Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The rain cloud…

A friend recently told me that through the writings in my blog, she believes that I saw myself as a burden during those final months. She then reminded me that my true friends, the ones that had been there during those difficult and painful years did not feel burdened. They were glad to have been there for both of us. That when they were feeling so helpless, it helped them to be able to make a difference at a time when it felt like all hope was lost.

I had not ever stopped to truly think about that. But yes, I guess I did. Those days were so dark. And the days turned into months. We were all just trying to survive and I felt like this walking storm cloud that brought sorrow, pain and disconcertion with me.

I used to joke that I was the “Oh fuck girl” because whenever anyone heard my story or knew what my family was currently going through, they would look mortified and you know they were thinking…Oh fuck. Along with: Glad that’s not me, I couldn’t deal with that, or that just plain sucks. Or the ever popular…how do you do it?

I still think of myself as the “Oh fuck girl” sometimes. When people hear that I am a young widow, or that David died of brain cancer, or that I have a 4 year old son...I get that same look. They suck in a deep breath and stare at me wide eyed and you know what they are thinking. Oh fuck.

But, that meant a lot to me, especially from her. And it was probably something I needed to hear. I remember near the end and one of the last times David got out of the house, we went over to her place. I needed so desperately to get out. Get out of the house. Just get out. And I took Alec and David over there to unwind and play. It was a difficult day and by the end of that visit it was painfully obvious that David would not be physically able to do this much longer. I had a tough time getting him into her house and while we were there, he was distant and disconnected. It was hell.

Watching him. Knowing that somehow I was going to have to get him up and moving again and back out to the car. The impending dread and anxiety. And just wanting a quiet moment where I did not have to worry about anyone or anything. A moment to curl up into the fetal position and just be. But in those final months I did not get many of those, except when the boys were all down for the night.

But I remember that day. It is etched into my memory and it was interesting to hear how differently my friend remembered that very same day. How yes, it had been sad and heartbreaking. But how also she had just been glad to have been there. To give me a hand. Something to hold onto when I so desperately needed that. I was going under in those days. Barely surviving. Barely breathing. Barely living. Many moments I was mere seconds from exhaling one long, last breath and going under altogether. Everything stopping. No longer having to labor on.

But somehow I managed to keep my shit together. Keeping myself above water and ensuring that both Alec and David were safe and cared for. But it still brings tears to my eyes to know that through all those dark times, people were there for us. Because they loved us. Because they were our friends. Not out of some sense of duty as I so often felt like. No obligation. No burden. Just friendship. That, my friends, is one of the most precious things life has to offer. Love and friendship. If you have that, everything else is inconsequential….

The support surrounding us was amazing and I felt and still continue to feel some days like our whole situation was a burden. I was so damn independent. I hated asking for help. Knowing that without it I would possibly not be able to stay afloat frustrated the hell out of me. I felt like this enormous failure to have to lean on so many for support. I wanted to be able to stand proudly on my own. And yet, I did. I asked for help and accepted it. I knew that if I did not ask, I would go down. And if I went down, the whole family went down with me. I was their caregiver which meant I could never go down...not even for a moment. So, I swallowed my misplaced pride and reached out. And when I could not, friends invariably would swoop in periodically and miraculously take care of things that I was unaware or unable to ask for specifically. They just did it. They watched me like a hawk and made sure to take care of me when I was unable or too distracted to take care of myself. And through this all I made deeper connections with those friends. With myself.

I think I am finally realizing that they did all of this not out of some misplaced sense of obligation. Not a burden. Not a duty. They did it out of compassion, love and friendship. Even now I cry when I think about it. How selfless, caring and loving everyone was towards us. And how they continue to be now.

I still feel that sense of burden when I have dark times. When a moment takes me unawares and brings me to my knees. When I am sad. When I cry. I feel like a dark cloud again raining on everyone’s parade. And maybe someday I will learn to show the same compassion towards myself that everyone else has shown towards me?


At July 01, 2009 3:35 PM, Blogger Star said...

I get that same feeling of being a burden. I try not to cry in front of people for that reason. I don't want to be the "sad girl".

And the "oh fuck" moments, I just try to smile through them to show everyone I am okay. Not sure if that is the best thing to do but...

