Friday, October 30, 2009

looking backwards in order to look forward

Grief is funny in how uncomfortable it makes people. Sometimes people think that you should move on from your grief when a certain amount of time has passed. Sometimes people think they are being helpful by urging you to move on, to stop looking back at what was, and look forward to what will be. The problem with all of that is for someone dealing with grief (especially from the loss of a child or spouse) you can't always stop looking backwards, and looking forward hurts too much.

You can't help but grieve what you don't have anymore. Everyday without Keith gets harder, not easier. Everyday is another day that I have lived without him as an active part of my life. In the last couple of weeks, I have been faced with an overwhelming amount of emotions. My counselor and doctor both agree that this emotional "cave in" is likely because I didn't have the time, energy, or strength to address all of these emotions while Keith was sick. That's 5 1/2 years of emotions! They are even going out on a limb to say that some of these emotions go all the way back to when Nick was sick as a baby. That's 14 years!

So for me, I have to look backwards in order to look forward. I have to address all of these feelings that are coming to the surface and demanding to be acknowledged. I have to look back at what happened to cause these feelings. I have to let myself feel them. I have to talk about them. I have to hurt, and that's hard for those that love and care about me.

I also have to address and accept the weight of the burdens I've carried for so many years. Many of you have known me long enough to have heard me say at least once in response to the statement, "I just don't see how you have done this." My response being,"I just do what anyone else would do and keep putting one foot in front of the other." While that response is wholly and completely true, it didn't help me to accept the credit for what I've actually done. So much has been focused on Keith and Nick, because it had to be. That isn't wrong. I don't think that I would do anything any differently. Now, in the midst of my grief, the enormity of my life as a wife and mother is demanding to be addressed.

I have to stop operating as if nothing has changed, because everything has changed. I have a lot of emotional baggage to wade through in order to heal. I have to accept that the way I've always done things isn't going to work anymore. I have to work really hard at healing this grief and everything that comes with it. I have to treat myself gently and kindly for awhile. I'm fragile and that's hard for me to accept.

I'm grieving as fast as I can. I cry a lot and at odd times. I look back, because I have to. I can't look forward yet, but I will one day. Have patience with me. I've never done this before and there is no road map.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

16 weeks and counting

Someone told me recently that I should stop counting. I don't want to, so I'm not going to. I'm not keeping up with the days everyday. When it crosses my mind, then it occurs to me how many days it's been. Today, I don't know right off hand how many days it's been. I know that it's been 16 weeks. Sixteen weeks that have been very long and very difficult. I think the weeks are just getting longer and more difficult as time passes.

My counselor thinks that I am indeed very normal in the place that I am at. He thinks I need to stick with the medications (even though I am experiencing some unpleasant side effects) for a little while longer before deciding it isn't working. He also thinks that I have to be patient with my self for a while. This is going to take some time to fix and it will take some time to even notice a difference.

The good news is that I am sleeping more. It's still not enough though. Once again, I have been encouraged to stick with the medication and give it time.

I miss Keith. I miss him so much more with each and every passing day. It is still difficult to accept that THIS is the way our life together turned out. We never dreamed that we would have such a short time together. It is very difficult for me to be around couples our age. I see what I don't have anymore. I can remember when Nick was a baby it was difficult for me to be around healthy babies because mine had cancer.

So many times I have thought that grief is the here and now, but it isn't. Grief is also about losing what you had, and losing what you might have had. Senior night was celebrated at last week's football game. I struggled to keep from falling apart, because it occurred to me that when Nick is recognized on his senior night I will be walking out there without Keith. Nick will be introduced as the son of Kristy Baxley and the late Keith Baxley. My heart broke a little bit more.

I have to stop now. I'm crying. My counselor told me just this morning that it's important that I don't hold back when I am crying. If I keep going, I'm libel to talk my self out of crying. Crazy I know, but that's me.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

the path

Well, it has been a few days since I have met with my family doctor to discuss the place that I am in mentally, emotionally, and physically. I have not been in a good place regarding any of these.

