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Trying to put myself back together


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Hi everyone. I’m not sure where to start or if I’m doing this right. I’ve never done any type of grief counseling/support groups and I probably should have. I’m 24 years old right now and just relocated to Chicago, IL.


When I was 15 I lost my mother in March and my father in June of the same year. It was rough. But I think it was for the best. My entire life my mother had been a struggling alcoholic but at the same time she was the strongest woman I’ve ever met. She was a single mom (there was only me) and she managed to waitress and bartend, all the while putting herself through school to become a registered nurse. She did it. She graduated with her BSN and got a job as a registered nurse in the emergency room of our local hospital. The only downfall was her getting fired a few years later for showing up to work drunk. From there on out we lived off of welfare and random help from my grandmother to get us by in subsidized housing. Our rent was 35.00 a month. I spent the rest of my childhood watching her, babysitting really. Making sure she ate, showered and got to bed okay without blacking out on her way there. Her battle with alcohol induced pancreatitis didn’t help matters. I was sitting at the hospital with her more times than I sat in my classes at school. I heard the doctors tell her that “if you don’t stop drinking now, you’ll die” more times than I can count. And they were right.


She died on a snowy Michigan morning before I made it to the hospital to say goodbye. I remember her boyfriend of the time calling the friends house that I was staying at to tell me to be out in the driveway in 10 minutes. He picked me up, drove to the hospital as fast as he could and she died minutes before we got there. My entire family was there to say goodbye but me. They watched as I panicked, asking for my mother, only to tell me that she had already died.


At this time I went to live with my Grandmother. I loved her like crazy. Throughout my childhood she would pick me up from my mom’s when I called her crying because I didn’t want to be there anymore. She would let me stay the night, we’d bake cookies and go plant flowers and pull weeds out in her garden. She’d even take me to church with her and I remember the first time she taught me how to pray and told me what feeling God’s presence should feel like. She was my person.


I did have a father through all of this, technically. His name was on my birth certificate at least. Great guy but a kid at heart. Never had a full time job, never owned a home, never graduated high school. He would stop by and see me, calling me on or a couple days after my birthday every year and tell me he loved me. He’d always ask to speak to my mom but she wanted nothing to do with him. He had no money to send to help her and he was always calling collect from somewhere else.


I do remember him making it to my mom’s funeral though. I remember because I saw my grandmother make a b-line to him to get him to sign the court papers giving her custody of me. And he did. Right away. That is when I knew he was my dad. Not because he signed away rights to me because he wanted nothing to do with me, but because he knew that this was what was best for me. He knew where I belonged. I belonged with my grandmother.


I remember a few months after that, coming home from school to my grandma sitting at the kitchen table. She told me to sit down and pulled the chair out for me. I remember her pouring me a glass of chocolate milk and asking me how school went. It wasn’t really out of the norm for her to ask me about my day because she was the first person to genuinely and routinely ask me about my day. But something still didn’t feel right. I guess that’s because the next thing she did was tell me that my father had fallen off a boat in Lake Michigan and drown. They found his body and it was confirmed. I was now technically an orphan. His funeral went by, or it didn’t, I’m not really sure. I wasn’t invited.


This left my grandma and I. She was my rock. I loved her more than anyone. I didn’t have any family that I could have in my life on my dad’s side and my mother’s side never seemed to want much to do with me either. My grandma talked to her other kids here and there, but didn’t see them and most of that seem to be because of their own issues. But in my opinion it was just my grandma and me against the world.


I got through high school alright and I even started college at a local community college. Everything was going well for once. I was working full-time at Kmart and even had enough money to get my own car. A 2009 Nissan Sentra. Black. Life was great.


It didn’t last for long though. My grandma, a seemingly healthy woman was diagnosed. I say diagnosed so broadly because it was really a spectrum of things. Lupus, emphysema, kidney disease. It all started to unravel. She was on meds for Lupus, given an oxygen tank for emphysema and started peritoneal dialysis for kidney disease. It gave her a better chance than hemodialysis which is what you’ve probably heard of. Hemodialysis is the more common type of dialysis and it’s where patients go to a clinic for a few hours three times a week. Anyway, because of her arthritis, her hands were basically unusuable. So I went with her to her appointments just like I always had and got certified in performing her dialysis for her. She had a port put in her abdomen and we did the dialysis 2-3 times a day.


Everything was going smoothly. At least as smoothly as it could have gone in her situation. Except she ended up going to the hospital for breathing issues, caught an infection when a nurse who wasn’t informed on proper peritoneal dialysis let her port get infected and she went septic. I watched her shrivel in severe pain for three days before her heart stopped.

Here I am, a year later. I’m trying to pick up the pieces but I don’t even know where to start. I have no one left and no where to go. I just need a friend or two while I try and put my life back together and fix my broken heart.

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dayzed and confused

Dear Life Happens,


I have so much empathy for you, in reading your life's story of pain, struggle and triumph, I feel your grief, your sadness.  I am so incredibly sorry for the losses you have endured - you have been shown examples of how to live, how not to live and now... it's just you.  


I'm so glad you posted on here.  I lost my alcoholic mom four weeks ago today.  She too was a very strong woman.  I guess we get that from our moms, despite their struggle with the disease of alcoholism.  I went to my first al-anon meeting this past Saturday.  Even though most of my trauma with my mother happened when I was a child, living at home with her and the disease, I felt robbed of a healthy relationship with her because of the booze.  You shouldn't have had to take care of your mom the way that you did - but doing so made you very strong and demonstrates how caring, loving and kind you are. When I went to this meeting, and heard everyone else's stories, I could see a little bit of myself in each of them.  There, I know, I have kindred spirits - just like we do here, on this grieving support site. I think we need that - we need to know other people feel the way we feel - we are okay to feel this way and work through all of these feelings.  


Your grandmother sounds like a very special woman who really stepped up and played an important part in your healthy development and care.  It must be so difficult to be without her, physically.  I hope you can feel her spirit when you talk to her and I hope that you can feel her with you, at least in that way. 


Do what you need to do to feel okay, keep posting on here and finding ways to be supported.  I find myself very alone in my grief, although I have 5 surviving siblings and my father is still alive.  I am so grateful for this forum, because here, I am not alone. 


I will pray for you to have peace and light in your life - and for the strength to get through each day. 



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Oh my goodness, you are so young but have had to face so many struggles, it sounds like your grandmother was a wonderful, supportive woman and you were so fortunate to have her. It also sounds like she gave you a good base, teaching you of God and his love for you, showing you good life for those years you were with her, you are so lucky to have had that, so many people never have that chance. I am a grandmother who loves her grandchildren more than life itself. So, as a grandmother I tell you go out and live this life the best way possible, let God lead you in the right way, smile often, laugh even more, live each day as if it were the last and make your grandma proud of the woman you are.

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