At July 01, 2009 7:18 PM, Anonymous Kerri said...

As you've learned, my friend, it takes much more strength to ask for help when everything is crumbling. And, your friend is right, being able to ease your burden even just a little in those darkest days was a huge gift. All those runs to the grocery store, pharmacy, picking up, dropping off, etc., made me feel tangible and useful in a completely useless situation.

At July 02, 2009 1:53 AM, Blogger Chelsea said...

I can absolutely relate to 'the look'. I also get the sympathy smile - head down a bit, half smile, sad eyes.

I had a wonderful friend look after my girls for the day recently, and when she brought them back she offered to help with laundry - I nervously laughed and said 'you're my friend, you don't have to be my maid', only because I still find it difficult to get/ask for help sometimes. Afterwards I realized she wanted to do the laundry 'because' she was my friend. And it's a relatively simple thing, but made a huge difference for me.
And I agree, perhaps showing ourselves a little of the same kindness will go a long way.
Our story, and

At July 02, 2009 10:12 AM, Blogger Skye said...

Thanks Kerri. You have been amazing through all this. I will never be able to express how important you are to me and how very much you helped me in the last couple years.

Unfortunately, you were all too familiar with this walk…but I am grateful to have had you with me. Gently preparing me for each new level as the tumor progressed and helping me stand when my world crumbled from beneath me.

At July 02, 2009 10:25 AM, Blogger Skye said...

It is so difficult to ask for help during this time, but I believe it is imperative for survival. Any and all support is helpful…no matter how trivial it might seem at the time. Your friends would only offer if they truly wanted to help and I recommend you take them up on it. It will feel awkward and strange at times. But that support will give you the breaks you need to recharge and regroup.

After the stroke David needed 24-hour monitoring and even the most mundane tasks became insurmountable at times. And after David died, the support continued and I was grateful. I doubt I would have made it through those dark times without it. Even now, when a shadow falls over me, they step in to lend a helping hand.

Taking time for yourself is a difficult thing to do, but I think paramount in the survival of single parenthood and especially when you are grieving as well. I remember David once told me that I too needed to take care of myself, because all too often I tended to put their needs above myself. He once sent me a note during the height of the insanity that said, “In the event of a decompression, an oxygen mask will automatically drop from a compartment above your seat…If you are traveling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on yourself first, and then assist the other person.” I have never read truer words…

At July 15, 2009 2:09 AM, Anonymous Roads said...

I can remember saying to a colleague once that I couldn't make it into work next day for an important meeting.

'Whyever not?' he (rather tetchily) retorted.

'Well, because my wife's gor cancer, and she's declining pretty fast.'

The look on his face was dreadful then, and I never heard another peep. It was never mentioned again, but a few months later he took our now smaller family on a day out to the Surrey County Show. That was an awful day as well, but he made an effort to help as best he could.

Even today, a question can come up and I can pull out the perfect conversation stopper. 'Why do you always go to W & E's school parents' evenings, and not delegate them to their mother?'

It's a reasonable enough question, looked at from the outside. There's just too much to explain.

'Well, you see...," and there we go again. The downcast eyes, that silence, the staring at the floor -- when these days, really, there absolutely is no need.

It's hard, and important, to look back across those hard last days -- the ones where you 'kept your shit together,' somehow, and laid out the foundations for the future -- these (not all that much easier) days which lie around you now.

That memory of strength of will and sheer indomitability -- the strength you needed then -- is something you will never lose. With that behind you, you can (and will) cope with whatever lies ahead. I don't think that many people around us really share that kind of certainty and the self-knowledge that it brings. It's so hard-won, but now it's there you can really use it.

Finally, and perhaps ironically then, when you hear those 'Oh, fuck,' moments, you'll know for sure, that the concern conveyed lags far behind the need. But those moments will serve to show for certain all that you've achieved.

At August 09, 2011 4:08 PM, Blogger Steph R said...

I wanted to provided a link to a site that offers news articles and links to recent research about brain and breast cancer and a number of other pressing health issues.

At December 01, 2016 4:18 AM, Blogger uầy ôi said...

Nice blog !!!
thanks for sharing
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