Wow. What a really bad selfie. Why on earth would I post this? I am sharing it because I want you to know what devastation, loss, intense grief and sadness look like. This is me longing for my daughter. Wishing her back. It is a picture important to share because I am not interested in hiding how I feel. It is raw, in the moment and unedited – just like this blog post.
What is it about grief, sadness, extreme loss…depression (gasp!) that people seem to shy away from? Why does it seem so hard for many of us to wrap our arms around those people and show great patience, compassion, and support (beyond just texting about it). I think it is because it takes a lot of energy and time. Both very limited commodities in our very busy lives. It also takes a great deal of compassion.
I am grateful. Grateful because I have that support from very key people in my life. I am getting the space and time I need. I have had the attention and people following up when I have gone ‘quiet’. The friends who know the right thing to say, and when to say it. The friends who continue to reach out, even when I don’t answer, or repeatedly say ‘no’. The friends who sit with me and listen.
It is powerful, and I am grateful.
Kate’s loss rocked my world in many ways. I functioned in a state of shock for many months after. I couldn’t process that she was gone. Honestly, I still feel like she’ll come back, or I can bring her back. Like I am waiting for her.
The incredible amount of time, physical energy, cognitive energy, and emotional energy it took to parent Kate and take care of her left an incredible vacuous void in my life. The routine and relationships we had developed with her medical teams and our children’s hospital were wiped from our calendar. The relationships with therapists, schools, pharmacists, caregivers, nurses, personal support workers ended abruptly. The regular, ongoing advocacy and coordination of care to ensure this complicated little girl got the help she needed to live a full life had gone quiet. The intense medical needs of the last few months of her life just stopped.
I was exhausted from 8 years of intense caregiving to a happy, active little girl who was chronically unwell and medically complex, but when I closed my eyes I couldn’t sleep. Extreme exhaustion and sleep deprivation had put me into a state of insomnia. My body couldn’t adjust to the adrenal overload high I had been riding to simply keep me functioning day to day. My mind couldn’t settle from the trauma of the last 9 months of Kate’s life – what she had endured, and what we had experienced.
And with all this, I miss my daughter. The little girl I brought into this world. I love her and would do anything for her. I wanted so much for her. I miss her smell, her soft hair, the laughter in her eyes, her giggle, her soft hands, her hugs, her voice, the feel of her body when I held her. I could go on and on. In my thoughts I do, every moment of every day.
I talk to Kate often, usually she comes to me, and her words bring tears to my eyes. I know she misses me as much as I miss her. I know she left us too soon, because of decisions and under circumstances that I feel could have been different. I know she suffered because those charged with caring for her did not always do their best for her. Those thoughts haunt me. They cycle around in my head and they are constantly present.
It has been an intensely complicated grief. I would need time. A lot of time.
I cry. A lot.
I am slowly regaining my strength. But it has taken an incredible amount of time, and patience. Having the courage to be patient with myself, and understanding that I am forever changed is something I have had to learn, accommodate, assimilate. There are things that I no longer enjoy. There are situations that are uncomfortable and that I now avoid. There are people I have had to forgive, knowing that what they did was not ok. There are some things that are not forgivable.
There are also days that have some laughter, some light. I love being a mom. My children mean the world to me, and the relationship I have with my son Jack is one that I treasure beyond anything else. Time spent outdoors, connecting with this world and myself, running, skiing, cycling, yoga, surfing and more. There are moments when I think of Kate, ‘wouldn’t she love to be doing this’, and they are happy and reflective of her time in this world. There is some light and that is what I work on every day. Moving toward that light and the love, energy, and people that reside there.
I am writing this post today because on this day many of us are talking about mental health. I want to add my story, because story telling is how we share and learn best. This is a truth.
I want other complex care moms (and dads) out there to know I understand. I get it.
I want you to know you can call me. I will listen. I will try to guide you based on my own experience.
I want you to know that you are not alone and there are people who will listen, sit with you, hold your hand. Keep asking until you find that person. You will know them when you find them. They are the helpers, the ones you can lean on, the ones who will come without you even asking.
Don’t try and do this alone. It is too hard.
Thank you to my helpers, the ones who listen and continue to be there for me.
Well written brave mama. Love to you. Looking forward to our next visit. XO
Loving you and sending you strength and light from the other side of the world. Thank you for not being an invisible sufferer. You help all of us by sharing your grief. I have depression and my mom is bipolar. Grief sadness love light laughter they are all a part of who we are. Be super kind tout yourself every day. Because u are re-learning how to live. Always here if u want to talk. Xo
Relearning how to live, and not sure how or when I will get there. Trying not to slip into old patterns, and to be genuine to myself (within the constraints of an ordinary life with extraordinary circumstances).
Following your travels and would love to connect when you are back. Or even before.
I really appreciate our talks thanks for making me feel that I’m not alone. Hugs wish we lived closer
I get a lot of strength in talking with you LoriAnn. Any insight or experience I can share, I am happy to.
I know what this life is like and I don’t ever want you to feel alone. XO
Love and huge hugs – other parents have talked about that void after all the machines turn off and the struggle to care for, advocate for and fight for just evaporates as being terribly devastating. You are so loved – and Kate is with you.
Thank you Ruth.
Just gutted by your beautifully written words.
Julie, I’m so sorry it’s taking me a long time to reply to this post. It hit me hard and I still don’t know the right words to say to you. Our daughters are special and I know Kate is with you. I wish I could give you want u want, Kate back. There are so many decisions that are unfair that we have to make. Remember the good times and hold them close to your heart. You won’t forget them. I love u and wish I could do more. Hugs❤
Hi Julie! It was good to talk to you this morning. After our conversation, I found your blog and read it. Now, I’m in a whirlwind of emotions–so many of our experiences were very similar. I recognize the guilt, the dread of bone marrow, the regret, the what-ifs and the desperate longing for your dear sweet girl. Our Natalie was just nine when she died, so close in age to your lovely Kate. I look forward to sharing stories with you.