Losing Dad

I wrote this as I sat at my dad’s bedside on Saturday…

Dad can barely wake now. He doesn’t know I’m in the room with him.

Today is day 7 since he has eaten and he is only getting fluids when he takes his pills. That will stop soon too. This morning my sister could barely get him to take them.

Otherwise, he is asleep, and I am paranoid.

I look over every few minutes to check for breathing, like a new mom would do to her newborn child.

I watch for the rise and fall of his chest. I can see his heart beating through his frail, little chest and I know that will soon stop too.

Dad is still here, but already gone at the same time.

I feel a strange sense of calm and panic all at once. I already miss him.

….Dad passed away just hours later.

Anticipatory Grief

On Saturday, I yelled at my dad. Like, really yelled at him, cursed at him.

I guess grief is unpredictable like that. I’ve read about the stages of grief. What I didn’t know is that they don’t happen in order. My emotions bounce around from feeling anger to feeling numb to feeling devastation.

And we’re all feeling this. I can only imagine how Dad feels. He is having to come to terms with the fact that he doesn’t have a lot of time left. He is still grieving the loss of his wife this past June. He is still grieving over losing his mobility three years ago and everything he enjoys. He finally has the time and the money to do the things he’s always wanted to do, but he doesn’t have the health.

This has taken a huge toll on Dad’s mental health. He is miserable – sad, overwhelmed, feeling helpless. He also doesn’t understand his limitations. He was wheelchair bound before this 6 month stint in the hospital, but now he’s completely bed bound. He wants to go for a boat ride. He wants to go fishing. He wants to go on a road trip. He wants to go on a cruise. He doesn’t understand that we can’t do those things. So, he feels like we are babying him and holding him back. It’s causing frustration on everyone’s part.

I am grieving the impending loss of my dad, my best friend. My older sister is his caretaker and is grieving as well as dealing with the enormous burden of tending to him. My other siblings are grieving too. Tensions get high sometimes and it’s hard on everyone.

My emotions ebb and flow. Sometimes I feel like I’m handling it like a champ, but the last couple weeks have been hard. Sometimes I cry on the 90 minute drive to see my dad on the weekends. This past week at work, I completely lost it, and ending up sobbing in my boss’ office for 30 minutes.

I think I have it together and then one small thing happens, and everything comes tumbling down.

I am not sure how to take care of myself through this. The last 3+ weeks, I have been getting headaches nearly every day and often multiple times a day. Bad headaches. The kind that blur my vision, make me sensitive to light, and make me nauseous. I am going to the doctor today to try to get some answers, but I have a feeling that it’s mostly stress related.

People tell me to get out in nature, exercise, list all the things I’m grateful for, “do the things I enjoy.” The trouble is, I’ve been having a hard time finding things that actually bring me joy anymore. Even things I used to love.

I can’t remember the last time I laughed. Like, really laughed. Tears in the eyes, belly-laughed. I feel like I’ve forgotten how to enjoy things.

Maybe part of me feels guilty for being happy. How could I possibly be happy when my dad is dying? When my stepmom just died? When so many people around me are hurting and suffering? How arrogant of me to feel happiness at a time like this?

But I desperately want some happiness. I desperately want to feel like my old, cheerful self again. I desperately want a sense of normal.

You know the other hard thing about anticipatory grief? We don’t know how long it will last. Does Dad have 2 weeks left? 2 months? 6 months? How long do I have to see him suffer like this?

This is just so hard all around. One thing is for sure, I won’t be coming out of this the same person. I’ll be stronger, no doubt. And I hope, in time, that I can find my happy again.

Directionless

84+ Being Lost Quotes: Light Yourself Up - BayArt


I have always been ambitious. I have been an over-achiever and perfectionist for as long as I can remember. I’ve always been goal-oriented. I’ve always been working toward something – being the first in my family to get a college degree, getting a promotion, becoming debt free, running a business, getting in shape.

In recent years, I had two businesses – I sold makeup online for over 4 years and for about 2 years, I had an online clothing boutique with my sister. And I enjoyed it. Selling makeup especially, got me out of my post-baby funk and forced me to focus more on myself. Through the process of being in direct sales, I discovered the world of personal development and never looked back. About a year and a half ago, I quit both of those things for various reasons. And since then, I haven’t had anything to occupy my time. I haven’t had anything meaningful to work toward. No creative outlet. No goal to accomplish.

