waking up

My dreams last night were a little strange. I drank a mug of chai tea at like 1900 to boost me through a Reiki treatment and massage that I gave to my new love interest. It was a successful treatment because sleepy time came for him swiftly! I adore providing healing touch to people, especially love interests. I feel like that is my one sort of super power that I have to offer, I just haven’t found the right man to accept my talents and want to make them a permanent part of his life. I have hope for this one. I have hope for all of them, who I am kidding? I try to give my all every time. Well, as much of my all as I have left after having my heart shattered into at least a million pieces.

Anyway, back to my dreams. I ended up home sooner than I thought I would last night and slightly amped on chai tea and the success of my Reiki and massage treatments. So I decided to write in my journal for awhile and then I blogged for the first time in forever and actually published it. I’ve been doing this thing a lot lately where I write but then I get worried about who might read it and that I might shock or hurt feelings or cause political turmoil at work or whatever and I’m over it. Blogging is so helpful for me. So I’m just gonna do it. As I sailed into sleep last night it was one of those into sleep transitions where I felt myself soaring above for a good long while. I was relaxed and ready to sleep, it’s just the chai tea had me more aware than I would be normally. The dreams that I remember were with my new love interest at his home. This is the strange part: there was a dead body in one of the bedrooms, like someone had died that we all expected to die, like they had been on hospice or something, and he hadn’t called the hospice people yet because he wasn’t ready to. He was waiting for someone who wanted to say goodbye privately. And then my mom came into the picture to bathe the body. Why I wasn’t involved in this I have no idea since I am a registered nurse and have bathed my fair share of dead bodies. I did, however, make the suggestion to add clove essential oil to the bath to help with the smell. My love interest and my mom agreed that was a good idea. My love interest even said that was something that used to be done before modern day chemical embalming… whether or not that is true I have no idea… this was a dream!

Analyzing a dream like this is so interesting. Obviously, my subconscious is sifting through some shit. The smell of a dead body. That was the main concern. Not let’s get the person we are waiting for here sooner than later so we can call the hospice people and the funeral home. The smell is a big part of my trauma with Nick’s death. He wasn’t found until days after he died. The neighbors called a wellness check to the local authorities because of the smell coming from his place. My heart absolutely crushes in on itself every time I think about that. This is definitely something I haven’t worked through completely. I just put it in a box and tucked it away. Time to get it out and work it through. I dreamt about Nick the night of September 11, 2018, which was death day number 3 and what we suspect is the day that Nick died that year. He was found on the Sunday after that, which I think was the 16th. He left a note with my name and contact information on it. I hadn’t attempted to get in touch with him for months except through the court because of how he had behaved the last time he had Pierce and Ryan over, which was Father’s Day weekend that year. He had started drinking again and being very emotionally and verbally abusive. Ryan had called me crying because he was so scared. Pierce had taken over Oscar’s old role of attempting to be the mediator between drunk and unreasonably angry Nick and the younger kids, kid in this case. That’s when I decided to take action and file for a safety focused parenting plan. Nick texted me once around the Fourth of July to ask to have the kids, and I texted back that any arrangements to see the kids needed to go through my lawyer. He never took it further. All I ever heard from him again was that he wanted to push the court date out to October so he had more time to find and pay for a lawyer.

My heart really hurts for how completely fractured our relationship became. When we started out together I was so young and he was so experienced (or maybe traumatized?) and pretending (?) to have hope and see the possibility for joy. Nick never really talked about what had happened to him and his family. His brother Jimmy had been murdered and his favorite sister, LouAnn, had died of suicide a number of years after that. Not to mention whatever happened when he was growing up in a too small house for 7 kids and 2 parents who sort of got along, but not really. He used to say the 7 kids came from Catholic guilt and not love. He would make it a joke. He made lots of things jokes. I think that was his main coping mechanism besides drinking and smoking pot. All of his unprocessed and unresolved feelings surrounding the trauma he had been through came out in all sorts of negative and destructive ways. That is what happens to people when they don’t work through to the bottom.

Now I’m working through to the bottom with Nick. His death has been so hard to process. I think because we were estranged when he died, but also because I have such a deep and profound love for him, still. He is around all the time. I feel him more than I feel Oscar. He always has something to say and he is in my dreams all the time! Maybe the dream I had last night is Nick. And the one they are waiting for is me. I haven’t said proper goodbyes. I hold a piece of him in my mind that is when we first met. I was so enamored by his charm and his brilliant mind. I’ve never met a man like Nick. It was so easy for us to fall in love. Looking back on old pictures on Oscar’s birthday I realized how hard we tried. I’m not sure what went wrong. I guess the active addiction is really what came between us. Neither one of us could relate to the other because we were never in our right minds if we could help it. I remember how he used to hold my hand. And the way that he would look at me. His goofy grin. And the sex was great. We had an excellent time in bed. It’s honestly one of the reasons I stayed as long as I did. It was really hard to let that go. And to learn to live without it has been so tough!!

