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Anger Healing Humour Loss

My Grieving Process Part 1: A Serving of DABDA With Extra Anger on the Side!

I was taught an acronym for the the Five Stages of Grief during health class in junior high. I’ve never forgotten the five stages: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. I used to think the stages were linear and you went through them in order. Little did I know that grief would be so MESSY! There’s nothing linear about it.

I noticed that I did experience something linear, though. And I didn’t experience it until January 2nd, 2018. (This date still remains the worst day of my life. To read more about the beginning days of losing my mom, read Chicken Pot Pie for the Soul.) My linear way of thinking has become my newly created timeline of reference. My newest way of gauging when things have happened in my life is to say, “before my mom died” or “after my mom died”. That’s truly how I keep track of recent life events.

There is more to address when it comes to timelines, more specifically, my Facebook timeline. Writing and sharing about my “after my mom died” journey on Facebook helped me so much. It helped me in my grieving and healing process. It also helped me share the goodness of my mom. I was reminded to do more and be more. My mom was inspiring. (Or should I say is inspiring? I never know what tense to use. She’s not gone, she’s just not here.)

I recently felt strongly impressed to go through my Facebook profile and take screenshots of all my “after my mom died” posts. I felt impressed to share them on this platform. I know we all grieve and heal in our own way, but my hope is that sharing my personal journey can help even just one person. Maybe this blog post will help others who may be going through the same things as me. Maybe it can help people to understand what grief might be like for others, especially if they haven’t experienced death of a loved one yet.

For the first few months after my mom died, I consistently made posts about her and how I was navigating my new normal without her. Looking back, I’m so glad I shared my process, but I regret leaving out a lot of the anger I felt. I am glad I included some angry posts, but those posts weren’t an accurate portrayal of the full range of anger I actually felt. Why do we do that? Why do we try to protect others from our authentic journey? Is it out of fear? Are we worried how people might view us? Does it make us look weak? Is it because we feel we are betraying the one we lost?

(Deep breath.) I will be mapping out my screenshots from my Facebook timeline and filling in the blanks along the way. This has taken a lot from me emotionally, but knowing I need to share it gives me strength.

(I feel I must preface this, though. I had so much love and goodness in my life, amidst my devastation. The good outweighed the bad, for sure. Anger did not take over my life, but it was absolutely present.)

I couldn’t make a post the day of. I just couldn’t. I know that word got around town about the death of my mom. For the most part, people were so genuine in their concern. However, I knew there were a few nosy people who just wanted to know the “deets”. That made me angry.
Lachlan was only one year old when my mom died. I felt so robbed for him. When I was going through the contents of my mom’s purse, Lachlan saw her photo ID he said, “Gamma”, and my heart broke. He would not have the opportunity to know his sweet Grandma Margi. Yet, I was happy that he was able to communicate his recognition. It’s possible to feel the extreme emotions at the same time.

My world was turned upside down and I was obviously devastated. Sadness was alive and well, but anger became very real to me. Here’s a a response to a friend who was asking how I was holding up. WARNING: I swear here. And talk about boobs. I’m not even sorry, either. It further illustrates my anger and how erratic my emotions were.

I was all over the place!!!!
No caption needed. ❤️
The four of us pulled off a funeral. I know that it was not possible for us to do what we had to do without heavenly help. There’s no way. I’m forever grateful for that help. The funeral was beautiful. We honoured our mom. We were so grateful for all the love and support and help. It’s still surreal that we were able to make ALL the necessary preparations for our mom’s estate and funeral and in such a short period of time. All the while trying to grieve and mourn with our own families. (There were many times I got angry and thought it wasn’t fair that her KIDS had to take care of everything. We are the KIDS! Why wasn’t her family taking care of it all? They’re the ADULTS! Then I remembered that we are also adults.❤️ See? Anger.)

I remember feeling the prayers of others. It was almost tangible. There’s no way we could have done what we needed to do in such a short time without those prayers. I’m so grateful for those prayers.

I remember at some point I started HATING the phrases, “she’s in a better place” or “sorry for your loss” or “let me know what I can do”. And that’s all I heard during the meet and greet before the funeral. One minute I was feeling the love and support of others, and then the next I was irritated by everything and everyone. (I’m sure I was super fun to live with during this time.)

