This episode on Dinner With Grief I offer some tips and hints to navigating your way through coping with loss and dealing with the holidays.
~ Happy Watching
This episode on Dinner With Grief I offer some tips and hints to navigating your way through coping with loss and dealing with the holidays.
~ Happy Watching
It wouldn’t have stopped cancer.
Changed our path…or would it have?
I have been running a bereavement group, or as I call it a comfort group for adults who have lost a loved one. Why did I start this group? The pains of grief are too difficult to navigate alone so I want to help others in the same situation. I am fueled by this one never-ending thought, create a group with my moms needs after my dad died in mind. When I lost my dad, her husband we felt hopeless and trapped inside the dark and blurred walls of grief. Not only dealing with grief but also being broke and depressed we didn’t know help was out there and we didn’t know where to look. We thought our grief was unique only for us, which made the pain difficult to experience and talk about around others.
The group I run is free for all members, funded by through my 501(c)(3) the Too Much Too Soon Foundation, because money shouldn’t stop people from grieving. I know if I heard about a group like the one I run now when my dad passed I would have made my mom join, not that I think she would have fought me. It was not healthy for her to sit and dwell on grief 24/7 with no outlet and no one to share her experience with. With a group to talk with she could have said what was on her mind, what scared her, or just sit, be silent listening and relating to other members. I know the group wouldn’t have prevented her cancer but it would have given her different quality of life until she passed.
Losing both my parents I have learned many lessons about life, if I sat and talked about all the lessons it would take days to explain. The biggest lesson learned which only took nine years is I now understand the true meaning of life, well my meaning of life. Life is for giving back, being your own hero and a hero for someone else. I fly by the seat of my pants, bite off more than I can chew and ‘wing it’ when it comes to life. But that is only because I understand that when you take on more life than you expect, you learn about your breaking points. The single greatest lesson I learned in life is that pushing what you think possible builds confidence and self-understanding. When you play it safe inside your walls of what you think possible you don’t allow any ‘WOW’ moments in. Those moments first viewed as errors or missteps that you think you should probably have never done. ‘WOW moments define you, make you sit back and think ‘holy moly, I did this?!’ These moments are addicting, mostly because you push the boundaries of what you expect from yourself and want to keep pushing.
The meaning of life is about pushing your life’s limitations and not playing it safe but playing life risky to your advantage. I learned this lesson not by choice but by need to survive my grief. It was down right depressing not knowing what or how to help those you love that need assistance, myself included. I sat on the sidelines a long time just wondering what I could do to help but never actually doing anything out of fear or insecurities that I couldn’t help. I lived inside a barrier I created that blocked me from living life only because I was scared of life. I was being bullied by my perception of what I thought my role was in the world. There inside the barrier I lived comfortably, perpetually worried and unsatisfied with the way things went but to scared to make any real choice inside the bubble of grief I thought I deserved to be in. I was so wrong and didn’t realize that I had full control over my life until I pushed life, flew by the seat of my pants and I understood I can do no wrong, only right.
In my group I have one member who can’t afford to bury her deceased son. I currently am working on her behalf to bring her son home to her for free from another sate. I didn’t know how to go about this matter or know anyone who could help before saying ‘yes, I will help you’ all I thought of was my mom before I threw myself in fully. I thought of how we could have used the help when I first lost my dad and how nice it would have been to hear a person say ‘yes’ or ‘let me help you’ rather than an ‘um, maybe’ or ‘no.’
I was a kid who failed out of college twice, crawled my way back and ended up on the dean’s list. All the moments in my past I was embarrassed about were nothing to be ashamed of but signs of my super powers I just didn’t know how to control. My powers I used were being stubborn, aggressive, noisy yet humble and persistent to the point of annoying because it was what got me the attention I needed for help. All the interactions I had in my day-to-day life including battles with bill collectors or conversations that played in my mind over and over again that had already happened, just dreaming of what I should have said made me. Those are the moments that shaped me and made me able to call up another state and ask for help to bring a woman her son.
Another feather in my cap I wasn’t scared to tackle, I am currently teaming with a large cancer organization in NYC to create a mutual cancer support community on a large college campus in NYC. It may appear that I bite off more than I could chew, but I bite perfectly because I know my breaking points and take calculated risks for giant rewards.
I created these groups to be a hero to others and my past self and family. I can’t change the past and wouldn’t want to, I am using the worries and concerns of my past for fuel to shape my future.
-Life, what is it? Whatever you want, seriously!
This week I offer advice on how to find balance between feelings of being owed after losing a loved one and creating your own happiness. Watch the video below, comment, share and like.
I sit down and discuss how to survive grief with questions asked by everyday people coping from loss. I hope you enjoy! And please don’t forget to share.
This week I answer a question from Steve in Rhode Island who asks about how to ‘move on’ from his parents passing.
