Limping along through grief

Limping Along Through Grief

It’s been nine months since my dad died. Judging by societal expectations, something we shouldn’t do of course, things should be back to normal. I should be back to normal. But I am not. I am still limping along through grief.

Grief has no timetable. And yet, there is often that subtle suggestion that perhaps it’s time to be done, it’s time to move on.

Just like with cancer.

If it appears to the world as if you’ve put grief behind you, it’s often assumed you’re doing a better job of handling things.

Just like with cancer.

The early days of grief are hard.

During those early days of raw grief, people ask how you’re doing. They send cards. They bring meals. They make phone calls or send you emails and text messages.

If you’re lucky after a month or two, your dear one continues to get mentioned. Some people keep asking how you’re doing. But by nine months, people have moved on. For the most part, they’ve stopped asking. They haven’t stopped caring, mind you, but most have stopped asking.

And this is as it should be.

I am not fishing for sympathy, comments or anything at all. I am just writing about this because maybe someone else will say, oh yeah. That’s how it is/was for me too. After all, most of us are limping along through something, are we not?

The first months of grief are hard.

After my mother died, dear hubby told me the first year would be the hardest. (He was an experienced griever; his dad had died fifteen years prior). There are all those firsts to get through. Once you’ve made it through the first year, you realize 365 days have passed without your loved one in it, and you’ve survived. So his words made sense.

The first 365 days of grief are hard.

But grief doesn’t end when that one year milestone has been reached and passed. Grief is for a lifetime because love is for a lifetime.

Life is just different now.

It’s an odd thing trying to figure out life without your parents in it anymore. I fully realize many people didn’t have their parents for the amount of time I had mine. I know I’m lucky in many ways. At the same time, having a long relationship with your parent(s) on into your own adulthood makes it hard to adjust when they’re gone. Having said this, losing your parents earlier in your life must be equally challenging, for different reasons.

I’ve discovered my dad’s death has had an even greater impact on me in some ways than my mother’s did. I hope that doesn’t sound callous or weird. My mother died after tremendous suffering from metastatic breast cancer. Even though we were all, of course, devastated, there was a certain amount of relief when her suffering ended.

The greater impact I feel after my dad’s death probably has more to do with the realization I no longer have living parents at all.

When your remaining parent dies, too, something else dies. Maybe it’s the real end of your childhood, the end of some sort of buoyancy that can no longer be yours. Mostly, it’s the end of a special kind of love you’ve received and will never receive again, that unconditional love only your parents can offer. And of course, the death of both your parents is a not-so-subtle reminder about the brevity of not only their lives, but your own life, too.

My dad’s death hit me hard.

Nine months later, I still cry at the smallest nudge. Like when I’m scrolling through photos or my contact list on my phone and see his face. Or when I watch a Twins baseball game and wistfully recall his love of the game and for his team. Or when I see the first blooms of spring. Or when I check the daily weather forecast. (He was a bit weather obsessed). When I see a bag of Circus Peanuts or jelly beans. The list of grief triggers is endless because the ordinariness of any given day without him in it, is the trigger.

So many things still jolt me back into intense grief.

In time, I know the memories will bring smiles more often than tears. But that time is not here. Not yet.

I have so much more to say about grief. And over time, I will say these things. Even if it makes some uncomfortable. Even if some turn away.

Just as with cancer, I will never be done with grief. I move forward, but I do not move on.

Grief will always be hard.

For the time being, I am still limping along through grief. Perhaps you are, too. Or perhaps you’re limping along through something else.

And that’s okay.

Limping along is moving forward, too.

Just like with cancer.

Perhaps we can limp along together.

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Limping Along Through Grief

29 thoughts on “Limping Along Through Grief

  1. I’m having a really hard time right now. My dear beautiful and sweet mother died of cancer 3 weeks ago, and I don’t even know how to get through the amount of pain and grief that I am in. She was my best friend, and I feel like my whole world has fallen apart, and I feel like my heart/soul died when she died. Life is hard without her, and I can’t seem to get through the days or nights without immense amounts of heartache and pain.

    We knew she was sick, but we weren’t expecting her to die so soon! She was in remission back in November of 2016, and then we were told at the end of March that the cancer had come back, was in a new location, and it was a 8″ tumor in the middle diaphragm of the chest, and was close to collapsing her right lung. We were devastated! She went into the hospital because she wasn’t able to breath good with this huge mass on her lung, and they tried more radiation and chemo while she was in the hospital to shrink it enough to get it off the lung. That wasn’t good enough. She died 3 days later. I am beside myself! I need counseling, but don’t have insurance, and it’s just to expensive. I’ve researched online for help with coping with this loss of my best friend, and have considered free group counseling. But so far, nothing I have found in books, online, talking to people ect, has helped. I just don’t know how to get past not being able to see her, hug her, talk to her, get advice from her, and just to not have her here with me anymore. I wouldn’t want her back suffering the way she did, and I know she’s in Heaven now healthy and happy. But being stuck down here on earth without her is unbearable. I really don’t know what to do anymore, and my life is not happy without her. I know as a 35 year old woman that sounds ridiculous, but it’s not to me.

