Life’s Interruption

I have interrupted this (normally super positive)blog to bring you life’s interruption… a little dark cloud that creeps in when you are least expecting it. I promise to return to light hearted travel and journey blogs right after this…

I think I’ve been trying to avoid this topic but in the midst of quite a few close friends (and family)experiencing a loss, I thought it would be appropriate timing.

There really isn’t a good time to talk about it… and if you are someone who has never lost a close relative, or friend, someday this may make sense..

Suddenly in the middle of a perfectly great day, we get interrupted.

Unfortunately, sometimes it’s not as simple as a customer service call… No, sometimes it’s an important call that sends our whole world into a frenzy. Sometimes it’s just the flashback…of the call, the day or the feeling we had…

I’ll warn you now that if you wanted a light hearted blog this isn’t the one, it gets kind of emotional but very real. So carry on at your own risk.

The call is, never the one you want. It’s never the right time, or the right day or the right weather.

It’s never the right response.

You never get to forget it either.

Every moment during which this call takes place you are actually living in slow motion, but yet you wish it would’ve been over faster. It’s, not the IRS.. (sorry I joke when I’m nervous)no it’s the “something has happened” call…

I’ll tell you, I’ve had a lot of experience with death, and yet it still comes back like acid reflux every time I hear of anyone’s loved one passing… I have been in the trenches of mourning and I have known the loss that few (my age) have known. It’s not a club you want to be in..

My phone call came at approximately 6:25am on a tuesday morning. July 11th 2014. A flash bulb memory…

It’s like how you remember exactly where you were the day you found out about 9/11. What’s weird is at the time of 9/11 I didn’t know what the World Trade Center was, or what was happening. When I got the phone call my dad had suddenly passed away in his sleep, after seeing him less than a week prior, I knew what it meant.

So what happened after the call? I couldn’t breath, or eat or speak. I didn’t cry right away…

In slow motion, I managed to go through the entire week feeling like I got sucker punched… Then for months I relived my sorrow over and over, and while that was happening, so was life… like normal every day things, which was so inconvenient!!

How exactly did I not see this coming? No one did, and for most people death doesn’t work into our plans…

We don’t think about death unless it’s effecting us at that moment. We protect ourselves from this fear and this sadness by avoiding it.

I was fortunate to have my band aid torn off in some ways.

My dad was definitely not the “bed ridden kind”, nor would he be a good candidate for any kind of “treatment” except “special treatment”. He really got out in the best way he could have, really.

My dad lived. He sure did fear death though, as I think we all do. The uncertainty of it makes the concept very scary. That is why many people have faith in god, others in reincarnation but whatever you believe, know that you will some day get a “call”. Maybe not a sudden and severe one, but one that will stay with you. It changes you, and the way you think of things…

It’s not that I want to dwell on death, in fact I try not to be morbid most of the time. I can’t help but know, with such certainty, that life is short. If we have good years in our life than we have lived.

Loss isn’t always the same. However, I’ve found that personally, there have been two distinct experiences that are universal:

1. Sudden and unexpected. Which consists of losing someone as a result of a car accident, an overdose, a health related incident that couldn’t be rectified, a miscarriage, SIDs, military related, gang related… and a million other sudden traumatic losses…

2. Slow, steady decline. Slow is a relative term. The usual example is someone suffering from an illness who is going through treatment, or a grandparent experiencing age related failure.

Each type of loss is equally as traumatic and devastating, I’ve experienced both. Each type comes with their own distinct feelings, as did the relationship with that person. When I lost my dad, I thought of friends I had who had also lost theirs. I instantly felt like now I could relate. Now I knew what they meant when they said things. I never knew the feelings could be so different.

We all feel loss one day, and we can never truly know the feeling until it happens… but we should know how to be there for someone during this horrible time. Whatever you say, don’t say “let me know if there is anything I can do”. Make it a point to schedule a coffee date or just say “sorry for your loss”, it’s worse to make empty promises.

When we lose someone we evaluate ourselves.

Just like we evaluate all the company around us, and yet we don’t do this in our day to day. We struggle to make it to the end of the week or just to make enough to get our needs met and yet we forget how important people are. The kindest words, the greatest stories are told to our loved ones at the wake of death. That must change!

Could we be better at telling the stories we love of each other today, instead?