When I see the success of others why does my blood boil? Well is blood boiling really the proper word? Seeing others gain success certainly makes my heart beat quicker but I would say the first word that comes to my mind is how I feel like a loser. A failure, the kind of guy the universe works against. It’s not a jealous feeling when others find success, I think about how I have ‘good’ jobs, reasonable values and a notable amount of self-worth. I guess the best way to explain how it feels is inside me is that straight road I once was sure I was on, twist and contorts like Linda Blair’s head in the Exorcist. That road is now made of wrong ways, U turns and one-way streets that are all jumbled together. That once sound world I was in I now realize was far more fragile than I ever thought and that just doesn’t make my blood boil, it annoys and scares me. Now that’s what for lack of a better word makes my blood boil. The idea that no matter how much I accomplish I just can’t figure out why I don’t feel better about myself. My mind runs wild wondering about if I will have enough money to live off of as I look for any indicators that this undertaking is my destiny, but mostly I stress about getting to the next step. A step where I can finally release that gobbled air inside me that is just eating away my insides and probably causing cancer.
My blood boils because I don’t learn to cherish my own strides and appreciate what I have done.
I focus on what I haven’t done or need to do. I know life is NOW. What boils my blood is that I always think in the now but what I don’t have. I forget about the work behind the successes I have already had. Instead I imagine a world where the person I see getting success is living and breathing their passion that allows them the life I so desperately fight for. But how hard do I fight?
I hung a picture of me on my fridge and I thought ‘that was a different me, I knew what I wanted but sat around waiting for it to find me.’ Which I swore just as a pigs belly is bacon that it would. I thought right after about what I have done since that picture was taken, 8 years of memories in .6 seconds. ‘Now this is me. The only difference is I go out and find the life I want.’ Sure it’s hard, highs and lows, excitement followed by sudden disappoint but it’s adventurous and journey-tastic and I am addicted to it. It’s a life I choose because I can’t think of myself for existing other then this dream, the one I used to only daydream about. When I daydreamed about my dream it was different. I pictured being more content and less worried. What makes my blood boil is how I feel at times like a buffalo walking in ice, he can see the land that he wants and now just needs to figure out the steps to walking on ice.
What boils my blood is how living my dream is like having an empty hole in a ground where a massive skyscraper is supposed to be standing. I forget at times I have to pour the foundation, design the building, put up the walls and plumbing, put on a roof. And for anyone who has worked in construction knows nothing goes as planned.
When it doesn’t go as planned I revert back to my insecure self and summon the me 5 years ago. I go back to what I did when I was lost. Go out for a drink. Spend money. Eat. I revert back to my habits that gave me temporary comfort. I am too easily convinced I am a failure who will never figure things out. But no matter what I am feeling on my inside I don’t show that to others because I fear it will make me look weak. On the outside I keep doing me, it’s a cheesy, overplayed statement that frustrates me to say because that means I have to understand the me I want. However, even if I am not sure of myself I do know the race of life is long. Those ideas and dream I have, they are important to me. Don’t they deserve to be played out? I think I either live my dream or someone else’s, and the later doesn’t fit right for me.
What boils my blood is regret. Regret sucks, that’s my motivator now when I fall down or I keep tripping over my feet. I want to know that on my deathbed I can think, this was a hell of a life, I did that one thing that scared me and it felt great. What makes my blood boil is when I think of how my parents didn’t do what they wanted in life. I don’t know what they thought in their final moments, but it boils my blood that they had to go before I found out.
What calms my boiling blood is how at the end of the day I never give up on me. I have to understand some days will be more productive than others. Understand I may not feel as content as I thought I would but I feel more confident and accomplished than I ever thought I would. When I break down my thought process and reasoning behind why my blood really boils it’s not the success of others, being scared of failing or not finding my place in life. The only thing that really gets my blood boiling is how I am trying to always prove myself to my parents and how I will never get that closure. I will never stop chasing the impossible, what makes my blood boil is how I want the one thing I can’t have. So in the meantime I will keep staying blind to how I can’t hear them say they are proud of me and keep loving my passion expecting to one day hear those words and always being disappointed when I don’t.
Life can’t be mapped out, you dig at the ‘X’ to find the gold and you think ‘where is the next X.’
It’s 13 O clock on March 26. The time between reality and dream, it is where you aren’t quite convinced of the dream you are in but are just seconds away from believing. I just woke up to look at my cell phone, I was only asleep for 3 minutes. In my mind I think ‘this is gonna be a long night’ I try to roll back over to catch the rest of that dream. After tossing and turning I put my hands up and surrender to the fact this night’s sleep is a wash. The dream I had runs though my mind in slow motion, paying attention to the little details I probably created after I woke up and trying to over analyze her words.
I had a dream where I sat with my mom at a table where she had a backpack in her lap, we talked about how she was dead but came back, a common topic. She unzips the backpack and begins to pull out paper after paper, the header on the pages has my business name ‘TOO MUCH TOO SOON.” She starts to cry in a soft voice ‘I’m so proud of you’ with each page pulled. I start to cry in the dream, it feels so real and the cry feels so damn good. In my bed my eyes have fully adjusted to the darkness in my room and two thoughts cross my mind. I need some chocolate milk and that was the most intense dream I have had in recent memory.
