So Long, And Thanks For All The Licks

Grief is a strange thing to experience. It comes in waves, it ebbs and flows. I was riding out my grief and just when I thought I was doing a good job of managing it and getting better, I got hit with a tsunami of grief. It’s a thing.

I lost my mother just over eight months ago. I am still reeling from her death. Just recently, I lost my beloved Chug (Chihuahua Pug) dog, Captain Malcolm. He crossed the rainbow bridge on May 24th. His death was very unexpected, our whole family was caught off guard. I was in Toronto with my three children to attend my sister’s wedding, my husband was traveling due to volunteer firefighter training. My poor puppy, we weren’t there for him when he needed us the most. My best friend and close family friend was there, thank the Gods. She was there for me when Momma died; she was with me when I got the message about Momma and she drove me down that day to see her. She took such good care of Mal, she rushed him to the vet which is roughly a 300km drive down a horrid gravel road. The vets did all they could for Malcolm, but it wasn’t enough. He was paralyzed from the waist down, due to a spinal rupture. The vet said there was nothing we could have done to prevent or anticipate this, it is a genetic abnormality found in both Chihuahuas and Pugs and is not uncommon in Chugs. A decision was made to have him euthanized, and he went to sleep.

Captain Malcolm’s death hit us all hard, even the fur babies are out of sorts. We all feel so lost without Mal. He was my furever baby. My hubby adopted him for me, as at the time I was told by my specialist that I could not carry another baby to term. I was severely depressed about that, I always wanted three or four kids. Malcolm was the baby that I couldn’t have, that would never get bigger than me. My children will grow up and eventually be taller than me. That won’t take much, I’m only 5’0 tall. But Mal, he would stay puppy sized. My furever baby.

Mal was named after the main character on the TV show Firefly, Captain Malcolm Reynolds. He aimed to misbehave. He was always there, following us around the house. He was a stealthy thief, whether it was stealing someone’s spot on the couch, stealing someone’s leftovers off the plate in the dining room, or stealing socks and left shoes to hide under the bed. He snorted and shnarfed, sort of like a pig. We called him “Piggly” sometimes. He loved to snuggle. I have a king sized bed, my hubby and I snuggle and take up less than half of the bed. The rest of the bed was Mal’s, and he insisted on sleeping up against me. He was a gentle puppy, as much as he tore around the house yipping and growling, he was ever so careful. He adored my children, he loved to play fetch and snuggle them. He loved giving kisses, I used to call him cat-like because he’d lick my whole arm just like my cats do. You could walk into my living room and find Mal perched on top of the couch, much like a cat.

It hurts me to the core how I couldn’t be there for him in the end. If I had known, I wouldn’t have gone to my sister’s wedding. I would have stayed home to be with him. But that’s the thing, “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” There was no way to know this was going to happen. But it happened, and we have to deal with it. There is no point in blaming myself, that is a waste of time and energy. Finding blame won’t bring back Captain Malcolm, and it’s no way to honour his memory. I choose to remember him fondly, and think happy memories of him. Mal never liked me being sad, he loved when I was happy. So I’m going to be happy for him. Just like Momma, she wouldn’t want me to grieve and be sad, she would want me to be happy and remember the good times. I do my best to honour their memories every day, it helps keep me going. My children and I will tell each other stories about Momma and Mal, it brings us comfort. Sure, the tears flow and we all bear hug, but it makes us feel better.

My hubby, one of our best friends, and his father built a coffin for Captain Malcolm. I bawled when I saw it. It’s beautiful, very fitting for the Captain’s final resting quarters.

Some days are harder than others. I’m still struggling with losing my mother, and now I lost my furever baby. Grief compounding grief. It’s heavy to carry around, literally. Most days I feel so exhausted, despite having a good night’s sleep. Coffee sometimes helps. I tend to stare off into space, getting caught up in my memories. My mind is all over the place, as is my focus. I’m usually scatterbrained but this is just ridiculous.

