G is for Grief

Grief. This time last year, I was struggling with grief. It had become abundantly clear that my retirement dream of spending at least half the year traveling, some of it overseas, and some of it in my van, was under major revision. A year previously, my partner BA had suffered an acute attack of vertigo. It arrived, as it often does, following a bad cold. What was atypical was its intensity. She was immobilized, sick and stuck on the floor of her bathroom in the middle of the night. Following an ambulance ride and a few days in hospital, she was improved, able to move about adequately most of the time, and we and her medical team were hopeful that it would all resolve in the near future. Well, it didn’t go that way. It turns out that she has a permanent 70 percent loss of function in one of her vestibular nerves. Along with that, there have been a few other “brain events” that have manifested as reduced cognitive function.

Brains are very adaptable, and BA’s has found many work arounds. When she is well rested, with good reserves, she functions pretty well. Reserves down, whether from working on a project, talking a walk, poor sleep or any other stressor, and her balance is worse. More dizzy, lurching about, and exhaustion. Her brain copes, but it gets worn out much more quickly. And once tired, memory and thinking loosen as well. The upshot of all this is that traveling is very hard on her system, and staying on her own at home for more than a night or two isn’t a good idea. Okay on the good days, not so much on the others.

So even before the pandemic arrived, my/our travel plans were undergoing major revision. Then came Covid-19, which put them further into lockdown.

A year ago today, my father was ill and in the hospital. Covid-19 had been ruled out, and further evaluation confirmed the heart issue I had suspected. Some years before, he’d had his aortic valve replaced. The replacement valve was failing, and it was time for hospice. This was the beginning of a very intense month, gruesome details here if you’re interested. The short form is that Dad was able to pass peacefully in his own bed, attended to by his family. He was 90, and while a loss is a loss, this one was ok in the grand scheme of things. He’d had a long and active life, and he didn’t have to endure an extended decline, which he would have hated.

The next months were busy, with extra activities as I am Dad’s personal representative and executor of his trust. As of now, things are winding down, the tax stuff is getting figured out, and I am hopeful that things will be “done” within a few months. I was also busy at home, with extra duties due to the pandemic and BA’s limitations, and I was continuing to see a few clients in my psychotherapy practice.

By the end of last year, I had some hope. The vaccines were arriving, a sane president had been elected and was soon to be inaugurated. Okay, we’re going to get through this.

Then, more violence, just in case there hadn’t been enough already against persons of color all across the country. January 6 the capitol was attacked. More shootings elsewhere.

And on March 22, it hit very close to home, Table Mesa King Soopers in Boulder. Too close to much of my history. I wrote a bit about it earlier, and the short form is its a few blocks from my family home, my brother was in the store an hour earlier doing his routine shopping, two nephews worked there as students, my mom campaigned to get it opened. Yes, I have 50 years of history with that store, and moved to that neighborhood in 1958.

Too much. My system has hit tilt. My low reserves are lower, and overwhelm and shock run the day. I’m working with my therapist/healer. Its helping a bit, but some days I can do very little, while other days I feel close to normal. I jump at sounds, even a voice, and most things feel like they are too much, too hard, demanding more than I have to give. Yes its grief. It will pass, and despite all imaginings to the contrary, things will never be the same. Some things can’t be un-seen or un-known. We are all there in one way or another. The personal details vary, each of us has our own story, our own griefs.

How to grow and heal. Another journey without a map. I really would have preferred tangible travel. And nobody asked me.

For the Blogging from A to Z challenge

14 thoughts on “G is for Grief

  1. My goodness, you’ve had a lot on your plate! A group of neighbors and I had a “driveway lunch” this afternoon (with a couple of folding tables on a neighbor’s driveway, we each brought a chair and a lunch, and enjoyed the spring weather). It was interrupted by helicopters flying overhead — not uncommon, due to rather fast main roads close by, but this time it was a gang shooting about a mile away — one shot, three in custody, and one more outstanding. In what used to be one of the safest cities in the country, this is too close for comfort, and I fear it is a symptom of the year we have had.

