Sometimes, you lost something so devastating that you don’t know if you’re going to be able to breathe. The Band is paying tribute to the losses you’ve had. Please share with us a loss you’ve experienced (doesn’t have to be a person, can be a dream, or a pet, or an item).
I am infertile.
We have been trying to have a baby for years to no avail. I will spare you the details, but I was approached by a potential birth mother who is a friend. She is pregnant, doesn’t want the baby, was going to have an abortion and decided she didn’t know if she could go through with it. She asked if we might be interested in private adoption.
YES, oh YES, it would be a dream come true.
I did it. I got my hopes up against all logic and warning from everyone.
I got a text today that says she is not going through with the pregnancy and is having an abortion. I am so sad right now. I am heartbroken at the needless loss of a life that could be my baby.
I had such a tight lid on this I never let myself feel this hope or dream. I let the lid off and now I am devastated.
Where do I go from here?
Sunday will mark five years since my sister died. I had a hard time losing my sister to bone cancer. She fought for over three years with bone cancer that caused her daily pain and stress.
Her life ended when she’d had too many surgeries and her body couldn’t keep up. Losing my sister is the hardest thing I’ve experienced.
I don’t feel bad for her now, because she’s free from all of that. But I do miss her; more than I miss my grandparents who have passed away. Her death was a trauma for me, as her 27-year-old soul was ripped away from my family and we were left with a forever empty chair at the table.
Now, I have a daily regimen of seven medications that keep me here on this earth from antidepressants to mood stabilizers and sleep aids. I fight suicidal thoughts and feelings near-constantly during this time of the year.
I have two girls; the younger one is my lifeline. I was pregnant with her when my sister died and I live in fear that she will die and leave me just like my younger sister left my mom.
My faulty logic says that little sisters die; I am so afraid that I will lose her. Her presence is one of the biggest comforts to me, which makes me love her more than her sister.
There, I said it: I love one kid more than the other.
What can I say? What else is there to do but keep pushing on, trying to move past a pain that is so old and yet so fresh.
I love you, Wends, and I will see you one day.
Being a bereaved parent is lonely. We’ve been through what most people believe is one of the worst things anyone can experience. We are permanently, irrevocably changed. We’re trying to figure out who we are now that we aren’t the us of Before.
We are parents and always will be.
But when someone asks in casual conversation “How many children do you have?” what was once an easy question is now loaded with considerations.
I find myself doing quick calculations in that moment:
What is the likelihood I will ever see this person again?
Do I have any inkling of how they would respond to the full truth?
Is this just polite small talk?
If I don’t think I’ll see them again, if they seem uninterested, if this is standing-in-line just-passing-the-time talk, or if anything seems unsure, I usually keep things very simple.
“Three” I say. “Two boys and a girl.”
If this could the beginning of a longer or deeper relationship, the person seems genuinely interested and willing to stick around to talk awhile, or something just seems sympathetic about them, I’ll tell them the truth.
“Four” I’ll say. “Two boys and two girls, but our oldest girl passed away last year.”
But my calculations can be wrong.
And there’s no conversation killer quite like death.
I see the elderly woman approaching us from across the mall. She is looking past me and at my children with that smile. My kids are at the perfect age to attract these smiles. They are just at the dawn of human interaction. Their speech is still garbled; their language and actions both aped from adults. They, in their search for the right phrase or movement, are often accidentally adorable.
Children at this age still act as if nobody is watching, and adults love them for it. We are drawn to this innocence, I think, for the same reason we are interested in the behaviors of chimps or sleepwalkers. We want to see what it is that people do when they don’t realize they have an audience. We want to see what we would do if we didn’t think so much.
She walks carefully and slowly over to accept the imaginary ice cream cone my son offers up and wins my heart by pretending to eat it. Taking the interaction a step further, she asks him which flavor it was. He tells her it’s chock-lick and her smile deepens with amusement. I am scanning her face, watching her the same way I watch the face of every stranger who approaches my children. I am waiting for the clues that all humans throw off.
I’m waiting to see why she’s doing this.
And so it is that I observe her lined face slip gradually from delight to despair. A line grows deeper across her forehead and her milky eyes fill with tears. Her painted smile is the last to go, proof in my mind that she didn’t even see the sadness coming until it was already written on the rest of her face. I realize that I am moving closer to her as her expression shifts, so that when the tears start to roll down her cheeks I am all but cradling her. She leans against me, frail yet adult-sized. I am not in the habit, anymore, of being needed by people who are not my children. It takes me a minute. I don’t know why she is crying. I only know what she needs. And I have it to give. So I hold her.
She wipes the tears away and catches her breath. “My husband of 49 years passed away 7 months ago. Seeing your children makes it hurt more. Even though they are beautiful. The holidays make it hurt more. Even though I love them.” I hold her tightly, softly offering my condolences. My son asks me why the old woman is crying, and I stumble for a second. I don’t lie to my children, but I don’t throw around words like “death” either. I tell him simply that this woman will not be able to celebrate Christmas with someone she loves.
And that it makes her sad.
As I say the words, my voice shakes and my own eyes fill unexpectedly. I close my eyes against the tears, while granting myself one full minute to be overwhelmed with this unforeseen grief. The woman catches me with my emotions and apologizes for making me sad. I shake my head: clearing it, emptying it. “The holidays can be hard,” is what I say as I help her right herself.
They told me back then that I needed to grieve my brother as though he were dead, but to expect the process to take longer, since he is not, in fact, dead. And although I am the type of person to tear at her flesh in hopes of getting the pain on the outside, in order to move past it, I am shocked to find that some days it is as if time has not moved at all for me.
The woman shuffles off in one direction as we continue in another. We meet up later, at the fountain, as I am explaining to my children the concept of wishing on thrown pennies. I have a wallet full of potential wishes, and so I do not need to accept those that the woman offers us. But I do accept because I sense that it will give her something to be able to give to us. I bend down, tuck my children in close. The woman steps in, and we all throw our pennies at the count of three.
You can’t wish for people to come back. It doesn’t work that way. Pennies can’t move mountains. A wish is only a goal, a direction in which to focus your thoughts. In my world, you can only reasonably wish for the things that you have some control over. So I toss my penny in and I hope, for all of us, that the future brings fewer and fewer moments when we are brought to our knees by our pain. We will carry it with us forever, and we should, because it makes us who we are and it honors where we’re from. But more and more we will be able to live with it.
The holidays can be hard. I have always known this. I push myself off my knees, smile at the old woman and grasp her hand for a minute before exchanging it for my daughter’s. We walk out into the cold air and breathe in the last few breaths of 2010. Soon there is chatter and laughter and bickering and sunshine against the cold. I rub my hands together for warmth, raising my face to the sun.
And it is enough.
It is more than enough.
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.