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Archive for September, 2005

shared experience

i recently received an email from someone from my past who just lost her mother. much like myself she was feeling a little at a loss to talk to her “normal” (read: have both parents) friends, and asked if i would be willing to talk to her. naturally, i was more than willing- i was touched and honored at the chance to talk and listen to a fellow parent-less person. we “dead parents society” members have to stick together. anyway, here is part of my response to her, just in case there are any other DPS members lurking about who could benefit. i will preface this by saying that in no way do i propose that i’m an expert on parent loss- just because i’ve been through it does not make me the end-all, be-all parentless guru- i am just speaking from my own experiences in hopes that they may help provide a sense of common experience or understanding. here it is:

Where to begin…I know that there is nothing I can do or say to make you feel any better. The most that anyone can do for you right now is to listen, endlessly listen, and give you full and unapologetic permission to feel any and all of the awful emotions that you will feel over the next several months. I do say ‘months’, because I believe that after the first year it does get more bearable, not better really, but more bearable. I like to equate it to a debilitating injury or handicap- you will never again be able to run or jump just like the other kids, but you do learn to adjust to your limitations and live a fairly normal life. It’s been almost ten years since she died and I still think about my mom at least once a day. Though it doesn’t always make me cry, it always makes me a little sad. Whenever anyone mentions their own mom, I think of mine. Whenever anyone bitches or complains about their own mother, I hate them just a little for having a mother to bitch about. Don’t get me wrong, I like to be reminded of her, I still want and NEED to remember her, it’s just hard, and- I won’t lie to you- it probably always will be. I wish I could give you better news.

Though I don’t have great news of total recovery, I do have a few bits of advice that may help with the coping. I preface this with the fact that my advice can only come from my own experiences, and therefore it may not apply to or work for you at all, but then again they might, so here goes. My first recomendation is to keep a journal of this time. Write down your memories of your mother, now, while they are fresh in your mind. I did not do this, and I wish I had; my memories of her are growing fuzzy and slipping away and if I lose my memories I will never forgive myself. I know it may be hard, but I’m sure it will also be comforting to remember her, and believe me, you will be glad later on to have those memories preserved. Besides, journaling is an incredibly theraputic experience, releasing all of your deepest and darkest thoughts into a forum where they cannot be judged or make other people uncomfortable. It feels very freeing to get all of those hard and painful thoughts out of your head and onto paper- like cleaning the muck out of your mind. My second suggestion is to keep your mother in your life. This applies very specifically to my own experience. When my mom died I ran away and tried very hard to put her, and losing her, as completely out of my mind as I could. Years later, when my Dad died, all of that boxed up and ignored grief floated right back up to the surface, just as big as before and worse than ever. It was overwhelming. Grief cannot be avoided, so let yourself go through it. As I am sure you are already learning, ignoring it will not make it go away. Keep her in your life, talk about her when she’s on your mind, remember her- she was and will always be a major part of your life. If you are ready, tell the people in your life not to avoid the subject or steer away from parent talk. I know that people seem uncomfortable talking about it around you, but the more normal you make it the more normal it will become for them. The big pink elephant in the room will not get any smaller or any less pink, so why not learn to live with it.

That’s a lot for now, so I will stop. I am glad you wrote to me, and I am more than happy to listen. I know how valuable that is- I need it too. It may sound morbid, but I am always excited when I meet someone else who has lost a parent; it makes me feel more normal, less alone, it reminds me that I am not the only one who knows what this feels like and how much it sucks. That’s why I started the blog (though from time to time I do stray off topic…), to share my experiences in hopes that it will make someone else feel less alone. I have been taking some creative non-fiction classes and some day I hope to put together a collection of essays about my own and other people’s similar experiences with parent loss. There is almost nothing written about people who lose their parents in their 20’s- young children and middle-aged people have cornered the parent-loss market. I am also working on adapting some of my memories of my parents into a collection of short stories. They were wonderful and interesting people, and I don’t want them to be forgotten, by me or anyone else.

I will end on an up note by informing you of the perks you will receive as a new member of the “Dead Parents Society”. You now have the unique power to make a whole room full of people squirm and laugh uncomfortably at crass dead parent jokes that only you can get away with. You have a new holiday to add to the calender- your mother’s “death day”- which you can milk for time off, fancy dinners and foot rubs. You can totally crush anyone out dated enough to use the lame-o “Yo Momma!” comeback. Welcome to the club- the support is great, but the membership dues are a bitch!

