No two people experience loss in the same way. This month, on Band Back Together, we are working hard to bring you stories of love and light and loss.
Both of my grandmothers are dying, but my feelings couldn’t be more polarized.
My maternal grandmother has been battling with medical issues since she herniated a disk at the age of 20. She fought through a crushed vertebrae, arthritis, knee replacement surgery, depression, and ovarian cancer to give her love to her three children, six grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. This past month, the cancer came back, and she tried a second round of chemotherapy.
At the age of 87, it took a serious toll on her already poor balance, and she decided that she’d had enough of the treatments.
All I can do is pray that hospice can help her enjoy the time she has left, because my heart is breaking to see my Nonna so miserable.
My paternal grandmother, my Nan, has never taken good care of herself. As long as she’s lived in her own house, her diet has consisted of pizza, fast food, pie, ice cream, and Coke. Most of the time she hardly eats anything. Not surprisingly, her lack of nutrition over the years has led to osteoporosis, and more recently, pneumonia.
I recently went to visit her in the hospital, and I was enraged at what I saw.
She was emaciated.
Even after a week of antibiotics, she lacked the strength to stand on her own. In hopes of stimulating an appetite, we brought her a cheeseburger from Wendy’s. She fumbled it with trembling hands for a bit before saying, “This burger is so heavy. I can barely lift it.”
As hard as I try, I can’t find the sympathy or grief for my Nan that pours out of me when I think of my Nonna.
Both situations are awful, but all I can feel for my Nan is frustration because she’s done this to herself. All of this could have been prevented.
This anger that I feel scares me, because at this rate it’s going to rob me of my closure. I want to be able to let go.
More than anything, I’m dreading having to watch my parents go through the same thing.
It’s Mother’s Day and I’ve spend most of the day in tears. I ‘d been looking forward to it; even had some cool plans for spending the day with my daughters. Those plans went sideways shortly after breakfast.
I left my husband this week, a planned separation which took several months to execute thanks to our housing situation. As far as our daughters are concerned though, we’re still a team working together to make sure they’re happy and healthy. This week we’ve been ultra-focused on our daughters and the new adjustments.
With all our attention on our children, we didn’t pay much attention to the other members of our household.
When I got home from work on Thursday, I realized one of the dogs hadn’t eaten her breakfast. Not unusual, sometimes she leaves her food until late, so I wasn’t concerned. Friday night, she still hadn’t eaten. This time, I brought the black dog into the light in the kitchen, and took a good look at her. She was gaunt, ribs and spine sticking out alarmingly.
She clearly hadn’t eaten in days.
I called my ex and we agreed to flavor up her food with broth to get her to eat. We assumed it was stress from the separation. I sat, hand feeding the dog until she finally ate her food. Same deal on Saturday and again this morning. The gauntness was less pronounced, but I noticed other symptoms: a little bloating, weakness in one leg.
This morning, my ex came to get the girls for church. As he was petting her neck, he found it. A golf-ball sized lump hiding under her fur. Another closer to the other shoulder.
He took the girls to church while I took the dog to the vet. The emergency vet gave me her early findings. My 9-year old lab has Lymphatic Carcinoma. Cancer. X-rays indicate that it may have already spread to her organs, and possibly bones as well.
Some of you will read this and know the pain and horror I felt. Others, not so much.
It may just be the dog, but it’s my dog, one we raised (along with her litter-mate) as a rescue puppy. A pet who loves me unconditionally, knows when I’m sad and has comforted me upon many occasions. Knowing that I couldn’t put her through chemo brought me to tears.
If it really is cancer, the right, most humane decision is to put her down before she begins to suffer too much.
This cancer diagnosis capped the end of an incredibly horrible week.
A week which included leaving my husband and walking away from my daughters for the first time with the new custody sharing schedule. I kept telling myself it would be just a few days, just like a business trip. It wasn’t though. Being separated from them felt like my heart had been ripped out of my chest.
A week where the bank finally approved our short sale, but gave us a short 30-day deadline to close escrow. A week that saw a solid, approved plan to move into a rental home go awry as the owners of the rental we’re moving into reneged on the deal at the last minute.
A week that ended with learning my daughters and I would be homeless come the 31st.
Ironically, the owners of the rental reneged because we had one too many dogs. A massive wave of guilt washed over me as I wondered if maybe this would allow the deal to go through.
I think the dog knows what’s coming. She’s been rather chipper since we got home from the vet. It’s prompting my 6-year old to try to convince me that the hard lump on her throat is smaller than before so that maybe she doesn’t have to die tomorrow. I’m in one of those horrible waiting periods where I want to convince myself that it’s just a bad infection, one which we can treat with antibiotics and TLC.
Maybe our regular vet will disagree and give us a different diagnosis. But, we have to be prepared for the worst.