Do you know what else I started to hate? Flowers! I understand that you should have some sort of floral arrangements at the funeral, but my goodness!!!! The cost of flowers for a funeral is astronomical. (Don’t get me started on the cost of funerals. Hiway robbery!) My cousins rallied around us and pitched in money for floral arrangements for the funeral. That was beyond touching. They knew we were dealing with too much, and they saved the day! It seems that giving flowers when someone dies is the norm. After my mom died, my table was filled with flowers that people gifted me. I definitely felt loved. I felt remembered. What beautiful emotional gifts. The flowers themselves are beautiful, too. However, when those flowers started to die, I started to feel angry. Those flowers died, just like my mom!!! I was experiencing abandonment issues, all over the place. (I decided I won’t give flowers anymore. From here on out, I will food, give gift cards, or something that is meaningful and helpful. I definitely won’t give something that will die! )

*Edit: This was my own personal experience with death flowers. Flowers are a lovely gift. I received flowers for Mother’s Day because a friend wanted me to know she remembered. That was so meaningful. I don’t hate flowers in general. Just death flowers. I am not saying you shouldn’t give flowers. However, if you are now questioning what to do after someone dies? Food is always a good thing to provide. Gift cards to local restaurants. Even monetary help to pay for funeral costs. I’m definitely going to share the wonderful ways people served me and my family in part 2. Spoiler alert. Friends rallied around me and my siblings and paid for house cleaners to come to my mom’s house. That was an amazing gift. I still get wet eyes thinking about it.

As I continued in my grieving process, I made more posts about how sad I was. I also included how happy I was that my mom was so intricately woven into our lives. I celebrated her. I tried to be more like her. I shared memories of her with my children. My mom was a phenomenal human being. She did not have an easy life. Like ever. And she was the Little Engine That Could. She did not give up. My mom did have struggles, both physical and mental. She suffered at the hands of others. Somehow, she came out of that with such love in her heart. It emanated from her. And I could only see the good in her. I had zero negative memories. Between my own happy memories and all the stories people shared with me, my mom was slowly but surely launched into sainthood.

My grieving continued, and my anger continued. I was angry at those people who ever “did my mom wrong”. I was angry at Heavenly Father for taking her much too soon. My mom was only 61 years old. I was angry at other people who had mothers who were alive and well but weren’t treating them right. I was angry at myself for all those times I was such a brat to my mom. Slowly but surely, I started to remember things about my mom. The not-so-good-things. Those rose coloured glasses I was wearing broke. I became angry at my mom. I felt like I was betraying her by questioning my memories, though. I felt so conflicted. I hated that I was angry at her, but that didn’t change the fact that I was. I was angry at my extended family. I was angry at the doctors. I was just so ANGRY. I remember I shared some of that anger on Facebook and then promptly deleted it. I wish I could remember what I said.

I didn’t think the world was ready for my anger, so I deleted my post.
Never followed through with deleting this post. Hahahah! I definitely went through a phase of saying “suck it”.
“Extra spazzy” is right! I was highly irritable. I even irritated myself.
Such a feeling of being robbed!!! Also, I felt such regret that I didn’t get more photos, videos and hand written letters from my mom for my kids.
Once again, no caption needed. 😂

Anger aside, I need to mention once again how amazing people were during our early stages of this new normal without my mom. People came out of the woodwork and it was absolutely beautiful. People would share Grandma Margi stories. There is such healing in remembering and sharing. I’ll be forever grateful for the love that came pouring in for those first few weeks after my mom died. But people eventually move on. And people stop praying for you. That’s just natural. And that’s okay. But guess what? You can’t move on. You don’t get over it. How can you? There is a void in your life that cannot ever be filled. How can it? I will always need my mom. I will always miss my mom. I will always feel a part of me missing. I feel like people generally expect you to move on and get over it after a while.

One day, I happened to see this video on grief from BBC Stories: Like Minds, episode 12. I’ve never heard grief broken down this way. It was beyond perfect. If you don’t want to watch the whole episode, watch from 1:38 to 2:41. I found this explanation to be so profound, validating and encouraging. “You don’t move on or get over it. You just learn to have it as part of your life.”And that’s what I’m doing. Losing my mom is a part of my life. And will always be.

I have tried to paint an accurate picture of my stages of grief. (I can’t address everything in one post. I’ll delve until more in part 2.) I don’t think I really experienced denial or bargaining, but I definitely experienced anger and depression. The anger in me has mostly dissipated. It still comes out, but not the the extent it did before. I think it’s safe to say I’m now in the acceptance stage. It’s a peaceful place to be. I know that I couldn’t have got to that place without the anger and depression I felt.

