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I have forgotten how to breathe


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My incredible father passed away last Sunday morning (6/8/2014).  He was my everything; my rock, cheerleader, confidant, everything.  I couldn't imagine a better father.  Dad has had an extensive amount of issues for so long I think we started to think he was immortal.  I have been taking care of both of my parents since my mother became ill when I was only 11 years old.  My mom (who is still with us) has a benign brain tumor that doesn't grow but does cause damage.  She suffers from pronounced memory issues due to the damage sustained.  Dad couldn't handle the stresses of three small girls and a very very sick wife.  He threw himself into his work and wanted to finish the remodel on our house before mom was released from the hospital.  My little 11 year old self stepped in and made sure my sisters and dad ate, got to school, and basically ran the house as best I could.


After 10 years of focusing on getting mom as well as possible, she decided to try to go to work.  That year dad had a heart attack.  We learned that he had two previous heart attacks around the time of mom's illness and although it showed up on the stress test he had taken during that 10 years, his doctor didn't tell him about it.  Our focus turned to getting dad better.  But the heart attack compounded the damage that the previous two had caused.  Over the next several years, dad had a total of at least 8 heart attacks, 10 strokes,  beat two aggressive cancers (a very rare aggressive prostate cancer and stage 3 tonsilar cancer), and one dumbass fall out of a 20 foot tree.  Yeah, tonsils.  Who knew?  Dad underwent radiation treatment for the tonsilar cancer 2 years ago.  The treatment was extremely aggressive and he really never came back from that.


As the months went by,  He improved as much as he could but every couple of months he would have another stroke or heart attack (or congestive heart failure episode) that would take away some of his progress and he would have to start struggling to get back to where he was before.  His heart was in very bad shape, we knew it was a matter of time but that seemed to be so far in the distance.


Last Tuesday, after another weekend trip to the ER because he wasn't feeling well, his doctor told him that he was in kidney failure.  He was given two to three months to live.  Dad lasted less than 5 days.  I am thankful that his suffering has ended and that his death was fast and painless (kidney failure is a very gentle way to go).  I am now 36 years old and the only life I know is to take care of my parents while working and going to school. 


I see my mom and she is so amazing.  I know she is numb right now and the breakdown is coming, but at this point she is awe-inspiring.  I wait to hear the tell-tail sound of daddy's walker scraping through the house.  I was sitting idly at the computer tonight and had the thought that mom is going to get her hair done in the morning so I should get up early to make daddy breakfast and make sure he eats......oh right...


Dad was always my confidant.  I would tell him my struggles and worries about work, school, his and mom's health or simply how I was doing caring for him and mom.  I will never hear him call me Reeterskeeter again (a nickname he gave me at birth).  He only called me by my given name when I was in trouble.  We were so close. Mom constantly told me that I was the only person who he ever listened to.  She could ask him to do something (like let's go out to dinner) and he would say no.  She would have me ask and he would agree.  Even at the end, he was given a couple of medications to ease his days.  My sister tried to give him Lorazapam to settle his restlessness.  He refused.  When I found out, I grabbed the bottle and told him it was time for his medication so open up.  And he did without hesitation.  I guess mom was right.  We shared the same sense of humor and twice in the last two days I have been told by family that I am exactly like him - two mis-shapen peas in a pod.  It was him and me against the world (aka usually mom).  I am thankful that I was able to make it possible for him to pass peacefully in his own bed surrounded by his wife and daughters, rather than in a hospital.  


I just don't know how to move on without him.  Part of it is the feeling that I was jipped those precious weeks, but him passing so quickly was the best thing that could happen.  I know that I was closer to dad than either of my sisters simply because I continued to live at home to help him, but I look at my sisters who are grieving deeply and they seem to be keeping it together better than me.  I feel like I am failing because my family needs me to be stronger more than ever and I'm a blubbering mess and mom seems to be shouldering the burden that she shouldn't.  I should be her rock, but right now she is having to be mine.  Her moment to crumble is coming.  I am flailing about trying to fine my bootstraps to pull myself up.


We will soon have to put my childhood home up for sale as it is far too large for just mom and I.  Losing dad and losing this beloved house with all of our memories is another hit that I cannot take. This house was his pride and joy.  My mom and sisters have been doing a small amount of discussing how to go through all of the stuff and selling the house.   All I want to do is cover my ears and scream Stop!  It is their way of coping, I get that, but my way is to stop doing everything and deal with the emotions before causing more stress. 