Oh, my pretty puppy.
I am going to miss you.
Today, my heart is broken. Some people that touch your life just become part of your journey. Diontae and I met in the summer of 2015. He had transferred to Olive Branch as an Assistant Manager and I was a part-time head cashier. We were the new kids, so we closed together a lot. When you spend as much time with people as we did, you make connections.
Diontae became my work husband. We kidded about this all of the time, but we had each others backs. You all know the person. The one that you go to complain to so you don’t take the stress of the job home to your family. The person who just GETS the struggles of the day to day grind of your store. You learn each other’s kids names, talk about your families, dish about the newest gossip.
I thank the stars for him at that time in my life.
I left that store in April of 2017 for personal reasons. At the time, he was my direct supervisor. The first person I called when I walked out of my store was him, my work husband. He understood why I did what I did. Yet I felt horrible, because I was losing an important person in my life.
I came back to the same company in May of this year, just at a different store. The first time I called him for some information for a customer at my current store, he told me that my old position was open and that he wanted me back. Every time I spoke to him, he’d say the same thing.
Today my heart is broken.
My first work husband is dead. He left behind a daughter and a family that loved him deeply. He also left behind a work family that loved him wholeheartedly.
Today, the world is a little less bright without Diontae in it.
I proposed in 1996.
He’d always said, “If you get the ring, I’ll say yes. ”
I did, he did.
We did in September 1997. We’d been together for 3 years already. We were a good couple, we were happy. I knew his bipolar disorder was manageable, I knew we could conquer anything.
Years passed, new home, new jobs, a lot of loneliness. He worked swing-shift which is not good for a relationship or anyone with mental health disorders.
This is where it is no longer my story…I had an affair, I left him, albeit amicably. We remained friends, he kept it, “in the family” in a round about sort of way.
They had a kid, So did me and my new husband. We spoke on occasion, kept in touch via family.
We each moved forward.
2018, a lot of suicide, celebrities, local people, friends of friends. I thought I should check-in with him but I didn’t.
Time and time again, I didn’t.
I awoke one morning to my husband asking if I knew anyone in a certain neighborhood there’d been a major tragedy.
I waited until I got to work.
I texted my ex, “What’s your mom’s address?” No response. “Hello?” No response. Messenger dings, My ex sister-in-law. “Can you talk?” I told her that I was at work.
“His mental illness got the best of him, he did the unthinkable, he killed A, he killed B, he killed C, and A, he took his own life.”
My past destroyed in one night.
He left a child parentless
I have spoken to the child. We connected. I have nothing bad to say about the child’s father.
I loved him, always. We were good together. We grew apart.
I feel I could have helped had he just reached out to me.
Today 11/15 is his Birthday, I wish him peace on the other side. I know he fought his demons, I know they over ran him in the end.
I still love him, he’s my past, I will, as always, hold him close to my heart.
There were 4 victims that night.
All of them fell victim to Bipolar Disorder, a failing system, and a lack of understanding from those around the one suffering the most.
Today, I will light a candle for your Birthday,
You are missed. You will always be missed.
I will always remember you.
Happy Birthday, RIP, DLP.
In 2004, I was pregnant with my daughter and at a job I enjoyed with a morally corrupt boss that I hated.
But I was fine.
When I was 32 weeks pregnant, my father came for a visit. Dad lived two hours away from me, so having him show up suddenly for a visit wasn’t unusual. In fact, I loved it. I’d wake up to the smells of breakfast cooking, coffee brewing, and my Dad whistling happily to himself as he took over as caretaker in my house.
There was something very comforting about my Dad’s presence in my house. My father was a six-foot tall and solid man. So when he hugged me, he enveloped me. The feel of his embrace, the scent of his cologne, the unmistakable him-ness, could give me strength and faith that no matter what, I would always be okay.
My father loved me. My father was my friend. My father was a fabulous grandfather to his grandson. My father was my foundation. My rock. My stability.
And that morning, my father showed up and made breakfast. Blueberry muffins. He spent the morning talking to my son and I. He helped my son tie his shoes for school. I could hear them laughing and talking and whispering to each other as Dad helped his grandson fix his hair for school.
When it was time to leave, my son did not want to go. He wanted to stay home and spend the day with his grandpa. I remember saying to my son, “Come on, I’m taking you to school. Grandpa will be here when you get home.”
My son hugged his Grandpa goodbye. His grandpa told him he loved him. He told his Grandson to have a great day.
I told my Dad I’d be back in about an hour; I needed to stop at the store before I came home. My Dad told me to be careful. He kissed me on my forehead and told me, “I really love you, kid. I’m glad I came to see you.”
As I drove out of the driveway, I glanced in the rearview mirror and saw my Dad taking out my trash and for one moment; one tiny moment, I thought to myself, “Maybe I can let my kid skip one day of school. We could all just spend a nice day together.”