Nick would make xmess a fun and joyful holiday. He’d always make it special. I don’t have that kind of talent or desire since my people have died. This year my mom and Ryan decorated together, thank God. I genuinely hate all of it. It takes so much emotional energy. I feel like I dip into my already drained reserve tanks every year since Oscar died and especially so since Nick has died.

What am I to do with this dream? I don’t want Nick to go. Maybe it is time, though, whether I want it to be or not. I have to let go to let a new man in. It’s that simple. Simple; not easy.

cocoon

Over the past several months I have written and then not published. Because I was worried about work politics or hurting someone’s feelings or some other such similar reason. At the beginning of September I went into what feels like a cocoon. I have been avoiding all social media and focusing on me, the now, my kids, my home, my work. I thought it would be just September that I avoided social media, and, in fact, for the entire month of September I was completely and totally absent from social media. It felt so good I didn’t check it out again until late October. I don’t think I’ve had any personal posts, except to thank people for the birthday wishes, which was hilarious because people responded as if my birthday was recent and not in September.

While I’ve been in this cocoon and considering the break that I have been taking from social media and also from blogging and the reasons for that I have come to the conclusion that I am done censoring myself.

I left Luke’s for a number of different reasons, not the least of which was politics, yet again. So sick of work politics. I tried to go back to the CVOR when I realized for sure that the clinic wasn’t going to be anything but me working as a medical assistant (!!!) and the director couldn’t make a spot for me. Too bad, because they are down nurses now. I ended up interviewing for a spot as a staff nurse to open a new OR in south Overland Park. The commute is about 10 minutes less than to Luke’s. And it is a main OR, so the cases are all super chill. We are like one step above a surgery center as far as acuity goes, so I am on cloud nine compared to CV acuity. I do miss the CV, though. I really really miss my CT surgeons. It really really sucks that the director of the CVOR couldn’t make a spot for me. Oh well. The incredibly awesome thing about my new gig is that I am primarily scrubbing! I feel like a duck to water I love it so much. I am considering pursuing my first assist so I can stay in the scrub role for the remainder of my nursing career.

So, yeah, career is chill. Not what I thought I would end up doing, I guess, but whatever.

My grief feels sort of like it is on ice. Sort of. It has definitely morphed this year. That really started over death day six and three. It was Oscar’s sixth death day and Nick’s third death day. Me and Pierce and Ryan went to Vail to see Death Cab for Cutie and it was completely different. I feel like I came to a new understanding that my years turn on death day, not New Year’s. I have also begun to reach a new distance from the trauma where I see that everyone, well, most everyone, has their own trauma. Most people don’t deal with it as well as I do, though, and it causes them real personality issues. Negative ones. I have shit I am dealing with in my personality, don’t get me wrong, it’s just that what I have been through has really forced me to change so I can get through my days with the least amount of discomfort as possible. My pain, my broken heart, is too much to bear and not be as healthy as I can be. I think the fact that Nick died of suicide three years after Oscar died of suicide is very telling regarding how painful it is to have one of your babies die of suicide.

And then there’s dating. Oh my goodness. What a freaking roller coaster ride. I wish I didn’t love sex so much. For real. I am hopeful that I may have finally met my match. It seems promising so far, but man, I’ve been here before. Countless times it seems like. I am attempting not to have any expectations, but goddamn that is so fucking hard. So, more like reasonable expectations. Still, my emotions throw me around without my permission, like, a lot. Learning how to rise above that noise is one of the hardest things. Bottom line, I try to be responsible. Hopefully this rocky road will finally start to smooth out.

My kids all really inspire me. Ryan has been amazing to learn from and be around and chill out with. He is learning guitar and piano, and writing lyrics, so it is absolutely inspiring to be around him. Pierce is a fucking rock star. I still cannot believe how well he has weathered the storm. Almost done with the first semester of KU. He absolutely thrives. Then there’s my firecracker, Phoenix. He and I are on a nutrition journey together. Finally gave into the PCP’s advice to trial a gluten free diet for him to help with his chronic constipation. He is so much better! Now if we can get his immune system to kick in so he stops picking up every bug from the preschool. We are going to see a naturopath to help us with that. And Oscar. He and I see each other in my dreams. I feel his presence often and we have a relationship even through death. He is wise and guides all of his brothers and me. I feel his energy helping us to see the way. He knows that I am inspired by him to become a better mother, a better person. He is my light. I miss him beyond words. Always.

Xmess sucks. Holidays suck. Half of my family is dead. It is what it is. The point is that I keep going. I keep moving forward. Even when it feels like I am slogging through mud. Some days are better than others. I try to enjoy every moment for what it is and be in it. Fully present.

