to work on for the rest of my life. 

I feel guilty because

I am the one here with Aaron…

I want to be happy again…

I’ve had happy moments…

I’ve laughed and smiled…

I’ve cried…

We are taken care of…

We have wonderful friends and family to take care of us…

I need my friends and family…

I live..

I could go on and on but that isn’t the point.  You see I don’t need a jury of my peers to tell me I’m guilty or innocent.  I am a one person jury and every day I wake up and if  I don’t have my cup of perspective I can come back with a guilty verdict pretty darn fast.  I know that sounds crazy but it happens hence my comment about it being something I will have to work on the rest of my life. 

Aaron and I are innocent bystanders in this thing called life.  That seems so simple to say but it is so much more difficult to live and believe.  Even as I sit here and stare at that statement it just won’t register.  Why is it that I perceive myself guilty until I convince myself we are innocent.

People say to me…”Alyssa don’t feel guilty…Jay wants you to live…he wants you to be happy.” 

My reaction is pretty raw…”If he wants me…US to be happy…why did he leave?”

Of course to that people say “Alyssa…it wasn’t his choice…God has a plan.”

And my reaction is “Well then get me on the phone with God because I have a serious beef with him and I need to tell him his plan SUCKS!!!!!”

The “God” discussion is another blog all on its own and yet another thing that I will have to work on for the rest of my life. 

I leave you with this final thought.  I am blogging because there are many things I have done and have accomplished in the last 8 months.  I also blog because I still have so much to learn and discover and this happens to be a topic I am sure I will look back at someday and be able to give some solid perspective and advice on getting through this hurdle…until then…I continue to work.

Moving Forward vs. Moving On

Posted 1/31/2013

Moving Forward vs. Moving on

There is one word difference in these two phrases but it is a HUGE difference.  To move “on” implies that you forget or they were disposable.  To move “forward” states that what existed…what was lost…still exists in some form but you move forward to live your life. 

To move on is easy.  Some may argue with me and that is fine.  But I say moving forward is more difficult because you constantly have to remind yourself what you had…what was lost.  The pain of knowing what you had or as a friend put it to me as a young widow..what I was going to or could have had is easier to forget then to confront.

Some of you may say “Alyssa…you haven’t always had the attitude of moving forward”, and to those people I would say you are absolutely right.  There were many times in those first 3 days I had to have a “move on or through” attitude because that was the only way to survive.  I also know that after those initial 3 days I have had many days since where I have choosen or will chose in th future to have the “move on or through” attitude. 

It is like the cup of perspective I have handy at all times, this is yet another tool to get through the day.  I do feel though ultimately for me to get through losing Jay I have to move forward.  If I want others to remember Jay and to talk about Jay I have to do the same and still live.  Live in the light and not in the dark as another friend told me recently.  If I want to set a good example for Aaron, I need to move forward. 

I sit in the dark tonight as I write this blog but I long for the light.   The light of the day I am able to wake up and feel strong enough to make it through my new normal without having to think so hard. 

So it may be a one word difference but there is a world of difference in what they mean.  I for one am going to chose moving forward…I owe it to Jay, myself and most importantly Aaron to work through this so I am able to be the mom he needs…the mom he deserves.

Look Out…Everything is OK

Posted 1/30/2013

As I looked at my phone the other day I had a moment where I then looked up to the sky (at Jay) and said “message received babe.” 

You see Jay was ALWAYS looking for new apps to download and use on our phones and tablets.  He managed to find one when I started having contractions before Aaron was born.  As long as I told him when they started and when they ended it would track the length of contraction and time between contractions.  It is true that “there’s an app for that” in almost every life situation. 🙂 

He found the Lookout Mobile Security app and made it mandatory that we both have it on our phones and tablets.  It scans for mallware and all kinds of bad stuff that may have made it on to your phone and is looking to mess up your phone and for some of us our life. (because really…who can live without their phone or tablet anymore) 🙂 

If any of you have this on your phone you will know after it scans your phone it then gives you a status.  When I pull my menu down on my phone the Lookout app is running and it reads “Lookout”  and below it says “Everything is OK”.  When I read it and realized what it said it was like I could hear Jay saying to me…”Lyss….”look out” into the world…”Everything is OK”…I promise.”

So how does this help me you ask?  In this grief I look for tools wherever I can find them.  Whether it is a weekly outing with a friend or getting a babysitter over  so that I can do things around the house (and actually get them done!!) and not have to worry about Aaron so much.  This is another tool because as one of my friends says…it doesn’t have to be a “holiday” or “anniversary” that makes someone sad…it could be just that it is Monday and that just makes me sad.  In those moments that “catch me off guard”, now I can just look at my phone and I am reminded to “lookout”…because “Everything is OK.”