I’ve felt a little lost to be honest. And I feel like this lack of direction is affecting my relationships. I’m bored, stir crazy, restless, needy. I’ve been thinking about this for over a year now, waiting for the right business opportunity or hobby to jump out at me, but so far, nothing. The truth is, I have no idea what I want to do. I have no idea what I’m good at.

Today, I got to thinking. What if?

What if I taught a personal development course to women? About personal finance? Self care? Bettering oneself? Work-life balance? Confidence? What if I learned handlettering and sold artwork? What if I became a realtor who offered staging? What if I finally became a life coach? What if I started a lifestyle brand? What if I wrote more frequently in my blog? What if I turned going to the gym into a hobby? What if I picked up yoga? What if I finally joined a bowling league?

Instead of inspiring me, the options feel daunting. And, admittedly, the perfectionist in me is afraid to start something that I might not be good at. So, I do nothing. But I’m not fulfilled. That much is clear.

I’m not even sure where to start.

Life Advice from Dad

I had really thought this blog would be different. I thought I’d write about life at home – the chickens and ducks and dogs. I thought I’d write about family recipes and encouraging messages. I thought I’d write about my weightloss journey and my philosophies on life.

But it seems all I can write about lately is the hard stuff. Loss and death and this shit sandwich of a year.

And maybe that’s okay. Maybe that’s just the season of life I’m in.

It’s probably important to document all of this. To have it to look back on.


We recently found out that Dad doesn’t have a lot of time left. The doctors estimate six months or less. Between Dad’s heart and liver, we just don’t know what could happen and when. He also has other complications like breathing issues, and Dad recently signed a DNR. I pray he has more time. I pray when it happens that it’s peaceful. But mostly, I just pray for more time.

Today it was suggested to me to take advantage of the time left with Dad by videoing him as often as possible. Ask him all the questions I can think of. Take as many pictures as we can. Leave nothing left unsaid. And I think that’s a great idea. And I think this blog may be a great place to document all of that.

I’ll start with a conversation I had with Dad this morning. I asked him what life advice he would want to give me before he passes.

“The key to your relationship with Zane is to communicate or it won’t work out. I think you two have good heads on your shoulders and will be just fine.”

“Raise Mia well and love her.”

“Eat better and take care of your body.”

“Live in the moment and do things now, while you can. I regret not doing more of the things I wanted to do.”

He has always been a wonderful father and I am blessed to have him. I am savoring every moment we have.

Serenity

When losing a loved one, I sometimes wonder if it’s better when they go quickly, or when it’s expected.

On one hand, I can only imagine the pain of suddenly losing someone, their being ripped from someone’s life in a moment’s notice. All of the questions that linger afterward. On the other hand, the emotional whiplash of slowly losing a loved one is so taxing.

I am going through the latter..and it’s awful.

It is almost six months since Dad was sent to the hospital, and it has been a roller coaster of emotions. With Dawn’s death, COVID, homeschooling, job uncertainty, and a new relationship in between, it has almost brought me to my breaking point on several occasions.

After all of Dad’s stints in the hospital, I am fairly well-versed in medical jargon – kreatine, O2, and CO2 levels, congestive heart failure, ST, PT, OT, and a long list of others – but my eyes glazed over and my mind wandered today when they mentioned “palliative care”.

On one hand, I can’t bare the thought of Dad not recovering from this. Dad. MY dad. My Superman. My impermeable hero…. not going to make it? My mind can barely comprehend the words. And on the other hand, it hurts so badly to see him suffer.

Grief is fickle like that, I suppose. Cpmplete and utter despair that your loved one is gone. Relief that they’re no longer suffering. Guilt that you feel relief. Rinse and repeat.

I am not sure what the coming days and weeks hold for my dad. Just when we think we’ve gotten a handle on things, it changes again. We can barely keep up.

I continue to pray. I pray for strength to get through this. I pray for comfort and healing for my dad. I pray for serenity. I pray for this nightmare to be over.

When losing a loved one, I sometimes wonder if it’s better when they go quickly, or when it’s long and drawn out.

On one hand, I can only imagine the pain of suddenly losing someone, their being ripped from someone’s life in a moment’s notice. All of the questions that linger afterward. On the other hand, the emotional whiplash of slowly losing a loved one is so taxing.

I am going through the latter..and it’s awful.

