We Are More Than Just Numbers

I have heard and seen information recently that indicates that the percentage of people who have died from this pandemic isn’t that high and not really a problem. Or that it is less than those who die of the flu. Or that the numbers are stated without much thought to them.

While statistically the low percentages may be true, each number is a person who has passed away. Let’s please not forget that. Sadly, I think we do or it doesn’t register that a loss of human life is what that means.

I have to say that making such light of this has been bothering me for a while.  Another comment that has bothered me is — it is what it is.  Sorry, but to me that just isn’t good enough.  We can and should be doing better; much better.

Each of those people have loved ones who are grieving and whose lives will never be the same. Each of those people touched others throughout their lives. And sadly, many of them may not have had a chance to say goodbye.

I truly feel for the loved ones who didn’t have that chance. I was fortunate to have had that chance when my husband passed away unexpectedly. I cannot imagine the current way of things.

For those of us who have lost loved ones, we know the pain of loss. We know that the loss is real and has to be dealt with each day. We know how much it hurts and wouldn’t wish that feeling on anyone.

We are now at more than 160,000 deaths in the United States. That is a staggering number to me, but yet it just doesn’t seem to register with a lot of people. That number is more than the population of my hometown.  It is more than packs Neyland Stadium on a day of college football, at least pre-pandemic.

Please remember that behind the numbers there are actual people. There are families who are reeling from loss and will have to rebuild. There are people who are suffering and trying to make sense of the loss. There are also health workers who did all they could but it still wasn’t enough.

Let’s do what we can to take care of each other. Let’s do better for ourselves, our families, our children, our communities, and our loved ones.  Let’s please do what we can to stop the spreading of this damn virus.

My family will wear our masks, stay home when we can, be cautious and careful when we are out, and practice social distancing.  It is not fun and often inconvenient. But to me, it is worth it if it will help us stay healthy and help those we love stay healthy as well.

Grief In The Night

A week ago, I had a really rough night.  I had been sick with an upper respiratory infection, been sad, and been dealing with a lot.  So, my grief seemed to get the better of me for a little while.  This blog is about that experience.

I shared it with some loved ones prior to posting it.  One of them said that guilt is not of God.  That is true and so very important to remember.  However, when the guilt comes to you in the middle of the night, you tend to believe it, at least for a little while.

When I am sick, I often feel sad or bad.  I suppose I get the blues at those times.  So on this recent Sunday night, I was up until about 12:30 a.m. with a coughing fit that just wouldn’t stop.  I made some hot tea, got a mouthful of cough drops and then started thinking of my late husband and everything that happened the day that he died.

Parts of that entire morning are still there in vivid clarity. I remember him falling out of the bed face down, I remember trying to turn him over and figure out how to help him. I remember calling 911.  While I was still talking, two police officers came in to the house, turned him over and started CPR.

Soon after they arrived, several firefighters arrived to help, then the paramedics from the ambulance service.  They all worked on my love while I talked with the officers about what happened.  As they worked, our son was still asleep upstairs – having no idea what was going on.

I then called my parents to see if they could come over and help.  I was not sure that I could drive us to the hospital.  Before they got there, Kirk was taken by ambulance to the hospital.  I had no idea at that time that I would not see him alive again.

I prayed for him to be okay, grabbed his wallet, and my purse, etc.  Then woke up Ian and said we all had to go to the hospital since his dad was taken there.  We then went to the emergency department where I told his name to the person at the desk and presented his insurance card.

We were then led into a side room, not a room where they were working on him.  I should have known something was very wrong with that but I was still in shock at this point and hopeful.  Then a doctor and nurse came in and told us what you hear in movies or TV that changes lives forever.  “We did all we could but we couldn’t revive him.  He has passed away.”

We were all crushed and stunned to hear this news.  I then went to see him and touched his cold hand.  I looked at the man who was my love and had been so full of life.  I cried, I inwardly screamed, and I was in total and complete shock.  It was so hard to see him like that, but part of me knew that he was no longer in pain and was in a better place.  Still, I wanted him to come back to us.

