Sunday, October 25, 2009

Grief bursts

Valerie, the hospice grief counselor who visits in our home every other week, often talks about grief bursts -- moments that overwhelm us.

The past week was filled with grief bursts around here.


I've learned that seemingly "easy" Steve-related tasks are best performed with a loved one nearby. A couple of weeks ago I was alone when I picked up copies of death certificates from the county office.

I was not prepared for how difficult it would be to see the cause of death, time, date, location, etc., in print. After I picked up the 20 copies, I hurried out of the office, sat in the minivan and sobbed, taking care to not get the official documents damp -- I don't want to make a return visit unless absolutely necessary.

Since then I've asked for help. Tuesday, for example, I filed for Social Security survivor benefits at the McKinney field office. Melane was able to meet me there, providing great comfort as I answered straightforward yet still-emotional facts about Steve's life and death.

Monday morning I'll have Liz and Zena by my side as I answer questions before a judge during a brief probate hearing at the Denton County Courthouse.


Just after I got home from the Social Security outing Tuesday, my laptop computer completely failed -- at the same time I was expected to log in to the Dallas Morning News system to begin an editing-from-home shift.

I tried all my old tricks, and nothing worked.

My usual backup plan is to use Steve's laptop. His was a work-issued computer, though, and is no longer here.

My next backup is our aging desktop computer. It no longer connects to our wireless network, though -- something that Steve was expert at fixing.

When I called Nicole to tell her that I would be unable to work, I burst into tears. Steve would have been able to help me find a solution, and without him I felt overwhelmed.

(In truth, I have Uncle Jim via telephone and many friends nearby available to help. But it's not the same as having my own resident IT expert. And I irrationally want absolutely nothing to change -- no electronics purchases, no changes to Windows 7 -- in Steve's absence.)


A few months ago I received an e-mail from Angie, a woman about my age who is caring for her dad. He is fighting a brain tumor, and his name is Steve. We've since corresponded frequently.

Angie's dad isn't doing well this week -- he's requiring more frequent doses of morphine and other comfort drugs -- and her family is never far from my thoughts.

I think that their situation has triggered more frequent recollections about Steve's final hours. I remember so many details from that Sunday and early Monday morning. But I couldn't remember if I had told Steve that I love him while he was still conscious -- and if so, had he heard me? Had he responded?

I spoke on the phone with Gretchen and later Melane. They reminded me that I had held his face in my hands as I told him, "I love you." And he definitely heard me.


Katie has been struggling the past couple of weeks. She's had more outbursts, more extreme 4-year-old behavior.

Her bursts are completely understandable. She's had no control over the past two years of her life -- half of her life. And now it's painfully obvious that her Daddy isn't coming back.

I'm offering her choices whenever possible and employing all of my dealing-with-a-preschooler tricks with varied success. And I'm continuing to give both Cooper and Katie multiple opportunities to express their feelings. We talk a lot about not keeping things bottled inside -- I think she's actually listening.


Our hospice grief session was Tuesday afternoon. After Lisa and Valerie leave, there is always a Cooper meltdown of some sort. It's as if he needs a "reset" -- a big breakdown followed by a couple of days of less anxiety.

He was sobbing about how life is unfair. And that if God had really cared about Daddy, God would have cured him of cancer.


Cooper talked more about Steve this weekend than he usually does without prompting.

Just before bedtime, he told me he was so sad about D-A-D-D-Y. "Bad things happen in this world. You don't always see it coming," our little philosopher said.

Then during his nighttime prayer he said, "God, please tell Daddy hi from me and save a good spot in heaven for me, Mommy and Katie."


Katie and Cooper, before church this morning

Despite these bursts, we are continuing to function and most of the time live joyfully.

Every day is a victory. We get out of bed every day. We eat (though admittedly I need to do a more consistent job of this myself), Cooper and Katie get to school on time, I get my work done. We socialize. We share our joys and sorrows at the end of the day. We make plans for the future. We are doing our best to honor Steve.

Katie, Saturday morning after she scored her first-ever soccer goal (photo by Layne Smith)


Cathy Frye said...

You remain, more than ever, in my thoughts and prayers.

saharris said...

Tyra, You are in my prayers day by day. The physical sensation of being overwhelmed by the grief bursts will decrease as the weeks and months go by. But now the pain is acute.

When the judge at our probate hearing said the word "widow," I sobbed outloud. I despise the word.

I send my love and prayers.

DogBlogger said...

Still keeping you in prayer here, too.

Anonymous said...

Tyra, I think you are doing an outstanding job of just coping. You seem to let the feelings come, when they will (as if there is a choice) and the rest of the time, you just carry on joyfully in the moments. I don't think Steve or anyone could expect more. I think you are making things as healthy as possible for Cooper and Katie.
Love always,
Cherl H.