Sunday, September 9, 2018

The Only Way Out Of Grief Is Through It

There are defined stages of grief (five to seven depending upon which model you use): 1. Shock/Denial 2. Anger 3. Bargaining/Guilt 4. Depression 5. Acceptance and Hope.  They manifest differently for everyone.  As far as I can tell, there is no "What to Expect When You're Expecting" type manual for grief.  There's no pregnancy-type app you can download that says "Today you're 26 weeks pregnant.  Your baby is the size of an eggplant.  Her eyelashes and fingernails are sprouting."

Maybe I should design one.  "Today you're twelve days into grief.  You'll make a caprese salad using the basil plant your mom loved so dearly and remind yourself to Google how to take care of it.  You flip through your recipe binder while making a grocery list and realize that 90% of your recipes are on lined 3x5 inch note cards from your mom.  It occurs to you how much her handwriting looks like it's in italics; a distinct forward slant.  Did the nuns in high school teach her that?  A lump forms in your throat when you realize how you're going to have a cooking question in the future and you'll go to grab your phone and realize that she won't be on the other end of it with a response."

As far as the stages of grief go, shock has become my friend.  Daily activities are carried out in a mechanical fashion, emotions dulled by a sense of numbness.  Feelings that were once vibrant and dynamic are enveloped in a haze.  People speak to me, trying to convey information.  Their lips are moving but I hear nothing.  The world is happening around me and I'm not participating in it; I'm merely watching it.  Is it horrible to say that I don't mind it?  It's comforting; a layer of protection from the reality that you know will come.
That reality is something I am dreading.  A hospice nurse told me "The only way out of grief is through it."  Do I have to drudge through it?  Can I skip it?  Please??  

When my Dad died, I implored my friends and family not to send plants and flowers.  I didn't need all of this foliage around my house serving as a constant reminder; green leaves rubbing my face in the fact that I was now fatherless.  I wanted to ignore this fact.  I wanted to skip the grief.

With my mom, I realize that foliage or not, I can't ignore this.  She's everywhere - EVERYWHERE.  It's not just the recipes; it's the kitchen table my kids eat at every day that she tiled herself during her mosaic kick.  It's in my jewelry, my clothes, and my shoes (she had a thing for complimenting shoes).  It's in my childrens' clothing, their toys, and their art supplies.  Her memory is embedded all over this house.  Don't even get me started on my sister and how my mom radiates from every idiosyncrasy Leanne exhibits.

Where was I going with that thought?  Oh I don't know.  Welcome to my scrambled brain.  It's that haze I was telling you about.

Let's get back to the logistics: 1.  Why did you disappear from Instagram?  2.  I just heard about your mom; what happened?!  I thought she was doing SO well!  3.  How's Leanne doing?

1.  Instagram - We love Instagram; our appreciation for this simple little form of memory storage is deep.  However, this feels too big...too heavy...too overwhelming for a small square and trite caption.  We'll be back to Instagram eventually...when we can somehow get a handle on this, remember how life used to go, and figure out how to chunk it out in small doses.  In the meantime, I'm going to try and document our journey here.  Writing has always been therapeutic for me.  Your feedback is also therapeutic.  Please don't hesitate to leave a comment or email CatfishWithKetchup@gmail.com if you're so inclined.
2.  What happened to Mama Hop???   I've struggled with this one.  How many details of this story should I share?  What's relevant and what isn't?  I just lived it and it was HARD; I'm not sure I have the energy to get into it again...Maybe for right now I'll just go with the simple explanation offered in the obituary: strokes tore through her already compromised vascular system.
3.  Leanne - God bless everyone who has Leanne's well being on their hearts.  Her ability to cope has been the greatest of the emotional burdens I've carried during this journey.  So far, she has amazed me.  And while I am hesitant to offer an enlightened conclusive statement on the situation, I believe this magic that the extra chromosome possesses is illuminating this process for her and for everyone she comes into contact with.  There have been too many fortuitous moments that awe us and she is always at the center of these gifts.  More on that later. 

Mama Hop encouraged me to write.  She encouraged (at times annoyingly so) me to write more...she wanted me to find a career that utilized my writing skills.  While finding a career is the last thing on my mind right now, I know that I can honor her legacy by writing.  And right now, I can memorialize the altruistic spirit that defined her by writing about this journey - especially as it pertains to Leanne.  You can find a lot of information out there about grief as it pertains to adults and even children...but helping an individual with Down syndrome work through the loss of a parent, that's uncharted territory.  But as I tell Travis every day, "We're doing this.  It's happening."  The only way out of grief is through it and we're here, reporting for duty.  And I will do my absolute best to help Leanne realize that she's safe, protected, and surrounded by love.  

