Never Forgotten

It’s been a softer year this year.

The pain hasn’t been as intense.

The longing hasn’t been as intense.

And most importantly, I haven’t spent the past month or so fighting my brain.  Suicide hasn’t been an option.

For the past 4 years, my brain has been telling me that suicide is an option around this time of year.  This year? That hasn’t happened.

I’ve looked towards those further out in this journey than me to see how I might react as days and months go by.  2nd year was harder than the first just like they said.  Things got harder and easier, just like they said.

But around 5 years, it seems that widows and widowers start to diverge.  There’s those who are still grieving hard and then there’s those for whom it gets softer.

That’s not to say that those who are grieving hard haven’t moved forward, some of them are remarried and some are still alone.  And for the ones who it’s gotten softer, they are either still alone or remarried.  There is no hard and fast rules.  It just comes down to a matter of there being some who are grieving hard still and some for whom the grief has softened somewhat.

And for me, things have softened.

Don’t get me wrong.  I still have days of ugly cries.  I have moments of tears leaking down my face while I’m almost unaware of it. I have days where the pain is still so intense I can’t breathe.

But those days are further apart.  Those moments happen less often.  And the pain doesn’t last as long as it used to.

So here I am. June 26.  The day he died 5 years ago. Getting ready for work.

And this is what I mean by softer.

Every other year I have been unable to function.  This year… I’m going to work with people who will trigger memories and tweak the pain.  This year, I did not take the day off like I normally do.

This year… I’m living.

He is never far from my mind.  His name is said on a fairly regular basis. He will never be forgotten as long as I live, as long as my children live.

He died. It devastated me. I almost died with him (there’s an actual study on that.  People DO die of a broken heart!)

But this year I’m living.

This year I’m going to go care for people who may or may not have the chance to go  home. (Some do, some don’t)

This year, I’m going to love the hell out of anyone who needs it.

This year, I’m going to lean into the man who has embraced ALL of me, and offered me a future.

This year, I’m going to say his name, watch the memorial video and then roll over to snuggle my Sexxy Chef and get some sleep because I have to go back to work tomorrow.

I miss him, terribly.

Mark W. Smith
May 18, 1963 – June 26, 2012
Forever Loved
Forever Missed
Forever Remembered

 

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She Died

I have said from day one that I need my first death in nursing to be during clinical, so that I had a safe place to process it. I wanted the support of my classmates and instructor to help me go through it.

I’ve been in my 2nd clinical rotation for the past 4 weeks. It was in a long term care facility.  The clients there are residents for the rest of their lives. They are admitted… knowing they’ll never go home.  Most of them have MOST directives of M1.

This means do nothing.  If they are dying, they get comfort care only, no extraordinary measures to save their lives.

Over the weekend, before my last 3 days of clinical, one of the residents had a huge decline. She was put on palliative care. Her daughter flew in to be at her side. They didn’t expect her to last long.

I advised my instructor, and followed the LPN/care aides in her care.  She wasn’t my assigned client, she wasn’t in my assigned “family” of residents, but in the 3 weeks prior, she had been someone I had seen frequently because she sat at the same table as my assigned clients.

One of the first things I remember about her is that she was singing along to the music playing during lunch. She was so sweet.

Her daughter was incredible.  She had taught nursing for many years, and was ok with nursing students watching and learning from the experience.

Yesterday, it was clear that she wasn’t going to be long in this world. I knew that this was my opportunity – that I needed to *be* a nurse in this instance.  I started with a “safe” family member – the son-in-law – and asked him if there was anything I could do for him, and let him know that I was available if he needed anything.  He seemed surprised and grateful that I had asked.

At lunch, a quick conversation with my instructor and having to take baby steps in learning to deal with it, letting her know that I wasn’t hiding from what was happening, that I was taking as much time with the resident as I had before.

After lunch, after feeding one of my clients, I felt brave enough to go in and talk to the daughter.

It was an incredible conversation. We talked about her dying mother.  We talked about my goals in nursing.  We talked about her cousin who’s an ICU nurse. We talked about her cousin’s daughter who was in ICU for the same thing that Mark was. We talked about books.  We talked about the waiting game.  We talked about my experiences with Mark and what killed him.

And I stood there, talking to a woman who was about to lose her mother, and I didn’t lose my composure.

My biggest fear: I was scared to approach any of the family and burst out in tears. I was scared I wouldn’t be able to maintain any sort of professional demeanor.  I was afraid that all the emotions and feelings and memories would overwhelm me and I’d breakdown, again, at clinical. I was afraid I would be unable to maintain the professional buffer of emotions I needed to be an effective nurse.

I am that person that confronts my fears, steps into the chaos to find the pattern and doesn’t hide from potentially painful situations.  When I am ready to face them, I step into them full force.  My counselor has called me the most self-aware person she’s ever worked with.

I confronted them yesterday.

