Posts Tagged ‘ Losing a Parent ’

A Message to Everyone Missing a Parent During the Holidays

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” He talks about the highs and unsettling lows of parenthood while always being entertaining and engaging in the process. Author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt,” Joe is working on releasing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be emailed at jdeprospero@gmail.com or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.

 

This needs to be written about. Not because it’s a topic I enjoy bringing up, but because this is a time of year when, despite the inherent joy of the holiday season, people are hurting more than we think. The reason I know this is because I am hurting more than you think. And I know I’m not alone. For reference, here’s my back story.

If you’re going through your first holiday season after the loss of a parent (or anyone you were especially close with), I don’t need to tell you that it’s practically unbearable. And for me, it was after seeing the Christmas lights strung up on banisters around town that it hit me—whether I liked it or not, life was going on without my mother. And I had absolutely no choice but to deal with it. In the grand scheme of things, the conveyor belt of life continued to operate, and I felt like I had two choices: Stay on and force a smile, or jump off and pout.  You’ll probably find yourself doing a little bit of both. Especially during the month of December.

I’ve also learned that, despite the support we get from our close friends and families, how we cope with these losses is something we must decide completely on our own. In other words, it’s our cross to bear. So I’ve assembled a list, a defense strategy against the inevitable sadness that can and will overtake you over the holidays. I’m certainly no doctor, but I hope it helps. It has for me.

  • Take care of you

This is absolutely crucial. Don’t over-work yourself. As parents, we have a tendency to forget about our own well-being completely, but in grief you’ll realize that this tactic will backfire.  So, take days off. Surround yourself with only people who bring you up, not down. Get a massage. Go to the movies. Don’t be afraid to pamper yourself. After what you’ve gone through, you wholeheartedly deserve it. And if anyone dares question your new-found affinity for taking care of yourself, feel free to be blunt with them.

  • Remind people you need them

It’s not easy. I’m well aware of that. We all want to be perceived as being strong, a rock. But that strategy works against you in grief. For me, picking up the phone and calling my 87-year-old grandmother or a friend to let them know I still need their support certainly didn’t feel natural. But the people in your life who truly care for you will respond in kind. As I’ve discovered,  as soon as the funeral ends, most people will go on with their lives assuming you’re fine unless you speak up. And if talking to friends and family doesn’t help, don’t be afraid to seek counseling. There’s no shame in this game.

  • Remember the parent in your own way

I’ve gone through phases of holding onto my mother’s possessions for dear life (keeping her cell phone in my sock drawer, storing her social security card in my wallet) to shutting her image completely out of my mind. I’ve gotten to the point where I feel comfortable having pictures of her up around the house, and on occasion bring her up to my older son so that she seems “present” in his life. And during Christmastime, while every other window is illuminated with a single white candle, I leave the candle in my bedroom off, in memory of her. That might seem odd to some, but it gives me a small bit of peace when I need it most. It doesn’t have to make sense.

  • Focus on your greatest blessings

If you have children, hug them tighter. If you have cats, hug them tighter. If you really love chocolate, don’t hug it tighter. That would be weird. But you see where I’m going with this. I’ve found that accentuating the strongest positives in life helps enormously. It reminds us that there’s still plenty of good left in this world to enjoy, despite what we’ve lost.

  • Don’t feel guilty “moving on”

I think there’s a tendency to stay “stuck in the moment” of losing someone, especially a parent. Your life grinds to a halt, and it almost doesn’t feel “right” to move on without them. I mean, how can we simply keep living like everything’s fine when it clearly isn’t? I’m incredibly guilty of clinging to this perspective. But what I (and anyone dealing with grief) need to know is that moving on does not mean forgetting. It does not mean we don’t care and it does not mean we’re not in pain. It simply means that we’re choosing to embrace the light rather than the dark. There will be days when the dark wins, but if we put ourselves in situations that enable happiness (for both us and our children), I think we’ll find ourselves smiling more often than not.