It is almost six months since Dad was sent to the hospital, and it has been a roller coaster of emotions. With Dawn’s death, COVID, homeschooling, job uncertainty, and a new relationship in between, it has almost brought me to my breaking point on several occasions.

After all of Dad and Dawn’s stints in the hospital, I am fairly well-versed in medical jargon – kreatine, O2, and CO2 levels, congestive heart failure, ST, PT, OT, and a long list of others – but my eyes glazed over and my mind wandered today when they mentioned the term “palliative care”.

On one hand, I can’t bare the thought of Dad not recovering from this. Dad. MY dad. My Superman. My impermeable hero…. not going to make it? My mind can barely comprehend. And on the other hand, it hurts to see him suffer.

Grief is fickle like that, I suppose. Cpmplete and utter despair that your loved one is gone. Relief that they’re no longer suffering. Guilt that you feel relief. Rinse and repeat.

I am not sure what the coming days and weeks hold for my dad. Just when we think we’ve gotten a handle on things, it changes again. We can barely keep up.

I continue to pray. I pray for strength to get through this. I pray for comfort and healing for my dad. I pray for serenity. I pray for this nightmare to be over.

The Hard Stuff

I told my therapist this today that I feel like a different person than I was at the beginning of the year. “How could you not be after everything you’ve been through this year?” she said.

Sure, she’s right. But this doesn’t feel like me. I used to feel so optimistic and uplifting. I feel negative. I feel like I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop, always expecting the worst.

So, when I write in here about the difficult things going on, part of me feels guilty. Part of me feels like I need to put on a brave face, show up for people, act like nothing is wrong. I feel like a Negative Nancy.

And at the same time, this is my life right now. It’s NOT all sunshine and rainbows. Shit is hard right now. Shit is trying. Shit is testing me to my core.

With that being said, I want to get this off my chest.

Dad is “stable.” Stable in a sense of his vitals. But he’s not really getting anywhere. No better, no worse. No closer to getting out of there.

But we’ve noticed another problem lately. One I haven’t talked much about, and one that the facility doesn’t seem concerned about: Dad’s mental state. “Anesthesia fog” they called it. An unofficial diagnosis. A lack of mental clarity caused by the amount of time Dad was on a ventilator and the cocktail of medicines he’s been on for the last 5ish months.

“It will go away eventually,” they say. “This is normal,” they say, completely brushing it off.

Ya know, the first time Dad was hospitalized for a full year, this happened, complete with full on hallucinations. But that was after having BRAIN SURGERY. I mean, that made sense.

But Dad has been off the ventilator for close to 4 months and is still having confusion. Still asking if Dawn passed away. Telling me about a job opportunity he has in Tampa even though he hasn’t job hunted in a few years. Saying that he went out to his car and it wasn’t working when he’s been in the hospital the whole time. Not remembering what day of the week it is. And saddest of all, convinced that he can walk and not understanding why he can’t come home.

I feel so deeply for people who have had loved ones with dimensia or Alzheimer’s. Is this what it’s like? Could Dad have the start of dimensia onset from the repeated trauma to his body?

I hate that I’ve only been talking about the hard stuff here, but sometimes I think it’s the hard stuff we need to be talking about more.

Endings are hard.

Saturday was a really strange day.

Generally, when you have to clear your parents’ house out, it’s after they’ve both passed. But I found myself on Saturday (with the help of family and my boyfriend) cleaning out my Dad’s house while he sits in a hospital that we don’t know if he will ever come home from.

I thought a lot about that on the drive over, and I started to tear up thinking about the task that lay ahead.

On top of my dad’s things, everything of my stepmom’s was still there, pretty much just as it was left when she passed away in June.

And somehow, in 8 hours, we were done. Two entire lives cleared out of the house in a day.

We found old black and white photos of our grandparents, photos of us kids when we were little, pictures from family reunions. Tara and I paused here and there to share a family joke or tell a story. We laughed. But it was the oddest of days.

I held it together like a champ while we were there, even after we left. It wasn’t until the evening when I finally sat down to rest, that it all hit me. I immediately called my mom crying.

“No more family dinners at Dad’s house. No more holidays. No more memories to make there,” I told her through the tears.

And after we hung up, I thought about my dad for a few minutes and whether he understands what’s happening. How does it feel that the last day he spent in his house with his wife was on March 31st and as I write this now on September 7th, his wife has passed and his home is completely empty? There’s no opportunity for him to grieve in their home, to process what happened, to find closure.

