Thursday, February 9, 2017

On grief

I'm not sure how to write about this, but I also don't know how to move forward without writing about it.

My stepmom died one week ago and I feel broken. She and my dad met when I was eight years old and she immediately opened her heart to my sister and me and made us a part of her large and wonderful family. Claudia had this amazing blend of magic and practicality that I haven't ever seen in anyone else. My life is so much richer for having had her in it all these years.


She and my dad were both diagnosed with different terminal illnesses many years ago, and they defied all odds. I think part of their strength came from having each other. They would always tell me that it really wasn't so bad because they could lie in bed together and read and talk all day. When my dad was dying almost exactly two years ago Claudia was right there with us that week in the hospital, even though it was incredibly hard on her. Together we cared for my dad in his last days and as I stayed with her last week I knew I was there for myself, but also for my dad. I hope that she could feel his strength coming through my hands. For me, there is comfort in the care taking, the last act of tangible love I can give. I can suspend myself in that moment and know that however hard it feels, at least I am doing something.

The not-doing part is harder for me. It's strange, going through this a second time so close to the first. I'm not surprised by how I feel right now, my inability to listen to the news, or even read a book. I'm back at work and it's good to be forced to focus on something else for a few hours, but I still feel like I'm sleepwalking half the time. It's hard to convince myself to care about issues that seemed incredibly important two weeks ago. All I can think about most of the day is how badly I want to get in bed, and then when I do get in bed I can't sleep. I didn't realize that losing Claudia would also rip open the grief of losing my dad. I feel like the life we had together all those years, both the big adventures and the quiet moments, are suddenly, irrevocably, gone.

I don't have any amazing insights into how to deal with grief. I just go through the motions as best I can in public and give myself permission to do pretty much nothing in private. I stumble on. This weekend my sister will be here with my niece and nephew, and I want to make them blueberry muffins on Sunday morning, the way Claudia always did for us. We'll see our huge, amazing family, and try to remind ourselves that love doesn't disappear into thin air, that she has bound us all together, forever.




Easter Day photos, approximately 20 years apart.


26 comments:

  1. So sorry to hear this, Rachel. I haven't been through this experience myself, but it is inevitable for everyone. I think everything you are thinking and feeling is so normal and grief takes time. I always think that the sadness you feel is proportionate to a lifetime of loving someone. Sending love xoxo

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  2. I am so sorry for your loss. I imagine this is compounded by what else is going on right now -- I hope you have better days soon. <3

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  3. Rachel-I just lost my dad to congestive heart failure on January 19th and felt really isolated as I have moved through the experience of grief. I wanted you to know I am thinking of you and sending you strength. Just know you are not alone. XX

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  4. So much grief, and you are so young. I wish you all the best I can imagine.

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  5. I'm so sorry for your losses - it's almost too much to bear. I always appreciate your honesty in the way that you express yourself - it's a gift. I hope that it is healing to be with your sister and your little ones - take care -

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  6. I am very sorry for your loss. I like that you are sharing it, even if it is with strangers. I hope that it helps to put some thoughts in writing. I think you're doing the right thing to take your time and heal the way that you need to heal.

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  7. What sadness. I'm sorry. Thank you for sharing with us. She sounds like the absolutely best kind of stepmother. May you find comfort in sharing memories of her and her love.

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  8. What a beautiful post. You are such a gifted writer and I'm so sorry for what you are going through. Sending you love.

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  9. Rachel- I just got your IG response and again, I'm so sorry about your loss of the amazing Claudia. I was laying in bed last night, lamenting the loss of the one thing that has helped me through so many tough times, reading. After losing my mom, it just went right out the window, right with her. For some odd reason I picked up the New Yorker, thinking maybe I could get through one article, and this was what I opened to http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/02/13/when-things-go-missing.
    It's one of the first things I've read (outside of your lovely blog) in 4 months, and it shattered and soothed me all at the same time. I actually thought of you when I put it down and then saw this post today and thought I would send it on to you, for when you're ready to read again. Until then, cuddle animals and babies and your love. Sleep, cry, break, mend, cook. Thank you again for sharing your story with all of us, it must be so hard to put "pen to paper" right now. If it's any small consolation to your pain, it helps others, like me. Sending you big hugs from SF.