My doctor and counselor both agree that I am indeed suffering from depression. I have been given some medicine to take to hopefully help bring me out of this. I have been assured and reassured that this is a perfectly normal response to losing a spouse.

My doctor and counselor also agree that I am exhausted. I haven't been sleeping very much for a very long time. The doctor also gave me some medicine to help me sleep.

Hopefully, between the two new medications, I can begin to feel like myself and heal.

I have also been assured that this is no quick fix. It will take time and effort on my part, as well as theirs.

There is so much more that I want to say, but I'm not going to tonight. This is still very new to me. I'm not used to being the one that is sick. I'm not used to feeling so fragile. I'm not used to being on the "list" and I'm finding out that I HAVE to be on the list. I have a lot to learn for me to heal.

Thank you for covering me in prayer. I will say that the last few weeks have been some of the most difficult of my life. This last week has been extremely difficult, yet eye opening. God is at work with me. He is letting me know, in some very tangible ways, that He is not going to leave me in this pit of despair.

I know that I am in His grip, especially when I am in the valley of the shadow of death!

Please keep praying!


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

15 weeks=105 days= 2524 hours

This is not a countdown. It's a count up. The hours, days, and weeks are adding up.

I need to say that my heart is not in this post. My heart isn't in much lately. I am heartsick and heartbroken. I understand why people die from a broken heart. Don't get all wound up in my saying that! Just because I understand doesn't mean anything beyond that. If you will recall, I mentioned that I was going to be more open with my thoughts and my feelings as I go through this journey of grief. It's not pretty. As a matter of fact, it's down right ugly most of the time.

My lovely and wise counselor only reinforced what he said last week. He feels that it is very important for me to meet with my family doc to discuss my current emotional state of mind. I am sick. Supermom has found her kryptonite. It's called the death of her spouse and it has given her depression.

For years I have wondered, worried and been afraid of when I would reach my limit of what I could handle. Let's be honest. I have handled a lot of things that most people don't have to handle (at least not at the same time). It will be 14 years next month since Nick was diagnosed with stage 3 liver cancer. It was 13 years in September since Nick received a liver transplant. It will be 6 years in December since Keith was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer. It was 5 years in August since Keith was diagnosed as having stage 4 colon cancer. It will be 4 years in January since Nick has been diagnosed with a second cancer, PTLD/lymphoma. It will be 3 years in December since Keith was diagnosed as terminal. It will be 2 years in February since Nick has been out of remission and the PTLD/lymphoma came back. It is 6 months since Keith was diagnosed as having metastatic colon cancer to the brain. It has been 15 weeks since Keith died. It has been 12 days since Kacie broke her arm. It's two weeks until we return to Birmingham to learn if Nick will begin his third chemotherapy protocol in his life.

That's where my limit lies. That is what has made me sick. That is why my heart is broken. There is also so much more that I can fill in. Things that just add more weight. Nick nearly dying at least 3 times in those 14 years. Countless surgical procedures and hospital stays for both Keith and Nick. Kacie being rushed to the ER because she had an asthma attack and we didn't know she had asthma. The death of my father and grandfather in one year. So much, so much.

Some of these are more likely to be things that anyone experiences, but the weight that it adds (when the life being lived is shadowed by so much other bad stuff) is tremendous.

So, I am going to meet with my family doctor tomorrow to discuss this place I am in. I am hoping and praying that he can help me get back on the right path (or at least one that is better) so that I can heal. I know that eventually I will heal. I just can't see it now. I am hoping that, between my doctor and my counselor, they can help me not only see where I am going, but get there as well.

I guess I'm turning my supermom cape over and waving the white flag underneath.

Pray for me. I feel more lost than I ever have, more like a failure than I ever have, and more defeated than I ever have. That's about as open and honest as it gets.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

days and nights; nights and days

Days and night; nights and days. That's what my life feels like right now. Everything is simply divided by the passage of time. Lately, most of my days have been difficult. Lately, most of my nights have been difficult.