On a more sincere note, you can also now be assured of your own strength of character, because after you have survived this, you can survive almost anything. Life seems a little less scary when you know you can handle whatever comes your way. I don’t know what your religious beliefs are- mine are a little fast and loose to say the least- but I find a great deal of comfort in knowing that I now have two kick-ass guardian angels watching my back (and you wouldn’t believe how many raffle grand-prizes I have won in the last few years- thanks Mom and Dad!).

Feel free to write to me any time, about anything at all. I will always listen and I will usually understand.

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risky business

it’s official: i am uninsurable. yep, i’m a huge risk, me and my CRAZY therapy going ways. i mean, that makes sense, it would follow that since i went to therapy after the sudden death of my one remaining parent i CLEARLY have mental problems that will end up costing blue cross blue shield MILLIONS of dollars. and my instability is even more clear considering i then went BACK to therapy a year later, which proves that i was not effectively cured of my sadness in a reasonable time frame. terminal case. who takes longer than a year to grieve their parents? a HUGE insurance risk, that’s who!

fuck blue cross. i wouldn’t want to be insured by someone with “cross” in their name anyway. i’m applying to aetna, they have dental (nyah, nyah, nyah-stupid blue cross!). and if they ask me about therapy, i’m going to lie my ass off. aetna doesn’t cover mental health unless you have a genetic or biological imbalance (ie. a REAL mental health issue) anyway, and apparently the only way to get by in the world of corporate america (which, sadly, in this fucked up system includes healthcare) is to lie. pants on fire, here i come.

on the topic of other risks, today i start a ficiton writing class at northwestern. i am terrified. i can’t even make up a lie to cover my ass with insurance investigators, how am i going to make up a whole story? but that’s why i’m doing it, i like to scare the shit out of myself from time to time. it keeps me on my toes, keeps me moving forward. i love my teacher, that was a big motivation too. he taught my last two nonfiction classes, and he really likes my work. i am thinking that what i want to focus on is fictionalizing stories from my own life and my parents’ lives. that may sound like a cop out, but i think it could be a good balance for me. this summer at the iowa festival i met a writer whos work i loved, and when i asked him about his stories he admitted that several of them were deeply based in his own experiences. he too lost his parents, but when he went to write about it literally it just wouldn’t come out. so he embellished a little, moved some things around, made some stuff up, and found that that method worked much better. i have a feeling it may work for me too. whenever i try to write about them i get so bogged down with the imprecision of my memories. i am the only one still alive to tell a lot of these stories, i can’t double check the facts, so it would be so much easier if i could just write what i do remember (or in some case what i WANT to remember) and make up the rest. that would allow me to fill in some of the gaps in my own memories as well. or is that propagating an illusion, a deuluded reality, making fact into fiction to suit my own desires and help me cope with pain?

maybe blue cross is right, maybe i AM crazy….

nah, fuck them.

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my therapist told me on friday that he gets the impression that i have made myself into some sort of an ‘island’, that i isolate myself from people and from life because of my fears of getting hurt. the therapist i went to right after my mom died used the same metaphor, that i was ‘an island’, and ‘a ship lost at sea’.

synge and i used to laugh at these psycho-babbly images.

i always wanted to say, “but an island never cries, and i cry all the time…”

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(WARNING: today i am bored, and i have exhausted the internet, so i am taking out my boredom on my blog. feel free to stop reading now if pointless rambling, whining and bitching are not what you’re in the mood for. THIS IS A LONG POST! read at your own risk; and don’t say i didn’t warn you.)

first and foremost, i want to thank everyone who responded to my last post (including those who repsonded via email). that was a crappy day, and i really did appreciate your support and sympathy. you are all wonderful friends, and i am glad to have you in my life, even if i don’t say it often enough (or talk to any of you often enough, for that matter). i am back in therapy now, and slowly but surely working through my grief issues. hopefully someday i will not automatically sink into a funk every time labor day rolls around.