In life we get schedules and routines. We make things important and other things “not so important”. We go so fast, yet so slow, but do we see each other? Do we look past the “good morning” or the “how was your weekend?” Do we care enough? It’s hard to take care of yourself during times of loss, and it’s easy to hide in plain sight.

The months that follow…

After the loss, we drift away from the person who has experienced it, knowing we said something, or sent some flowers. We forget that they don’t continue their lives the same way they were before. We assume they say everything is fine and move on, selfishly or consciously but with little consideration of if that is actually true…

The person who has lost their loved one, does not snap back into reality (at least I didn’t). No, they wake up everyday to remember they can’t call their dad or their mom, or their friend and tell them about their day. They won’t see them at their regular holidays. They remember good times, they remember bad times but they know they are lonely. Some people (like myself) don’t like a lot of attention with sad connotations. I’d much rather be happy, don’t we all feel that way!

There is a feeling that no one understands the feelings, or has experienced this specific scenario. The reality is, grief is universally individual. You feel your feelings alone, no hallmark card, or edible arrangement can fix or soften the experience. It’s about being seen. If we can see each other’s needs, care enough to make their day a little easier, it helps. Every little thing helps in a small way, to dig you out of your dark sad space.

Empathy.

See the persons feelings and know that you might not understand, but it’s not your time to. You might know their lossed loved one or you might not. What a grieving friend, coworker, loved one needs, is just to be seen, heard, and held. There is nothing to be said. The less you say the better. You just need to be there.

Something changes after you experience a great loss…

They aren’t the same whole person they started with. In fact, some feel the loss of their loved one forever, and while some say it eases with time, that isn’t true for everyone. That’s okay! The reality is, the way they see the world is now forever changed. It’s not that they will never be “themselves” again, but they might not want what they thought they wanted before.

I’ll give you a personal example. I used to work both a 9-5 and a side job which ranged from 10-20 extra hours sometimes even another 40 additional hours. After my dad passed, I had 2 jobs, a mother who had just been through a psychotic break and was being re-medicated, a serious boyfriend (thank god for him) and we had just made an offer on a house (luckily they turned us down). That was my level of normalcy. Going on full time overdrive, running from one job to the next, not spending time on myself or what I wanted out of life.

When we are young, we think we have forever to live. After my dad’s death and several young classmates sudden deaths, I woke up.

I had never considered what exactly my dad did for my life, since I was (an adult) out of the house. He kepted a careful balance of handling shit, without anyone knowing. We didn’t know what he did behind the scenes (what bills, responsibilities etc.). He had a small business, a commercial building and he loved working, he handled everything. He was the one that instilled a deep sense of pride and work ethic in me. Now it was up to me to fill in the gaps, my mom couldn’t do it, the baton has been passed.

My dad missed dance recitals, piano recitals, Greek school graduation and a bunch of other things I don’t remember. He never packed my lunch or helped me with my homework. I never minded, or felt bad about it, because I knew he was there (supportive, but not present). Maybe that was how I made my peace in the end, but I am digressing .

The point is the man worked a lot.

He obviously was successful in doing so, but yet he missed out (or maybe he didn’t think he did), on life’s precious moments. He was there for milestones, the guy wasn’t a total workaholic, but he did miss some things.

After he passed. I quit my second job, (I still went in from time to time) I stopped doing overtime and I realized all the money I was trying to make, didn’t make me happy!

This moment was so important. I was working because I thought I was supposed to work hard, save money, buy a house and that would make me a successful adult. I clearly learned after dismantling his life in the court of probate that life is more important than work.

Yes money was important, and I didn’t quit my day job. It was an extreme change for me. For my whole college experience, I worked every Saturday, and Sunday. I missed Mother’s Days, I missed Father’s Days I missed these little moments and didn’t think anything of it because I had to work.

In the end we wish we had more time, not money.

We wish we could have spent more time with those people we have lost. We regain a feeling that life is short, and so precious, and can be so easily interrupted.

Death changes life, but it doesn’t stop life from happening, it changes our views of it for a time. We are sad, we are lonely, we feel more easily aggravated, we may be angry, but we wake up in the morning, and we choose to get up and move forward.

Sometimes we are affected but it takes an extreme loss to fundamentally shift the way we think. This is what happened for me. I started to look at life as finite. That isn’t negative, it’s true!