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    1. Yes, the challenges seem relentless. I am so glad you had a driveway lunch–great idea! And even as we have moments of pleasure, the pain may be literally hovering nearby. Its a lot to live with.

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  2. Thank you for being so open and willing to share your struggles. It helps to know that I’m not the only one having days when I can barely function. Today was one such day. I spent all morning in tears and all afternoon in the recliner. For 4 years I was the caregiver for my husband who suffered a serious stroke in 2017 and then a succession of small strokes and other medical issues. He passed away the last day of September. Now my father is in hospice care, and I have power of attorney for him. At 92, he still owns a company so I have to deal with that. And his vacation property in the mountains has been damaged by flash flooding. Some days I feel efficient and sufficient to the tasks at hand, but other days I just don’t.

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    1. Oh my. You are in the thick of it as well, and have been for some time. I am sorry for you having so much on your plates. May you find your way through, one breath at a time, tears and recliner time included.

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  3. “Another journey without a map.” Steph, this might be what is so wonderful about travel in 3-D space. We have a map, a plan, a destination. In life we really don’t and this past year for you (and maybe all of us to a lesser extent, perhaps) has been weirder and scarier than anyone could possibly process easily. And if we COULD process it easily, I don’t think we’d be human.

    I spent an hour or so this morning with the woman who runs the county museum. For this past year, I have hardly ever spent time talking face-to-face with anyone, and this involved plans for future projects, actually looking ahead. When I left, I was so wired and confused it took hours to calm down. I realized I don’t want to look ahead. It’s more than I can bear right now. I think we all have PTSD. And you are right; grief at the loss of many things we believed in or believed to have been true about our country and the people in it. We’ve taken one hit after another. To add to that life’s expected hits (loss of a parent; struggles of a partner) it’s very very hard. ❤

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    1. Oh Martha, and as you note, returning to “normal”–face to face meetings, planning for future events feels wrong and triggering. We are all altered. My sibs and I had a small backyard dinner last night for the birthday brother. It was nice to see them all (last time was at a makeshift memorial for Dad on Father’s day) and it was also very strange, and I was quickly ready to go home. Curiouser and curiouser.

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      1. ❤ I still want to have that immense party where we're all in one place but I'm also grateful the logistics are impossible. I'm banking on September when my HS class has its 50th (51st, really) reunion by which time I plan to venture forth to the Springs and then, maybe, points north. I realize it might take me that long (maybe longer?) to manage this. I think it's partly that introverts have to semi-force themselves anyway and this past year has been an intensifier.

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  4. You express so beautifully things many of us have been experiencing this year of the virus. Lost dreams. Compounded by aging. Our time is shortening and there is so much we want to yet. Thank you!

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    1. Thanks, Lois, and yes, what an odd, confusing journey. I don’t know about you, but I imagined that by the time I was “old” (you know, 40 or something), I’d have my act together and not be so challenged by life. Yet another joke on most of us!

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      1. Yes! I still am not sure what I want to be when I grow up! I liked your story about your father too. Universal story of how we kids have to deal with the nuances of parents’ deaths.

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  5. A stunning post, in its honesty & vulnerability, thank you for sharing. As everyone says above, we’ve all had a bad year, but my goodness yours sounds pretty challenging! I hear your stress & burnout. Can you get yourself a massage, or a couple of hours at a spa? Or what else nurtures & calms you? After my car accident I had Kinesiology to regulate my nervous system, & a few cranio sacral sessions were amazing too… Hoping you find some gentle support, so you can keep supporting everyone else 🙏🏼 G

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, G. Yes, I am doing things that support me. Biweekly massages, and meeting with my energy healer who is quite the magician. These things are helpful, and probably keep me from being stuck under my bed. (that and the fact that its a platform and I won’t fit). Keep healing yourself as we all continue on this very strange journey.

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  6. Grief has its own time-table. There’s no one way to do it, or to get through it. Things will never go back to the way they were. And they won’t stay the way they are, now, either. For better or worse, every experience alters us and changes the course of our lives bit by bit. It will be okay again. Maybe not 100%, maybe not all the time, but hang in there. Notice when the curtain shifts a little in the breeze.

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