Decorating our Christmas tree definitely triggered many moments of tears and sadness. My mom adored Christmas. Holidays without her are so hard. This Christmas, I noticed that another emotion was tag teaming my sadness, and it was happiness. I felt both at the same time! I will forever be grateful for all of my wonderful memories and traditions associated with my mom. I’m so grateful for Christmas decorations from my mom that will be reminders of her every Christmas season.

January 2nd is coming up. It’ll mark two years since my mom died. I’ve come a long way in my grieving and healing. One thing I’ve done for myself is let myself feel it all. That’s truly been a gift. It’s helped me process and heal. I’ve always gone for counselling. What a gift that has been. Do I still have moments? Of course. But now I’m having moments instead of days.

My mom is never far from my mind, but I feel like I have given myself permission to not be sad all the time. Being happy is not betraying my mother’s importance in my life. It’s honouring her. And I know she’d want that.

Categories
Healing Humour Mindset

Two Ways To Do the Dishes

I don’t want there to be any false pretenses about my healing journey that I’ve been on these past few years.  I haven’t done this on my own. Like at all.  Sure, I soul searched and dug deep, and I recognized the need to rip off the bandaids and truly clean out my wounds once and for all.  But for that last part, I needed outside help. I knew I for sure needed God in this process, because without Him, how could I heal and make real changes? I also knew I needed to take it one step further: I needed professional help. Husbands, friends, and family are amazing to talk to and gain perspective from. Don’t get me wrong, because I need those wonderful people in my life. But I needed someone who was a trained professional. Someone who would have courage to call a spade a spade.  Sometimes family and friends don’t feel they can tell you when you’re out of line or need a kick in the pants. A professional can, and in a professional way. I needed a neutral place, one of zero judgement or strings attached. I needed wisdom and truth. I needed to feel safe.

I was blessed to get an appointment with a very busy family medical doctor/therapist. Let’s call him Dr. Smith. He’s pretty hard to get in to see, but I squeaked on in! (I feel like that’s just me. Somehow I always end up worming my way into people’s lives. Haha!) After my first appointment, I wanted to quit. Ripping off bandaids and cleaning out deep wounds sucked. And it HURT! My husband encouraged me and reminded me that this is what I wanted. And that I shouldn’t give up. I’m extremely glad I listened to him, because let’s face it, I can be a brat and do the opposite of listening.

I told Dr Smith how there are people I know and love who have at times withdrawn and closed themselves off from relationships. I never understood why, but after pondering it, I questioned if I should just quit and withdraw. It’s my tendency to put a lot of effort into my relationships (inside and outside of my own family) and how I sometimes feel like it’s not reciprocated. I will end up hurt or disappointed because I feel that my friends and family don’t care about me and my family like I do about them.  I feel like sometimes it’s one-sided. If I don’t make the effort and reach out or plan things, then my kids and I lose out. I told my therapist that maybe I should just focus on my own little family and kind of pump the brakes with everyone else. It’s safer that way, isn’t it? In response to the tangent I went off on, Dr Smith calmly asked me, “How many ways are there to do the dishes?” I didn’t know what in tarnation he was talking about. And what in tarnation did that have to do with my tangent?

I wasn’t able to find a stock photo of dishes in the sink, so I went through my camera roll. I had to include this photo of little Lachlan “helping” me do the dishes. Cutest and most delightful baby in all the land. I miss this stage, but also don’t. He was such a menace. Haha! Also, I love my logo from @wyndy.design. Check her out. Kira is incredibly talented! I used to be her Young Women’s leader when I was first married (a youth leader for our church) and I used to babysit her husband. How’s that for feeling old?

Dr Smith answered for me because he saw my deer in the headlights look. He said that are two ways to do the dishes. He told me that I could “do the dishes” out of guilt, anger, hurt, retaliation or frustration. I could mutter under my breath that my family is always making messes and that I ALWAYS have to clean up after them. I could do it begrudgingly and resent my family for not helping. Or, I could see it as an opportunity to bless and serve my family. Doing the dishes is giving my family a gift. It’s giving my love.

 I loved this analogy. I work well with analogies and in this instance, this analogy could be literal. How do you actually do the dishes? This helped me rethink how I bless my family with keeping my house clean and free of “noise”. I don’t love doing the actual dishes, but I do love how the end result of a clean kitchen positively effects my family.  