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  10. I'm so sorry for your losses, Rachel. Will be keeping you in my prayers and sending good thoughts from Colorado.

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  11. I'm not sure what more a stranger on the internet can offer beyond platitudes, but I hope your weekend provides exactly what you need at such a hard time. And allow yourself to accept it, even if that means not getting out of bed except to cuddle dogs and babies!

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  12. I'm so sorry for your losses, Rachel; I understand the dichotomy of airing it out in public while giving yourself the permission to do nothing in private.

    "For me, there is comfort in the care taking, the last act of tangible love I can give. I can suspend myself in that moment and know that however hard it feels, at least I am doing something." -- I empathize with this, so much.

    Here's to sunny days and warm hugs.

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  13. "Love doesn't disappear into thing air.." I think that's one of the most comforting and true things I've ever read about loss. I am so sorry for yours. Your writing really showcases her spirit and the mark she made on your life. What a beautiful tribute. Wishing you comfort and peace. ~K

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  14. I'm so sorry for your loss, Rachel. Thinking of you and your family. <3

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  15. I was so sorry to hear that you lost your stepmom, Rachel. She seems as though she was a truly wonderful person. Wishing you and your family all the best.

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  16. Bless you Rachel, you are wonderful at being human. I hope your grief passes through you in its time and delivers you to calm happiness.

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  17. <3 You and your family are in my thoughts.

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  18. Hi Rachel - I'm so sorry to hear about your loss. I hope spending time with your family has brought you some comfort and a chance to share memories of your stepmother. My grandfather passed away recently and a friend gave me a copy of 'Insomniac City' by Bill Hayes - it brought me a lot of joy, comfort and understanding.

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  19. I am so sorry for your loss. Sending you good thoughts as you work to bear the grief. I, too, was going to suggest the beautiful New Yorker piece shared above - and I loved this recent piece of art by Mari Andrew. May it give a little bit of comfort on the journey. https://www.instagram.com/p/BQZ_hhWg13q/?taken-by=bymariandrew&hl=en.

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  20. My father died just over three years ago and in losing him, I grieved my mother all over again. She died in 1991 and it was terrible - for so many reasons, for so many years. Losing him brought it all back. I too felt like a sleepwalker in those first months. I went through phases of looking for comfort in things that made me feel better temporarily- drink, food - but nothing stuck. It just takes time and I hate that that is / was the answer, at least for me. Grief over my Dad lessened quicker . He was older, I was older - but it's still there. I just think that it becomes your new normal. A part of what makes you, you. Sometimes it makes you very sad and sometimes it's kind of ok. Give yourself time and you will come out of it, but be gentle with yourself, and kind, and don't judge your itself harshly. Your new normal will someday feel normal and that's ok too. In time, it will get easier. I am so sorry that you are going through this. Be brave, little soldier.

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  21. Sending you love and hugs. I can't imagine how hard this is for you. I can only offer you my condolences and let you know I am thinking of you and your family xx

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  22. Your post made me, a frequent reader of your wonderful blog, very teary. I am not an expert in grief either, but I believe that you must grieve in any way that feel you need to now and remember that so much of the your father and stepmother are firmly part of you now and forever- not just the memories but the ways of doing things (blueberry muffins, for example!) and while you have sadness now, there is ultimately joy in having experienced such wonderful bonds and family together. Be well and take your time.

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  23. I'm beaming love and peace and strength and calm to you from Massachusetts. <3

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  24. Sending you love and strength - long time reader. xo

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  25. Hey Rachel -- I don't know what to say. It's tough. But the pain of loving someone and knowing how much you loved them, reveling in it, feeling and reliving it through the grief--reviewing and rekindling those memories which will never die--that pain is worth everything. Love never dies. And by sharing it with all of us, you shine it out into the world, even bolder.

    I'm sorry because I know it hurts, and I am so sorry for your loss. But I am so glad for you that you experienced so much joy and love and warmth and kindness.

    You touch us with all of it in every post you write.

    xxelle

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  26. I'm so sorry, Rachel. What a life, and what a loss. Sending lots of love, from a longtime reader.

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