I have to fight this. I have to combat the grief and keep going. How do I fight this? How do I keep going? I remind myself of all the good things in my life. I keep a gratefulness journal. I use my DBT and CBT skills daily, and try to meditate at least once a day. I take my meds faithfully, I listen to my alarms and follow my routines. I use various methods of self care every day, lately it’s been hot baths and putting on makeup. I find my motivation to get up every morning and give’r. My husband, my children, my family. They are my motivation. I snuggle and play with my baby throughout the day, I try to read to him but he’s more interested in eating the book than reading it. I spend time with my kids and play with them. I have my daily alone time with my hubby, he’s my best friend and my favourite person. I crave my daily time with him. I have a good life, I’m happy with my life. I have so many reasons to smile. I can’t focus on the reasons to cry and frown. I focus on the positives. It keeps me going.

Earlier, I said that grief comes in waves. I should elaborate on that. Let’s say I’m washing bottles in the kitchen and dancing to music. I’ll look behind me to make sure I’m not going to step on Malcolm (he was always underfoot), and then it hits me. Mal’s not here anymore. I start crying, and it’s like I lost him all over again. Another example, when I remind my children to do their chores. They each take turns feeding the fur babies. I’ve been so used to saying “Feed the puppies” that I still catch myself saying it, which leads me to correcting myself. My children will reminisce about Mal, then we’ll all start crying and hugging.

Grief hits me even when there is nothing to trigger it. I could be in a great mood, listening to music and putting on makeup, and the tears will start flowing. I can’t stop them. It will happen spontaneously. While I’m doing laundry, or playing World of Warcraft. I just cry, uncontrollably. I don’t know if this is a common physical symptom of grief, but it’s something I experience. When it does happen, I try my best to stop crying. I’ll mindfully keep doing whatever task, or I’ll think of happy things like seeing my Hubby, or if my baby is awake I will hug him and play with him. I think and do things that bring me joy. Sometimes I just let it out, and have a good cry. It feels good to let it out. It’s ok to grieve, it’s ok to feel sad, it’s ok to cry. Everyone handles grief differently, and that’s ok. Depending on my mood, I handle it differently.

I’m currently in the midst of a depressive episode, but I am coping and managing it well. I’ve made some changes to my daily routine to help me through this episode, time will tell if it works or not. For the most part, I’m ok. I don’t have intrusive thoughts, I’m not suicidal, or having thoughts of harming myself or others. I’m pretty stable, I’m just depressed. I am still functioning, maybe not at 100% but hey I’m not giving up. I will get better, I won’t feel this way forever.

Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.– – Dr. Seuss

I miss my fur baby, every day. As much as I carry guilt for not being home when tragedy struck, I can’t focus on that. It doesn’t help. What I can do, is take solace in knowing that my beloved dog is not suffering. He’s with my Momma now. I like to think that he’s in dog heaven, chasing all the bunnies and eating all the bacon and table scraps. It brings me comfort. I’m grateful for the time I had with Mal, and will cherish the memories I have of him. Rest easy, Captain. May you aim to misbehave beyond the rainbow bridge.

Dissociation Blues

I feel lost and disconnected. I find myself dissociating frequently, on a daily basis. I don’t want to feel this way, I want to feel happy but I know I can’t be happy all the time. I have to let myself feel the full spectrum of emotions, even the painful and negative ones. At the very least, acknowledge them and wait for them to pass. “This too shall pass.” It doesn’t take long for my moods to shift, between my bipolar and my borderline I have frequent episodes. If I were to plot out my ups and downs on paper, it would resemble the heartbeat of a squirrel stuck in traffic. This is what I’m like without medications. That being said, I’m on medications so I know it isn’t that. This is grief. This is depression. This is anxiety.

I live with depression and anxiety, I’m no stranger to them. This grief thing though, it’s really messing with me. Normally I am scatterbrained but now it’s just ridiculous. I spent ten minutes of my suppertime the other evening walking back and forth repeatedly from the dining room to the kitchen, all because I kept forgetting what I got up for and remembering what I needed once I got back to my chair. You wouldn’t believe how much time I waste in a day by being forgetful. I can pace around my house for hours, aimlessly looking in each room and wondering where to start and what to do. This is what I mean by feeling lost. It’s both frustrating and depressing to live like this.

