a month or so

yesterday was 4 weeks and tomorrow will be one calendar month since my aunt passed away.  still when i really allow it in, it seems completely unreal.  i have a stack of her funeral programs laying in a pile on shelf, somewhat out of site.  i don’t pick them up.  then once in a while i do and i see her picture and i read her name and i don’t know what the hell it’s talking about.

about a month ago i had debated on a friday night about whether i could handle going out there.  my cousin sent me a text saying that the doctor told her to keep things quiet but that we should visit if we wanted to.  i didn’t really know what that meant, i was confused.  and i was so tired – physically and emotionally.  i decided that going to the gym saturday morning and then heading over to hospice would be fine.  she’d been not dying for so long, i thought she might be immortal.  i mean for real, she hadn’t eaten in like 7 weeks.  except that this week, to guage whether the “dry up” meds were working on her rotting stomach, she was on a steady diet of blue freezie pops and juice.  she was living it up.  i had time.

saturday morning i woke up at 6:45am.  without an alarm.  i just can’t sleep in.  i laid in bed, waking up, thinking about which class i might take at the gym, dazing out.  my phone rang.  i didn’t know the number but i kind of knew it was hospice.


hi, this is the nurse at hospice. 


andi asked me to call you.  barb just died. 

uhh… ummm! … ok.  ok.  ok i’m on the way. 


quick urgent breaths.  bolting upright.  i called my mom.  she answered the phone and i couldn’t speak.  she understood.  my heart was pounding.  i threw the clothes back on that i discarded the night before and ran down to my car.  the breathing and the crying and the panic and the peace and thankfulness and the highway.  that’s what i remember.

barb just died.  she was so matter of fact, i’ll never forget how that sounded.  i read a lot of grief blogs these days.  some people say that we should take the prettier, lighter sounding phrases out to make it more real.  she didn’t pass away, she died.  i still don’t know how i feel about that.

last monday i started grief counseling and i will go weekly for a while and then probably space it out further.  the two most important pieces i’ll take away from the first session are that

1. compartmentalizing is a coping strategy not to be looked down upon, i need to use it to get through my day, but i do need to look at the grief intentionally when it’s appropriate, and

2. taking care of my aunt while she was at home before inpatient hospice was deeply emotional, traumatizing, scary.  but like many things, i shifted my mind to the reality of it, normalized it, and kept it moving.

3 of us were taking care of her at that time, but it was more of a tag team than joint effort, and that was stressful.  i really need a place to process the fact the people who could truly understand what i went through in that situation were not emotionally available to me;  we didn’t talk about it.  we shared care plans and went on our way, out the door into a world that wasn’t so heartbreaking.

this all happened so fast.  and i adjusted to each change so that i could survive through it.  time to go back and process through the disaster that hit my life this summer.  it’s so strange to move forward and look back.

i really miss you, barb – where did you go?