I know we are making the right move with the house, but my heart aches so much for him. I try to imagine how I would feel if I were in his shoes, and it completely brings tears to my eyes.

I pray that he will understand that the difficult decisions we are making now are with his best interest in mind. 🙌

Identity Crisis

Lately, my days feel filled to the brim.

On the days I have Mia, I am up at 6:15 and out the door by 6:50 for the hour and 10 minute drive to and from her school.

Work starts at 8:00 and has been remote since late March, but working from home isn’t the at-my-pace-lounge-on-the-couch-while-working experience I had previously conjured up in my head.

Work has changed. I am the Executive Assistant to our CEO. But, I also: answer phones. I sell carts. I sell parts. I sell service. I handle all chargeback requests, update our inventory on our website, handle any marketing requests that come in, various AR/AP issues and many ad hoc tasks that pop up.

Because I am helping to answer the calls that come in to our main line, I have to be glued to my laptop all day. I am more sedentary than ever because of this.

(Please don’t get me wrong. I am SO GRATEFUL to even have my position, and I love what I do. I am simply pointing out how things have changed.)

Any spare minute I get from my work load throughout the day goes towards handling Dad’s affairs. Calls with the probate lawyer and social security and mortgage company and bank and hospital. Email follow ups, trying to get online access to his accounts, paying his bills, planning his longterm care.

Lunches everyday are spent cleaning the house. While this may be a self-imposed chore, having a tidy house while working from home is very important to me for my mental health and overall productivity.

When work ends at 5:00, it’s picking Mia up from school or ballet, dinner prep, bedtime routine with Mia, pack lunch for the next day, and then crash. Rinse and repeat.

Sure, some days are more relaxed than others, but overall, I have a pretty busy schedule right now. I am the kind of tired that sleep doesn’t fix.

And I’ve recently noticed something peculiar. Amidst all of the chaos and hecticness, I find myself craving a break, craving alone time, craving quiet.

And do you know what happens when I finally get that opportunity?

“Hmm, what do I want to do? What will make me happy right now?”

Do you know what a difficult question that is to answer?

The truth is, while I have been dutifully working for my job and for my family and worrying about the pandemic and the uncertainty of the future in almost every facet of my life, I have completely lost sight of myself.

Free time makes me anxious because I don’t know what to do with it.

Who am I if not the caretaker, the ambitious employee, the guilty mom?

Who am I when I’m not putting other people first?

Honestly, I don’t know. I am not even sure how to go about figuring it out. Is it dumping money into various hobbies I may or may not like? Is it starting a business that excites me? Is it running a half marathon?

Or is it smaller than that? Is it learning to trust my decision making? Learning not to carry the weight of other peoples’ opinions?

Or, is it to stop trying altogether? Stop putting so much pressure on myself to constantly be doing something? Maybe it’s learning how to sit still, sit in silence. Maybe it’s to stop obsessing over the past or worrying about the future and learning how to live in the moment.

I truly don’t know yet, but I am on a quest to figure it out. I am so tired of feeling lost, purposeless, and insecure.

I have to work on MY happiness, so that I can continue to show up for my family, friends, and work.

The Confidence Complex

Lately, I have been feeling really insecure. Not in my relationship, but in who I am as a person.

I feel so inadequate all the time. I have this self imposed, trauma based expectation to be perfect, and when I inevitably come up short on that expectation, I beat myself up.

I am so afraid of not being enough. Or of being too much.

I am afraid of judgment, so I water myself down into this middle of the road, vanilla version of myself.

I am afraid of being left by people, so instead of fighting to have my needs met, I lower my expectations and tell myself to NEED less. Need less and they will love you more.

Now, I completely understand the fundamental error of this way of thinking. Intellectually, I know there are several thought biases and unfounded opinions.

But that hasn’t seemed to help me in changing my thinking. In fact, nothing has.

Years of off and on therapy hasn’t done it. Journaling hasn’t done it. Self help books hasn’t done it. Am I a lost cause?

When I think about what I CAN do to increase my self esteem and confidence, only one thing comes to mind: lose weight.

Yet I know that without addressing the negative thinking, I will still be unhappy with myself, just a skinnier version of myself.

And I do want to feel better. I think I deserve it. I think the 5 year old innocent me, before hurt and trauma, SHE deserves it and I owe it to her to be the best version of myself.

I just don’t know how to do it.