Hopefully it won’t be so long before the next time I write and publish. I might just go back and publish some of the drafts that I have saved up from over the past couple of years. I’m cocooned, but I’m done hiding.

too long

THERE IS SO MUCH!!

It has been way too long since I have written. I feel like I have been through at least two lifetimes in the past few months. My new job is pushing me to grow in ways I didn’t realize I needed to grow. It is interesting, as I have been adjusting to my new unit and the culture there, I have been turning inward. I have been reluctant to share my inner journey with you, which had become such a big part of who I was and what I needed to do to stay healthy before my transition to the CVOR.

After my therapy yesterday with my treasured psychologist it became very clear to me that I need to reach inside and determine what I need to do to stay healthy and then do those things. I need to fiercely guard the time I need to do those things. I am saying that as if it is some incredible realization when really it is a well-known fact, the problem is simply that if I spend too much time away from what I need to do to keep myself healthy my grief comes out sideways.

This is what I have been doing too much lately and not paying attention to myself because of: healing my relationship with Grant. There, I said it. Well, not to mention Covid-19 (learning how to live the new normal with the rest of the planet). Grant always pushes me to be so quiet about what we have going on with each other, and I get it, he enjoys privacy, but I am not a quiet person when it comes to my life. I like for things to be out in the open. Transparent.

I lived a long time in the dark during my youth. I really had two lives then: the life on the outside that looked mostly okay to everyone looking in on us (the mask) and the one at home that was full of anger, alcohol, and marijuana with an abusive husband who had me convinced if I tried to get help for my addiction he would lose his job. Back then I was just trying to keep it together enough to get through school and maintain a job. I have started a writing exercise that my psychologist recommended might help me integrate those traumatic memories. It takes so much emotional energy to do it I can only face it in small bits.

Right now Grant and I have reached a point where we want to live together again but there are some major issues that need to be figured out. The first is that I get virtually zero alone time when we spend a lot of time together. This is because Phoenix prefers my care to Grant’s care when the two of us are together. I have been encouraging Grant to try being more assertive and maybe that will help if I also stop stepping up right away. This kind of change takes time when you are working on this sort of reintegration. Another issue is that we do need couples counseling. And, of course, we seem to be attracted to completely different types of therapists. Of course. Another big issue is our motivation: are we doing this because we are in love with each other or are we doing it for Phoenix?

Another big issue that Grant and I have is our reluctance to share our journey with our friends and family.

I can only speak for myself here, but I feel like we have been through so much and reached such a very low point together that our friends and family were very happy and relieved to see us separate when we did. I mean we went through the whole deal for a proper separation with lawyers and parenting plans and all of it.

Since I started working in the CVOR I have changed in ways I didn’t predict. I have been through some major ups and downs during my transition to my new unit and I finally have started to feel like I am finding my place. This is great because for a few days there I thought I had made a big mistake! One of the things that has come out of my experience caring for this patient population is a renewed and deepened Christian faith.

This is an issue for Grant because he does not vibe with Christianity. He also tells me that he doesn’t think I will maintain my Christian faith for long. I have tried explaining that this has been a lifelong dance and I have finally reached a point where I am comfortable in it and so I am feeling the strength to own it and ground myself in it like I never have before. This will be a sort of living amends for me to Jesus. And time will tell. I will say that a very beautiful realization and discovery has come from my renewed faith: chaplaincy. Becoming a healthcare chaplain as my long-term career goal makes sense and every time I think about it I feel deep peace.

All of this and the churning of difficult times of the year for my grieving soul: Mother’s Day, Pierce’s birthday, Father’s Day, Vivian’s birthday, Phoenix’s birthday, and on Friday, Nick’s birthday.

Here is the good news: Grant and I settled on him not moving in for at least six more months and I am refocusing on my alone time. I think it is best for us to honor our parenting plan and spend time alone together on dates. Certainly, plan time to spend together with Phoenix and my Lane kids as a family, too, but mostly focus on alone time getting to know each other more intimately. No more spending time together like we are living together. There are too many unhealed hurts and I need to spend time alone doing things like writing updates to my blog.

No more hiding.

 

Every year I relive Oscar’s last year

Facebook. Thanks to Facebook each and every year I relive Oscar’s last year through reminders of memories.

The cycle of my grief has hit a rhythm that I seem to be flowing with fairly well these days. I have begun to feel gratitude for my experience as a bereaved mother (that is a place I never thought I’d be). This morning on my drive into work I listened to my Calm app daily meditation, which I have been doing for the better part of the past year. It helps. There are many cliches and platitudes that I don’t buy so easily since Oscar died. Sayings like “there is always a silver lining” or “everything happens for a reason”. It so happens that the daily meditation today was about resistance and how our suffering increases as we resist things in our lives, especially the things we cannot change. Okay, I can vibe with that (which is progress for me, by the way). Then at the end of the meditation the cliche was dropped about seeing the silver lining in each situation that we cannot change. Just a few short weeks ago I would never have been able to say that there was a silver lining to my son’s death.