I keep waiting for the pain, grief, sadness, fatigue, and loneliness to ease. I can't find any ease from it. Not even during sleep. I am not sleeping well. When you don't get "good" sleep for several nights running, it begins to take a toll. I actually came home from taking Nick to school on Friday morning and went back to bed. I had one of the worst headaches I have had in a while. A dear friend, whom I was supposed to go help out that morning, urged me to go back to bed and call her later. Well, later came at 11:00 AM. I slept, but it still wasn't good sleep.

My sleep is overrun with dreams of Keith. It seems like I dream of him nearly every night. At first I couldn't remember my dreams, but I when I awoke I had been crying. Then I began to remember my dreams. My dreams were so vivid and realistic that when I woke up, I was disoriented. I did not remember right away that Keith was gone and my dream was simply a dream. The aftermath of those dreams was like reliving Keith's passing all over again. The grief felt as fresh and raw as it was in the very beginning. Now some of my dreams will have something ridiculous in them that I know, as soon as I wake up, that it was indeed just a dream. However, seeing Keith in my dreams whole, healthy, and full of life (even with the nonsense thrown in) is still devastating. Even when I nap, like Friday morning, I dream about Keith.

If there is a night free from dreams, I don't get enough sleep. It's usually after 11:00 or midnight before I can even fall asleep. Then I usually wake up after only a few hours. Most of the time I can go back to sleep, but it isn't too much longer before I'm up with the kids.

I've gone long term without good sleep before. The amount of time I have logged in a hospital has seen to that. I know that eventually the lack of sleep will catch up. I am worried about it catching up. I'm worried about how I will handle needing to rest, but having to care for my kids. Keith has always been there for me to take up where I leave off, to give me a chance to recover and recoup.

What do I do now? How do I do this? I don't have these answers. I don't expect anyone else to have them either. It's just another layer of this new life that I haven't figured out.

I will be meeting with my doctor soon to talk about the physicality of my grief. I still meet with my counselor every Tuesday. I hope these steps are enough to help me find the answers to get through this place that I'm in now.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

100 days and 100 nights

100 days since Keith died. 100 days since I've held my husband's hand. 100 days since I've kissed him. 100 days since he entered the gates of Heaven. 100 days he has been healed. 100 days that have been some of the longest, hardest, saddest, and loneliest days of my entire life.

As I am writing this, the clock on the computer has rolled over to 10:01 pm. Ten o'clock has been my bedtime for years. Of course, bedtime for me means that's when I get in the bed, but I watch TV (usually until I fall asleep). So for me right now marks the beginning of my 100th night without my husband by my side. These 100 nights have been some of the darkest, loneliest, saddest, soul wrenching times I have ever experienced. Last night, my 99th night, was one of the most difficult nights I have had in several weeks. That's saying a lot too, because several of my nights have been hard. They haven't been as hard as last night. I don't know what made last night hard, but it was. I cried for a long time. I cried myself to sleep sometime after midnight I think. I missed Keith with such fierceness I thought it would consume me. I couldn't find comfort anywhere in my house or within myself. I couldn't stop crying. The only things I could do were cling to his pillow, cry hard, and plead with God to help me and comfort me.

God did comfort and help me. I know this because I fell asleep. He gave my broken heart enough peace for me to sleep.

I don't know how I am tonight. I'm teary. I'm sad. I'm heart broken. I don't know if I am devastated like I was last night. I didn't think I was when I went to bed, but it ambushed me while I was trying to go to sleep.

I am a little afraid of going to bed tonight. I am afraid of being so overcome with despair once again. I was afraid to go to sleep the night before Keith died. I remember that feeling of fear that Keith would die while I was asleep. That was before I called the hospice nurse to come over. That was before I was told Keith was in the immediate process of dying. That was before my 100 nights began. That was the last night I had with my husband alive but suffering, conscious but unable to fully communicate, trying to breathe yet unable to get enough oxygen.