It’s hard. Every single day you miss the person you lost. Every day you think of something that reminds you of them. What we don’t remember to do daily is to check in with someone who has just faced, what we have faced. We assure ourselves that because they have a spouse or someone else that we don’t need to say anything or do anything else…

We forget that they are in the midst of the battle that is grief. Once we have gone through a true loss, we are either afraid forever to face it again, stuck in a state of grief where we seek out others who are also experiencing grief or we simply avoid it all together. We protect our delicate selves in which ever way we know how.

I must remind you though that the person who feels the loss may just need a shoulder. I am writing this blog to remind you that life has interruptions. It’s not always happy, and it’s not always sad. It’s not about how much you work. It’s not about the money or the stuff or the status you have. It’s not about the kids all the time. It’s not about your bosses needs. It’s about love. Life is about how much you love. Let your neighbor, your friend, your partner, your relatives know that you love them. Tell them a story, don’t wait to make the phone call.

Don’t avoid love. Wrap yourself in it. Surround yourself with it and give it. Make love your only priority. Love is forever.

Maya Angelou once said, “people may forget what you did but they will never forget what you made them feel”. I always felt that during my grief, there were certain people that stood out, that listened, and that made me feel seen. There were others that didn’t. It’s okay, not everyone understands, but if you know the feeling, don’t let someone feel lonely. They might need you. You might need them. Even if it’s not convenient.

Life is hard for everyone, but particularly hard when you lose someone who is intricately woven into who you are. You lose yourself for a while, and when you find yourself again. You are changed, you see the world differently, maybe better, maybe worse but you are never the person you were before.

Share this with someone who needs to know you love them. Share it because you want them to know they aren’t alone. Share your thoughts and feelings and don’t be afraid to ask how someone is doing. They might need it. You might need to stop in the middle of life and interrupt yourself to see someone else’s point of view. Interruptions happen, sometimes they are life changing and sometimes they aren’t but know that when you least expect life can throw you a curve ball.

Be kind. Extend a caring heart and don’t forget that life is short! Do yourself a favor and don’t hold a grudge, don’t be mean and listen a little more.

We are only human, and we do the best we can. Thanks for listening and please share with someone who might need it.

(Pictured is the wise, chicken scratch of my late grandmother. She may have been the smartest, most loving woman I have known.)

Let me know what you think, if you can relate (I’m sorry for your loss) and if not that’s okay (just be kind)! I hope someone took something away from my story. I’ll be honest it was a hard one to tell. I look back now, still sad and longing for more time with my dad but so grateful for the time we had. So many people touch our lives and make an impression, as we do theirs and so let’s be better humans and love a little more! Until next time…

(I promise for a happy blog next)

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Small Town (pros and cons)

 

img_8257-1Growing up I always felt at home in my small town of Marlborough, CT. It was quaint in town, a grocery store, a bakery, a couple of pizza places, a Seven 11, and a full service gas station. It was small, it was quiet and it was home. There’s a lake in Marlborough where I learned how to swim and a playground where people had play dates with their kids. It’s peaceful and clean and everyone is nice. Everyone knows everyone. The ladies at the bank greet you by your first name, and entering the town hall is like a reunion. If you needed to pick something up at 7/11 or Pat’s Market you were sure to see at least 2 people you knew personally, or who knew your family.

It was a great asset to be in a town with good schools, low crime rate, low poverty rate and genuinely good people. Elementary school was filled with activities and the classes were maybe 20 kids each, 4-5 classrooms and you had to take a bus to get to school. No one walked, it’s too rural.  The people you started kindergarden with, were with you until the end of high school.

In middle and high school Marlborough joined two other towns in a regional forum school in Hebron. The purpose obviously was because the towns didn’t have the volume of kids to support individual high schools, (shared costs). It was also nice to meet new people.

Once in middle school and high school all the activities and small town vibes expand to the tri-towns. People have to travel 30 minutes from one town to the next to visit their friends, and a vehicle was always required.

I don’t know exactly why it changed so much in high school, but all of a sudden drugs became prevalent. Anything from cocain to LSD was available and in high demand. It was strange to see how many people were doing drugs. The football team, the cheerleaders, the geeks and the weirdos all. Maybe that’s why everyone got along so, seemingly well. There were never fights on school grounds. The worst thing was someone getting caught with illegal paraphernalia or drugs/ alcohol. The cliques all threw massive parties.

