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Posts Tagged ‘grief’

Each January is hard. It’s not the snow or the cold or the harsh winds. It’s not even the darkness that lasts too long. It’s the heaviness on my heart as two birthdays come a week apart and those loved ones are gone.

Grief is an odd thing. Psychologists can tell us the stages of grief but they cannot tell us in what order they will come to us. The how often, how long, and how intense the waves of grief will be is unknown until after they pass.
“Shouldn’t you be over that by now?” says someone untouched by grief.

“It will get better.” 

Yes, it will. It’s easier to breathe now. The waves of grief seem further apart and less intense at most times. Each year is better. But the loss never goes away completely..

I miss my mom. I miss her smile. I wish she was here to tell us, “Can’t we just all get along?” 

I was very fortunate. I got to enjoy my mom for almost 60 years. On this day 4 years ago, my brother from Australia flew in to surprise her on her 90th birthday and one grandchild drove in sub-zero weather to celebrate with us.

None of us could have imagined that our mother would be dead eight months later. She enjoyed life too much to give it up. She tried as best she could to take care of her health. But her heart no longer had the power to the pump oxygen to all of her muscles and repeated falls weakened her. 

I was helping her after she broke her collarbone in a fall in early August. We spent a wonderful time celebrating my brother’s art at an event to honor him one year after his own death. We came back to my house and the excitement of my dog caused both of us to fall. Her head hit the wall and a tiny vessel in her brain started to bleed.

Within hours she started to leave us, despite the efforts of a medical team. A few short days later, she was gone.

So, those stages of grief that the counselors talk about come and go in waves that are hard to track. This January might be harder because I am dealing with issues that I had ignored for many years regarding my brother’s alcoholism. My mother is deeply ingrained in those memories.

How I wish I could take back the times I criticized her for helping too much, while trying to fix Jim’s problems. I didn’t realize I was doing the same thing to her, trying to fix her.

I remember our conversations after dad died. She missed him so much, but she wanted to keep living and live life as best she could. She had the confidence that she would see him again. That gave her hope and strength for each day.

That’s what she would want for all of us: to face life with confidence that God ultimately has everything in hand; to find hope and strength for this day and all the days to come.

Okay, mom. I’m going to smile today, remembering your smile. I’m going to make a new friend today, remembering your welcoming nature. I’m going to try as best I can to help everybody get along. And along the way, I have to make a few batches really of good Snickerdoodles and Spritz. Thanks, mom.
More on Snickerdoodles

According to Wikipedia, The Joy of Cooking claims that snickerdoodles are probably German in origin, and that the name is a corruption of the German word Schneckennudel (“snail noodles”), a Palatine variety of schnecken.[1] It is also possible that the name is simply a nonsense word with no particular meaning, originating from a New England tradition of whimsical cookie names. Wikipedia- Snickerdoodles  

Click here for recipe and clear instructions: Super Soft Snickerdoodles from TheKitchn

 Spritz cookies – Our mom and dad, who often baked together, used a star-shaped tip in the cookie press and piped a long snaky shape onto a cookie sheet. Then, they cut the snake into individual “S” cookies. No sprinkles, frosting, dipping in chocolate or food coloring for them, as they enjoyed the rich buttery flavor unadorned. Occasionally, my parents created wreathes and other shapes but the “S” was the one I looked forward to eating.

A cookie press is helpful, but these can be made with a pastry bag or plastic bag with a star-shaped frosting tip. This Spritz recipe  from Serious Eats details the techniques to get great cookies, not just decent ones. 

Stages of grief 5 grief stages from PsychCentral

Help for those who grieve – An online support group can be a good start, but I recommend finding or beginning a local group whenever possible. The DailyStrength website offers a wide variety of support groups. This page on Death and Dying has  adult groups and a different group for teens.

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Today would have been my youngest brother’s birthday. James Edward Dahl, born January 24, 1958, the youngest of five children, died August 18, 2012. His creative brain was stopped by an bursting aneurysm which soon after stilled his beating heart. More than four years later, I don’t need pictures to remind me of his warm smile or the pain that he medicated through alcohol.

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I attended my first Al-anon meeting last week. I wish I had gone years ago. But I told myself that his alcoholism affected my co-dependent mom, not me. I lived too far away from his daily life. I thought I was not touched by this disease. However, as I tried to move forward after his death followed a year later by our mother’s death, I discovered many unresolved issues surrounding my relationship with my artistic, lonely, sharing but self-burdened younger brother.

At that Al-anon meeting, around the room I heard echoed my own thoughts and struggles. Why couldn’t  I fix him? How come I could not convince my mother of her co-dependency, as she gave him money and made excuses for him? During my visits to see him and mom, I’d ask, “Didn’t he love me enough to delay drinking until after the movie?”

I heard one admit that she was like the older brother who would not join his Father’s celebration at the return of the Prodigal Son in the story told by Jesus. In her words, I heard my brother’s accusation that I rode into town being the “Good Child” and leaving mom upset. When he blamed others and could say it aloud, he usually had been drinking and so my admission and apology could not be received, but I rarely heard his heart cries. I did not understand his inner pain or the hold that alcohol held over his life.

I was the self-righteous one with all the answers. Since his death, all I encounter is questions. If I couldn’t fix him, could I accept him for who he was? If I couldn’t understand his behavior, could I acknowledge his great love for his family, his friends, and his art? If he could not wait for that drink after a day of smiling at unreasonable customers, can I face the fact that I longed for him to be free, to be whole, and to receive the love that God and so many offered him? Can I see the log in my own eye in all those efforts to force our mother to see the speck in hers?

Today’s reading in Courage to Change, a book given to me at that first Al-anon meeting, I am encouraged to be myself, to own my own feelings of anger, embarrassment, resentment, or fear that one of my children may “catch this disease.” Today, I can choose to honor my brother’s struggles and his gifts. Today, I can embrace my own faults and contributions.

I can apply what William Shakespeare wrote, “This above all, to thine own self be true.”

– link to Al-anon Family Groups in USA, Canada & Bermuda: http://al-anon.org

–  The Biblical story of the prodigal son can be found in the book of Luke chapter 15  with a few other lost and found stories.

–  Jesus’ words on the log and the speck are in Matthew which is printed here.
Matthew 7:3-5 New Living Translation (NLT) from Bible Gateway.com

3 “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye[a] when you have a log in your own? 4 How can you think of saying to your friend,[b] ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.                       [a & b: in Greek = brother]

– humorous note on context of Shakespeare
quote from Hamlet: https://www.enotes.com/shakespeare-quotes/thine-own-self-true

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