    Nicole

    1. Nicole, I am very sorry. Your loss is so recent; you are in the brutal throws of raw grief. I hope you have someone or find someone you can talk with about your deep sorrow, someone to just sit with you as your grieve. You don’t mention the relationships with other members of your family, so I can’t speak to that. Perhaps you can talk with a clergy person, or find a support group either in person or online. One starting place to ask for help would be your mother’s doctors. They should be able to direct you to grief resources. Please know, how you feel and nothing you say sounds ridiculous at all. It doesn’t matter that you are 35. It sounds like you and mother had a beautiful relationship and that is a wonderful thing, but of course, it also makes that emptiness you are feeling now that much harder. There is a book called, “Motherless Daughters,” that might help. There are many others as well. You don’t have to bear this pain alone. Thank you for sharing about your mother. Again, I’m so sorry. Please take care of yourself and keep reaching out for help. There is help out there.

  2. I’ve had a lot of loss in the last few years as well, so I know there’s no timetable for grief. It sneaks up on you in the most unexpected times. You’re so right when you say we move forward. Whether it’s the loss of our health to cancer or the death of a loved one, those things will always be with us. xoxox, Brenda

    1. Brenda, Gosh, you sure have. Moving forward is quite different from moving on, in my mind anyway. And you’re so right, we take all our experiences with us, as you well know. Thank you for reading and for commenting, too. It’s good to hear from you. xo

  3. Yes limping along with grief should be a song. I would sing it all the time. I lost my husband, my best friend in 2010 after suffering for 4 years, I figure I lost him twice as I have been told. I lost him when he got sick and then when he died. So I limped on through grief or a broken heart, really the same thing. I actually felt something change physically after his death in me. I would look at myself and say something has changed. I of course told no one else this. Then in 2012 I found two lumps one in each breast. I had calcifications that were benign and was being watched carefully. But I had foot surgery earlier that year that put off my mammogram. I was diagnosed with IDC in the fall of 2012. I finished my final reconstructive surgery in 2015. I had neoadjuvent chemo,double mastectomy and radiation the trifecta as my oncologist puts it. I got an infection after the double mastectomy and that changed everything and 5 surgeries later. I have no children. I went through many years of infertility treatment probably the reason for the breast cancer. I limped through grief back then too. I feel free to say all this here. Thank you Nancy. 5 years ago I would never even looked online for anything.

    1. Wendy, You have been through so much. Much more than one person should ever have to deal with. I am sorry your husband died and I am sorry you were diagnosed with cancer, too. I am glad you feel free too speak freely here. You are welcome to do so any time. Thank you for sharing so candidly about such personal and painful things. Lots of us will keep limping along to that “song”.

  4. Beatifully expressed.

    9 months ago I lost my Mom who was 89, but still was unexpected. One of my 2 sisters was in hospice care at the time metastatic breast cancer & she died 2 weeks later. She was 53. In December I was diagosed with invasive ductal carcinoma. Surgery & radiation done. My prognosis is excellent.

    Losses were not over yet though. My other sister, 63, died 3 weeks ago on Easter Sunday, 3 months after Stage 4 primary peritoneal cancer diagnosis.

    It all seems unreal. My Daddy died 37 years ago so I’ve missed him for a long time.

    Yes I am limping along with you. Trying to be grateful my health is now good & I had great surgeon & oncologists.

    Hope to be limping back to work soon. I have lots of prayers to lift me up. I have 1 brother left & 6 nieces & nephews & a few “great” ones too.

    Making progress. It can be very hard but I keep going, hoping for good things in the future. I still have a life to lead & will bring them along with me

    1. JRenee, That is so much loss, so much heartache for you and your family. I am so sorry. And your sweet father all those years ago, too. It can be very hard at times, but those who are grieving keep limping along, each of us at our own pace. Thank you for sharing about your dear ones. Again, I’m sorry for your many heartbreaking losses.

  5. Nancy,

    This is such a profoundly raw post. I am so sorry about the death of both your parents. I think people in our society are so uncomfortable with death and grief, they just want these feelings to be over with. They expect you to get over it. Grief doesn’t work that way.