on a similar note, i have recently- after many many years of foolish and forgetful avoidance- applied for health insurance (which i will pay for out of my own pocket, since i seem destined never to hold a job which gives me any benefits whatsoever) with blue cross & blue shield. now, i am an overly honest person, honest to a genuine fault, honest to the point that i find it nearly impossible to lie to people when asked a direct question. in the realm of insurance, that fault may have bitten me in the ass. when asked on the application, amongst a million different questions of non-existant ailments, if i had attended therapy in the last ten years, i said yes. and apparently that is an automatic red flag, because- even though i have never taken or been prescribed any psychiatric drugs, been diagnosed with depression or anxiety, or even seen an actual psychiatrist or psychologist(my therapists were all liscensed clinical social workers)- this may mean that i have mental problems that may end up requiring expensive treatment or medication in the future, therefore driving up my premium by a ridiculous degree or even making me uninsurable. when the nurse called to “ask a few questions” about my application, she told me that they always call for a phone interview when someone lists that they’ve been to therapy. so, they will make me pay more because i chose to handle my problems instead of ignoring them; they will make me pay more because i pay someone to listen to me talk about my life; they will make me pay more, ultimately, because i was too stupid to just lie to them and say that i had never been to therapy. i never gave my SSN to any of my therapists, and they were both in private practice; the insurance company would never have found out about it. and they never asked about my family medical history, which happens to contain a startling amount of cancer and alcoholism. no, they are far more concerned that i am talking to a stranger about my problems. THAT is what makes me a risk.

i hate being honest.

on a totally different note, i must explain why i never blogged about the hurricane. i tried, but i didn’t have anything to say that everyone else has not already said. jay’s good friend dave is from NOLA, and all of his old high school friends are now moving to chicago because their houses are gone. it is such a tragic and infuriating situation. our government should be ashamed of what happened, and what is still happening in this, the richest and most arrogant nation in the world. and it sucks that bush will never really have to pay for his blatant failure to take care of american citizens, because he can’t be re-elected anyway.

i donated some money to mercy corps and felt guilty that i couldn’t do more.

other than that, well, i guess i am left with just pure rambling. i am annoyed at britney spears; she is FROM louisiana, and all she did was “pray” for the hurricane vicitims. how about writing out a big fat check, you white trash, no-talent home-wrecker? now i’m just being bitchy. i am so proud of synge for helping out in a more direct way, by protesting and helping out with people relocated to brooklyn. i wish i could be more selfless and involved like that. i am bored with wedding planning. i feel like i have done as much as i can do for now, and now i just have to wait around until the date is a little closer, when i am sure that i will realize that i have been wasting all of this time and have way more to do that i thought. i am the MOH at my friend R’s wedding in just about a month, and right now i am focused on fulfilling all of those duties, and hoping that people show up the shower i’m throwing for her this weekend (no one is rsvp’ing, so i have no idea what to expect). then i feel guilty for even thinking about wedding stuff when there are 100,000 new homeless people in the south.

i have recently discovered that i have seasonal allergies, which sucks, because i have never been allergic to anything before, so i thought i was safe, but apparently you can develop allergies at any time. so now i sneeze a lot and my eyes are constantly itchy because- i’m told- the ragweed is blooming.

and today it looks like winter, but it is september and way too early to be winter, even here in the cold cold north, and if it IS winter already that means i have almost eight months of cold grey weather, weight gain and the blues to look forward to and I AM JUST NOT READY!!!!

can you tell that my period is right around the corner?

i am also (surprise, surprise) having school and career doubts again. will i ever figure out what i want to do with my life??? my therapist tells me that i don’t need to have everything figured out right now, that i will know what’s right for me when i am ready, that i am exactly where i need to be right now, and i need to stop being so hard on myself. and i can buy that, most of the time, and it is very comforting, but then old habits of worrying and pressuring myself pop up. i have been talking about the writing thing, but whenever i am between classes i never have the discipline to make myself write on a daily basis, so i wonder about my devotion. and i am not sure if journalism is the right thing for me; i may be too emotional or too loose in my writing style for straight reporting. and if i go for a masters in creative non-ficiton or fiction instead, well that doesn’t leave me any more employable than i am now, except that i could teach at a community college, but do i want to do that or would i be any good at it or would i even be able to find a job doing that anyway?

as you can see, i am a jumbled, hormonal mess.

thpppppppppppppppppptttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttt!!!!!!!!!

thanks for listening, if you made it to the end, you deserve a medal. seriously, you are a saint, go out and buy yourself an ice cream or something.

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