Even now it feels sort of uncomfortable admitting that I have reached a point that I can see a silver lining out of what I hope was the darkest time of my life. What is the silver lining? The silver lining is that I finally went back to school and finished my BSN. I had no plans to go back to school before Oscar died. I was making as much as I could make in my nursing career as a staff nurse in the OR. And I loved my job at KU. But after Oscar died I needed to feel like my voice carried more weight. ADN wasn’t enough anymore. I also wanted to do it for him. In his memory. So I did.

Today’s Facebook memory was my excited and hopeful declaration that I finally had full custody of all three of my kids. My heart is breaking because I had no idea what 2015 had in store for me and my family. No idea. I completely trusted God to care for all of us and show me the way to heal all of my beautiful children, especially Oscar. I am finally to a point in my grief journey where I am beginning to open back up to healing my relationship with my higher power. It isn’t easy; it is simple, but not easy. I am trying to allow myself to feel comfort in faith again. And trust. Trusting is the hardest.

Suicide Grief is Complicated Grief

Well. Here I am on the other side of Thanksgiving. Many wonderful things have happened to me in the past week. I met someone. (I met someone!) My Lane kids and I celebrated Oscar’s birthday in a natural flow. It was truly a joy-filled day, which feels so good. I love that I was able to celebrate Oscar and all of the things that made him so incredible, so special, and not be completely overwhelmed by grief. Thanksgiving was unconventional and very chill (this was due to me being so focused on exercising healthy boundaries in all of my relationships this year). We had a day filled with meeting our new dog (who is also a suicide loss survivor- I am sure I will talk more about her at a later time) and eating fried chicken for dinner before I spent a few hours in the later evening with my new love interest on a very unique first date. We vibe on so many different levels, even the really deep ones. It is a new feeling to be truly seen by a man who is interested in me romantically. I have hope for this budding new relationship, but I am also scared. Scared because I don’t have a track record of positive outcomes in this arena for various reasons, not the least of which is grief. Which leads me to last night.

Through a set of circumstances and motivation that was of purest intent, I found myself listening to live music at a bar. It was so much fun to see all of the people up dancing and having a good time, so many smiles. I found myself smiling and bopping around in my seat, which was enough for two different older gentlemen to ask me to dance. I accepted, mostly because I wanted to allow a full experience of the environment, but also to get closer to the stage in order to see the musicians with increased clarity. I danced two or three times with the younger of the two gentlemen to the point that he wanted to start a conversation. He started that conversation by asking my age. Then he told me he was fifty-two. 52. That’s how old Nick would have been if he were still alive. The gentleman asked if he could sit with me and I politely declined, telling him I was with someone. (Working those healthy boundaries again!) We had a bit more conversation. He told me he doesn’t ever go out, but he did tonight because when he got home from having drinks downtown with friends he didn’t want to be home alone, that he lives just around the corner, but he never comes here and he should come here more often. Then he sat back in his seat, which was just in front of me. And I couldn’t help but watch him drink beer after beer after beer. I did what I could energetically to surround myself in a shielding bubble and send whatever energy-sucking tentacles he had sunk into me back to him, but it was too late.

My world began crumbling into a wave of grief. Nick would have been fifty-two if he were still alive. I haven’t quite learned how to negotiate my Nick-sized grief. Our relationship was so incredibly dysfunctional and he was abusive. Terribly abusive. I have just begun working through that in therapy. I feel like sometimes with the grief that I feel as a suicide loss survivor I cannot help but feel a glimpse of the pain that my loved one was feeling when they died. And that really hurts. That is hard to allow. It is very difficult for other people to be around, as well, when I am feeling that way.

There is so much in that environment- the bar- that I haven’t really dealt with, as well. I haven’t been to a bar since before Oscar died in 2015 and even then I was going to the Green Lady Lounge to listen to jazz, which is a much different environment. Nick’s natural environment was the bar. I remember when we first met he was a regular at the Manette Saloon. Everyone knew him. Everyone called him “Nicky the Mayor”. The mayor of Manette. That was the little neighborhood we lived in East Bremerton, right down on the water there. Looking back, hindsight being what it is, that should have been a red flag for me- that he was a regular at the local bar, but his charm and his smile and his eyes outweighed any red flags you could throw at me. Even the shower of red flags that happened the night before we got married was not enough. There was something in Nick Lane that wrapped itself up tight around my heart and my soul. I fell deeply and madly in love with him.