 

Sorry if you were expecting my “lighter side” today, but frankly, the weight we feel on our shoulders (specifically as parents) can feel unrelenting at times. People need to know they’re not alone in their most personal stresses. I hope this provided even the slightest bit of relief for them. So this is Joe DeProspero, guest blogger for Parents.com reminding you that we’re all in this together. Happy holidays, everyone.

On this topic especially, I’d love to hear from you. Simply writing about your personal experience could provide more relief than you’d think. Feel free to add a comment below.

 

* Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com

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Losing My Mom: One Year Ago

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

A year ago today my mom died. I woke up this morning not sure how to feel. Glad she is out of her pain? Glad she is no longer a burden to me? Relieved that her tragic life ended so peacefully? And yet, I’m sad. It’s hard to know how to feel when your heart is so full of conflict. From my tween years on, she was an addict. For three decades I simultaneously loved, hated and worried about her. Months went by with no communication. Years went by where I didn’t see her. But towards the end, we were all with her. I was able to whisper my final goodbyes.

In those last days she and I made a pact. We would communicate through lilacs. When Phil and I moved to LA, I realized lilacs don’t grow as abundantly here. But a few weeks ago, we went to the Descanso Gardens.  I knew she would be waiting.

Phil played with Fia while I walked privately with Emmett.

I carried him up to the purple blossoms.

“Hi Mom. This is Emmett,” I whispered.

She reached out to us. I felt her smile. I felt her. God she would love him. She would be so happy that I had a son. She always talked about how my brother, her firstborn, was such an easy, good baby. How instant that love was. Mom, I know what you mean! I have so much to tell you. 

But as I start to think about what could be, I know in my heart what could never have been. Tethered to tubes in the hospital for a year, free of illicit drugs and alcohol, I got glimpses of the mom I had in the early years. I’ve written about it before–how she was the best of them. That is, before the demons took over.

So on this day, I feel a conflict between my head and my heart. Between what I know and how I feel. I say to the good mom, I wish you were here. To hold him. To smell him. To hug me. I say to the tormented mom, May you rest in peace.  

 

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Losing My Mom–Near the End

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

Author’s Note: I wrote this post a couple months before my mom died. I wanted to share it now.

I called my mom to check in. She was out of breath. Told me she had been lying on the deck enjoying the sun. I can picture her– relaxed, closed lips, slightly smiling as the sun beats down on her weathered face and medically worn body.  I think about how I’ll miss her. It’s much easier to hate an addict. It’s a lot harder to love one. Especially because these last 9 months have been a gift.

When she first went septic, I thought, “F–k me. So typical of her.”

If only she had gone to the ER when her doctor told her, she wouldn’t have had her entire colon removed.

This led to every complication imaginable.

But my mother has never really done things right. Except maybe this time she has.

If she had gone in right away they would have fixed the problem before it became a disaster. She probably would have gone home a few weeks later. Which means by now, she would have gone through at least another 12K of her dwindling life savings to buy crack (a habit I just recently found out about, and one she decided to pick up at 62 years old). She could very well be in the gutter, dead. I’d dismiss her death as a relief. And think about what a waste it all was. Now I’ve had her back —at least in some capacity—as the mom I knew and loved once long ago. And it’s much harder.

I know the end is coming. They found out they simply can’t do anything more for her.  They don’t have enough length in her small intestine to operate; to fix the damn fistula. And with it spewing out bile like Old Faithful, it’s impossible for her body to absorb any nutrients.

The PA told me on the phone that she and two highly skilled doctors stood around staring at it, feeling so helpless. They equated it to the Gulf Oil spill, when brilliant minds around the world simply couldn’t come up with a way to cap it.

When my mom heard the bad news, she said, “I’m so sad I won’t see Fi grow up.” Maybe as a mom myself, that is the hardest thing to grasp. Death is final. And my own mortality seems so tenuous at times. It gives me perspective: life is a privilege. A gift. Not a given.