The last interaction I had with my mom before she became unresponsive was when I told her, "Mom, everyone is doing well.  Leanne is adjusting to our family beautifully.  The girls love school.  We're handling it.  We're going to be okay."  She briefly opened her eyes, smiled, and said "Okay."

43 comments:

  1. I'm so sorry. My heart breaks for you and LeAnn and your entire family. I know that a mother leaves a deep hole in your heart because she filled such a large part of it. I just pray that you know that she's still around you. I know that she'll stay super close to Leanne and help you both all along the way. I wish I knew something to say to soothe the pain but since that's not possible just know that you have people out there in the world praying and caring for you. My heartfelt wishes and prayers are sent your way.

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  2. I’ve long followed you. And adored your posts about your mom. I commented how she was prob quite adored at her new facility. I loved how you wrote me back. I lost my mom almost 3 years ago. I will continue to pray and think about your beautiful family. And i pray heaven has a nice glass of wine for your Mama Hop. Hugs and empathy as you go through this hard time.

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  3. Love, prayers, positive energy all being sent your way! The news of Mama Hop’s passing took my breath away, my heart breaks for you, Travis, the girls and Leanne. May you all find the strength you need to navigate this new phase of life!

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  4. Just want you to know you are in my thoughts and prayers ❤️

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  5. 🙏🙏🙏🙏

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  6. I am so sorry for your loss. There are no words - my Dad passed away 20 years ago this month, my husband 4 years ago this month, and they both sometimes feel as if it happened yesterday and 100 years ago if that makes any sense?

    Come back to your IG family when you can - know we'll be waiting for you. Hugs to you and your family.

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  7. I am so very sorry to hear about your mom. Your words resonated with me as I have lost my mom also. I thank you for your honest raw feelings that you have shared with us. I can imagine how difficult that would be. You're mom was right, you have a beautiful gift with words. Thank you for sharing your life with us(your posts have always brought my day a little joy). I will be praying for your family as you go through these difficult days!

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  8. I have no words for you other than to tell you what came to my heart as I read your post: you were created for such a time as this. As the mom to a special needs 20 year old little girl, there is NO greater relief than to know that our forever "baby" is and will be cared for. It seems to me that your Mama Hop could enter eternal rest because she was confident that you would care for LeeAnn and your family well. As an outsider looking in, you have done a phenomenal job. Your actions that I've seen from your Instagram posts have been a personal encouragement for me. A reminder that my son may be in your situation someday and that I don't have to worry. I commit to pray daily for your family as you all settle into your new normal.
    Your friend,
    Amy in AL

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  9. I know grief...Lord do I know grief. I lost my beautiful son nearly three years ago and i still struggle everyday. Of course I'm at a different stage in life - one without the distractions of little ones and life moving forward. You have the gift of those gorgeous girls and Leanne to remind you to LIVE.

    There is no magic cure for this horror called grief...it doesn't get better, but you get used to it. The pain becomes a part of you, just like your wonderful mama and your daddy are. Rely on those memories, those reminders and that never ending love only a mother can give to get you through. It's one second, one minute, one breath at a time.

    Sweet Elizabeth, lean on our Blessed Mother. She gets it. Lean on Mama Hop and listen closely for her whispers, I promise she will send you signs that she is close by.

    I wish for you and Leanne to find peace, and I know you will!

    With tears I pray....Blessed Mother, give these special sisters your strength.

    I'm here anytime you want to vent, to cry, or just to have someone listen.
    With love and prayers,

    Gena

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  10. For “grief is the price we pay for love”. How well she was loved, and she loved in return. She was blessed to have you as a daughter- a sister to Leanne and the mother of her grandchildren. She will always be with you. May Mama Hop Rejoice in Paradise and receive her heavenly reward. Xxx @theosmum Xx

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  11. Goodness this is heartbreaking. I’ve followed you for years and have loved your Mama Hop posts. She’ll be missed by many people she’s never even met ❤️

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  12. I lost my mom in 2013. No words, just hugs. Holding your dear little family in my heart during this tender time.

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  13. The only way through grief is to go through. Talk about it to those you trust and who don't mind hearing the story over and over again. I lost my mom last year after a battle with cancer, ovarian cancer. Her last words to me was I love you. The last sign of life was a sigh when I told her it was okay for her to go. Know you did your best to take care of your mom. Get grief counseling. It helps. And continue surround yourself and your family with people who understand. My heart is with you. I know this pain all too well.