    I grieve for my friends lost to cancer. I keep bargaining with God, saying “I’d do anything to get them back.” But thinking this way is futile. This may sound silly, although I know you’re an animal lover like me, but I am grieving for my cat who died in November. She was a huge support during my cancer diagnosis, treatment, and everything. I miss her cuddling up with me at night. I still cry over her.

    Grief knows no timelines and knows no boundaries. xo

    1. Beth, I don’t think it’s silly at all that you grieve for your cat. I still grieve for Elsie. Grief is forever because love is forever. Thank you for reading and sharing, Beth.

  6. Grieving is as individual as breathing.. no one can tell you how to do it or prescribe a Timeline that’s appropriate.
    I have lost both my parents, grandparents, my younger brother and most recently my only female cousin. My heart hurts in losing her. We grew up together we were in each other’s weddings. She was the most authentic person I knew. I have gone through survivors guilt I have had Breast Cancer and in remission for the past 8 years. She was diagnosed after 8 months she was gone. I can’t explain it away nor can I understand how this was possible She was the epitome of good health. Pancreatic Cancer kills you so damn fast. My faith is strong though I have questioned WHY so often. When she was in Hospice she exuded so much strength. She didn’t question why me, she accepted her impending death. We all laughed at her funeral how organized she was. She planned it all in detail including what flowers and where her Urn was supposed to sit. Picked out her husband’s tie.. She was a teacher (retired) She left an indelible mark on her students many former students who were adults attended. She never bragged most of us never knew she was given The Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence in Science & Mathematics. During her illness so many time I would go back in my mind when we were children I wished I could have crawled inside myself and stayed in that safe place where we were happy girls doing everything together. I lost my younger brother 8 years ago. I’m still grieving for him too. My grief is different it can’t be the same for both…

    1. Alli, You are so right, grief is such an individual thing. I am sorry your dear cousin died. Your memories of all your dear ones will remain forever treasures for your heart. Thank you for sharing. It’s good to hear from you.

  7. Thanks Nancy for your kind words. What helps me is “bringing them with me” – meaning my Mom & both sisters had a flair for make up & clothes/ jewelry that I do not have. Part of what I call our “banter” was them telling me to do this or that & me saying No & sometimes going along with it.

    Now that they are gone, I actually do a little more than I used to like wearing jewelry, putting more make up on or purple nail polish. Makes me smile taling them with me this way.

    Fortunately I have alot of extended family, aunts, uncles, cousins, who have helped support me. Most of these folks I’ve hardly seen in 30 years but when it mattered they were there, and still are.

    1. JRenee, I like the way you “bring your dear ones with you.” And it’s wonderful you have lots of extended family members who are there for you when it matters. Thanks for sharing some more thoughts on this post. Again, I am sorry for your family’s losses.

  8. Oh Nancy I’m still limping along with my own grief, and my heart hurts for all of us who are living lives without our loved ones. Your analogy reminds me of one of my favorite Anne Lamott quotes:

    “You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”

    I haven’t quite learned to dance yet, but i still get comfort from these words x

    1. Marie, I know you limp along, too. Thank you for sharing the beautiful words of wisdom from Anne Lamott. I’m not dancing yet either, but her words are comforting nonetheless.

  9. My mother died today. It was a long process and not totally unexpected, she was 78 and had liver cancer. I am feeling very emotional tonight, trying to come to terms with my feelings. I was adopted at birth. Sadly, my childhood was a tragic string of events, starting with moms alcoholism when I was a young child, which resulted in my parents imminent divorce. Dad remarried, however mom never found love again and became completely addicted to alcohol and prescription medication. There was a long period that I was estranged from her and tried to live a normal life, seeing her occasionally on holidays over the years. I am now a 50 year old mom of three young adults who I am very proud of. The grief I feel tonight after watching my mother pass away a terrible suffering death in a nursing home is a totally mixed bag of emotions. Not sure how to deal with this loss, it hurts a lot more than I thought it would! I said goodbye this afternoon, and held her hand as she cried out and begged me to end her pain. I guess its different for me because although I loved her, we never had a strong mother/daughter bond.

    1. Paula, I am very sorry for your loss. Even if your relationship with your mother wasn’t stellar and even if your her death wasn’t totally unexpected, it’s still hard grappling with the death of a parent, and of course, you’re feeling emotional. I’m glad you were there and held her hand. That’s something I didn’t get to do with either of my parents when they died. Every loss feels different because every situation is different. Be kind and gentle with yourself as you make your way through grief and try to figure things out. Again, I’m sorry. Thank you for sharing.

  10. Nancy, I am sorry about your pain. There are no words that can make this process easy but please know I am here to listen and to let you know that I understand.