Our first date was a drive to the ocean. He used to tell me that he could see how incredible I was and he knew he would have to plan something really really special to get my undivided attention. We had such a whirlwind romance. He sucked me right into his orbit. He was so smart. I used to tell him he had a sexy brain. Our good times didn’t last long. His true colors came out the night before our wedding. Then the next thirteen years of my life were spent trying to figure out how to get out. We had three beautiful children during that time. I’ve talked before about how each pregnancy I had hope would be catalyst enough for him to change, to quit using and get healthy with me. It was never enough. He only had glimpses of recovery after our divorce. The pain of the grief that he carried was too much for him and he died of suicide just last year. Just last year. That first wave of holidays was tolerated on a wave of adrenaline and shock. This year it is settling in.

So this is the grief that I carry that is Nick-size. This grief doesn’t feel like an old friend yet. This grief feels like unresolved business mixed with deep disappointment and the only truly madly deeply romantic love I have known to this point in my life mixed with the stark realization that it was a farce. Truly madly deeply romantic love does not verbally, emotionally and sexually abuse you. This grief that I carry surrounding Nick is forever complicated. If I have learned anything about grief the past four years I have learned that the only way to accept it is to allow it. Pain like this is hard to allow. Especially this time of year when we are supposed to be joyous and happy, always looking on the bright side. I wish it could be different, but it isn’t. This is my journey. And I will honor it to the best of my ability. I will keep talking and I will keep sharing. I will continue to have the conversation that no one wants to have, the one about suicide.

So I’ve made it through September, and almost all of October, but…

It just doesn’t really get any easier, not at the base, at the foundation of it all. I still feel his absence to the absolute marrow of my bones, all the way down to the molecular structure of my DNA. I keep dreaming about him and his dad and Washington- the other night I dreamt that I was with him, close to him, touching his beautiful face and staring into those incredible deeply perceptive eyes. I woke up and picked a huge wound on my own face, which I haven’t done in years. Great. I have been keenly missing his dad lately, too. All I ever wanted was to be happy with Nick. To get along with the most amazing partner I had ever had- but to do that he would have had to completely change. Addiction is a cunning enemy of life, goddamnit. And it sure was a destructive force on my life, on our lives, all the way around. The root cause of all of the tragedy that I have endured in my life is addiction. I work hard, daily, to make peace with that fact. To accept it, to let it be. And to never let it happen again. This Lane family curse stops with me, stops with this generation. No more. Enough.

Here I am almost through October. This year has actually been pretty okay. I have been utilizing a mental wellness product that is all-natural and it has been helping me to be pretty okay, which is tremendously improved from my typical level of functioning this time of year. It helped me get through Nick’s funeral- of that, I am certain- and helped me to make the most of my time in Kitsap County. It was so incredibly healing. We called it #healingweek. And it lived up to its name in every way. I realized during my time in Washington that the geography there, the land there, the people there, the rain there, the trees there, the water there, the everything there is always going to be half of who I am. Half of who I am. I felt a mission in my life, a pull that was beyond words when I was a teenager running from everything I knew in the Midwest. And it took me straight to Nick Lane in Bremerton, Washington. What a journey it has been. There are so many things that I would have done differently, of course.

One of the things that I have learned just recently is that the people that I had hoped I could rely on for support don’t get it. When the people that you thought supported you no matter what tell you that you are not trying hard enough when your grief overwhelms you with such force that it takes your breath away it is time to find new people. So I took that truth and have been looking for my tribe. I am very hopeful that I will find it in yoga. And I am very grateful that I have the opening of a new studio to look forward to next month. November is hard because it is Oscar’s birthday, so having something to look forward to next month is key.

Something wonderful did happen to me at the end of September- while I was at Pierce’s home debate tournament- I literally felt my holiday spirit float back into my body. At the exact spot where my heart is. This is huge for my family. When I asked Viv and Pierce if they would be okay with staying home for Christmas and decorating the house together they were both very excited! I usually take the kids and run away somewhere for Christmas because it is just too hard to tolerate. Great Wolf Lodge has been key for those getaways. I am not ready for any family ornaments yet- I don’t know when I will be- so this year we are decorating with a beach theme! It is fun to look forward to the happiness it brings to Viv especially. I am certain my youngest little spitfire, Phoenix, will appreciate it, as well. He is only two.

Viv and I had a lot of fun decorating for Halloween- Halloween used to be my absolute favorite holiday with Oscar. He loved to carve pumpkins. The year that he died I had been so looking forward to sharing Halloween with him because we hadn’t carved pumpkins together for two years… he was always so good at carving pumpkins. I took pictures the last time we carved pumpkins together in Bremerton, the year before the divorce. The problem is, I don’t know where those pictures are… I am almost ready to start going through the old pictures. I have so many from when he was little, thank God. They are waiting patiently for me in the hutch where I keep all that is left of him. There will never be enough of him. Not ever.