But, my son had a spelling test, and his gifted class that day and I didn’t think he should miss those. I looked at my father in that mirror and I felt so good that he was there. I was so glad to have my father show up that week.
I remember thinking, “Time with Dad is just what I need.”
It was early spring here. The morning was slightly chilly but the sun was shining brightly. The day was bright with promise. After dropping off my son and a quick stop at the store, I headed home.
I got out of the car and grabbed my few bags of groceries and went into the house. At 32 weeks pregnant, I had an awkward sense of balance, but I managed to get to the door in spite of the dog and that’s when I thought, “What’s the dog doing outside? She doesn’t stay outside by herself.”
I went inside to find that my father had killed himself.
Much of what happened that day after that is burned into my brain and I will never, ever forget it. Some things are gray and fuzzy and lost to the haze of my grief and I’ll never remember them.
What I do know is that my world, my foundation, my entire sense of who I am was taken away in one moment by the one person who was supposed to keep me from ever feeling like that.
I’m doing okay with it.
So why am I telling you this story?
Because suicide is bullshit. And it’s aftereffects last a lifetime. In our case? Two lifetimes. It’s shaped who I am today and who my son is as well.
Because if there is anyone here reading this who thinks that suicide will end pain needs to know that it causes a lifetime of pain. Pain, confusion and hurt.
Because no one wants to talk about it.
When someone loses a parent to an illness, an accident or at someone else’s hand? People are there for them. They listen to them. They commiserate. They form a support for them that is so goddamn necessary to heal. Not so when someone you love takes their own life.
Suicide is a topic that no one wants to be connected to.
People don’t want to talk about it. They can’t hear about it. They don’t want to comfort you because they don’t know how. It’s not something that they want to believe can happen to you. They don’t know what to say. They don’t have the answers either, and that makes it difficult for them. It’s because of this that my father’s suicide has made me the loneliest I have ever been.
I’ve been isolated in so many ways because of it. So isolated that I don’t know if I will ever not feel like I’m separated from everyone else again.
I could sit here and tell you all the ways this has changed me. All the ways I am stronger. All the ways I am scarred. About crying in absolute emotional pain and just wanting my dad when just a few weeks later, I gave birth to my daughter. About all the irrational fears I have. Someday, I may tell you about all of it.
Today, I want to show you that my Dad was a real person, just as I am. I love him today just as I always have.
The day my son was born, my dad wasn’t able to be there. I can’t remember why. I believe my dad was cooing to him. But the obvious joy at having that boy makes this photo one of my most treasured memories. I wanted you to see it.
My Dad was a real person. He existed.
Today, I tell you about my Dad because this community is amazing. I read your stories and I am humbled by your courage, your tenacity and your amazing support for each other.
I’m so proud to be a part of this project, even in a small way. I’m so proud of every person who has posted and who has commented. I’m so proud to know that this community exists.
You have no idea how much you would have helped me in 2004, but I do.
I tell you my story because you’ve told me all of your stories. Your stories, in your voices, about your experiences have made me feel like people don’t suck as much as I thought.
I need you to know that if you have lost someone to suicide that it’s time we start talking about it and making it okay to talk about it.
I need you to know that if you are thinking about killing yourself, my story is a very good example of what you will leave behind. By killing yourself, you will have caused more pain than you can imagine. Pain that will never go away. Please, please, don’t do this to everyone in your family. Don’t do this to your parents, children, and friends.
I need you to know that for six years, I’ve stopped believing that anyone would love me more than they love themselves. I don’t know that I’ll ever believe that again.
I need you to know that I am sharing my story because I trust you.
Thank you all for inspiring me.
Thank you for making BB2G the community what it is today.
Thank you for being here.
If you are feeling desperate, alone or helpless, or know someone who is call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to talk to a counselor at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Here is the Band Back Together Suicide Prevention Resource Page
Here is what happens to loved ones left behind from a suicide.
It was with a loud crash that she hit the floor, her knees gone weak with fear. “Help,” she cried, to no one in particular, a sort of mangled prayer to a god she never once believed in.
“Help me,” she whispered, hoping to see someone there, yet there was nothing but vast darkness, her hands clenched tightly.
There was a hollowness in her soul, an icy chill that ran through her veins when she hit this point. The bottom, again, a place she promised to stay away from, spun so quickly up to greet her. “Help me,” again she whispered, desperate.
The cold steel seemed to awaken in her hand. It was so strong, so faithful, and so delicate. She closed her eyes, tears falling hot and fast, such opposition to the cold running through her heart. One line, then another, cutting across her flesh.
“Help,” she whispered, partially to her ever trusty blade, partially to the blood now trickling down. It was warm like her tears, and safe, a reminder that she was real.
Exhausted, she weeps.
This was never how it was supposed to be.