I lose myself in almost anything lately. It’s like I’m mindfully avoiding the emptiness by distracting myself. I spend all hours with my baby during the day, exploring with him and playing. I tend to shirk my housewifely duties altogether, sadly. I don’t want or mean to, it just happens. There are countless days where my husband will come home from work to find me playing with baby, the house is a mess, and dinner hasn’t even been started. Thankfully, my husband is extremely understanding and helps me get back on track.

Last week was rough. I felt detached from my body, as if I were floating above myself like a balloon. I was there, but not all there. I went through the motions of cooking and cleaning without a thought process, and made the silliest mistakes. I kept telling my family and friends that I wasn’t feeling like myself and that I was dissociating, and while they sympathized I don’t think they fully understood. I stirred soup with a ladle instead of a whisk, I zoned out during conversations, I went speechless when I should have used my words, I stood around watching everyone else go about their day with a blank stare on my face. I drifted around my house and had urges to clean the bathroom when I should have been making pizza dough. I would confuse myself trying to be productive, which is actually counter productive. I felt myself slipping into dissociation and nothing I did could stop it. I noticed the signs but was helpless to help myself.

How do I stop myself from dissociating? That is a very good question. First, I have to recognize that I am indeed dissociating. Sometimes I don’t and it will continue for hours. When I do recognize it, I take note of what I am thinking and feeling. I use grounding techniques, mindfulness, music, and meditation. I go barefoot to feel my feet touching the ground. I wash my hands to feel the water and soap bubbles. I hug my children and feel their warmth. Lots of feels. Feeling things helps put me back together, so to speak. Music helps keep me from floating away in my mind, I have music playing for at least a few hours during the day. Usually I end up dancing, which lightens my mood and keeps me grounded. Mindfulness helps me a lot too. I get so lost trying to multitask around the house, mindfully doing one thing at a time is both relaxing and grounding. I’ll talk to myself and describe what I see, hear, feel, touch, smell or taste. Sometimes none of the above works, and that’s okay too. This too shall pass. I won’t feel this way forever, it will go away soon enough. I don’t give up when my techniques fail, I endure and persevere. I will keep reminding myself of where I am, what I see and what I’m doing. I will never give up on myself.

My husband is a huge help, he’s always there for me. He will walk with me through the fog with gentle reminders and supportive words. He helped me make myself a routine so I don’t wander around aimlessly during the day. I have to keep busy or else my mind wanders outside my body. It’s difficult to stick to my routine but I am trying my best and that’s what matters. I have alarms on my phone to help me too, and I am mindfully not dismissing them. Alarms for waking up, taking my meds, waking up the kids, doing my morning routine, making supper, etc. Every one of them has a purpose, and that is to keep me on track. I even have alarms to go to bed. It’s important for me to have a regular sleep cycle, because I have chronic insomnia and my insomnia affects my bipolar disorder. Insomnia and hypomania go hand in hand, for me anyways. I have to manage my illnesses so I can be stable for myself and my family. They depend on me, and I can’t let them down. I have to keep going, and to do that I need to fight the dissociation blues. I can do anything if I put my mind to it, if I believe in myself. I can do this. If I can weather the storms in my mind, I can enjoy the rainbow that eventually follows. If I can I will, and if I can’t, I’ll keep on trying.

Living with Grief

I’m having a bad day. It’s just not my day, I guess. There’s this heaviness that I can’t escape, it weighs on my soul. It’s been there since the day I got that fateful text about my Momma, on October 9th. She passed away on a Wednesday, October 10th. I’ve come to terms with her death and accept the fact that she’s gone but I’m still dealing with the emotional fallout. Some days are harder than others, today being one of those days. I’m lost in my thoughts and memories, swept up in a sea of emotions. I don’t know what to do with myself, so I’m writing it out as I go.