    I struggle with grief. And as I get older, it gets worse for me. Yes, this is about my grandmother. I think of her all the time and I miss her. I never received the same kind of love from anyone else. I was too young for her to leave me. I didn’t even get the chance to thank her and I think this is the worst part. The fact that I didn’t go through my different stages with her. When she left, I was a teen. And I did not really understand a lot of things I know today. I was still looking for my truth, my identify and for some answers. Today I realize the answer is simple: she was my mother and no one will ever replace her in my heart. I just wish I can say that to her. I hope she knew. It has been over 18 years since she left and grief is still very hard for me.

    Thank you for writing this, my friend. Your love for your dad is reflected in every word you write about him. xoxo

    1. Rebeca, Your kind words are very special. Thank you. Your grandma holds such a special place in your heart. This in itself makes it pretty clear she knew exactly how you felt about her and needed no thank you. Missing her as you’ve grown older has to hurt because it’s only natural you see things differently in each phase of your life and you grieve for that loss as well. She knew how much you loved her. I’m sure of it. Thank you for sharing and for always being there. xo

  11. Hi Nancy,

    thanks for the blog. Dad died almost 3 months ago and I’m pining desperately for him. He was my rock, even though I’m blessed with a great husband. My mum died almost 30 years ago (I was 18) and it took me years to adapt to the changes her sudden death brought about. Dad died suddenly too and I never ever thought I’d be so lost as I am now, thought that mams death was the ultimate. Now I find I’m grieving his loss so so much. He was 78 she only 53. Anyhow thanks for writing the blog, great to share.

    1. Sandra, I am very sorry about your dad and your mom too. Your loss is very recent and your grief is so raw yet. There are days I still feel quite lost, so it’s natural you are feeling that way. Allow yourself to grieve in your own way. It’s a difficult thing coming to terms with having no parents. I’m not there yet. You’re not alone, if that helps. Thank you for sharing and again, I’m sorry.

  12. It was with my Dad’s passing Nov. 30,2016 that I also started grieving my Mom’s death in Dec. 2012. I held off getting to the doctor for myself till January 2017. I was dx with Stage 2,grade 1, ER/PR+ ILC.
    I found that with every experience/issue we face and we deal with when the next “thing” happens we usually revisited what we thought we dealt with.
    My Mom’s death was sudden and unexpected. The time immediately after her death was as it pertains to my Dad, my girls dealing with their first family death, my Dad having a girlfriend within two weeks, my brother, my own grief process which seemed stunted for 4 years. I started mourning my Dad before he died. I lost my job in Sept. started spending more and more time with him, to where in November I was own with him most of the time and was there when he took his last breath. Before my dx I feel I had this luxury almost of mourning thte loss of both my parents then it turned to mourning the old me and having to have yet another thing to tack survivor to the end of.

    1. Jamie, Gosh, you’ve been going through a lot. I am sorry about your dad. I know how hard it is to cope with the death of both your parents. And then you were diagnosed with cancer, too. You make an interesting point about when the next things happens we revisit what we thought we dealt with. Gotta mull that over a bit more. Now you not only mourn for your parents, as you said, you also mourn for the old you. It’s important you give yourself permission to do exactly that. My best to you. Again, I’m sorry.

      1. Permission, exactly! I have gotten better at it. It is a weird feeling to feel like at orphan at 47! I sad and mad that my parents weren’t here for my diagnosis. They wouldn’t have been the gushing supportive types at all, my mom would probably say the doctors are making money off of me or something similar but you still want to tell them and maybe they would be there for you.

        1. Jamie, I have wondered many times how my mother would’ve reacted to my diagnosis too. Sometimes I am glad she didn’t have to know, and sometimes I am sad, even a bit angry, that she wasn’t/isn’t here to lend that shoulder to lean/cry on. It is a weird feeling to be an adult orphan and you at such a young age no less. I am sorry your parents are no longer around in the physical sense anyway. Thank you for sharing.

  13. Nancy,
    I have been blessed to have my mother for 66 years. She is 84 and has alzheimer’s. She’s getting weaker and I am grieving. I am so scared. I am sadder than I have ever been. I have a great husband but don’t feel I can do this mentally or physically. Please help.

    1. Renee, I understand. Perhaps you need another layer of support. There are Alzheimer support groups out there, for example. Your grief, fear and sadness are understandable. You are going through a lot and dealing with many emotions right now and it’s all very taxing mentally and physically. At the same time, it’s also a time that will mean a lot to you in the years ahead. It’s a tremendous honor helping a loved one transition, although, it’s also extremely challenging and gut-wrenchingly painful to witness at times as well. Do you have any siblings or friends to lean on or talk with? Take things day by day, take care of yourself and do your best. Nothing new there, but all are so important, nonetheless. Remember, you’re not alone. Even though it feels like it at times. Thank you for sharing.

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