To take it further than the literal question, he had me thinking about my motives of withdrawing. Would I be withdrawing out of hurt and disappointment? Would I do it to punish other people? Or would I be pumping the brakes out of a healthy desire to regroup (hello expectations!) and reprioritize what truly matters? I had to think of what was best for us! My own little family truly matters most, but I can get a little distracted at times. This was a perfect reminder for me.

My beautiful little family. I was getting my church bag and locking up the van when I saw this. My eyes got wet. How blessed am I to have these four? I keep this as my wallpaper on my phone to have a constant reminder of how blessed I am.

This analogy also helped me think of my “why”. Why am I saying yes to so many things? Is it out of obligation or guilt? Or is it because I genuinely want to say yes?

I had an epiphany one day that goes along with this analogy. I must give a little back story first. My husband and I have very different languages of love. (Fun fact: I’ve never actually read the book The 5 Love Languages cover to cover, but I want/need to!) I’m more of a Words of Affirmation and Physical Touch kind of girl. Keegan is more of an Acts of Service and Quality Time Together kind of guy. We tend to give our love in the way we want to receive. This can cause complications. And it has. I communicate my love to Keegan in the way that’s meaningful to me, but unfortunately not as meaningful to him. And vice versa. Sometimes, I’ve focused on what I’m not getting, instead of focusing on what’s in front of me. Keegan wasn’t always telling me he loved me with his words, but he absolutely showed me with his actions.

One day, as I looked around our house, something hit me hard. I saw evidence of Keegan’s love EVERYWHERE! It was a real humbling experience for me! I was able to see through a different lens. I saw that Keegan truly serves me and our family and it was humbling. He’s a finishing carpenter, and he did the finishing work on our house. Literally, I could see his love everywhere. I looked at the garbage can that was put outside for the garbage truck to pick up. He takes it out every Wednesday. I looked at our manicured lawn (or was it a shoveled driveway? I can’t remember because weather is crazy here.) I saw my van parked in the garage. Keegan makes sure the garage is cleared out on my side so I can park inside. Meanwhile, he parks outside and contends with rain or snowy and icy windows to clear off. I saw our full fridge and pantry and recognized that Keegan was the reason I could keep our family fed. The list goes on. He does so much for me and my family. I just needed to open my eyes a little more to see it in a different light. I try to show gratitude, but this taught me something different.

When the magnitude of Keegan’s love and service hit me, I got pretty emotional. I texted him, and said, “You do love me so much. Sometimes I don’t see all the ways you show me you love me. I’m trying way harder to recognize it. And I’m seeing it everywhere. You’re kind of obsessed with me.” (I actually searched our text history for this quote. It’s kind of weird to quote myself.)

I’m telling you, this was paramount in our relationship!!! It completely changed how I was being filled up. Because I could finally recognize Keegan’s love language, I could feel how much he loves me. Keegan has always been so devoted to me. It took me many moons to see it. Heck, even in his dreams he’s devoted to me. (In real life I’m devoted, but not in my dreams. Insert shifty eyes and awkward laugh.)

Fast forward. I look for ways I can show Keegan I love him, in his love language. Sure, I still give words of affirmation and affection, but I’m trying more than ever to SHOW him. I’m trying to teach our kids that, too. For Father’s Day this year, their present to their dad was decluttering their toys. Then I helped them sell their toys. With that money, they took him out for ice cream. Now that was meaningful to Keegan.

I am forever grateful for God’s help along the way. I was able to give my burdens to Him. There’s so much more I could say about that and all the tender mercies. For the time being, I’ll add my gratitude for how He helped me recognize the need to go to a therapist. I’m forever grateful for Dr Smith and his insights. I’m grateful that he called a spade a spade and wouldn’t let me get away with an easy out. The decision to seek out professional help is sometimes not supported by family members, for whatever reason.  I’m forever grateful for a husband who supported and encouraged me to see Dr Smith.

I know that it’s okay to not be okay. After my mom died, my world was shattered. I wasn’t okay. But I took time to feel everything I needed to. I didn’t rush through my stages of grief. (Have I mentioned that anger was a stage I lingered at for a while?) I didn’t suppress anything. And after that, I was able to take charge of my healing and seek spiritual, physical, emotional and mental help. I’m forever grateful for that. Nuggets I’ve learned along the way, like the two ways to do the dishes, have truly given me a chance to change. The ability to change is a true gift.