Saturday, April 23, 2011

Roller Coasters

The first couple of weeks after Erica passed away I felt like I was on an emotional roller coaster.  One minute I would be somewhat composed and the next a grief stricken mess.  If you've ever been to Six Flags Over Texas it was like riding the "Shock Wave" a couple of steep climbs followed by a couple of loops upside down.  It has been forty-six days since we lost Erica.  My emotional roller coaster ride is a little easier.  I would relate it to "The Judge Roy Scream," featured in my blog photo.  I still have some steep climbs but, the upside down loops have disappeared.  My emotions are leveling out and I feel like I can cope with the grief better than before.

The Judge Roy Scream
I want to point out the significance of the roller coasters I used in my analogy of my grief.  My parents would take our family almost every year to Six Flags Over Texas.  Erica LOVED roller coasters, the faster the better.  When she was little she was too short to ride The Judge Roy Scream, and she cried and cried because she wanted to ride it.  The next year she had grown and there was no stopping her.  She road that roller coaster over and over.  During one trip in the fall we got lucky and the line to the Shock Wave was very short.  Erica and I road that roller coaster at least ten times that day.  She would run through the line to beat me, so she could pick where we sat.  She liked the front of the roller coaster, I preferred the middle.  She was a little daredevil.  When I think of roller coasters, I think of Erica.  I'll never forget the great times we shared together as a family.

Life is a roller coaster. Sometimes you're at the top of the hill feeling good. Other times your heading for the bottom feeling totally out of control. Life is full of things that are hard to handle, but you can get through them.
                               ~ Reggie Dabbs

Friday, April 22, 2011

Grief is Everywhere

Sadnessphoto © 2007 Dr. Wendy Longo | more info (via: Wylio)When thinking about the subject of grief, and talking to others about my loss, I've been reminded that grief is everywhere and it comes in many forms.  Grief can come from many places, a death of a loved one, a divorce, an illness, losing a job, from being abused, and from personal struggles we encounter on a daily basis.  Grieving Erica has made me more aware of the people around me.  My family, friends, colleagues and students whom I'm around all the time, many of them have grief in their lives. 

It is very easy to become self-absorbed in our modern society.  We are taught from an early age that the only ones that can help us is ourselves.  Somewhere along the way our compassion for others has disappeared.  But every single one of us at some point will need the comfort and support from someone else.  We walk past people everyday who are hurting.  Do we treat them kindly or do we walk the other way?  Our actions matter, because grief is everywhere.

Quote:  There are things that we don't want to happen but have to accept, things we don't want to know but have to learn, and people we can't live without but have to let go. ~Author Unknown  

Thursday, April 21, 2011


The mind works in mysterious ways sometimes.  Last week one of my posts, The Blame Game, mentioned how Erica and I rarely talked on the phone with each other.  That night I had a dream that Erica and I were talking on the phone.  In the dream I asked Erica if it was really her and she said "yeah, I just wanted to see how you were doing."  When I woke up I thought how surreal.  Was my mind just trying to make me feel better for the regret I have or was God trying to put me at ease?
Art: watercolour 2009:...light of a dream...or hope for a new © 2007 Nadia Minic | more info (via: Wylio)
Through the years I've heard stories from others how their loved ones came to them in dreams after they had passed away.  They usually say it felt so real it's like they were there.  I had always felt it was a coping mechanism we use to help us deal with our grief.  But now, I don't know.  I'll need to do some research on this subject to gain a better understanding. 

Have you had a dream of a loved one after they passed?          

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Lesson in Empathy

In Sympathyphoto © 2005 Jan Tik | more info (via: Wylio)
Everyday in my professional life I deal with attitudes and emotions of my students.  I've always felt I was pretty sympathetic to their life issues.  But sympathy only goes so far.  There's a lot of suffering in our world that I don't have experience with.  The experience of losing my Sister has changed me.  The hurt and pain I feel grieving Erica has broadened my capacity for empathy.

Sometimes when you've never been through what others are experiencing it's hard to relate.  We might have sympathy for them but we don't really know how they feel.  I've had students, friends, and family members lose siblings or a child and I really had no clue how they felt.  In fact the level of sympathy I had probably wasn't adequate for their grief.  I promised my Sister I would always try to find the positive side.  So in honor of that promise I'm going to view my new capacity for empathy as positive.

Quote:  Suffering and joy teach us, if we allow them, how to make the leap of empathy, which transports us into the soul and heart of another person. In those transparent moments we know other people's joys and sorrows, and we care about their concerns as if they were our own.
                                             ~ Fritz Williams

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

My Own Mortality

carpe diemphoto © 2003 Olivier | more info (via: Wylio)There is no escaping death, at some point each of us will pass away.  Erica's untimely passing has me thinking about my own mortality.  Here's a few questions I've asked myself:
  • What will I be remembered for? 
  • Have I told my loved ones how I feel about them?
  • Is my heart and faith in the right place?
  • What will the contents of my life say about me?
  • Will I leave unanswered questions behind?
I've closed my eyes and tried to imagine what would tomorrow be like, for my loved ones, if I were no longer here.  Do they know what my favorite flower is?  The songs I would want played at my memorial service?  Do I want to be cremated or buried?  There were many questions planning Erica's service that we didn't have answers to. 

The reality that we are not promised tomorrow has changed my perspective on many aspects of my life.  Carpe diem is my new motto.  I will no longer put off until tomorrow what I can do today. 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Reality Check

Northwood Roadphoto © 2010 Kyle Kruchok | more info (via: Wylio)It is so easy to get depressed when I dwell on all the things I wish I'd done differently with my relationship with Erica.  But I have to keep things real.  We live in a society where transportation can take you anywhere and communication has become mobile.  So naturally families have grown further apart, geographically.  My husband and I live a couple of hours away from my family and I visit as much as I can.  The thing I have to keep reminding myself is our relationship was a two-way street.  I've beaten myself up for not calling her more, but she didn't call me either.  I've wished I would have signed up for facebook so we could have chatted, but I had email.  She could have sent me a text message, but she didn't.  The reality is our relationship would have continued on the same path it was on.  There were many times I went to my parents and she had other plans.  There were times she was in the Tulsa area and didn't call me to get together.  Each of us had our own personal struggles.  Erica went through a divorce.  I've struggled with fertility issues.  She worked nights and I worked days.  There were many things in our lives that kept us going different directions.  We were each living our own lives.  So when I take a reality check, I realize that neither one of us did anything to change our relationship.  You know the saying, "hindsight is 20/20?"  In this case it is so true.  All I can do is change the present, I can't change the past. 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sticks & Stones

Sticks & Stonesphoto © 2007 Mykl Roventine | more info (via: Wylio)

When I was in grade school it was a popular saying, "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."  For a long time I felt this was true because mentally you can get through a lot.  Since Erica has passed away, I've changed my mind.  While cleaning out the contents of her life we came across a journal.  In this journal Erica expresses her unhappiness in relationships.  She felt like a lot of us do, she just wanted to be loved for who she was even if that included a couple of tattoos. 

There have been no sticks or stones thrown at me but Erica's words hurt.  She said nothing about me in her journal, and I'm fine with that.  The hurt comes from the fact that she was in so much emotional pain and I didn't know.  Was I that bad of a Sister that she didn't want to call me?  Did she think I wouldn't care?  When you say something hurtful while you're alive you have the chance to apologize.  I can't apologize to my Sister for the things I did or didn't do.  All that's left are regrets.

So the next time somebody tells you that sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.  Just remember, it depends on what those words are and if you can ever take them back.