Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Goodness in Grief

Last week marked 15 months since Dude left the world.  Not a day goes by that I do not think about him, what happened, and how this has changed my life – and all of the lives of those who loved him – forever. I/we are different now.  One devastatingly tragic moment resulted in gradual change. 

It used to be that the physical and emotional pain was palpable and constant.  It wouldn’t let up. I thought it would never end.  I literally thought I would die.  I wanted to die.  I would never take my own life, but I didn’t think I’d have to do that.  In my mind, there was no possible way I could survive such a tragedy. The expression “Good grief!” would come to mind and all I could think was there is NOTHING good about grief! (I know that’s not what that expression intends but that’s what I would think.)  

 Now, it is not as bad.  There are certainly horrendous things about grief, especially deep grief.  There are more awful consequences in dealing with the death as a suicide.  It is incomprehensible that Dude would deliberately and intentionally chose to leave the world forever.  He definitely wanted to die, and that is just heartbreaking and tragic and all things horrible.  I’d be fooling myself if I said one day it would make sense.  It won’t, at least not on earth.  I’d be deceiving myself if I said the pain and the emptiness will go away.  It will always be present to some degree.  You can’t just “get over” or recover from the loss of someone you loved so deeply.  He will never meet my husband or my children.  That makes me sad.  But he wants me to be happy.  He wants me to move forward.  Amidst the pain, there is some goodness in grief.

Grief is an excellent teacher.  From the start of this journey, I’ve been advised to live one day at a time.  That is so hard for me.  I am impatient.  I was born 13.5 weeks early.  I like to GO!  But this attitude means I miss things.  It means I rush.  I don’t fully appreciate what is in front of me.  In grief, it is impossible to speed through life.  You.Just.Can’t.  Some days, especially early on, it seems like a huge accomplishment to get dressed. I’ve had to slow down.  I’ve had to spend time with myself. I’ve had to think about what is really important in life.  Who is really important in life.  I’ve learned who I can depend on and who I should probably let go. Those are important lessons.

You gain a new perspective on life.  I know life can change in an instant.  I realize the people who are important are really important.  I want to spend time with them, celebrate them, love them, appreciate them because even in the best of times, they could be gone so quickly.  I don’t take the days or people in my life for granted as much as I used to before this.  The simple things in life have much greater meaning – the beauty of the sunset, the warmth of a sunny day, the gentle breeze that blows through my hair, the snuggles from our dogs are taken in with much deeper gratitude.

There are days that are still hard.  Days when I look around and think I can’t believe this happened!!  I can’t believe he is gone.  He is not gone.  Oh, but he is gone.  There are days when his friends and family and I cry together.  Days when a slight smile is all I can muster.  Days when we nearly bust a gut laughing at a memory Dude left with us.  Days when a big ‘ole grin is plastered on my face after learning that someone else donated to his scholarship.  Someone else remembered him. That is comforting.  This is the “new normal” now. 

I wish that I could have learned these lessons another way.  I wish it wasn’t at the expense of losing Dude. But just as his smile, love and the memories we shared will remain in my heart, so too, will what I have learned from this horrific experience.  I guess there is some goodness in grief.

I love you, Dude, and I miss you every day.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Dumping Diet Coke

Diet Coke and I had a serious relationship for many years.  I don't know how long, but it was a long time.  I loved that silver and red can.  I loved listening to the crack as I pulled back the tab to reveal the liquid goodness.  I loved the bubbles.  The taste.  The fact that I could enjoy that beverage without consuming any calories.  Zero.  It was glorious.

I could sometimes consume two (or three...) a day and not even feel one tinge of guilt....until my mother would witness me consume this beverage.  I must have had a bit of an addiction because I would often make a point not to drink Diet Coke when she was around me.  I'd keep it at my condo or drink it out with friends, but not in my mom's presence.  As I type this, I am thinking that I sound like an alcoholic, but I really was a Diet Coke-aholic.  I would wake up and have one first thing in the morning.  I claimed it was because I wanted the caffeine.  Some people drink coffee.  I drank Diet Coke.  I think the real reason was because I just really enjoyed the taste and needed my "fix" to start the day off right.

My family and I were on vacation in Aruba in April.  We ate every meal together.  Every meal I would get a Diet Coke.  We were at an all inclusive, which means you can have whatever you want food and drink wise whenever you want.  It is a fantastic concept except for the fact that you can gain a lot of weight if you're not careful!  To balance out my ridiculous calorie consumption, I drank Diet Coke.  But remember my mom was with me.  And she loves to get on me about drinking Diet Coke.

"Don't you know that that stuff is known to cause brain tumors?"
"Do you want to die early?"
"They say drinking diet soda makes you actually gain weight."
"No soda is healthy for you, but diet soda is really bad.
"There's something in that soda that makes you hungry" -- My friend from grad school and I used to try to test the "Diet Coke makes you hungrier theory" and sadly, our experiment produced positive results.

Anyway, I had to listen to this every day for a week.  My mom is an elementary school teacher.  That means she will say the same thing three or four different ways if you don't give her the response she wants!  It's annoying.  I got tired of it.  So, on the airplane ride home, I told her I would quit drinking Diet Coke!

I didn't intend to actually do it.  I intended to try to do it.

My boss used to drink at least 4 Diet Cokes a day.  I used to know she was in her office in the morning before I even saw her because I would hear the crack of that silver, red, and black can.  All of the sudden, when I returned from Aruba, I no longer heard the crack.  I asked her if she was still drinking Diet Coke.  Her response was "No, I heard something about how it can make you store fat.  I don't need any help storing fat, so I quit."

"It's only been two days, but I am trying to quit, too.  After what you just told me, true or not, I think I am going to try harder", I said.

Then I started to feel much better.  I hated to admit that I was feeling good thanks to no Diet Coke.  I wasn't as hungry.  And, as time went on, I didn't really miss it.  I was shocked at myself!!

This weekend, I went to the movies and split a drink with a friend.  She got a Diet Coke.  I took one sip and regretted the decision.  I was hoping to embrace the soda like a long lost friend.  But, I didn't want anything to do with it.  It tasted like a science experiment!!

It's been 90 days since I've cracked open a can of Diet Coke.  I quit cold turkey and don't miss it at all. We're done.  Forever.  And, I am not sad.  I feel better than ever.
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