And today she died. I had said to a friend of mine that while death sucks, we knew she was dying and could she please do it in the morning when there was time for me to learn from it?

Then, she died.

I had checked on the daughter almost as soon as I came in. Let her know that I was there, and was there anything she needed?  There wasn’t.

15 minutes into my shift, one of the other care aides came out asking for a nurse to come pronounce. I immediately walked back to the room to comfort the daughter. I needed to put myself in that space. I needed to confront that fear of what would I do if a client died?

I was there for her. I spoke to her and offered comfort, and stepped out when I felt appropriate.

I went with the nurse to help prepare the body.

I went with the nurse when the funeral home showed up to pick her up.

I watched as they pulled her over from the bed to a stretcher and zipped the shroud around her.

I watched as they covered her in their blanket.

I watched as they covered her in the dignity blanket.

I watched as they wheeled her past… and I hugged the daughter briefly and told the story about how the first time I met her she was singing along to the music.

I was able to face the one thing that terrified me as a nurse, and I was able to do it in a way that helped me to care for the client, the client’s family and myself.

She died today.  And I was able to learn from that experience. I was able to face fears. I was able to watch, remember and move forward.

I will always remember the sweet woman who sung wordlessly to the music that was playing on the radio, while eating her lunch. She may have died, but I will always remember her. In her last moments, she made SUCH a huge difference in my life.  For that, I thank her. And while I will maintain her privacy and dignity by not naming names, I will keep her in my heart forever.

Grey's Anatomy

I Miss You

It has been 4 years since you took your last breath.

It has been 4 years since we gathered around you, held your hand, and allowed you to move on to another place with love and laughter surrounding you.

It has been 4 years since the grey Vancouver sky opened up for one moment, and sunlight streamed in your window as you left us.

It has been 4 years since I crawled up on you to snuggle you one more time, because I knew it wouldn’t hurt you and I hadn’t been able to do that in 6 months.

It has been 4 years since I broke down on you, and finally realized… it wasn’t you anymore.

It has been 4 years since I kissed your cold forehead one last time and walked away from the hospital one last time.

It has been 4 years since our lives changed.

It has been 4 years.

And I love you as much today as I did that day.

I miss you.  Your children miss you. Our lives are not the same without you.

4 years.  4 fucking years without you and I want to reach out and touch you and talk to you and hold you again.

This song.  Every. Fucking. Time. 

Juxtaposition of Past & Present

How is it possible to feel such joy and such pain and sorrow at the same time?

How is it possible to look into the eyes of my present and possible future and melt with love then be devastated by a memory of the past that is no longer?

How is it possible to be so very happy and so devastatingly sad at the same time?

I have found love again. He makes my heart sing. He’s understanding, kind, caring, considerate, and he is willing to do whatever it takes to be there for me while I grieve intensely at this time of year. And when he was talking about me to someone he works with, his word were “I can be her next chapter, she already had a great chapter before me… I get to be next” (or something along those lines.  I was so shocked and so much more instantly in love with him when he said that that I don’t remember his exact words)

And… I want to tell Mark.  I want to tell him all about this new guy. I want to tell Mark how the new guy makes me feel. I want to snuggle up and see him and tell him all about the things that make my new guy so amazing. Because Mark would understand.  He’d be happy for me.  He’d want to hear all the details. He’d want to meet the new guy.  Because he was that awesome.

How do I reconcile the absolute joy I have found in my new love with the devastation of not having my husband?

It’s a strange juxtaposition. One I never expected to be feeling or working my way through 3 days before the 4th anniversary of his death.

I’m devastated and sad and grieving.

I’m happy and in love and enjoying life.

What. The. Everloving. Fuck?

Stages-of-Grief

So…. My Husband Died

I’m in nursing school.  In just over a year I will have finished a diploma program and will have (almost) earned the title “Practical Nurse.”

It is a … therapeutic process for me. Each new thing I learn, each new skill I learn brings up memories from when he was in the hospital.

And each new instructor I have to have a conversation with them.

“So… my husband died.  And this is bringing up a LOT of memories and triggers.  And if I step back from what I’m doing or what’s being taught, please understand that it’s a matter of trying to get myself under control or minimizing the emotional battering I’m going through.  But I AM learning, I just don’t want to be penalized because I have to do it differently at that moment.”

So yeah.  My husband died. And I get to talk about it over and over.  And maybe as I talk about it, I’ll desensitize more?  I don’t know.  It doesn’t seem to be happening, but I still talk about it.

Sometimes I don’t want to though.

Today I didn’t want to, but I did want my instructor to understand that I am going through things and working on them.

Because my husband died.  And he wouldn’t want me to live life any other way than out loud and as boldly as I am. So I talk.  And I learn.  And I try to make the world around me a bit better and a bit brighter.

And I will take the lessons learned from him and his death and build a life that is beautiful and bright.  And be there for another who is going through the same thing.