It all began about this time (10:20 pm on June 6) 101 nights ago.

Monday, October 12, 2009

14 weeks and counting

Tomorrow is the 14 week mark since Keith's death. It will be 98 days. We are fast approaching the three digit mark. That realization just devastates me. Today has been very hard for me. I do believe that I am dealing with symptoms of depression once again. I will be meeting with my wonderful counselor in the morning. I have complete trust that he will help me get back on the right path, if indeed I have strayed.

I don't know exactly why today has been so difficult, unless it is because of the realization that it is indeed October. Okay, I know that it has been October for almost two weeks now. So why right? Well, it goes back to April 18. That is the day that Keith had the seizure. That is the day that I consider the beginning of the end. October 18 would be the day Keith could resume driving again. Once someone has had a seizure, they are unable to drive for 6 months. Once the 6 month mark passes and the person has not had any additional seizures, he will be allowed to drive again. Keith was LIVING for that day to come. To be quite honest, so was I.

October 18 was our goal of life returning to our previous state of normal. It is another layer of grief being uncovered! Keith is not here to be able to drive again! I can't help but feel like this is completely unfair. It isn't like we were expecting him to be cured on that date. We were just expecting things to go back one step. We were expecting to put the whole entire episode of the seizure, brain tumors, hospitalization, and radiation behind us. We were planning to resume living, AND WE DIDN'T GET TO!!!!!

Then there is also the fact that we are very quickly approaching the holiday season. My November 23, 2008 post goes into detail explaining some of the reasons why the holiday season is hard for me. I am absolutely dreading this year. It's coming. I can't stop it. I'm afraid I'm not strong enough to get myself through it, much less make it special for my kids.

I know that I keep asking to be covered in prayer, but I truly do believe that God is the only One who can heal this broken heart of mine. Please pray for me, especially during these next weeks that are sure to be painful.

I'm trying to remain...

In His Grip, even though I am surely in the valley of the shadow of death


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

3 months

Today marks three months since Keith died. So far, today hasn't been as difficult emotionally as I thought it would be. However, the day is not over and I really haven't had the time to really focus on how I am doing today.

We are in Birmingham today for yet another checkup with Nick. Nick is also receiving another dose of IVIG. The checkup went well. Nothing new to report there. Of course, we will be waiting to hear back from the blood tests to see exactly how active the EBV is, and next month will be the next CT scans to check the growth of the cancer.

I am going to take some time to whine a little bit. I am so tired of coming every month. It is better than coming every week, which is likely to happen if Nick has to start taking chemo again. I wish Nick could be well. I wish Keith didn't die. I wish the two guys that I love the most in this world didn't have to fight cancer. I wish for so many things that I can't have. I don't understand even a small portion of all of the "why's" of the last 14 years, the last 5 1/2 years, the last 4 years, and especially the last 3 months. I am tired of just getting through each and every day.

I know I should probably just focus on the good. At least I am getting through each day. At lease Keith is healed. At least Nick doesn't need chemo today. At least, at least, at least. I could go on all day long.

How was our vacation? It was really nice. Yes, it was difficult at times. I don't enjoy driving in Atlanta. I don't know of many who do though. We went to the Coca-cola Museum, the Georgia Aquarium, and to Turner Field for a Braves game. We also ate at The Varsity, which is an Atlanta must. What'll ya have? What'll ya have? What'll ya have? We decided not to go to the CNN Center and tour the studio. I could not figure out where to park and the one place I found to park cost $20.00. I just didn't think that was worth the money!

We did a little bit of shopping at the Tanger outlet mall at Exit 212 on I-75 S. That's always fun for me at least. I didn't feel outlet mall deprived by doing that. Every time we have gone to the beach, whether fall break or summer vacation, I go shopping at the Tanger outlet mall in Foley. I had been feeling pretty down. There were a lot of memories that haunted me while we were on this trip. Memories of our last "normal" trip to the beach on this same week of last year. That reality is hard to face and then accept. This may not make sense, but remember I've said before that grief doesn't make sense. So, being able to shop at a Tanger mall at the time of year I've gotten used to was nice and helped to ease the hurt just a little. I only bought one thing, so I know it wasn't retail therapy. I do think that it was just doing something that I have done while on vacation for the last several years that helped.