Grief is a strange thing to experience. Grief is a multifaceted response to loss. Emotional, physical, cognitive, spiritual, cultural, and behavioural are some of the dimensions of grief. People may experience some or all forms of grief when losing someone they loved. We have all experienced grief in some way, shape, or form at one point in our lives. It may have been the loss of a friend, a pet, a family member, or an acquaintance, the loss of a job, a relationship, or friendship. No one really talks about the grieving process though, in my opinion. Nobody told me that it would be physically draining, and numbing. I’ve experienced grief and loss more than once before, I’ve lost many beloved pets and I have buried my first born daughter. Losing my mother is an entirely different kind of grief. The first three months after she died were excruciating. I felt so heavy, inside and out. My eyelids felt heavy, I wanted to sleep all the time. Consuming caffeine had zero effect on me, I fell asleep a few times while drinking coffee. My arms were heavy, my feet dragged when I walked. Daily tasks were arduous, to say the least. Every little thing reminded me of Momma, made me want to text or call her and tell her about it and realizing that I could no longer do that was agonizing. I wouldn’t speak or move, sometimes for hours at a time. I often felt numb and empty inside, a shell of myself. I felt like I was on auto pilot, going through the motions of daily life mindlessly. I was constantly lost in my thoughts, and though I may have been outwardly quiet and still in my brain it was nonstop racing thoughts. All kinds of things went through my mind. Memories, questions, things I wanted to tell her.

I had so much I wanted to tell my mother. I was going to call her and Pop that morning. I made coffee with special flavoured beans they gave to me as a gift, I had been saving it for a special occasion but decided to indulge myself. My plan was to phone them and have morning coffee with them, and tell them that the night before we fed our baby pablum for the first time. That I was going to register for adult ed and hopefully finish my grade 12. That my two older munchkins were excited to be coming down for Halloween and trick or treating at Baba and Zaide’s house. But I never got to tell them. I never made that call, because life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans. I love those lyrics, thank you John Lennon for writing them. I sang that to my mother while hugging her, right before we said our goodbyes and the Rabbi gave her last rites. She used to sing that to me often, as a reminder. I didn’t understand the lyrics until recently.

The physical aspect of grieving is over, I think. It’s hard to distinguish between grief and my illnesses sometimes. My bipolar has been messing with me, I’m back to ultra rapid cycling. Even on my manic days, I still grieve but it’s manageable. I have my moments where I cry and remember Momma, and then I wipe my tears and carry on with my day. I look up at the sky often and smile, believing that she is looking down on me. Grief is tolerable when I’m manic, mixed manic not so much. Grief is crippling when I am depressed, it’s incapacitating. I’m a housewife, and you can tell when I’m struggling. The house will be a mess; I can’t keep up with the housework. Laundry and dishes start to pile up, dust accumulates on every surface, and the piles. I make piles of stuff to take to each room and put away. Some days, I’m so scatterbrained that I don’t move the stuff and then it just sits there and becomes an organized mess. This is where the other dimensions of grief come in and mess with me. I already have executive function issues, attention deficits, and brain fog due to my illnesses. Now I have this heaviness on my soul and it leaves me hopelessly muddled. I will spend the day with my baby and crochet instead of doing my housework, and not because I am trying to shirk my housewifely duties. I literally don’t know what to do with myself. I will wander from room to room, trying to decide where to start and what to do. For hours. I stopped listening to my phone alarms that prompt me to take my meds, do my morning/bedtime routines, make supper, etc. I don’t even realize that I’m dismissing my alarms, I’m on auto pilot. I get lost in playing with my baby, he makes the grief go away, and that helps.