All of these feelings and all of my experiences spill over into my professional life. How could they not when I am a nurse? Since Oscar died I have felt a need to affect change on a larger scale than I do in my current position. I have experimented with all kinds of different ideas: working in primary care (that was a no-go), having my own intuitive healing arts business (still too small), staying in surgery and working my way “up the ladder” (my current director doesn’t agree that I should advance to manager), simply staying in surgery as a staff nurse somewhere other than where I work now (surgery just doesn’t feel right anymore). Over and over again I feel like I am not fitting. I keep working over all these different scenarios in my mind about how I could stay where I am and just volunteer more, I would very much like to be more involved with the Johnson County Suicide Prevention Coalition, but I am so tired after working shifts at my current position. It is so incredibly draining. The hours are so long and I see how it affects Viv negatively. Another good reason for a different path- different hours.

And I am still finishing school- it is almost over!!! December is my graduation date. I keep thinking maybe when I am done with school it will be different. And it will, but it won’t change how tired I am after a shift running the board in my OR. So I have started applying for positions in public health-related environments as they come up. Basically, if it looks interesting to me and it is something I have never done before as a nurse because it is on a macro-level instead of a micro-level I am applying. It is scary to think about leaving the specialty area that I wanted so much to be apart of for so long when I first started as a registered nurse fourteen years ago. Scary for a variety of reasons. Not the least of which is money. I am finally making more now than I did on the west coast- it took several years to get here. But just how important is money? Very. Sure. But so is affecting change to a system that is broken. And I can’t do that from the boardrunner position in surgery. I really want to work with healthcare issues on a larger scale- so perhaps at Cerner working on developing solutions for population health electronic medical records or working for the Johnson County Government to coordinate and manage emergency preparedness or how about as a middle school nurse?

My point is these are all things I think about, that I experience, that I face on a daily that I never would have if Oscar hadn’t died. I was happy at KU in the Main OR working as a circulator. It was all I ever wanted. The life I was building was going so well, I had finally gotten custody of all three of my Lane kids and everything was finally going to be okay. We were all going to be happy because we were finally going to be together. And it was going to be everything we ever wanted, our family life was because I had gotten clean and was doing the work to heal and be healthy. To be the best mom I could be. But then Oscar died and my world disintegrated. Our world disintegrated. Here we are four years later and it only sort of looks “normal” again. Because I am sort of okay and can decorate for the holidays again. I miss him. More than I have ever missed anything in my life. And it hurts. More than words could ever describe. And it always will. Period.

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September

Oi vey. September. Here again already.

September used to be my favorite month. When asked my favorite season I used to say fall. When asked my favorite time of year I used to answer with September, the month of my birth.

When Oscar died September 11, 2015, that all changed. How could it not?

This year over the deathday week I am taking my Lane kids to the Pacific Northwest, where their lives all began, to bury the ashes of their father, Nick.

Last year, on September 16th two Overland Park police officers knocked on my front door with the news that Nick had died. It was revealed the next day when I spoke with the detective assigned to his case, that he had died of suicide.

We believe he died on Oscar’s deathday, September 11.

It took the better part of six months for Nick’s family and I to decide what/ how to best honor his memory. At the end of April, we all finally came to an understanding that his memorial service needed to happen during the deathday week- it was my suggestion that we honor him on the deathday itself. Since then all of the arrangements have slowly been coming together.

We are attempting to frame this week not as “grief week” but instead as “healing week”. The Lane family is going to once again attempt to put the “fun” in “fun”eral…

I have felt myself pulling way way in over the past several weeks. It started at the first brush of cooling fall air on my skin during August. This round of grieving has once again made it clear who is with me and who is against me. That is an extremely simplified expression of what is a somewhat complicated human response, but it seems fitting to me. When someone tells you that “you are smarter than that” when it comes to having your grief hijack your emotions it seems fairly obvious that the person is not with you. Truly that last thing you need to hear when you are suddenly overcome with grief is that you should somehow “know better”.

Grief is a visceral response to an impossible change in your reality.

There is no thought involved whatsoever.

That experience has helped me, though, once again, to understand myself alongside my grief with a touch more clarity. This is truly something that I feel my way through. And I feel that I am becoming a little bit better all the time at navigating it.

I have been focusing on my self-care more than usual. The basics: exercise, eating nutritiously, sleep, prayer, meditation, bathing regularly. I have also started a new course of mental wellness products which are focused on balancing the Gut-Brain Axis. I think they are helping because instead of feeling completely emotionally spent with zero energy constantly (which is usually where I live this time of year- all the way through until after the New Year) I feel… okay.

Feeling okay is a miracle.

This year I am giving myself permission to enjoy Fall. It is worth a try.

 

16

Wow. Pierce just turned 16.

Oscar died about 2 months before his 16th birthday, so this was huge.

Nick wasn’t here. Nick’s death from suicide in September 2018 has completely thrown me out of orbit. Any of the patterns or rhythms of living that I had just started to re-establish since Oscar’s death in September 2015 were all erased when those two police officers rang my doorbell.