The high school parties shown on tv were real in my high school. We had dj’s, booze and hundreds of people would show up from high school classes 4 plus or minus classes to get wild. There was mud wrestling and jello wrestling and one or two parties included a prize for the best costumes. There were beer pong tournaments, dance parties, people hooking up and the cops always showing up to tell us to keep it down. It was reckless and free. It was awesome. The parties would be wild and the drugs were everywhere. It was funny, after looking back, other towns didn’t do that.

One of my best friends died, we had a friend- fall out before that. She was a tough person to get along with and she sold drugs. She smoked blunts and thought her body was just like a man’s. She thought she could do anything without punishment because she was smart. She wasn’t smart, when she started taking pain killers. Then she started snorting them. Then a year after our fall out I heard she died. I heard it was heroin but I still don’t know. She was smart, funny, and kind. She always rooted for the underdog. She loved fiercely and she was beautiful. She had long blonde hair, and green eyes. She drove me to school. She drove me crazy sometimes. She had a scholarship to Uconn’s Avery point, and she was so bright. Her family was smart, and she played the violin. She’s gone now, but she was a beautiful soul.

I had a love. Oh did I love him, he was my first love. He had red hair, and blue eyes, he was so smart and kind. The good news is that this story doesn’t end as tragically as the last.  My boyfriend in high school, was shot in the face with a bee bee gun, at a party. The kid who did it, didn’t know it was loaded. He was blinded in one eye from the stupid kid who shot him. The doctors gave him vicotin, then he moved up to Percocet, then oxicotin and yes next came the heroin.After high school he went to rehab, but not many people followed him. Many many people went down the same path… His best friends, and the whole circle around us.

It was at least one death a year, each time, a high school reunion.

When I moved to college I came home on weekends and nothing looked beautiful and like home anymore. It looked tainted and sad. People didn’t know eachother anymore, they hid in their addiction ridden holes and if you heard from them it meant they needed something. People still had parties and I attended a lot of them. People still did drugs even after high school and college, these guys owned homes now and had good jobs and yet still couldn’t stop. Some of them did. Those went out to have normal families, kids, and stopped. The rest of them, in AA, or onto their next addiction.

More people died.

Overdoses, car accidents and not one for a good reason.

Each wake and funeral people rallied for their friends, for the people they knew, for eachother. It was a beautiful reunion and never for a good reason. It is always at these funerals that people look back fondly on the departed and reminisce on how things were.

It isn’t that the towns fell apart, it’s that the people who started with drugs who let the drugs take over, stayed. They led the same life they did in high school 10-15 years later doing the same drugs and hanging out with the same people.  They went to the same gas station, and had the same circle of friends. Everyone else moved on. People in high school went on to leave the towns some stayed in CT some moved close some moved far. Everyone took with them the same good times, different memories but always the same gratitude and love for the place they came from.

There aren’t many people I know who grew up in the RHAM community who don’t respect and honor their days in the tri-town area. I don’t know anyone who had a “bad” high school experience, there were cliques but people were generally nice to each other. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t lost someone,  from this place we all call home. I know some have lost a friends due to suicide, others overdoses and some car accidents. Each tragic event built something inside of us all that is resilient and unified. We all know what it is to lose someone.

The pro is that people of RHAM had some of the best and most memorable days partying, going to games, skipping class, being young and careless. The con is that while we aren’t in high school any longer RHAM never leaves us. We are the class of 2007 and we all plus or minus 4 classes love and support eachother in life and in death.

The life we have had together is home. I can’t say with any certainty that it was a good experience but I know it wasn’t bad. In these towns I learned more about life than anywhere else. I still go home to my home town of Marlborough  and now it feels better. It feels like home again. I see people in town and we chit chat. It’s as if nothing has changed, and everything, at once.

The pro of the small towns is devotion, to the place you call home, and to those who spent years by your side, even if you weren’t close. It is a lesson on how to deal with the unexpected loss that life throws at us. It’s being a part of a whole. A small town is not the same as a city but you know if you leave you will see things change. Yet, they will always be the same.

To those wonderful people we lost:

Lija Brigga

David O’keef

Chris David

Greyson Minney

Josh Lejune

Kerry Williams

Brittany holland

Andrew Bartholomew

Eric Hunter

Ryan Kurley

To name a few…

We have known you well and loved you. We are united in spirit, the small town and community of RHAM. Together we rally for eachother and I can only hope that this terrible disease of addiction stops, so that people can stop gathering for funerals and start gathering for reunions.

Addiction has touched the lives of so many, if you or someone you know is struggling don’t feel like you’re alone. Call someone, they probably already know, and want to help!