I came back and forth twice to continue to check on Ian since I was worried about how he was doing.  I asked for Kirk’s wedding ring and the nurse took it off his hand and gave it to me.  I feel guilty that I didn’t stay with Kirk longer.  I felt like I deserted him since I didn’t sit vigil with him until the funeral home and donor services came to get him.

I still have some guilt since I put our son before him, although he was my spouse and first love.  But, now I realize that he would have wanted me to comfort our son and be with him.  He would have understood why I had to do what I did.  After all, he loved our child as much as I do.

Thinking back on it, I think he might have been gone as soon as he hit the floor at home.  An autopsy was done that said he had an enlarged heart along with a few other issues.  So, he apparently had a heart attack when he fell.  I have no concept of the length of time that he was on the floor before I called and reacted.  I just hope and pray that if I took too long, that wasn’t part of why he didn’t make it.

So there is guilt about that as well.  And, during that recent middle of the night when I was already not feeling well, it reared its ugly head.  I still feel I should have done more, reacted sooner, called earlier, whatever.  But would that have actually made a difference?

I don’t know, but it is something that I continue to think about.  And, I continue to ask my love to forgive me for failing him since that is what it feels like I did.  I hope that I can one day forgive myself and realize that I truly did all that I could.  That it was, in fact, his time to go, despite what I wanted.

I do know that 10 or more people worked on him between who came to our house, in the ambulance and the staff at the hospital.  They all tried to revive him but had no luck that would actually stick.  And that is heartbreaking.

We had plans; we had just talked about some changes in our life the day before he passed away.  He was excited about them and looking forward to what came next.  I am not sure he had any idea of what was coming.  He didn’t feel well but we thought it was a cold and allergy issues that we all were dealing with.  We thought there was time the next day to take him to the doctor.

So this year on that Sunday night, after crying and thinking about everything from that awful day, I was finally able to settle down and rest.  The next day continued as a normal school day.  It was still hard and full of emotions, but I made it though.  I was able to see the good in our lives and move forward.

I have talked with other people who have also lost loved ones.  A few of them also feel some guilt about wishing more could have been done or an opportunity was missed, or that it was bad timing.  That seems to be part of the grief process of the denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and eventual acceptance.

Friends and family regularly ask me how I am doing.  Some days, I am able to say pretty well.  But other days, I am broken and sad and not sure what to do with myself.  So, I cry, I pray, and I think about a lovely memory with Kirk.  I try to remember that he is not in pain, that he wouldn’t have liked living as any less than the man that he was.  It is comforting to know that he is in Heaven waiting to see us again.  That is my comfort in this journey that continues to ebb and flow.

I am still a work in progress and probably will be for a long time to come.  It helps me to write about my feelings and to share them.  And, crying also helps.  It also helps to talk about Kirk, to see his picture, to laugh at a memory or a story that he told us, to laugh at jokes he told, and to tell Ian what a wonderful man his dad was.

Ian is growing into someone who Kirk would be very proud of.  He has so much of his dad in him.  That is a blessing and something I treasure. Still I wish his dad was actually here to see it.  I continue to be reminded of all of the things that he is missing and that is a challenge.

If you too are grieving, may you find support, may you have healing, and may you find your way.  May you know that some days will hurt like hell.   May you know that some days will be full of regret and guilt but that some will have hope and joy.

May we live in honor or those who are no longer with us.  May we make the most of the time we have with our loved ones.  May we be thankful for another day.  May we have healing on our path of grief.  And may God continue to bless us.

On Grief and Afternoon TV

Dealing with grief on afternoon television is not something that you normally think of.  Or perhaps want to read about.  But, I have been touched by some recent story lines on the ABC soap, General Hospital, that have dealt with the deaths of a few beloved characters.

I am a long-time fan of this show that has had stories about cancer, AIDS, the Nurses Ball, the mob, and family dynamics.  They have also had some stories of freezing the Earth, crazy capers and adventures, and memory mapping.  It is entertaining and something I enjoy tuning into.