I have had so many difficult emotions since May 23rd, which is Pierce’s birthday. I want to be happy and celebrate and feel joy for Pierce that he made it! He did it! Look at what a strong, beautiful, and amazing young man you are!! He had straight A’s this semester and he aced his pre-calculus final. And I couldn’t share that with his brother or his dad.  I know, I know, they are here even though we cannot see them and sure, we have my folks, and they are wonderful support. They encourage and nurture and teach and set excellent examples of how to be successful in life.

But I really missed Nick yesterday during our family dinner. Because I had gotten used to the idea of not having Oscar at these events, but this was the first big event that I really missed Nick. He would have had a sparkle in his eye and that goofy grin on his face- so proud of his living son. See, in my hopes after Nick moved here when he had hit what I wanted to be his rock bottom in 2017, I saw a future where he was in recovery from addiction and we had made amends to each other and we were co-parenting Pierce and Vivian successfully. So he would have been invited to Pierce’s family birthday dinner.

That isn’t my reality, though.

My reality is that half of my family is dead from suicide. First my oldest son, Oscar, on September 11, 2015, and then his dad, my ex-husband, Nick, on September 11, 2018.

Since we set the date for Nick’s memorial, the burial of his ashes, on September 11, 2019, I have been slowly processing what it is going to take for me to get through that week clean. I have been in recovery from addiction since February 20, 2012. I haven’t been back to the Pacific Northwest since I got clean in 2012. I will be faced not only with impossible grief when I am there, but legal marijuana and lots of old friends who I used with. I am aware enough of how addiction works to know that is a recipe for relapse.

The past year I have not been actively going to 12-step meetings or doing what it takes to really work my recovery. I have been staying clean, focusing on group grief therapy for suicide loss survivors and talk therapy with an amazing psychologist. I have been working full time, in school part-time and figuring out how to be a single mom with the complex emotional needs of my two older children and a very physically active toddler who is nearly two.

As I have turned my face back toward being active in recovery all sorts of things have started to happen. I have spoken with the woman who was my sponsor more than I have in over a year. We are not formally in a sponsor-sponsee relationship anymore, but it is nice to just be speaking with each other again. I have re-connected with some wonderful women who I know will be key in my network moving forward. I have gone to two meetings in the past week. I picked up my black key tag for the 7 years that I celebrated on February 20th.

All of this because I sent a Facebook message to an inspiring man a week ago today after he posted a picture of himself on Facebook graduating from college. We met around the time that Oscar died, he was new to recovery and had just moved back to KC. I have been making an effort to be active on Facebook as part of building my networking skills to help me grow my business. I have been sending messages on Facebook to people I haven’t spoken with in ages to reconnect.

He has been an amazing addition to my life this past week. Usually, people shy away from my pain and my grief and end up relying on platitudes that just make me feel worse. As a response, I shrink away from interaction with them. Maybe because he has had trauma in his life and he carries his own heavy grief he seems to always know what to say.

When I was having a hard time shopping for Pierce’s card (since Oscar died I have not put so much effort into these types of seemingly mundane tasks that make up the little- read that big- celebrations that we take for granted in life) I texted him and he said of course you are feeling pain, you are growing and you know as well as I do Oscar is right there picking that card out with you. No one says things like that to me! It was amazing. There are so many other little ways he has been an amazing support for me over the past week and I am grateful.

This is the other side of 16. Life keeps on going whether we want it to or not. As much as I would love for time to just pause, just for a few minutes, it is not going to. I have almost become a graceful expert at choking back the tears. There were a few times last night that Pierce and I met each other’s gaze knowingly and our hearts acknowledged each other and how incredibly difficult it felt to move forward. Those are the moments I live for now.

As I discover my new pattern of recovery and I begin actively applying the principles of the program to my life it won’t be easy- the program is simple, not easy. I have fear about how the intimate awareness of my character will intertwine with my grief. The steps are in the order they are in for a reason and if I let myself go at the pace my heart dictates and I don’t use, no matter what, everything will be okay. More than okay.

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Health care policy and reform- this is what I am doing this AM

As I have said before, this blog is not just about the pain and grief of being a bereaved mother and suicide loss survivor, but it is also about sharing my thoughts on the research that I do as I go through finishing my BSN. I have been a practicing registered nurse since 2006 with an Associate’s Degree in Nursing, but after Oscar died I felt that the only way my voice would truly carry and give strength to my opinions regarding health care reform is if I had a Bachelor’s in Nursing. So, in Oscar’s memory, I started back to school the fall a year after he died and I am on track to finish after fall semester this year. It has been a long, hard road, especially now that I am newly grieving for the loss of Oscar’s dad, my ex-husband, Nick, also to suicide. Here is what all of my research and thought processes keep boiling down to: we need universal health care and a universal electronic medical record. Period, end of story. I wrote the following paper for my Public Health Nursing class this morning and I wanted to share.