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  14. Sending you all the love and light. I'm so sorry. You write so beautifully and authentically, thank you for sharing part of your story and journey through grief with us.

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  15. So much love to you all. Your beautiful writing is quite the memorial to her and luckily, will serve as a written history for your children to remember their grandmother as they grow

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  16. It is so, so hard when we lose those closest to us. Continued prayers for your family as you navigate these difficult days.

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  17. Tears and love and appreciation for this beginning to honoring her legacy. I have always loved your posts that included Mama Hop. There was something so vibrant and special that came through that beautiful woman.

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  18. Elizabeth, I have so many tears for you. There's no explaining the feeling of being an adult and losing both parents. We lost our mama the same way. Your sweet words to your mama gave her peace. So thankful to God that you and Leanne have each other. I wish we lived closer so our Jimbo tribe could help you move through this grief. I pray God's love, peace and comfort for you all. Love, Patti (One of Jimbo's sisters)

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  19. I’m literally crying. Thank you for sharing your whole family with us in Instagram world and in your blog. The last paragraph gripped my heart and squeezed it so hard. Love to you and your family.
    Xo,
    KansasGee
    Gina

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  20. Truly praying for peace for all of you that will get you through this grief. As I've watched your family from my phone, I've seen how beautiful you all are, and what an amazing dynamic you all have. I feel you are so well equipped with such support from each other, and you will get through this terrible heartbreak.

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  21. I’m an so incredibly sorry to hear of your moms passing. I absolutely LOVE following your journey and Crazy Mama Hop sure was entertaining! I will miss you on Instagram but I enjoy reading your posts. You have a gift.

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  22. Oh Elizabeth, Im so sorry. Ive followed your family on instagram. I have always thought of your family as little celebrities because Im 90% sure youre hometown is my hometown. I broke down in tears in your last statement. My heart aches for you all. Its obvious just from your instagram how wonderful Mamahop truely was and how she has helped shaped you all into the wonderful people you are. You will always have her in you and eachother.

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  23. My sincere sympathies on the passing of your Mama Hop. It was clear through the stories that she was a special woman, not only to her family but to those around her.

    I wish I could tell you that the pain will fade away entirely, but having lost my mom nearly 15 years ago, all I know is the smallest things can bring it back again. My time is Sunday evening when we would have our weekly phone call.

    I'm glad to hear the Leanne is doing well with your loving support. I'm sure she gives as much as she is given. All the best as you move through this journey.

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  24. Please continue to write to not only honor mama hop but also to continue your own process of healing. I will be following along and sending all my positive energy to each and every one of you.

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  25. You are brave and courageous to share your journey. What a lovely last verbal interaction you were able to share with you mom. Just from your blog you can tell how loving and kind hearted she was and that she passed that along to you and Leanne. I can't imagine how she is coping with all of this. I have a hard time helping my daughter with DS through little moments where something went wrong in her world. I am so glad you are able to share. We are praying for you guys. We don't know you beyond your blog, but even my husband was shocked and saddened when I told him the news. We will just keep on praying that God will hold you tight and strengthen you through every step of your families grief.

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  26. I'm so sorry for your loss, I will keep you and your family in my thoughts and prayers.

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  27. i cant even process this. i am absolutely shattered. its not fair. she was too young and had so much life in her. I HATE BODIES. i want to run over to your house so i have someone to cry with. no one i know knows you and your family. this isnt right. i have no words of encouragement im sorry but everything that im supposed to say sounds wrong and contrived and all i want to say is i hate this and its wrong. i want to pinch something. im glad that she knew everyone was okay before she left. im glad shes at peace. but im still angry. all my sentences begin with I and i know i should be focusing on you and your family so im sorry. i want to hug merryn. it just feels like she’s such an old soul that it will be so hard on her. I HATETHIS

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  28. My heart is aching for you and your family.
    I’ve followed your family from the start of your blog and it has touched me many times, in many ways.
    I wanted to find a small way to honor Mama Hop, to honor your family.
    I found this not for profit in my area, this is their mission statement
    KC Art Angels is a not for profit gallery and studio offering classes daily for adults and youth and unique services. We strive to revitalize the arts in our community through workshops for all ages, and provide outreach programs for people to freely create in a non judgmental environment. Our overall goal is to bring healing through art by offering reduced or free classes to those with disabilities, grieving, or a terminal illness. We believe in sharing beauty with the world through art.
    I made a small donation to cover the cost for a child’s class and made it in honor of Momma Hop. May she Rest In Peace and May you soon find comfort in her loving memory

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  29. Hi Elizabeth
    First and foremost I can't even begin to imagine what you are going through. Your family has woven your way into so many hearts all over the world and I am one of those people. I was so shocked and saddened for all of you when I read your Instagram post. As I said there, I hope that special memories of your sweet Mom bring each of you comfort as you mourn her loss. I will continue to keep all of you in my thoughts and prayers. Sincerely, Sherry (Ontario, Canada)

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  30. I've thought about you every day since I read your last post. I've thought about Leanne, your girls and Travis. Please know you aren't going through this alone. I know I'm not the only one thinking of you and praying for you and your family. You are loved.