These dreams are recurrent, my parents rising from the afterworld to see me in my dreams. I am blessed but there are nights I swear I will never sleep again because the pain from watching my parents die night after night. I have some dreams that make my hand crunch into a fist and squeeze tight for a second. I get watery eyes thinking all the beauty my parents have given me and how much beauty they had and have missed. What brings me back down to a calm state is my belief. I believe in angels, the afterlife, messages in dreams, my parents watching over me, all things spiritual. My faith eases the pain at 13 O Clock when surviving that hour of life versus dream is the only task on my mind. I need the comfort of my beliefs and thoughts to save me. I sit and try to make my mind wonder by distracting myself. It at this hour I am plagued of my mistakes made, the bills I never paid, the money I spent on unnecessary goods and the relationships I have tossed away. I criticize myself instead of console myself, I revert back to the Andrew who was disappointed how much he lost control of life and was certain wouldn’t amount to anything. I start to question why my parents died and what I must do in their passing. I run through a list of to-do’s for tomorrow, none of which will ever really get done but it’s an attempt to put my mind to sleep. 13 O clock is the bane of my existence, it’s where I remember yesterdays and tomorrow, I know I will see this time for the rest of my life. 13 O clock in the world of grieving is common, it’s where your thoughts, emotions and memories take you and when you feel most alone. It is where you can only see the devastation around you and what you don’t have. Today my 13 O clock is about my mom because it was 2 years ago today she passed, today I welcomed 13 O clock.
I love you mom.
The other day I thought I saw you. When I was standing at the bus stop. I looked in disbelief rubbing my eyes expecting you to disappear as fast as this certain mirage had appeared. You didn’t, you still stood there standing just 100 steps from me. How could you be so close?
I missed my bus because I couldn’t believe I was looking at you and I didn’t want to risk losing you again. I was frozen just wondering what I should do. I had thought about this scenario before and I always thought I had an answer. I was convinced I would stand up, run to hug that last hug I didn’t know I had to give. However, my body and mind spilt and I listened to logic and sat.
Finally I did build up the courage to stand. I walked towards you knowing it’s not real but praying for anything else. I could see myself one minute in the future holding a conversation with you. You and I catching up on what has happened since you left and me nervous this mirage will end before I want.
It was only 100 steps but the walk was long, I was half refusing to look away and half refusing to look to hard until I get ten steps away. It is not the ghost of my dad just a strange man. In the immediate walk back to the bus stop I don’t think how stupid I was for having the thought. I get upset it wasn’t him because I so desperately wanted that to be real. I talked to him on my walk back. I said ‘I miss you! I wish that was you!” I wait for the bus still looking, I can’t stand how upset I am it wasn’t real.
There are no rules for grief, memories help you remember and being open to your pain is healthy. If you want to survive grief you can’t carry it with you as a separate part of you embarrassed to feel what you do and ignore what doesn’t make sense. Grief is a part of your identity, your daily life, and in the world of grief moments rarely make sense or seem fair.
I survived my parents passing by understanding this one certainty: if I felt a feeling then it was valid and needed to be understood. Letting go isn’t easy but either is standing still. I choose to move forward and grieve my way because I know if the roles were reversed and my parents had to bury me I wouldn’t want to think of them sitting around depressed, sad, and not moving. I have navigated my way through the burning stars, foggy mornings and blurred lines of life after death. It wasn’t easy to understand life doesn’t stop moving even if I do. I had to learn how to bend to life, make it work for me but most importantly learn ‘how to duck ‘as my father told me time and again.
I also learned not all choices are right or wrong. Good or bad. Sometimes there are only sucky and suckier choices. The night before my mom passed her doctors encouraged my family and I to lower her oxygen intake to help her pass quicker instead of hanging on to life. On my moms last night she and I sat alone in the hospital room, a nurse came in and shuffled my mom around to make sure she wasn’t getting bedsores. The movement caused my mom to start wheezing because her lungs were filled with liquid. The nurse naturally starts to turn my moms oxygen up to stop her from wheezing. I had to pull this nurse outside and tell her how she can’t raise the oxygen level because I feared it would reverse what was trying to be done. That wasn’t a good or bad choice but just sucked! Plain and simple.
I learned from my experience with grief that life isn’t black and white, that these situations you thought you would never have to respond to are the ones that shape you quicker. You can’t plan your response and expect it to go the way you wish. Surviving means managing expectations as well balancing what is wanted versus what is already had. I never thought i would spend my time daydreaming about what growing old with my parents would be like. It hurts to know the life I once had planned for us now rests in bus stop daydreams and a daily series of ‘imagine if’s.’
I do know what I can handle and I don’t waste time worrying about moments I can’t control.