 

The recent article I found is, “Rebounding with Medicare: Reform and Counterreform in American Health Policy,” by Paul Starr of Princeton University.  From my research on the topic of universal health care in the United States, it became clear that Mr. Starr has a strong voice on the matter with a history of several articles and books pertaining to the subject of health care reform in America.  Mr. Starr proposes that we have an opportunity to expand Medicare through a program he refers to as “Midlife Medicare” in response to the Trump administration’s recent setbacks on our progress to provide every one of our citizens with basic health care.

My personal experience as a suicide loss survivor and my professional experience as a registered nurse inform my passion for health care reform.  One thing has become clear to me as I grapple with the disabling pain of suicide loss- our health care system is the root cause of our ills.  And how extremely infuriating!  Here we are in one of the world’s richest countries and we cannot afford to provide universal health insurance for our citizens?  Mr. Starr analyzes the history of health care reform in the United States and notes that all important reform has been made on the rebound from the failure of more progressive proposals.  He acknowledges that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has had very limited success in fulfilling its goal of ensuring all American citizens have health insurance.  The ACA has been a downright failure in some respects.  It has forced the price of premiums up while not guaranteeing basic coverages to patients.  In other words, just because someone is insured doesn’t mean they can afford to get care, which does nothing to solve the problem of health care for all.

The devastation of not having health insurance or not having adequate health insurance is heart breaking.  There are so many stories to illustrate the social injustice that not having universal health care causes.  It seems that each of us has been directly affected or is only one person away from being directly affected.  The implications on nursing of universal health care are tremendous.  I believe that the positive effects of universal health care are all encompassing.  If we had universal health care, as a nurse and mother, I would have been able to get the care my oldest son needed without traumatizing him with mental health hospitalization.  I would have been able to guide my ex-husband to the care he needed so he could have received the care he required for the treatment of Crohn’s disease without worrying how he was going to pay for it.  I believe, deep in my heart and soul, that if I had been able to make those two interventions my family would still be complete.

I have thought a lot about how to help our citizens who die unjustly, and I am not just talking about suicide, I believe that many deaths in our society happen that could be prevented with adequate access to primary health care for prevention.  My thought processes always boil down to two issues: universal health care and a universal electronic medical record.  At the core of these ideas is patient safety.  Patient safety is the heart and soul of nursing.  I appreciate Mr. Starr’s work and am grateful I found him.  His suggestion of “Midlife Medicare” as a rebound reform to our health care system is right on target.  A positive step in exactly the right direction.

 

 

Starr, P. (2018). Rebounding with Medicare: Reform and Counterreform in American Health Policy. Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law,43(4), 707-730. doi:10.1215/03616878-6527996

 

 

 

 

daily grief

Even though I don’t talk about it as much as I used to, my grief still looms large. I really like the grief model with the idea that you learn to grow around your grief. I resonate with that fully. I feel that at first my grief was my entire existence. Slowly, ever so slowly, I started learning how to allow myself to feel other feelings alongside the grief. Over the past 3 years since Oscar died I have become so much bigger than I ever was before- energetically. I feel like my energetic footprint takes up at least twice as much space as it did before I began to grow around my grief.

Doesn’t change the fact that sometimes, some days, there will be some sort of catalyst event and I am moved straight to tears. My grief swallows my energy and I am in that darkness without. The sucking without-my-beautiful-boy darkness. I love Angela Miller (A bed for my heart) and how she speaks strongly about how, as a bereaved mama, you learn to mother not only your living children, but the ones who have died, as well. I deeply resonate with that truth. Every. day.

Yesterday, at lunch, in the middle of the employee lounge, I am eating my leftover hungry root (just started that meal delivery service and so far it has been an excellent experience- I’ve tried many and this one is my favorite) focused on staying balanced and focused with my Kangaroo totem energy and the green calcite in my pocket along with my doTerra Citrus Bliss mixed with Frankincense aromatherapy and I open Facebook. There is a memory from 6 years ago of my sweet sweet daughter, Vivian, and her pink kitchen. Her pink kitchen was her very favorite toy for about 3 years or so and when we moved from Washington to Kansas it was a very very big deal when it was finally shipped to us. It was about 6 months after she moved down here that she was reunited with it. Of course I took a picture of her with it as soon as it was unpacked! Well, there was a comment from her dad. Grief started rolling in. There was a like on the comment and I clicked to see who liked it. Oscar. The tears just started. Just like that. Thank God my dear friend, Emily, was sitting at the same table. I showed her what was up and she scooted close to me, gave me a big hug and I had a few seconds of sobbing. My grief overwhelmings don’t usually suck as much time out of my day as they used to, but only because I have learned how to breathe through them. I breathe through them, feel them and consciously shield them with my entire self. It has taken a tremendous amount of diligent spirit work to get to where I am in my relationship with my grief.

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