Several characters have died recently and the ramifications are being felt in a variety of ways by those left mourning their loss.  Oddly enough, a few of the shows have helped me and are nice to cry with.  Despite being make-believe, it has helped me tap into my own feelings.  That may be odd, but hey, you cope with grief and loss the best you can.  Right?

A teenager named Oscar died of a brain tumor, a nursing student named Kikki was murdered, and a baby named Jonah was stillborn (or so the family thinks).  These are recent deaths and there have been many others.  A bit crazy at times, but they have had ripple effects on the canvas of the characters.

One story line included the first day of school for Oscar’s girlfriend and friends.  It was the first day back since his death and has been hard on everyone, as you can imagine.  Joss was his girlfriend; they were each other’s first loves.  Joss is a 16 year old who plays sports and does well in school.  She went to school but then left and skipped for most of the day.  She went to Oscar’s Meadow, a park in his honor, and talked with her brother Michael, who was Jonah’s father.

While at school, Joss felt guilty for going to her locker a few times during the day without thinking of Oscar.  She felt bad for trying to move on and shared that it meant she no longer loved Oscar.  Michael told her it is okay to have good times and that Oscar would want her to.  Also, that she shouldn’t beat herself up about it.

Michael asked Joss if she wished there was a checklist of how to deal with grief to help get through it?  She said, yes.  Michael explained that grief takes a long time, often much longer than you’d expect.  And, he explained that memories can pop up at any time.

Regarding Jonah, Michael told Joss that he was overwhelmed thinking about something he’d never get to do with his son.  He was saddened that his son died prior to him sharing special times with him and day to day life.  It spoke volumes for all those who have lost children without ever knowing them.

Oscar’s mother Kim is having another problem.  She thinks moving to another city will help with her grief and painful loss of her son.  She seems hopeful that running away from where she lived with her son will help.  Clearly that grief is with you no matter where you are, but her character doesn’t seem to get that.

As hard as all of this is, feelings must be felt and learned from in order for there to be healing.  As much as we may want to, we cannot run away from them.  At least not for very long since they are often there.

And, Kikki’s mother Ava is trying to deal with it in another way.  She and her daughter were estranged before the death.  So, she has a lot of guilt and is trying some crazy ways to communicate with her daughter thinking it will help.  And, of course, it isn’t.  So she remains in pain and in guilt.

So what can one learn from all of this?  It is important to remember that grief can hit you in waves at any time and when you least expect.  Some days and weeks are easier than others.  And some are painful, or bring up memories, or a specific time on the calendar with that loved one.

Also important is what my friend Gordon used to say, don’t be a grave hugger.  In other words, don’t have regrets with your loved ones.  Remember the last thing you say to someone could in fact be the last thing ever said.  So, let’s be careful with our words and our feelings.

If you have guilt, ask for forgiveness, pray, and try to forgive yourself.   I am working on some of that right now and it is challenging but important for healing.  The doubts and questions come up frequently and can be frustrating.

Also, there is no checklist to complete to be finished with grief. There is no right way to heal from such a loss.  There are several stages but many of them happen together or can repeat themselves. There is no line from A to B that helps heal the pain and loss.  And, that can be hard to take.

Running away from the pain also can be a short-term fix but ultimately doesn’t help to process and deal with the loss.  In fact, many people will tell those grieving to not make big changes within the first year.  So selling everything and running off somewhere may sound tempting but cannot hold off that pain forever.

Each loss is different, each person dealing with the loss is different, and each healing journey is different.   May we give ourselves permission to feel what we need to, while striving to move forward.

May we remember it is okay to be happy despite our pain and loss.  I think our loved ones wouldn’t want us to stop living but instead live in their honor and memory.

May we be there for each other and let each other know that we care.  May we not judge someone dealing with a loss but instead offer our support and step up as we can.  And, may we always, always love.

(Note: all of the images in today’s blog are from Power Point Clip art).