During these past months with her in the hospital, I have often thought about all that could have been, but also the small window that was. When she’s gone, I’ll remember that in the beginning she was as good a mom as they came. The best. Unconditionally loving, full of personality, adventurous, independent. All things she instilled deeply in me.

I’ll try and skip over the middle years. The nearly 3 decades of a life sadly lived.

And then I’ll focus on the recent–the times that she cared about Fi and me. No matter how much pain she was in, every phone call her first question was, “What’s Fia doing right now?” I’d have to yell over Fi’s verbosity and paint the picture for her. Tell her the new tricks she learned. My mom would laugh deep and strong.

When I came down with the flu this winter, she worried. In every phone call she’d ask how I was feeling. She said she’d always worried about me. Perhaps she didn’t worry in the middle of a drunken stupor, but somewhere deep down, I know she always had me close by. A mom always holds her daughter close to her heart. And I guess that’s what I have to take with me.

I am glad she has her sun. She always loved it. And I hope she basks in it as long as she can….

Mom at The Zoo no border

She passed away June 7, 2011. Fly away Mom. You are free.

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Losing My Mom–With a Second Chance

Monday, July 11th, 2011

As she lay dying, I spoke to her on the phone. I told her that it was okay to go. That she would live on through me and Fi.

I told my mom’s sister how much Fia loves sautéed spinach.“Your mom loved that growing up. We’d call her Popeye,” she said. I cringed. Dear lord, please give Fia the good genes from her. Like love of spinach and not crack.

It’s not that my mom didn’t have some amazing traits. In her early years she was smart and beautiful. Kind and colorful. But that was then. In her darkest days her childhood friends would shake their heads and tell me, “Everyone in high school wanted to be Suzy Newlon. Such a shame.” We’d all look down and mumble awkwardly in agreement.

My Mom

My Mom

Five decades of alcohol and drug abuse—including picking up a crack habit when she was 62-years-old—a few suicide attempts and a clear-cut diagnosis of bipolar—didn’t really give her a fighting chance.

One recent Christmas she went around her Florida condo complex with a 20-foot ladder. She climbed up the trees and spray-painted the coconuts red.  It was an instant hit. On another Christmas she tried to kill herself by jumping off a parking garage.

I truly believe some people are born to conquer addiction while others are just born to stay addicts.

Last year at 64, her life had become desperately depressing and tragic. I rarely spoke to her. Neither did my siblings. But then a miracle occurred.

She had an intestinal rupture and went septic. Almost died. Ended up on life support. And while her health slowly deteriorated, her life got surprisingly better.

For the next 11 months she was mostly confined to a hospital bed. She had psychiatrists who tweaked and tweaked her mental meds. She had hot meals and an entire staff at her beck and call. She was the queen bee and basked in her royal treatment.

“I love it here. I can order a milkshake at 3 in the afternoon,” she’d tell me in her southern drawl.

The next day she would complain that the chicken was dry.

“Mom, this is a hospital, not the Four Seasons,” I’d remind her on the phone.

“I know that, but how hard is it to cook chicken right?”

I’d roll my eyes; secretly glad she was even complaining. In the past, depressive days meant curling up “in the ball” on her couch and refusing to speak to anyone.

At least now we knew where she was and that she was safe. It was also finally safe to bring Fi down to meet her. A hospital—germs and all– is far more sterile than her living conditions had become over the years.  And I knew what I was getting: glimpses of the mom I had in childhood; when she was a superstar. Cool, fun, unconditionally loving.

Over this past year almost every trip down she was alert and attentive. She couldn’t get enough of Fi. This is a woman who had missed so much of my life. My wedding, my pregnancy, the birth of my daughter. We were both getting a second chance.

She would tell me how much Fia reminded her of me when I was little. I’d relish the stories. And feel relief that (so far) it seems Fia has much more of me in her genes than her grandmother.  I can only pray the ones she does have from either of us are the good ones.

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