Thursday, February 2, 2012

Paper Grandma

It will be three weeks tomorrow since my mommy went home to heaven to be with God.  I have been trying to let myself grieve in a healthy way.  Of course, grief is a complicated and difficult process.  It is certainly not a series of stages that follow neatly in sequential order until you are finally “through” them.  Instead, it is a range of emotions that change unpredictably and range in intensity.

Most of the time, I am able to think logically: that death is just as natural as life, that everybody will die at some point, and that my mom is finally no longer suffering or feeling pain.  I should enjoy the time spent with my loved ones who are still here, because any one of us could die at any given moment.  I have faith that everything happened for a reason, even if we are unable to comprehend that reason right now.  I am motivated to make the most of the rest of my life and to make my mom proud of me.  I realize that I am blessed to even be here today.

When I was little, I liked to play make-believe.  I always missed grandma Jean (my mom’s mom) tremendously during the time between our visits with her.  So, I did what any imaginative five-year-old would do:  I drew a picture that looked like my grandma, cut it out, and pretended that it was her.  I realize how silly this sounds, but I actually had a lot of fun playing with that paper doll.  I brought my “paper grandma” to the park, pushed her down the slide, gave her a seat at the dinner table, talked to her, and even answered myself back my best grandma-sounding voice.  Although I knew that she was physically far away, I was still able to feel like I had a little piece of her with me.  In the same way, I continue to feel my mom’s presence all around me since the day that she passed. I like to imagine what she would say and do in a situation, appreciate the things that she would value, and even smile at jokes that she would find funny.  I can feel her looking down on us, watching everything, and reassuring me that it is all going to be okay.  I know how much she loves me and treasures me.

But sometimes it is very, very hard.  A particular event or unintentional comment can make me feel like bursting into tears because it reminds me of her.  I feel jealous when I see older grandparents with their grandchildren.  I just feel like my mom and Ryan deserved that relationship too, but they will both have to miss out on something so special.  When I try to sleep, I have nightmares of hospitals, chemotherapy, surgeries, suffering, and dying.  When I wake up, I realize that those things are real and actually did happen.  I will just have to experience them over and over again until my subconscious comes to terms with it.  But despite everything, I am trying my best to stay positive for the sake of Ryan, my husband, and the rest of my family.

I like how this poem keeps things in perspective:

“You can shed tears that she is gone, or you can smile because she has lived.

You can close your eyes and pray that she'll come back,
 or you can open your eyes and see all she's left.

Your heart can be empty because you can't see her,
 or you can be full of the memories you shared.

You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday,
 or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.

You can remember her only that she is gone,
 or you can cherish her memory and let it live on.

You can cry and close your mind, 
be empty and turn your back.

Or you can do what she'd wanted:
 smile, open your eyes, love, and go on.” 
~ C. Brent

On vacation Ocean City, Maryland (left); The morning of my wedding in Key Biscayne, Florida (right)

Although my mom is no longer physically with us, it is my goal to make sure that Ryan (and any other future children) will get to know her, honor her, and love her.  I would like to find some activities for young children that will help them to learn about and value lost loved ones.

On a final note, next month, my husband and I will be participating in the 2012 Raleigh Get Your Rear In Gear 5K Run/Walk.  This is an event to benefit the Colon Cancer Coalition.  Any donations in memory of my mom would be greatly appreciated.  I want to help others who are diagnosed by raising money for research, prevention, and treatments.  Please take a look at my fundraising page for more details.  Thank you all of our friends and family for your overwhelming support these past few weeks.


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  2. Dana, what a beautiful post about such a difficult and emotional process. Your mom will always be with you, and in the hearts and minds of your family and friends!

  3. @Karen- Thank you for your sweet comment. I miss her more and more every day. =(

  4. I'm sure you do :( I know she is still with you in other ways, and that she always will be.

  5. Dana, having lost my father a few years ago I can say that the grief I feel has changed over time but never has completely gone away. While I have been going through breast cancer treatment this past year I have felt his love and support as if he were right here. As you know being put though so much with treatment and having little children to look after can be a blessed but challenging combination. Having my two children has helped me feel more connected to my father because in the love that I feel for them I am reminded daily that I am also loved that deeply. I will continue to miss and grieve for my wonderful father until I am reunited with him but until then, I am sincerely grateful for a loving heavenly father who has allowed me to stay on this earth to look after my babies. And I know my father is still looking after me

  6. @Jo- I think that you are completely right! Ryan has been a tremendous source of strength for me and I feel connected with my mom through him too. I believe that when you have a child yourself, you learn what a parent's love for their child is like, and then you can finally understand how much your parents loved you. It is truly incredible.


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