I also went to a Joann's Fabric Store for the first time since Keith died. For those that know me well, you know that Joann's is my favorite store in the whole world. There isn't one in Huntsville. The closest ones are in Franklin, TN and Hoover, AL. The Hoover location just opened a couple of weeks ago. I usually go to the Joann's in Pensacola, FL when we are vacationing at the beach. Yes, I go fabric shopping while on vacation. Keith tolerated my love of fabric with lots of love. My fabric stash was always a running joke in our house.

So, we had a good time. The kids weren't ready to come home. It did me good to get away for a few days. I'm not in a hurry to go anyway again for awhile. So far, I haven't fallen into the depression I dealt with when we returned from our Bama game trip a couple of weekends ago. It may still happen, but I'm hoping I am stronger now than I was then. There are days I don't think so.

I'm still having to remind myself that God is here. That He is with me while I am in the valley of the shadow of death.

Thank you for continually lifting us up in prayer.


Friday, October 2, 2009

Another first

This afternoon and the next few days will mark another first in the journey that the kids and I embarked upon on July 7 of this year. (That's the day Keith died.) We will be taking our first vacation type trip this weekend. We are starting small and just going to Atlanta for a few days. I have a very sweet friend, Anita, who is accompanying us so I don't have to do this first alone.

I have to say that I have been dragging my feet all week long on making preparations for this trip. It isn't that I don't want to go. I am excited about going. I just don't want to be somewhere that I can't associate with Keith. Every place we are going, we have never been with Keith. None of us. Keith and I had only gone to Atlanta twice in our 17 years of marriage. Once for my birthday the first year we were married. We spent a couple of days at Six Flags. The second time was a couple of years ago. Keith and I took the kids to a Nascar truck race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. (We couldn't afford the "big" race that weekend.)

I really don't want to be away from our house, especially not for 4 days. I don't want to be away from our bedroom, away from Keith's things, away from the grief. What!!! You may ask. That's right. I don't want to be away from the grief. Even though it is painful and miserable, it is what I know. It is my comfort zone. Living outside of grief is not something I am familiar with. It is the unknown and that is very scary to me right now. No one likes to be out of their comfort zone. Grief is all I have known for 12 weeks, 3 days, 1 hour, and 52 minutes (as of when I am writing this). It's ALL I have known. I want more than anything to cocoon myself in this grief where I feel that it's all I have left of Keith. I don't want to know that I can live life without him by my side. I don't want to know that I am capable of being happy without feeling sadness or grief. I don't want to move on.

Now, I KNOW that is the grief talking. That is my broken heart talking. That is my flesh talking. I also know that in pain there is healing. Driving away from our house this afternoon will be difficult, but I need to do this. My kids need me to do this. I will go simply because the kids are looking forward to this trip so much. It's what they are used to. We have gone on a fall break vacation for the last few years. They have been afraid that we would never "do" the family things that we did with Keith anymore. I have to do this to let them see that it is okay to live life, even when your dad has died. I need to let them see that life doesn't have to be all sadness and grief. Just because that is how I feel, doesn't mean that is how they feel. Children grieve differently than adults. My kids need to know that this is OKAY!

So, off we go for our first family vacation without Keith. Yes, I am crying right now. Can't hardly see to type for the tears. That is a very hard sentence to type, much less speak. This is our first family vacation without Keith. In speaking it and seeing it, comes acceptance. With acceptance, comes the pain and sadness. Through the pain and sadness, comes healing.

Please cover us in prayer this weekend for travel mercies, peace filled and happy hearts, and that we stay well.

If I have Internet access and some down time, I may post during our trip on how we are doing.

Still in His grip, even while in the valley of the shadow of death!