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  31. Oh Elizabeth I’m so very sorry. Mamma Hop was our patron saint, showing us the way. Much love to you and your girls.

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  32. Elizabeth, I'm so sorry to hear this. I lost my Mom this summer, too, although the circumstances were different (of course.) So my heart broke to read that you are going through this hard time. Just wanted to share that years ago, my Dad had a friend who was a single father to an adult daughter with Down Syndrome. He was diagnosed with terminal cancer, didn't have any family to watch over his daughter and so got her settled into a group home (where she could do life with a small group of adults with similar abilities/challenges) before he declined. He was so happy (and maybe a little jealous ;) that she just thrived in her new environment surprisingly easily/quickly. Just telling you this as an encouragement that maybe Leanne will have an easier adjustment than you might anticipate, although of course every individual is different. Thinking of you as you travel through this, you are an inspiration!

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  33. Grief is such a personal thing to experience; I think everyone has their own bit of it that is different, but that haze - I remember it well. Thinking of you as you walk the road no one wants to be on.

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  34. Oh, Elizabeth. My heart is breaking for you. I am so very sorry for your loss.

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  35. Oh my dear friend,
    I'm shocked (sorry been off IG for a while) and heart broken for your family. Please know that we will continue to pray for all of you.
    💜

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  36. Elizabeth,
    Words are so inadequate to express how sorry I am for your loss. Thank you for sharing your journey so honestly with us all. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family as you navigate through the grief of losing such an amazing woman.

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  37. I’ve followed since Josie was an only child. I fell in love with your family as it grew. Always admired your mother’s beauty and your close relationship. I didn’t expect I’d feel the pang of sadness and devastation that I feel for your loss, of this loss to the world. I don’t have words that are adequate or soft or kind enough. My heart is broken. I am so very sorry. It will always feel much too soon. I will say that I am so happy you have this gift of memories stored in this blog and on your social media. It’s invaluable. Much love as you all navigate this.

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  38. Your strength has always amazed me. These words are raw yet so beautifully written. I wish I could stumble through this haze with you. Have a glass of wine and laugh/cry together. Never forget He is carrying you right now. There’s one set of footprints in the sand and she’s there every moment too. I love you, E! - Jen

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  39. I am so very sorry for the loss of your mom. I pray you, Leanne and your entire family feel the Lord so close to you right now and in the coming days, weeks and months. I’m so glad you have Leanne and she has you, as you grieve the loss of your mama together. Praying for you as you work your way through the hard grief and learn to live without her here. Please know that she is loved and will be missed by many. Thank you for sharing her and your family with us all.

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  40. Oh, my heart aches for you. I’ve walked this road...as have you...and it’s gut-wrenching in every way. Our moms, the good ones, leave their marks on us in many ways. Like finding something they wrote...a card or a letter or a recipe; or when you open a box long packed away, and the air inside of it smells like her; or like a tilt of a head, or some seemingly inconsequential movement, made by one of your children, and it hits you that you’ve seen your mom do that same thing a thousand times. And there are the unseen ways we see their influence: the values we shared with them, our likes (or dislikes), common interests, a faith that is passed down, examples of strength in difficult situations, the unconditional love they showed when we didn’t deserve it, how they celebrated the “ordinary” days...and their ability to go on with life after a terrible loss. We want to keep those things close...and teach them to our own children. The influences of our mothers are all over our lives. As they should be. The memory of them can bring sadness over what has been lost, and I have definitely had those days. But where I am now...20 years later...they bring me great comfort. I don’t envy your days ahead...the dance of grieving and living. Take care of yourself, Elizabeth. The hospice nurse was right: the only way out of grief is through it. And your mom was right: keep writing. You have a beautiful gift. I’m praying for you.

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  41. I am so very sorry for your loss! You are sharing your story with so much grace and love! I have been reading your blog for years and share Mama Hop's love of Pinot Grigio! I do have to ask, what is to happen with Mama Hop's beloved cats?

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  42. What can I send you girls from the UK? (other than my love and thoughts) Anything nice that you want that might help to turn your frowns upside down. Love to you all x

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