Distractions are a blessing. I distract myself from the grief constantly, I don’t really know what else to do. I crochet daily now. I taught myself how to crochet a few years ago but I didn’t make it a habit or hobby until I was pregnant last year, it kept me busy and upbeat. Momma wanted me to teach her, but she wasn’t feeling well enough to do it when I was staying at her house. She loved taking me shopping at Michael’s, we’d stay in the yarn section for as long as her pain let her. She bought all kinds of yarn for the munchkins. My three munchkins were her only grandchildren. Sadly, she never got to crochet with me and make beautiful things together. But I digress… I was crocheting regularly when Momma passed away, in fact I brought a scarf I was working on for my daughter with me when I drove down with my girlfriend to see Momma at the hospital. When we went back to our hotel rooms the evening that Momma passed away, I brought out my yarn and started crocheting. It helped me process what was happening, it helped me think. Just like music, I love listening to music. It soothes the voices and thoughts in my head, so I can think straight. The lyrics, the rhythm, it’s like therapy for me. Crocheting is very much the same, the rhythmic stitching has the same effect on me. It slows down my brain, so I don’t get lost in myself.

My Pop gave me all of Momma’s yarn, and I have made it my personal mission to create meaningful things with them. I have made scarves, hats, and blankets so far, I am still figuring out what to make with the rest. I feel compelled to honour her memory each and every day, and so I have been crocheting almost every day. She had this soft acrylic yarn in beautiful hues of pink and blue. I didn’t know what she intended to make with them, so I made them into messy bun hats for myself and my daughter. I love wearing my hat, it makes me feel close to Momma. There were a few large skeins of bulky yarn, it’s plush and mermaid coloured. I made an afghan blanket out of it, and we call it “Baba’s blanket”. I frogged that blanket damn near a dozen times, trying to make it perfect. I don’t know why but it had to be perfect, as if Momma was going to inspect it or something. I’ve had that mentality with every project using Momma’s yarn.

It will be seven months since Momma’s passing on the tenth next Friday, and my youngest son’s first birthday the following Monday. I really hope I don’t fall into a depressive episode, but it may be inevitable. Every month around the eleventh, I crash. It’s like a subconscious delayed reaction to her anniversary, I’m aware of the date but it doesn’t hit me until the day after. I don’t want my grief overshadowing my joy for my son’s birthday. He was my Mother’s Day gift, oh my, Mother’s Day is next Sunday! My first one without Momma. Oh boy. I am not prepared for this. This is going to be rough. This is why it’s so important for me to stay distracted, because if I don’t then the emptiness will return, and the grief will take over. I have to stay strong, for my family. I need to keep my head above the water, so to speak. Maybe if I stay focused on my routine and day to day work, it won’t be so bad. I’m trying some new habits, like walking around the block with my baby and exercising. It feels good to eat healthy. When I’m depressed I don’t cook, meals are simple to make and less clean up. The most menial of tasks are a daunting chore for me, things like prepping veggies and making smoothies. I avoid them like the plague, and I don’t understand why. I despise myself when my depression negatively effects the household, and that needs to change. I started meal planning again, it helps keep me on track for daily meals. I tend to wander aimlessly like a lost sloth in traffic, wondering what to feed the family for supper. Meal planning will eliminate that conundrum altogether. I need to be more mindful so I can combat my frequent dissociation. Dissociation is a hallmark of BPD, however it is also experienced in PTSD. I’m not sure if either of those are causing my dissociation or if it’s The Grief. Does it really matter which of my illnesses cause symptoms? Yes and no. I use DBT for all of my illnesses but depending on the situation I may use different skills. In this case, mindfulness skills. If I’m mindful, I’m more self aware of what I’m doing which would be quite helpful for those times when I’m on autopilot. It would also help bring me back to the present when I am ruminating on the past.


“Wish we could turn back time, to the good old days
When our momma sang us to sleep but now we’re stressed out.”

Stressed out – Twenty One Pilots

Written by Tyler Joseph

It’s quite onerous living with grief, but it is what it is. I detest it but I accept it. This too shall pass; I won’t feel this way forever. Tomorrow is a new day. Every day is a fresh start. I’m grateful to wake up every morning, and thankful to be alive. I live for my family and friends, and for myself. Positive affirmations, they’re working. This felt good to get out, I should do this more often.