It’s part of why I’m becoming a nurse, yanno?

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Christmas Sucks

The good things about this Christmas:

  1. My daughter
  2. My daughter’s baby that’s due a few days ago and will be induced in 2 days.
  3. My sons.
  4. Most of my family together (only one missing is my grandson)

Things that suck about this Christmas:

  1. Lack of decorations
  2. Lack of places for me to be (and by that, I mean have privacy, have time for me, have time to grieve or cry or be angry.
  3. Sleeping on a couch, in a living room, when everyone gets up stupidly early.
  4. It doesn’t feel like Christmas.  At all.  None of it.

I wake up in a mood every morning.  I wake up teary and full of emotion and full of grief and I have to swallow it down because I have no where to express it.

I can’t cry in privacy.

I can’t grieve in privacy.

I’m with people from the moment I open my eyes until the moment I shut them.

I’m around people all. freaking. day.

There’s no where, not really even the bathroom (only one bathroom, pregnant person in the house and 3 other boys/men) so no extended time in there – and besides, no bathtub to just relax in.

I can’t curl up on a bed – the only one here belongs to my very pregnant daughte.r

I can’t curl up on a couch or a chair and have no one sitting with me, there’s one couch and that’s it for seating.

So I’m awake, with insomnia, at 2am.   She’s probably going to go into labour tomorrow, if not, she’ll be induced the next day, and I’m going to be exhausted.

This Christmas feels wrong on so many levels – I don’t even know how to express it.   I am doing nothing in terms of what I normally do.  There are no traditions.  There is no Christmas joy.  Just people going to work and waiting for a baby.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited for the baby… but I feel lost without Christmas.   And he’s dead and he’s not here and so this Christmas the absence is felt SO much more strongly.

I get a grandbaby.  I have to trade my Christmas traditions and my Christmas joy for that.  And that’s mostly ok.  But it’s not.

And for the first time I can’t articulate clearly how I feel.  Because I KNOW I should just be happy and grateful for the things I have – but FUCK!  Christmas joy is what keeps me from wanting to die from missing him so much.

Seriously.

The baby’s not here yet.  Maybe that will change after baby gets here.

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It Was Meant To Be…

When I was in employment flux, between my first and second seasons at BC Wildfire, I went to a career counsellor, jumped through some hoops and decided on Licensed Practical Nurse as my upgrade/career path.

My reasons:

  1. The amazing nurses who inspired me.
  2. To be of service
  3. To be there for other people going through what I went through (simliar to #2)
  4. Employability.
  5. Mobility OR stability.

What I didn’t remember… was it was something I had thought about a long time ago.

This was part of an update post on April 13, 2012.  Almost 3 months after he initially went into the hospital.

Mark Healing Community Post

I can’t do a point/arrow/highlight on a picture in a wordpress blog, but right in the middle… It says..

“If I could do it over again I would go into nursing or surgery because that was AWESOME to watch.”

 “I would go into nursing”

And yah.  In 2 months, I will be in nursing.

It was meant to be.  It is happening.

I know for a lot of widows/widowers, the phrase “everything happens for a reason” is cause for white hot rage, seriously offended, going to throat punch the speaker reactions.

For me?  It’s the truth.

Everything happened.  For. A. REASON.

I am exactly where I should be in my life.

I am doing what I am supposed to.

All avenues, all options have closed off and the path towards nursing is brightly lit, clear and safe.

Path

I know where I’m supposed to go from here. I can see the way, and without EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENED…

I wouldn’t be here.

I’d be in Squamish still (miss my friends!) working with Co-operators, selling life insurance and probably doing an amazing job at it.

I’d have a husband who requires round the clock care with a recovery measured in years not months.

I’d be exhausted.  My kids would come second to my husband’s needs.  My husband would feel guilty about that.  He’d feel helpless and hopeless and lost and a burden.  I would probably spend more time trying to make him understand that he’s not a burden than just loving him, because he’d need that from me, from us.

The reality is, life would have amazing beautiful moments.  I would still be Mrs. Mark Smith.  I wouldn’t resent it for a moment.   But it would be my life, focussed entirely on my husband.

But now, I’m allowed to shine.

A friend of mine blogged a long time ago… he gave me my life back.  I know that he’d be here if he could… but in the end, he loved me, loved his family enough to let us out of the limbo we were in.  He loved us enough that he would have fought if there were any real options left.  But there weren’t.  So he let go, and let us move forward.

And now… where I’m supposed to be is coming to fruition.

I love him so much more for being willing to let go.  For doing what’s best for EVERYONE, instead of holding on and keeping us in that holding pattern.  It shows how amazing of a person he was.   And I wish everyone who reads this could have met him.  Could have known him.

He was so incredible and I was so blessed to have been loved by him.  So blessed to have been his wife for 13 years.  So blessed to be the mother of his children.  So very blessed to have loved him to his last breath.