I wrote his obituary this afternoon after meeting with the funeral home and our priest.  That is the one thing I have been fearing for years, writing his obituary.  I knew it would fall onto my shoulders to do so. We debated which picture to use in the obituary and I edited it as needed.  His wonderful Cheshire grin and mischievous eyes staring at me through my tears.  My daddy could do anything.  He could build anything or make everything right in the world with a bear hug and a pep talk.  I don't know how to breathe without him.

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Oh my goodness, dear Reeterskeeter :(


You are so strong and you are very brave.  Just the amount you shared here lets us know that.


And you get to not be strong and you get to not be brave sometimes.


When my sister died, I and her daughters made all the arrangements.  I booked a suite in a hotel and 4 people stayed with me, my mother having another and 4 people stayed with her.  I had a bedroom to my own.  I needed it because I needed a space to stay curled up in a ball with no one looking at me or needing something from me and to take those moments so that I knew that I was important too.


Please find a place to do that.


If you have a friend you trust, tell them to make you do that... tell them to sometimes take you somewhere that you don't have to worry about anyone else and you can just breakdown.


My aunt did this to a friend of mine - phoned him and told him that I was going to try to be the strong one for everyone and that he needed to make me take time for me.  He did, and it was necessary, and after he left, I started doing it on my own.


Because it is necessary that you give yourself the ability to feel, just like you want to.  I agree that you may not want to interfere with someone else's coping, but find a way to fit yours in there too.


Because right now, it is all about just getting through from moment to moment.


I am so sorry about your dad :(  Right now, just hug yourself as much as you need, take your time-outs as much as you need, write, cry, wander, stare... and even if you need to, find some place that won't disturb anyone and do that screaming.


I phoned a grief help line two days after my sister died.  I had no clue what was going on, how to survive what I was feeling or what I was in for.  They helped in that one moment by making me feel like the insanity that I felt was ok.  They said it was just new and to not try to understand anything right now, just do what I can to hold on.


It's true.  It's just new for you.  Just do what you can to hold on.  You'll start to process later but now is not the time for that.  I'm glad you found the forum because when you feel like there is no other place to express your insanity, you can come here.


It is right that you have to learn how to live again, to breathe without him, but as you start to honour your own pain, and eventually your own process, you'll start to understand how the process of grief will allow you to breathe with his support again, even though he's no longer here.


But that is for later.  Right now, please be gentle with yourself and not too demanding.  Your mom will experience her grief the way she does, just like you will experience yours the way you do, and not honouring your own feelings will not be helpful to either of you.   Sometimes, the greatest strength and bravery is in allow ourselves to be weak and seek comfort and communion from those around us.


Just hold on.  Make a promise to your dad that you will breathe.  Let that promise help you learn how to.



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Hi Reeterskeeter


I am so sorry for your loss.  You and your dad were so close and he will always be close... in your heart.  Our departed parents never leave our heart.  In reading about your dad and family you are wise beyond your years and so loving and caring.  That is why you had such a good relationship with your dad.  Now that is a blessed gift for sure!


I found that whenever I let the tears flow that my breathing became easier.  Tears really are healing.  Being I was looking after both parents before my mom passed on, at first I tried to be strong and not cry around my dad but when I did, he would cry right along with me and the heaviness of my heart lifted and my dad's as well. 

Even though it's been 9 months since my mom has left us, I still lose my breath sometimes when I think about her but like you, I find the things to be grateful for ... the great relationship ... the fact that there was not prolonged suffering ... just the fact she was my mom.


Take care, and I love the nickname your dad gave you, Reeterskeeter



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This is the memorial slideshow that my sisters and I made for the service yesterday.  Scanning the pictures was ok, picking the music was ok, but when we put them together....boom.  I tried to have my mom and sisters watch the final product so they could provide approval or input a couple of days before yesterday's funeral.  I hoped that it would take some of the shock out and not hit them as hard as watching it for the first time at the memorial.  Mom only made it three bars in before she left the room in tears, one of my two sisters hot on her heels.  My youngest sister managed to watch the whole thing and gave me some suggestions to improve it.


I am so glad this weekend is over.  The funeral was on Saturday, one day before fathers day.  Yesterday is a blur but it went ok.  Today has been a rollercoaster.  One of my dear cousins approached me today and said that he would be interested in buying our home when we are ready to sell.  This is, far and away, the best possible outcome.  It would remain in the family with a family member who would be sure to take care of the house as it deserves.  They are a young couple, this would be the biggest house in the family so all reunions would still be here and mom and my sisters would still have access to our  beloved childhood home.


Tomorrow we meet with the life insurance agent, mom's attorney, and the social security office.  We just got our hands on the death certificate on Friday afternoon.  I am grateful that I made the selfish decision to take this next week off from work as well.  I couldn't face leaving mom alone at home and going to a job where people scream at me all day.  I would just fold.

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